Traditions

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Traditionally this takes the form of an announcement in a local newspaper, and a party to celebrate the momentous occasion. The parents of the bride usually place the announcement in the paper, while the groom’s parents host the party.

The engagement party may be as elaborate or simple as the couple chooses, and those who are invited do not necessarily have to be included on the guest-list for the wedding.

While it is customary to have an engagement party, it is not compulsory, and many couples nowadays are foregoing these festivities in order to save money for the big day. 

Why would you need a wedding retinue? Short answer is that no wedding is complete without those cute flower girls, helpful bridesmaids and groomsmen. The long answer is while, traditionally, wedding duties fell to the family and close relatives, today, a couple is likely to get help from their friends too – in some instances, more friends than relatives.

Here is the who’s who of the bridal retinue

MAID OR MATRON OF HONOUR

this role usually goes to one of your sisters or your closest, most loyal friend – the one who knows when to tell you what you want to hear and when to be brutally honest. The maid of honour is like the ‘chief bridesmaid’, if you will and of all your helpers, she’ll be the one whom you’ll rely on the most.

Since organizing and motivating are key duties of the maid of honour, choose your lovable but scatter-brained best friend only if you’re prepared to do a lot of the heavy lifting yourself.

If she’s single, she is a “maid”; a “matron” if married. If you choose to have both, a maid and a matron, then it’s the former who plays the main role.

BEST MAN

The best man is to the groom what your maid of honour is to you, the biggest source of support. Traditionally, he is a brother or the best friend of the groom, and can be married or single. In some areas, it’s customary for the groom to choose his father.

Choosing someone who gets along with the bride is a plus. Also choose someone who won’t party too hard after the rehearsal dinner – you do want him to make it to the ceremony, after all.

BRIDESMAIDS

You can have as many bridesmaids as you want – although 12 is usually the limit. Bridesmaids can be single or married, and of any age, but girls between six and 16 years old become junior bridesmaids and won’t take on many “heavy” duties. Choose from fun friends who will still be in your life long after the wedding. Those negative, needy, dramatic types need not apply. Sisters and close cousins are usually chosen before friends. Don’t forget your fianc?’s sister!

Out-of-town bridesmaids get a pass on most parties, but they still must send a gift for the bridal shower.

GROOMSMEN

Groomsmen are the male counterparts of bridesmaids and are there to help the best man and the groom with any errands before the wedding. Choose from old friends, cousins, and both the bride’s and groom’s brothers.

FLOWER GIRL

The flower girl or girls are usually between four and eight years old. Choose that adorable moppet, a cousin, a niece, a godchild, or a stepchild. Flower girls are not to be confused with junior bridesmaids, who are older and wear tween versions of the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Always include her in your rehearsal so that she’s comfortable with her role and prep her about the amount of attention she’ll be receiving come the day. Just be prepared to deal with disruptions, such as crying or not making it all the way down the aisle.

RING BEARER

The ring bearer is traditionally a boy aged between four and eight. He carries symbolic rings, tied to a ring pillow, down the aisle. As with the flower girl, include him in your rehearsal and prep him for the attention. Just be sure to secure the rings to whatever they’re being carried in or on.

For the different wedding roles or responsibilities that your family and friends can carry, read our article here.

Narrowing down the amount of guests you have at your wedding is always tricky, and having a ‘reserve list’ in case of cancellations, is recommended.

The best way to gauge whether certain people should be invited or not is to ask yourself: “Have I seen or heard from them in the last year?” Naturally, if you haven’t, reconsider asking them!

Some wedding co-ordinators maintain that at least 50% of the guest list should comprise the bride and groom’s friends, but this will have to be negotiated with the bride’s parents, who usually host the event.

Wedding invitations are usually sent out six weeks before the wedding date, unless the wedding falls over Christmas or Easter Holidays. In this case, guests should be notified eight weeks in advance, in case they have made plans to go away.

Guests traveling from abroad will require earlier notification, and mention should be made in an attached note if accommodation will be provided.

When ordering invitations, always have 10% extra of the total amount of invitations required, as mistakes are always likely to happen!

