Wedding Traditions and History: The White Wedding Dress

Queen Victoria, 1840

Queen Victoria, circa 1840

The very first white wedding dress was worn in 1499 by Anne of Brittany, as she married Louis XII of France. Prior to this date, the bride would traditionally wear her best dress to her wedding, and in fact, the color did not matter. This was of course a more practical option because the bride could wear the dress again. The truth was that only the wealthy could afford an extravagant gown that would be worn just once. The trend of wearing a white dress never really took off until the 1840’s when Queen Victoria wore a white dress as she married Prince Albert.

Queen Elizabeth 1947

Queen Elizabeth, circa 1947

Every culture is different.  Here’s an interesting fact: in Japan, a bride wears white to symbolize that she is in mourning for having to leave her family. Later in the ceremony, the bride will change her costume several times to reflect her changing identity.

Photo courtesy e wedding inspiration

Photo courtesy e wedding inspiration

In Western culture, it’s a common misconception that wearing white is a symbol of the bride’s purity; it is in fact meant to be a symbol of joy.  The act of wearing a white wedding dress is still very much the traditional choice today, however, symbolically, they are less about the bride’s purity and more about her debut as a first time bride.

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

In case you missed it, be sure to read our last entry featuring Wedding Traditions and History: The Wedding Cake!

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Wedding Traditions and History: The Wedding Cake

Who doesn’t love a little history, especially when it involves something sweet?!

Photo by Jose Villa

Photo by Jose Villa

In Ancient Rome, before the invention of icing, a loaf of bread was broken over the bride’s head by the groom to seal the marriage and encourage fertility. The guests would gather around the couple and eat the crumbs from the bread for good luck. The unmarried guests would often take a piece of bread home and place it under their pillow in hopes of dreaming of their future spouse.

Photo by Yvonne Wong Photography

Photo by Yvonne Wong Photography

In England, guests would bring small cakes or buns to weddings and pile them up for the bride and groom to stand over and kiss. This scene was thought to represent a future full of prosperity.

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Later still, in 16th century England, sugar was growing in abundance.  It was during this time that wedding cakes officially came about.  The white color of wedding cakes not only symbolized the bride’s purity or virginity, it also became a “status symbol” for the family.  The more refined the sugar, the whiter it was in appearance.  Therefore, the whiter the cake, the more affluent the family was perceived.

Photo by Elle Jae Photography

Photo by Elle Jae Photography

From these traditions evolved the wedding cake we know today: multi-tiered layers of cake with frosting holding them together. The modern wedding cake comes in all shapes, sizes and colors and often costs as much as the bride’s dress!

Photo by Nirav Patel

Photo by Nirav Patel

Wedding Traditions and History: The Veil

Did you know, the wedding veil predates the wedding dress by hundreds of years? The word veil means to cover, obscure or mask. Furthermore, the bridal veil has been a symbol of purity and modesty for centuries.

Photo by Jose Villa

Photo by Jose Villa

Brides in ancient Rome wore a veil to cover and protect them from evil spirits. These veils were typically red and painted with flames. By concealing their face, they would hopefully frighten and confuse the spirits prior to the wedding ceremony.  These veils were also thought to protect them and keep them from being kidnapped.

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel Photography

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel Photography

One legend of the veil dates back to Isaac and Rebekah’s love story in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. Rebekah’s veil, a sign of modesty and respect, was large enough to wrap around her face and body.

Photo by Kate Webber

Photo by Kate Webber

During the days of arranged marriages, it is believed that the veil was used to keep the bride’s features hidden until the ceremony was completed. If the groom saw her before he paid the bride’s price and did not like what he saw, he could refuse to marry her.

Photo by Sasha Gulish

Photo by Sasha Gulish

Today, the veil is still an important part of the bridal attire and one of the oldest traditions to stay true to its origin. Nowadays, many brides still follow the romantic tradition of not being fully seen until her husband lifts the veil during the ceremony.

