Old Mutual

Saying I do to traditions

Getting married comes with great expectations, from throwing your bouquet to why your groom will stand on your right at the altar. There are a number of traditions that you may not know about, so The Wedding Expo have put together a few interesting facts around the rituals of Weddings.


If you have ever wondered where the phrase ‘Tying the Knot’ comes from, there are many cultures, including Celtic, Hindu and Egyptian weddings, where the hands of the bride and groom are tied together to demonstrate the couple’s commitment to each other.


Your wedding and engagement rings are worn on your ‘ring finger’ which turns out, has its name for a good reason. The fourth finger on the left hand was once thought to have a vein in that finger which led directly to the heart.

The tradition of bridal showers and stag parties are steeped in history and were motivated by very real situations which appeared in history. The bridal shower began three centuries ago in Holland when the bride’s girlfriends would come to the rescue when a father did not approve of his daughter’s fiancé and refused to give her a proper dowry. The friends showered her with gifts so that she would have a dowry which enabled her to marry.

The stag party on the other hand was first held by ancient Spartan soldiers, who kissed their bachelor day’s goodbye with a raucous party!

Today we believe that it is bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other on the night before the wedding. Now it is a fun way of allowing both parties to prepare in peace, but in the early days, brides and grooms weren’t supposed to see each other until the last minute, so the groom didn’t have the chance to change his mind.


In the early days of arranged marriages, the bride and groom often never saw each other at all before the wedding. Even when couples were acquainted before they married, it was still considered bad luck for the groom to glimpse the bride pre-ceremony, as she would not be pure and new. Neither was the bride supposed to see herself -- it was believed that if she saw her reflection she would leave some of herself behind in the mirror.

History tells us that we have come a long way with bride rights when you consider, for example, that the groom had a best man and grooms man to protect him from the bride’s angry family when he kidnapped his bride! And that the bride stands to the groom's left during a Christian ceremony, because in bygone days the groom needed his right hand free to fight off other suitors.

If your bridesmaids are less than thrilled about matching dresses, tell them they're good luck! The tradition of matching maids dates back to Roman times, when people believed evil spirits would attend the wedding in attempt to curse the bride and groom (how rude!). Bridesmaids were required to dress exactly like the bride in order to confuse the spirits and bring luck to the marriage.

If you watched the series Victoria, you will be pleased to know that Queen Victoria selected an unusual white dress, and is credited with starting the Western world's white wedding dress trend in 1840, although she was not the first royal to wear white.

If you are going to wear a veil with a train, you should know that this originated in the Middle Ages and the length of the train indicated your rank at court; the longer the train the greater the stature with the king and queen.

garter.something blu

Don’t forget something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue! It comes from an Olde English rhyme where old represents continuity, new offers optimism for the future, borrowed symbolises borrowed happiness and blue stands for purity, love and fidelity!

Our favourite tradition, and certainly one that today has no other purpose than to look gorgeous, is the reason a bride carries a bouquet. In the 1600s and indeed for a long time afterwards, people bathed extremely rarely with the annual bath usually taking place in May. This would generally mean that you would get married in June and just to be safe, the bride carried a bouquet to mask the smell of body odour.


Which brings us to why she throws her bouquet, and it has nothing to do with masking the smell of body odour. In ancient times, a bride was considered lucky on her wedding day. Guests felt compelled to tear off parts of her dress to obtain a good luck talisman for themselves.

As you can imagine, not all brides cared for this activity and it evolved to throwing the bouquet in lieu of pieces of her dress, enabling a lucky guest to receive a talisman and the bride to keep her dress intact.

If you are wondering which flowers to use for your bouquet, you might want to track down The Language of Flowers, a Victorian-era book that assigned flowers different words and meanings. According to this book, tulips stand for love and passion while stephanotis means marital happiness. On the flip side, yellow roses were said to symbolise jealousy; not good for a yellow spring-inspired wedding theme!

The garter on the other hand was a far more invasive custom and derived from an old English tradition called ‘flinging the stocking’. Guests would invade the bridal chamber, steal the bride’s stockings and take turns flinging them. Whoever threw the stocking that landed on the groom’s nose would be the next to marry! By the 14th century, the garter had become a highly esteemed prize and the bride would often be rushed at by guests competing for the prize!


The sweetest part of your wedding day can be dated back to ancient Greece, when couples shared crushed sesame cakes to ensure fertility. The wedding cake has evolved from there and whether you have a three-tier lemon poppy delight, cupcakes or a stack of donuts (very on trend), the idea behind it remains the same, that sharing something sweet together on your wedding day is a symbol of your union which will never go out of style.

There are also rituals around the wedding cake that be traced back to medieval England, when the ‘cake’ would have been made of wheat and thrown at the bride as a symbol of fertility. And that’s not all, the baked goods, from biscuits to scones were piled high and the couple then attempted to kiss over the mound! The couple were assured a lifetime of prosperity if they could manage the kiss without toppling the pile!

A tradition which seems to be disappearing, with the wedding cake often served as dessert, is that the guests all taking home a wrapped piece of wedding cake. Legend says that single women will dream of their future husband if they sleep with a slice of cake under their pillow.

Today we dream of our honeymoon, planning the perfect trip together, but they were not always so luxurious! In ancient Norse times, the bridal couple went into hiding after the wedding, and a family member would bring them a cup of honey wine for thirty days (or one moon) which is where the term ‘honeymoon’ originated.


Once home from the honeymoon, it is tradition to carry the bride over the threshold as an ancient belief that the newly married couple were susceptible to evil spirits and by carrying the bride over the threshold, there would be a protective layer between the floor and the bride, protecting her from the ground monster!

Whether you are superstitious or traditional, knowing where they originate, makes incorporating them into the day a little more special.

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