Where Do Wedding Traditions Originate

Although there are so many different cultures and wedding traditions all over the world it is incredible to think that Marriage in one type of form or another is present pretty much everywhere.  Like everything we have so many different ways of celebrating such a union.  However, no matter what religion, culture, or tribe one thing is the same:  marriage is always celebrated with a big celebration involving singing, eating, and celebrating.

Throughout time we have also created a  number of traditions each with their own meanings and really bizarre origins:

Tying the Knot

I never gave much thought to where this saying came from.  Did you know that Tying the knot doesn’t actually symbolise your lives getting knotted together? In ancient tribal times, they used to wrap the bride in a sheet with a knot tied in the front. This of course was meant to be a symbol of virginity.  Once the groom married his bride it was his privilege to ‘Untie the knot’ on the couples wedding the night.

The Best Man

This is the most bizarre one for me.  In tribal times, the best man’s duty was to scout out a potential bride from another tribe and kidnap her, most likely clubbing the poor girl over the head and bringing her back as a present for the groom – gives a whole new meaning to speed dating. The best man also had to fend off angry tribal members of the bride, none too happy with the prospective in-laws.

The Bride’s Bouquet

The wedding bouquet was traditionally made from grains and herbs and were used to ward off evil spirits. In the 1800’s it was said that the traditional annual Family bath was held in June, where the oldest to youngest family members would bath in the same water (hence the term ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’ derives from). Marriages were traditionally held in June also because after one month the couples were still quite clean. The brides bouquet by this stage was composed of perfumed flowers, not to ward off bad spirits, but to mask bad body odour!

Wedding Cakes

In most western wedding celebrations you must have a wedding cake.  In fact, I have only been to one wedding where they didn’t have a cake and this was only because the cake never arrived, not because the couple didn’t order one.  These beautifully crafted cakes evolved from the more simple grooms-cakes traditionally made for the bride. A slice of a grooms cake was meant to be placed under the  the brides pillow. This was meant to give the bride wonderful dreams of her soon to be husband.  I think the only thing that probably ended up happening was the cake was squashed flat.

Cake tiers are also a sign of fertility and how many children the couple were hoping to have.  Whilst we see this as stylish nowadays traditionally couples would stack these cakes to bring good luck and children.


Traditional wedding cakes were a type of pound cake that was really dry.  It would be “pound up” to crumbs which were then tossed over the bride and groom as a sign of fertility. Thank goodness they changed this to today’s custom of rice or confetti.  I don’t much like the idea of having cake crumbs thrown over me.


Thank goodness times have changed, however we still see new and interesting traditions being brought into a wedding celebration.  It is however really interesting to see where some of our accepted traditions really come from.