The Secret History of Weird Wedding Traditions

    gold wedding rings

    Weddings are filled with traditions, and we take for granted many of their original meanings. Why do we toss the garter, assemble a bridal party, or exchange rings? We explore these weird wedding traditions to gain a better understanding why we celebrate the way we do!

    If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you know the girl—she’s usually a bridesmaid, and she’s definitely had a few too many glasses of champagne. It’s the same routine at almost every wedding: a few songs after the first dance, the DJ starts Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and while all the girls get a good luck kiss from their dates, she jockeys for the perfect position on the floor for the bouquet toss.

    And somehow, possibly because of the fact that she threw a few elbows in the melee, she catches it, hoping that this supposed symbol of romantic luck means that next summer, she’ll be the one throwing it.

    How did this weird tradition start? Why do men toss their new wife’s’ garter? Why in the world do guys have to go Vegas for a bachelor party (or even have one at all?) We did a little investigation to find out where some of the most iconic wedding traditions come from.

    What happens in Vegas started in Sparta

    As it turns out, most wedding traditions we practice today started centuries ago. Bachelor parties, for example, originated in the fifth century in Sparta, where military comrades would feast and toast one another on the eve of a friend’s wedding. Since then they have evolved as a way for anxious grooms to relax before the wedding—and probably so they don’t freak out during the wedding.

    The Garter Toss

    Tossing the garter these days, however, doesn’t make as much sense. While grooms now remove and toss it similarly to the bouquet their wife tosses, it’s original purpose was to prove that the couple actually consummated the marriage. This sounds a bit crazy, but in ancient times there were actually witnesses over the marriage bed to ensure the couple had sex — obviously, this was such a violation of privacy that brides began forcing grooms to throw the garter to prove consummation. Now, regardless of whether a couple has slept together before they got married, this tradition holds strong (and can actually be pretty entertaining).

    Bridal Showers were for rebels

    Another fun wedding tradition that has drastically evolved from its original purpose are bridal showers. Originally designed for brides whose fathers did not approve of the groom — and therefore wouldn’t financially support her or the wedding — these parties would allow the brides’ friends to “shower” her with gifts, thereby supporting her future life with her new husband. Regardless of whether modern brides’ fathers support her decision emotionally or financially, bridal showers are a fun way to get the girls together to celebrate the bride and celebrate this milestone in her life.

    Why we put a ring on it

    Also, if you’ve ever wondered why most people wait years to get married between a proposal and a wedding, you can thank Pope Innocent III. During the middle ages, he declared a waiting period between a “betrothal” (proposal) and the marriage ceremony. During this time engagement rings were invented to signify a couple’s commitment during this waiting period. While the first diamond engagement ring was given in 1477 when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, of the Habsburg Dynasty, proposed marriage to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M,” diamond engagement rings didn’t become mainstream until the like 1800’s when a plentiful supply of diamonds were found in South Africa.

    Tell us more!

    What are some of the weirdest wedding traditions you have witnessed? Tell us by commenting below, or join the conversation with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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    Aubrey Bach

    Aubrey Bach is a writer based out of Seattle. She is a recovering Diet Coke addict who was raised on the mean streets of Seattle. At weddings, Aubrey is an enthusiastic but terrible dancer and has a knack for making friends with whoever is refilling the wine.

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