Weddings are no longer confined to churches or registry offices, and modern brides often choose to ditch the traditional white dress. There are some rules about where you can legally get married, but couples have plenty of freedom to create unique ceremonies and celebrations.
However, despite the growing popularity of innovative weddings that stand out from the traditional church and reception formula, many couples still choose to respect certain wedding traditions. But where do these traditions come from, and why do they persist?
Stag and Hen Dos
Before you even get to “The Big Day”, wedding traditions kick in. Traditionally, the groom-to-be would have a “stag” night to celebrate his last night of freedom on the eve of the wedding.
Stag dos originated in ancient Greece in the Spartan era — the military comrades of the stag would gather to celebrate him with feasts and toasts to the end of his youth. Some believe the reference to a “stag” reflects the celebration of the male, making the celebration a male-only event. Others suggest the tradition originated with the Celtic and pagan horned god, Cernunnos, who enjoyed wild animal hunts and represented wealth and fertility. “Stag do” is a British term — Americans have “bachelor parties” and Australians throw “bucks’ parties”.
The seed of the hen do was also sewn in ancient Greece. 1,300 years before the Spartan era, the bride and her female party would complete a specific pre-marriage ritual called the “Proaulia”. This was usually a feast held at the bride’s father’s house. However, hen dos in the current sense did not take off until the 1970s, as a response to the sexual revolution of the 60s, and they were not commonplace until the 1990s — long after stag dos had become a modern wedding tradition.
Modern-day stag and hen dos have become elaborate affairs with the average cost of attending exceeding £200 in 2019. Most people schedule their event weeks or months ahead of the big day instead of partying on the eve of the wedding, as couples did historically.
Make your event pop by hiring a professional mixologist to provide sparkling entertainment and lavishly garnished cocktails for your hens and stags.
Victorian Wedding Traditions: “Something Old, Something New…”
Even the most modern bride will often stick to the tradition of wearing “Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue”.
This wedding tradition stems from a popular rhyme that originated in Lancashire during the Victorian era. Following these instructions was believed to ward off the “Evil Eye”. Wearing “something old” represents continuity, and many brides choose a piece of jewellery or clothing that has sentimental value — such as a necklace inherited from a family member. “Something new” represents optimism for the future, which could be the bride’s wedding dress. “Something borrowed” brings good luck, and “something blue” wards off evil spirits as the colour represents love, purity and fidelity.
In Roman times, wedding guests would throw rice or wheat over the newly married couple to wish them bounty, abundance and fertility.
Some people still throw rice, but commercially made confetti is the most popular choice at modern weddings. Many people avoid rice because some people have warned that it is unsafe for birds to eat, and it can harm guests — if they get a grain in the eye, for example.
The word “confetti” is taken from the Italian confectionary of the same name, which was a sweet traditionally thrown during carnivals. Modern confetti can be tailored to the theme of your wedding as these small pieces of tissue paper come in a wide range of colours and shapes. Environmentally friendly confetti is increasingly popular as it dissolves in the rain and leaves no mess behind. Some couples opt for bubbles as an alternative to confetti. Whatever the shape, size or material, throwing “confetti” over the newlywed couple to bring them luck and prosperity is a wedding tradition that looks set to last for years to come.
The Wedding Breakfast
The “wedding breakfast” can cause some confusion for those not familiar with wedding traditions. Despite the name, in modern weddings, this meal typically takes place after the ceremony in the afternoon or early evening. So why call it a wedding breakfast?
Traditional wedding ceremonies were held after morning mass. The whole wedding party would fast until mass was over when the wedding breakfast — the first meal the bride and groom had as a married couple — would be eaten. Although most wedding breakfasts now take place later in the day, the name has stuck because it marks the beginning of the couple’s married life together.
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