Don’t forget to order matching thank-you cards, as these will definitely be a big help. Once you have agreed to the quote, ask to see a sample before the bulk are printed, and examine the wording with a fine tooth comb.

This is the perfect way to get exactly what you wish for, and you’ll find that most guests are so relieved that they don’t have to spend hours shopping for the ever-elusive ‘perfect gift’, that they are not offended by your requests. Make sure that there is a large selection and that the gifts you choose are varied in price.

Suggested items to include in your registry:

– Towels and Linen
– Kitchen utensils & Tableware
– Small and large appliances (kettles, toasters)
– Decorative items

It is becoming more and more common for the couple to ask for cash, especially if they have most household items already. This way you can do your own shopping, or spend the gift money on the honeymoon.

A flouncing party was a special party to celebrate the engagement, and establish a formal contract of commitment to marry. It is similar to the nuptial contracts of today, as should one party change their mind about the marriage, the other could lay claim to half their property.

After a flouncing party the couple could no longer be seen talking to other suitors. In China the engagement is taken so seriously that should an engaged man die before the wedding, his intended bride was treated as his widow.

Dowry had percieved importance when families arranged marriages. Dowries were used to try to guarantee the new couple’s offspring a pleasant and comfortable life.

The bride was expected to bring a ‘dowry’ of money, jewels, animals, or something of substantial value to the marriage.

This substantial value was provided by the family of the bride and portrayed her perceived worth. On the other hand, the groom paid a ‘brides price’ to her family and promised to faithfully support the bride.

This tradition of a “bride’s price” is similar to the tradition of lobola in African traditional weddings.

Tradition says that the first bridal shower was given to a poor couple in Holland who was denied the bridal dowry because of the groom’s lowly miller status.


The miller’s friends showered the bride with gifts to help them set up housekeeping.

The giving and receiving of rings, has for centuries, symbolized the promise of a future together. The ring signifies the joining of two people, and the unending circle of love for one another. The diamond engagement ring has been around since 1477, other rings were used to mark engagements before then. The diamond is still popular because of its beauty and durability. In the 18th and 19th century a tradition of giving gem stone encrusted rings were popular. Often the first letter of each gem stone spelled out the name of the giver, or a name of endearment, such as “dearest” (diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, epidote, sapphire, turquoise).

Another traditional ring was called the “Gimmal Ring”. It was a three part ring with two clasped hands on it. During the engagement one part was worn by both the bride and groom, while the last part was worn by a witness. It was united as the bride’s wedding ring on the wedding day.

The Wedding ring originates from an ancient belief that a loyal wife might be harassed by evil forces angry about the newly weds’ love. The man would make a “magic circle” by wrapping a rope around his wife’s body as this would protect her from the demons. It would bind her to him in spirit, thus making their souls one.

In ancient times, it was believed there was a vein in the third finger of the left hand that ran directly to the heart. The ring being placed on that finger denoted the strong connection of a heartfelt love and commitment to one another. Although during times of modern autopsy, this long held belief was found not to be so, the tradition continued to this day.

Medieval bridegrooms placed the ring on three of the bride’s fingers, in turn, to symbolize, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The ring then remained on the third finger and has become the customary ring finger for English-speaking cultures. In some European countries, the ring is worn on the left hand before marriage, and is moved to the right hand during the ceremony. However, in most European countries the ring is still worn on the bride’s left hand. A Greek Orthodox bride wears her ring on her left had before marriage, and moves it to her right hand after the ceremony.

The bride’s veil and bouquet is an older tradition than her white gown. Her veil, which was yellow in ancient Greece and red in ancient Rome, usually shrouded her from head to foot, and has since the earliest of times, denoted the subordination of a woman to man. The thicker the veil, the more traditional the implication of wearing it.

According to tradition, it is considered bad luck for the bride to be seen by the groom before the ceremony. As a matter of fact, in the old days of marriage by purchase, the couple rarely saw each other at all, with courtship being of more recent historical emergence.

