Jun 8, 2014

10 Popular American Wedding Traditions

The new Mr. & Mrs.
My Japanese co-workers were fascinated by photos of my friend's wedding. They asked a lot of questions, and I could explain what things were, but often not why. Here's what I learned after a little research:

1. Catholic Mass

In the Catholic tradition, a marriage is considered valid if the ceremony is held in the church and officiated by a priest. The marriage is held during a mass (church service) to remind them of their vow to each other through their vow to God.

2. Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

Wedding parties started in ancient Rome: ten bridesmaids and ten groomsmen dressed exactly like the bride and groom to confuse evil spirits from targeting the new couple.

3. Unity Candle

This "tradition" is relatively new: two tapered candles are used together to light one large candle. The two flames burning as one is symbolic of the new couple and their families coming together.

4. White Dress

Before 1840, most women were wed in their best clothes. Then Queen Victoria walked down the aisle in a white wedding dress and it's been the standard ever since. White symbolizes the bride's purity and innocence.

5. Cutting the Cake

Cutting the cake together is considered the first task the new couple accomplishes together. As they feed each other the first slice, they're making a commitment to provide for each other. If the bride and groom smash the cake into each other's faces, that's another story.

6. Throwing the Bouquet

In Medieval Europe, guests would rip pieces off the bride's clothes as a fertility charm. Brides began throwing items to distract their guests, including their garters and bouquets. The bouquet's flowers also symbolize fertility, and today the woman who catches it is supposed to be the next to be married.

7. Getting the Garter (with your teeth)

The groom putting his head under the bride's dress to remove the garter with his teeth is another "modern tradition." In ancient times, the removal of the garter represented the bride's relinquishment of her virginity. Now it's thrown into a group of men, who then have the chance to put it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet.

8. First Dance

Dancing was and is a communal way of giving strength and support to the bride and groom. Since they are the party's guests of honor, they are the ones to open the floor with the first dance. When ballroom dancing was a widespread skill, the first dance was commonly a waltz.

9. Daddy-Daughter Dance

On the wedding day, the father of the bride is "giving away" his daughter to her new husband. Traditionally it was the father's right to choose whom his daughter would marry and for what price. Now this responsibility has evolved into a dance to show the father's blessing of the marriage.

10. Dancing the Dabke

My friend is part Lebanese, so she led the dabke line dance at the reception. The dabke is performed in a semicircle, with the lead twirling a handkerchief and eventually breaking off to dance on their own in the middle of the circle. The symbolic nature of any line dance is celebrating the circle of life.




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