Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
Exploring wedding customs past and present.
Smashing glasses, throwing rice, jumping over broomsticks… Weddings are filled with distinct ceremonial customs. And whether guided by superstition or tradition, modern brides have found ways to weave these rituals into their wedding day, often with their
own contemporary twists.
Light My Fire
The tradition of lighting a candle during the wedding ceremony has Christian as well as cultural roots, but Sandy Thornton of Orlando gave it a new twist. “During the reception, I had all of my ZTA sorority girls form a circle around myself and Rick,” Thornton recalls. “As they sang a song, a lit candle was passed and on the third round, Rick and I blew it out.”
The tradition of smashing a vase in an Italian wedding represents the number of years a couple will be happily married. In Jewish ceremonies, breaking a glass symbolizes the fragility of relationships. After Laura Kern and her husband, Matt, said their vows, he broke a glass that was designed especially for the ceremony. Says Kern: “His aunt got us a special frame for our wedding portrait that includes the glass shards in a vial.”
Rain or Shine
Some cultures believe rain is a good luck omen because it signifies fertility. Orlando bride Micki Meyer wasn’t so sure; the day before her wedding, her mother placed a rosary on the bush outside her home in the hope of warding off any impending showers. “It worked,” says Meyer. “There was an 80 percent chance of rain in the forecast. But an hour before my wedding, the sun came through and stayed out for the wedding and reception.”
According to English folklore, finding a spider in your wedding gown was a symbol of good luck. It also was believed that Saturday was the unluckiest day for a wedding; according to English tradition, Wednesday is the ideal day.
It’s a Toss Up
As the tradition goes, the female wedding guest who catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next one to get married. While a lot of brides are nixing this practice altogether, some toss a breakaway bouquet of loosely tied flowers that split apart to make sure every girl feels lucky.
Tying the Knot… Literally
According to the book Timeless Traditions: A Couple’s Guide to Wedding Customs Around the World, tying a couple’s hands together during the wedding ceremony originated in the Celtic handfasting ritual, but this symbol of commitment is utilized worldwide. In Cambodia, every guest ties a string around the couple’s wrists, which are joined together. In Thailand, the bride and groom wear crowns linked by ribbon.
Across the Threshold
It was once believed that carrying a bride across the threshold would avoid her looking too eager to consummate the marriage. Fast-forward a few centuries, and the custom became more about not bringing bad luck to the home. Today the tradition has morphed into a romantic gesture. “Thomas carried me into our room on our wedding night,” says Lauren Bradley of Winter Park. “It just felt like the traditional thing to do, and we had a good laugh about it.”
Watch Out for the Rice
The tradition of throwing rice, another symbol of fertility, goes back centuries and has several variations around the world. In France, wedding guests throw wheat; in Italy they throw candy and sugared nuts; Czech couples get showered with peas. In the U.S., the tradition has changed slightly with brides opting for flower petals, bubbles, biodegradable confetti or birdseed, instead.
Something Old, Something New…
The idea of the bride wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, goes back hundreds of years. It is believed that these items will bring good fortune to the new couple. For her wedding, Lauren Cavett had the date embroidered on the inside of her dress—in blue, of course. Kristin McHugh of Longwood integrated aspects of the custom into one piece. “I wore an antique bracelet of my grandmother’s, which was made up of diamonds and sapphires,” she says. “My sister also wore it for her wedding this past year, so I guess we started our own little tradition.”
There’s actually a fifth component to this adage—a sixpence for her shoe. In Lynn Cook’s family, there is a coin passed from generation to generation where the bride wears the coin in her shoe on her wedding day.
No Sneak Peaks
The idea that it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding started when arranged marriages were commonplace. After the business of the union had been solidified, the bride’s family wanted to make sure the groom didn’t see his betrothed and possibly call off the wedding because she wasn’t attractive enough. How romantic.
That the tradition is still around probably has less to do with bad luck and more to do with wanting to maintain the “wow factor” when the groom sees his bride for the first time in her wedding dress. This was Nicole Gordon’s thinking when she got married in October: “I wanted us to have a genuine reaction when seeing each other as I came down the aisle.”