American Wedding Traditions

bride with bridesmaids
The bridal party is traditional at weddings.

American wedding traditions go beyond the customary saying for the bride to carry "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue." Find out why and how the many traditions used in American weddings came to be accepted customs.

Wedding Party Traditions

Have you ever wondered why the happy couple invites special friends and family members to participate in their wedding? This American wedding tradition dates back to ancient Roman times. Several women were asked to dress similar to the bride in order to confuse any evil spirits that may attempt to kidnap the bride. Nowadays, the bridesmaids may dress differently from the bride, but they wear similar dresses to each other for good luck.

The best man and other groomsmen also have roles steeped in tradition. In ancient times, brides weren't exactly willing parties. Instead, they would be abducted by the groom, his best man and other close friends. These men are now representing both consenting parties by being groomsmen.

Incidentally, the honeymoon stemmed from these abductions. The kidnapped bride and her groom would run off to a hidden location so no one would find them. They were usually gone for about a month.

Traditional Bridal Showers

The bridal shower wasn't originally intended to be a party for the bride to receive gifts. The first "showers" were parties held for the bride-to-be, her family and friends in order to relieve a little stress and provide support for the upcoming nuptials. In the late 1800s, small gifts were placed in an umbrella or parasol. The bride-to-be would raise and then open the parasol and the gifts would "shower" down upon her. Like most traditions, this one evolved. It now centers around giving the happy couple gifts to help them start their new life together.

First Kiss

Wedding Cake Customs

The cake isn't just to provide a sweet end to a wedding feast. In ancient Rome there was a different meaning. In those days, a small cake was broken over the brides head during the ceremony to symbolize fertility. The guests would pick up the bits of cake that fell to the floor and keep them for luck. Today, elaborate wedding cakes won't spoil any bridal hairdos, but they will be enjoyed by all guests after dinner is over.

Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold

A favorite tradition of television newlyweds is to carry the bride over the threshold before entering their home to start a new life together. The reason? It's bad luck for a bride to trip upon entering the couple's home for the first time. Her husband carries her so this won't happen.

Other Wedding Traditions

If you attend a traditional wedding in America, you can expect to observe a few customs. Couples may observe just a few or all of these traditions.

  • Tossing the garter: The bridegroom removes the garter from the bride's leg. He tosses the garter to the single men who attempt to catch it. This is a humorous "sign" that the man who catches it will be the next to be married.
  • Tossing the bouquet: The bride tosses her bouquet behind her to the waiting crowd of single women. The lady that catches will be the next to be married, according to folklore.
  • Exchanging rings: During the wedding ceremony the bride and groom will exchange rings as a symbol of their love.
  • Lighting a unity candle: The lighting of a single candle together symbolizes the uniting of the two people into one family.
  • Dancing the first dance: At the wedding reception, the couple will have their first dance together. This dance is usually followed by the bride and her father, then the groom and his mother.
  • Tossing bird seed for luck: This tradition evolved from Ancient Rome where the tossing of things like coins or seeds was meant to give the couple good fortune.
  • Giving guests gifts: As a thank you, some wedding couples give guests keepsake gifts, called wedding favors.
  • Receiving gifts: Family and friends give the couple gifts of money or items used in setting up a household.

American wedding traditions are a fun part of the festivities. Incorporate these common practices into your American wedding for a traditional ceremony and reception.

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American Wedding Traditions