Things weren’t always sunshine and rainbows when it came to weddings. In fact, Jen Doll, author of “Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest,” unveils some wild facts behind wedding traditions.
1. Historians believe that Egyptians were the first people to actually exchange wedding rings. Once Medieval times rolled around, many people believed that one vein ran directly from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart, hence naming it the “ring” finger.
2. Diamonds weren’t always a keynote to an engagement ring. The first documented exchange of a diamond engagement ring was when Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. But truthfully, diamond rings didn’t take off until Frances Gerety’s “A Diamond Is Forever” campaign for De Beers Diamond Company in 1947.
3. Actually, engagement rings didn’t really get popular until the Middle Ages, specifically 1215. Pope Innocent III decided that those engaged needed to wait longer before they were wed. This made rings much more popular, serving as reminders for prospective newlyweds.
4. The whole “white dress” idea also wasn’t highly demanded until Queen Victoria appeared in one at her wedding with Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840.
5. Oddly enough, once the white dress took off, the bride was not the only person wearing one. Bridesmaids in earlier times had to dress exactly like the bride. This was their way of protecting the newlyweds from evil spirits, confusing them as to who to attack. This custom died out in the Victorian era, where bridesmaids started to wear shorter veils, giving the bride her unique look. Today bridesmaids aren’t allowed to wear white at all, and are most often decked out in subtle attire that keeps the spotlight on the bride.
6. Up until the 1800s, the brides themselves made attempts to ward off evil spirits by carrying bunches of herbs on their person. Common herbs included garlic, rosemary, and dill, as they were thought to be effective in warding off spirits. Queen Victoria, with a beautiful bouquet of snowdrops, is also given credit for starting the trend of walking the aisle with a bouquet of flowers.
7. Speaking of bouquets, throwing the bouquet was hardly about all the single women at the party in earlier times. Back then, it was more of a distraction for a bride to make her escape. Guests would reach out to tear pieces of a bride’s dress to, symbolically, take a piece of her home with them. Thrown flowers were a distraction for her to get away without any harm.
8. Hardly anyone questions why the bride and groom stand on their designated sides of the altar, but there actually is a reason. Back then, the groom needed his right arm to fend off those after his new bride, so he shielded her on his left while defending her on his right. Ironic that that’s now where the groomsmen, the groom’s most trusted men, stand.
9. An old Irish custom, hand fasting, is how the phrase “tying the knot” was coined. This was a common ritual, where the bride and groom’s hands were physically tied together during the ceremony as a symbol of their commitment to each other. This ritual is still practiced today in many Pagan weddings.
10. That good old tradition of smearing cake across the bride and groom’s faces is a more pleasant take on an older tradition that took place during the Roman Empire. In those times, wedding cakes were actually loaves of bread, which made things slightly different. The groom would break the bread over his brides head, which symbolized fertility. The cake sounds like a lot more fun, though equally as messy.
11. The infamous getaway that is the honeymoon is a branch off of a popular Norse tradition. Much like the romantic trips newlyweds take today, newlyweds in older times would quite literally go into hiding for a full month. Each day of their “vacation” they would partake in a glass of honey wine.
There’s some real food for thought next time someone’s making their way down the aisle. It’s amazing how far weddings have come.