The lost origins of 5 wedding traditions

The lost origins of 5 wedding traditions

Traditions, customs, legends and proverbs … every marriage has a hint of all these ingredients!
From the north to the south of Italy, these elements are a “must have” to make the most important day of your life magic.

Does your mother say to you “You’ll need to wear something new, something used, something lend and a gift“?
Does someone advised you not to glance at your future husband just before entering the church?
Have you been warned about what not to do “because it brings bad luck“?
If these questions sound familiar to you, then you know very well what we are talking about.
Actually, some very little known customs have curious origins. Here are the five most ancient and original wedding traditions: have fun discovering them and detach yourself from the “marriage organizational stress” for a while.

1. The garter

Tradition takes us back in time until the XIV century: at that time, people thought that having a piece of the bride’s dress would bring good luck. Originally, it was up to the unmarried guests to take the garter and then to fix it on their hat, as a sign of good luck. Over time, it became the groom’s job to take it off and throw it to one of the guests. If the bride does not wear a garter, his groom throws her right shoe.

Usually in the past, the unmarried man who conquered the jarretière danced with the unmarried woman who had been struck by the bride’s bouquet: the man gave her the garter and she wore it for this dance.
The meaning of the garter’s throw alludes to an ancient tradition of the relatives of the newlyweds: after entering the bedroom of the couple, the parents stole some of their clothes as an evidence of the bride’s virginity.

2. The bouquet

Elegant, perfumed and colorful. It is the undisputed star among all the bride’s accessories and it can never miss. Every woman chooses it carefully because it must be in harmony with the dress. However, maybe not everyone knows that the tradition teaches us something else. According to the legend, the bouquet should be the last gift of the groom to the bride as her boyfriend. After buying it, he should have it delivered to his wife’s home on the morning of the wedding.

wedding tradition origins bouquet
Since ancient times, brides have always held a bouquet in their hands. The bizarre fact is that actually flowers were not part of it. In the centuries Before Christ, it was born as a bunch of aromatic herbs (which kept evil spirits away and had aphrodisiac effects too) and then it became a “bunch of objects” during the Middle Ages. A rock for spinning, a thimble, a silver daisy and a pin for hair: these weird objects made up their bouquet. Things returned to normality in the XV century, thanks to the Arabic invasions. Arabs imported the orange blossoms and therefore, the bouquets became a symbol of pure, true and sincere love.

3. The wedding veil

The origins of this tradition are among the most unknown and curious.
In the past, when parents combined marriages for political and social purposes, they used the veil to hide the bride’s face. So, the boy and the girl (who had never seen each other before that moment) could not change their mind about what they were doing. As a matter of fact, the girl discovered her face only at the end of the ceremony.

In ancient Rome, the veil was called flemmum and it was coloured by yellow and red. Moreover, during the ceremony, it was placed also above the head of the groom, as a symbol of protection for the couple. In the Middle Ages instead, the veil was secured with pearls and golden filaments: they served as protection against evil spirits and bad luck.

wedding traditions origins voile
Later, over the years, the veil has adapted to fashion and has become part of the wedding dress.
Finally, one more curiosity about modern times: in some areas of southern Italy, the length of the voile varies according to the years of engagement that preceded the marriage.

4. Sugared almonds

One leads to another, they are sugary and tasty… sugared almonds are the sweet memory of your wedding! Nowadays, it is very common to arrange them on a big table in the restaurant so guests can serve themselves in a self-service mode. Nevertheless, according to the traditions, the couple give sugared almonds to the guests as the party favor!
Usually their number should always be odd, because they must be indivisible (like the marriage). To be precise, they should be five, since this is the number of qualities that the bride and the groom must preserve in their future life together: health, happiness, wealth, fertility and long life.

The origins of sugared almonds are still uncertain: at first, they were a pharmaceutical product in Arabic culture; then, they were used to celebrate unions and births at the Romans times. Furthermore, Manzoni described them as a gift given to the nuns and in the ancient Sicily; they were a gift offered to the noble families.

5. The wedding cake

Which is the most portrayed moments of the day? The entrance of the wedding cake in the dining room and its cut, of course.
It is well known that the cut of the first slice is due to the bride and the groom (the man has to put his hand above the woman’s one!). However, do you know what the tradition says? You should keep the top of the cake, freeze it and eat it the following year on the baptism of the first child?

wedding traditions origins cake
Moving to the origins of the wedding cakes, in Italy they appeared only since the 50s: before this date, all the weddings ended with a simple dessert. England and France have been the first countries to use wedding cakes (since the XIX century).
Moreover, there is a legend that explains its shape. Guests were used to bring lots of pastries and biscuits as gifts to weddings: the height of these heaps depended on how much prosperity was hoped to the future couple. Patissiers soon glazed these heaps and so the first wedding cakes were born.

About Tania Ferronato

I am a linguist and I love phonology, travels and food. My greatest passion is writing. I love the feeling that I have when finding myself in front of a blank sheet: it is the same feeling of waiting to take a plane or a train to start a journey. Excitement, curiosity and the desire to free my mind and my heart to new horizons. Writing is like traveling: leaving towards unexplored limits and unknown destinations and always returning different from the beginning.