The lifting of the veil at the end of the ceremony symbolizes male dominance. If the bride takes the initiative in lifting it, thereby presenting herself to him, she is showing more independence.

Veils came into vogue in the United States when Nelly Curtis wore a veil at her wedding to George Washington’s aid, Major Lawrence Lewis. Major Lewis saw his bride to be standing behind a filmy curtain and commented to her how beautiful she appeared. She then decided to veil herself for their ceremony.

Early farmers thought a bride’s wedding day tears were lucky and brought rains for their crops. Later, a crying bride meant that she’d never shed another tear about her marriage.

Today, we carry a handkerchief to dab away the tears of happiness and joy. How special to keep your wedding hanky and pass it down from mother to daughter capturing all the love and emotion of such a special event from one generation to another.

Who hasn’t noticed that the maids, ushers, and entire bridal party dress very much like the bride and groom?

It was once common for the bride, her groom and all their friends to walk together to the church on the morning of the wedding. Afraid that someone, maybe a rejected suitor, would spot the happy couple and put a curse on them.

The groom’s friends wore clothes almost identical to his, and the women costumed themselves like the bride. These disguises tricked evil wishers into letting the real bride and groom live happily ever after. Of course, today we dress our attendants alike for the beauty and pageantry of the event.

For centuries, flowers have stood for a variety of emotions and values. Roses for love, lilies for virtue and so on. In ancient marriages, the brides carried herbs beneath their veils to symbolize fidelity. Greek brides carried ivy as a symbol of never-ending love. Orange blossoms, (the world renowned wedding flower) were chosen by the Spaniards to represent happiness and fulfilment, because the orange tree flowers and bears fruit at the same time.

During even earlier times of “primitive marriage,” when the fear of demons was most prevalent, the brides carried stinking garlands of herbs and spices for the purpose of frightening off evil spirits.

Today, brides carry flowers in the colour scheme of their wedding, bringing beauty and elegance as well as old world customs to their special day.

In times when women were granted few privileges and even fewer personal rights, the bride was literally given away to the groom by the father, usually in exchange for monetary gain.

Today, it is seen as symbolic of the blessings and support of her union as a promise of continued trust and affection.

Often when the question is asked by a clergy during the ceremony, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man,” the father’s response is, “Her mother and I.”

The kiss that concludes the wedding ceremony is said to represent the couple sharing and joining their souls.

The throwing of rice on the couple has always been symbolic of wishing prosperity and good luck.

In the Orient, throwing rice means, “May you always have a full pantry.” Wheat and other grains are sometimes thrown in addition to rice, thereby also wishing prosperity and lack of want.

Each shower bestows “Goodwill Traditions” of wealth upon the newlyweds. To this day, rice remains a token of a life of “plenty.”

Traditionally, the bride and groom will be the first to dance as their special song is played slowly. As the music continues to play the father of the bride will cut in on the groom and dance with his daughter. The groom then asks the brides mother to join him in a dance.

The groom’s father cuts in on the bride’s father and the bride’s father cuts in on the groom to dance with his wife. The groom then asks his mother to dance. Following this the parents exchange dance partners.The best man then comes out to ask the bride to dance and the groom dances with the maid of honour.Once the entire bridal party and their parents are on the dance floor the guests are invited to join.

Wedding cake history

Beginning in early Roman times, the cake has been a special part of the wedding celebration. A thin loaf was broken over the bride’s head at the close of the ceremony to symbolize fertility. The wheat from which it was made, symbolized fertility and the guests eagerly picked up the crumbs as good luck charms. During the Middle Ages, it became traditional for the couple to kiss over a small cluster of cakes. Later, a clever baker decided to amass all these small cakes together, covering them with frosting. Thus, the modern tiered cake was born.

Sharing the first piece of wedding cake is a wedding tradition with Roman roots. The Romans believed that by eating the wedding cake together a special bond was created between the couple. The wheat used to bake the cake was symbolic of fertility and a “fruitful union”, while the cake’s sweetness was thought to bring sweetness to all areas of the couple’s new life.