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel Photography

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel Photography

Wedding Traditions and History: The Ring Finger

Ever wonder why we wear wedding rings on our left hand, second finger from the last?

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Throughout the various stages in history, wedding rings have been worn on different fingers.  This includes the thumb and on both the left and right hands.

According to a tradition derived from the Romans, the wedding ring was worn on the left hand (finger closest to the pinkie) because there was thought to be the primary vein running through the finger. This vein was referred to as the ‘Vena Amoris’, or the ‘Vein of Love’, which was directly connected to the heart. Sadly, scientists have now proven that the existence of such a vein is actually false. Despite the discovery, this myth is still regarded by many hopeless romantics as the number one reason wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.

Photo by Edyta Szyszło

Photo by Edyta Szyszło

Another Christian theory states that early marriages practiced a ritual of wearing the wedding ring on the third finger. During the ‘binding ceremony’, the priest would declare the following words: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” At the same time, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, index finger, and the middle finger.  Then, while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage!

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

If you missed it, be sure to check last months Wedding Traditions and History installment on Wedding Traditions and History: The Bridal Party!

Wedding Traditions and History: The Bridal Party

This week we are taking a look at the fascinating history of the modern day Bridal Party.

Photos by Michelle McMurray

The Bridal Party: Then
Photo by Michelle McMurray

Photo by Gertrude and Mabel Photography

The Bridal Party: Now
Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

In early traditions, groomsmen were called ‘bridesknights.’  These bridesknights supported the groom by helping him capture and protect his bride. They would ride their horses to another town to kidnap the bride, and the groom’s ‘best knight’ would help fight for the groom’s love.

Drawing by Manga and Anime

The Groomsmen: Then
Drawing by Manga and Anime

The bridesknights would then oversee the safety of the bride until the wedding ceremony was over.  The best knight would stand on the Brides side so he could be next to her and protect her until they were married. This was thought to confuse the evil spirits, ensuring that no spells could be cast over the couple.

It’s safe to say that the role of the groomsmen has changed significantly over the years!  Today’s responsibilities include planning the groom’s last hurrah by way of a bachelor party, and ensuring he makes it to the church on time for the ceremony.

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The Groomsmen: Now
Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Photo by Martin Schweig

The Bridesmaids: Then
Photo by Martin Schweig

Back in the day, bridesmaids played a very similar role to the brideknights. The bride’s closest friends would help the bride get some distance from her over-protective family and unwanted suitors so she could be captured by the groom she desired.  On her wedding day, her bridesmaids would dress similarly to the bride in an effort to throw off any evil spirits and bad luck that could be directed towards the otherwise easily identifiable bride and groom.

Laura & Jeff Wedding by Michelle Pattee

The Bridesmaids: Now
Photo by Michelle Pattee Photography

Nowadays, the maid of honor and bridesmaids are chosen specially from the bride’s close group of friends to stand beside her on the big day.  They celebrate her by planning a fabulous bachelorette party prior to the wedding, and see to it that each and every one of her needs are met while she prepares to walk down the aisle.

Traditions are so much more fun in our day and age!

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Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Our Very Favorite Father/Daughter Songs

It’s undeniable: the bond between a father and his daughter is special and sacred ( hello… just think of George and Annie in Father of the Bride! ).  Therefore, having the opportunity to share a Father/Daughter dance at her wedding, is often something a bride dreams about before she even meets her husband to be.  For a father, this dance honors that special relationship, but also serves as the acknowledgement and acceptance of a new man in a his daughter’s life.
As the choice of this song carries so much significance, it’s easy to feel pressured to make it just perfect.  Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of our all-time favorites, to help you choose the song that fits your relationship best.

Gertrude and Mabel Photography

Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Father-Daughter Songs

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Photo by Gertrude & Mabel

Be sure to check back next month for the list of our favorite Mother-Son songs!