Recently, whilst flicking through the TV channels as an alternative to football (husband) and Eastenders (daughter)! I happened upon a programme that included a report on bridal traditions (honestly didn’t know it was on but obviously had to watch!)
The main part of the show was how a tiered wedding cake has now become traditional – a very charming story about a young baker winning the hand of his bosses daughter by creating a tiered cake inspired by the steeple of St Brides church (appropriate) in Fleet Street London!
It set me looking into the different traditions around weddings and from ‘kissing the bride’ to ‘tossing the bouquet’ it seems many are the result of ancient superstitions.
Probably the most common and well know Western tradition is:
Something Old – represents the bride’s family and her past
Something New – symbolises the future
Something Borrowed – hopefully from someone happily married
Something Blue – means fidelity & love
Additionally often added is
‘A Silver Sixpence in your shoe’ – symbolising wealth & financial happiness
If you believed in (and tried to put into practice) all the superstitions – at best you are likely to end up a quivering wreck in the corner and at worst probably never get married! There are so many (& varied) traditions this blog just looks at more about the cake and also about wedding flowers!
Let them eat cake!
Originally a ‘wedding cake’ was a collection of many little wheat cakes which were broken over the head of the new bride to bestow fertility and good luck for her married life -fortunately not in general practise any more!
Often the cutting of the cake signifies the end of the wedding formalities however at one time, the cake was cut only by the bride, and was symbolic of her upcoming loss of virginity! Today, both bride and groom cut the cake often sharing the first bite with each other to symbolize their promise to share a whole new life together.
In the past it was customary to keep the top tier of the wedding cake to be used at the christening of the first child. In America it has become traditonal for the top tier to be frozen and used on their first wedding anniversary. It is said if the cake lasts a year it is a symbol of a long marriage (or a year of dieting!)
Starting in Victorian times, charms were attached to ribbons hidden in the wedding cake and bridesmaids would pull at a ribbon to uncover her fortune
A Heart: Will bring love.
A Clover: Meant good luck
An Engagement Ring: You’re the next to wed
An Anchor: Adventure will come
A Flower: Love is going to bloom
A Horseshoe: You are lucky in life
Also something for single guests at a wedding – supposedly if an unmarried person sleeps with a piece of a wedding cake under their pillow, they will dream of their future spouse that night (but may also end up with an earful of Victoria sponge!)
Brides originally carried bunches of herbs to ward off evil spirits and as a sign of protection from disease. Later more fragrant flowers were added which (as bathing wasn’t a frequent occurrence) helped to mask more earthy smells!!
Today the flowers add both fragrance & colour and a whole dictionary of meaning has been complied to define each type of bloom for example orange blossoms represent purity, chastity, and fertility, and roses signify love, however peonies symbolise shame and any combination of red & white flowers should be avoided as following the World War 1 they became a symbol of blood & bandages!
The colours of the flowers will obviously be chosen to co-ordinate with the overall theme however this also has a whole psychology about it – some of the colours and the ‘moods’ they are said to create are listed below (can feel a whole new blog coming on!)
Red – warm & stimulating
Orange – friendly & social
Yellow – cheerful & happy
Green – calming & restful
Blue – relaxing & peaceful
Purple – dignified, individuality, mystery & fantasy (depending on the shade)
Turquoise – refreshing friendly & happy
Pink – warmth, love & thoughtfulness
Magenta – compassion, kindness, support & cooperation
Brown – stability & comfort
Grey – isolation & neutrality
Silver – elegance & femininity
Gold – elegance, affluence & luxury
Black – elegance, protection & mystery
White – peace & comfort
The throwing of the bouquet is a way of spreading the bride’s good fortune and luck. Whoever catches it will be blessed with good luck and will be the next to marry!
It’s fascinating when you start to look into traditions & superstitions some of which are centuries old but many still form part of a wedding today! There are so many more to look into – watch this space!