How to choose your wedding cake

Choosing your wedding cake can be one of the best parts of planning your wedding, although it can still be a difficult decision to make.  It is one of the most important parts of the wedding and there are many aspects to consider when choosing your wedding cake. The design, flavour, size and then the amount of money you are willing to spend.

There are so many choices out there for wedding cakes. The Colour, flowers, piping, ribbons and decorations, the list is endless. However when choosing the design of your unique wedding cake, it is all up to your likes and dislikes.

It would be better to start choosing your cake after you have picked your wedding theme, the venue and your dress. You want to have the cake be well-suited with your wedding dress, your wedding theme or your wedding colours.

The design

When choosing the design of your wedding cake, it is all up to your likes and dislikes. Look through magazines and on the internet. Collect pictures of what you want your unique wedding cake to look like.  You also need to make sure to order your cake in time for the wedding. Some bakeries might have to special order or make decorations from scratch and this will all take time to do.

The flavour

Go to the bakery you want to use to make your wedding cake and ask them for a taste test. Every person is different, so you have to make sure the flavours you choose are to your liking.  A cupcake tower has become a trend these days; it is quick, easy and convenient; and you can even get them in different flavours. But not everyone wants to stray from tradition.

The size

Choosing the size of your cake all depends on how many guests you plan on serving the cake to. Do you really want an oversized cake for a small amount of guests?

Budget limit

Look at your budget and go and speak to your cake maker. Tell them exactly what you want and they can make the cake to your budget. You can also use cheaper yet still beautiful and classic decorations on the cakes such as fresh fruits and flowers, which will save you money but, it can still be striking and elegant.

Do research on wedding cakes, bakeries and wedding cake designs. Look around to find a cake maker that will work with your budget. Doing research is very important when making decisions like these. There are many different ideas available out there, from different cake shapes and sizes, different designs and colours. You have to look at all the available options.

The groom’s cake is a smaller cake that is served at the wedding reception.

Traditionally single young women would take a piece of the groom’s cake home to place under their pillows and the old wives tale says “they will marry whomever they dream of that night.”

At the close of the reception the single women gather on the dance floor. The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder for the women to catch. It is believed that the one who catches the bouquet will be the next to get married.

In ancient Israel, brides wore a blue ribbon to signify “fidelity.” The garter-throwing itself derives from a bawdy ritual called “flinging the stocking.”

In Britain, the guests would playfully invade the bridal chamber. The ushers grabbed the bride’s stockings. They took turns sitting at the foot of the bed flinging the stockings over the heads of the couple. Whoever’s stocking landed on the bride’s or the groom’s nose would be the next to wed.

Today, many brides will wear two garters. The one she wishes to keep as a memento of her wedding day, possibly to be displayed on her groom’s rear view mirror, and another, to be retrieved and tossed by the groom to all the young unmarried men attending the event. The “toss garter” is likely to be in the colour of the wedding, and not as elaborate as the more decorative garters kept by the bride.

In ancient times, many of the first marriages were by capture, not choice. When early man felt it was time to take a bride, he would often carry off an unwilling woman to a secret place where her relatives wouldn’t find them. While the moon went through all its phases, (about 30 days) they hid from the searchers and drank a brew made from honey. Hence, we get the word, honeymoon.

During the days of ‘Marriage by Capture’, the bride was certainly not going to go peacefully into the bridegroom’s abode, thus, she was dragged or carried across the threshold.

In even earlier times, it was believed that family demons followed the woman and to keep her family demons from going into the groom’s home, she was carried across the threshold upon her entering for the first time.

After that, the demons could not enter as she would come in and go out of the home.

If you’re thinking of breaking tradition and ditching the traditional white wedding dress here is a limerick advising of dress colours:

  • Married in White, you have chosen right,
  • Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
  • Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
  • Married in Brown, you will live in town,
  • Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
  • Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
  • Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
  • Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
  • Married in Grey, you will go far away,
  • Married in Black, you will wish yourself back

The tradition of wearing a white wedding dress was started by Queen Victoria, she chose to wear a white dress instead of the traditional royal colour, silver. Before the white wedding dress brides would wear their best dress.