The traditions vary depending on the couple’s origins, their religion, ethnicity, culture, lifestyle, and preferences. Couples across the nation follow ancient traditions, or make up their own. They leave their mark on weddings.
There are still some traditions that most American couples follow. A wedding cake and the first dance are still staples at most weddings. Most ceremonies include a processional and many receptions conclude with a gesture that sends off newlyweds.
Marcy Blum is a 30 year-old wedding and event planner who can help us delve deeper into the most popular American wedding customs. She has worked with couples across the nation, so she knows what they are doing. She explained the origins of each tradition and how it’s evolved over time.
Six of the most popular American marriage traditions.
White Wedding Dress
Many girls dream about their wedding dress long before they find their love. It’s often white. Blum says that the white wedding gown or dress is one of America’s oldest traditions. It’s worn by almost all American brides during their wedding ceremony or reception.
This tradition originated in England. Queen Victoria attended a very fancy wedding where she wore an elegant white dress of British silks and lace. Since then, brides have worn white. Women have added their own twist to their outfits in modern times by adding off-white, or a colorful accessory or accent.
The Wedding Party
Many couples, regardless of their religion or culture, have bridesmaids at their wedding. Blum says that the bridal party is present at a majority of weddings today. They can be seen at the reception, during the procession, or standing by the couple’s side during the ceremony. Also, they are involved in the planning of wedding-related parties such as bachelor or bachelorette parties.
Couples can now choose who they want as part of their wedding party. It’s up to them whether they want their cousin or best friend standing beside them as they make their vows. It wasn’t always like that. Blum reveals that the concept of bridesmaids originated from the 10 witnesses needed by law during Ancient Roman times. These witnesses were not related or associated with the bride. The women would all dress in the same colour and similar style to the bride to confuse evil spirits.
The Wedding Processional
In most American weddings, the wedding party will walk down the aisle to begin the ceremony. In most cases, the order of the procession is the same. The officiant leads the way first, followed by the bridal party and flower girls. Last are the couple and their parents. In traditional ceremonies, it is the father of the bride who walks her down the aisle. However, in more modern ceremonies both parents are responsible for the honor. Another tradition was started in England at a royal wedding. This time, the oldest child of Queen Victoria.
The First Dance
The first dance at a wedding is often one of the most anticipated moments. Newlyweds take to the floor for their first dance as a married pair. Some people perform a romantic slow-dance, while others wow the crowd with an upbeat choreographed dance. This tradition comes from Europe. In the 1700s the noblemen of the time would throw lavish balls, and their guest of honor, the person with the highest social or rank, would start the party by dancing the first. The newlyweds are the ones who get to dance first.
Blum claims that the wedding cake is often the focal point of the reception. It is not only beautifully displayed at receptions, but cutting it is part of the wedding festivities. She adds that “wedding cakes are an important part of a wedding celebration. The tradition is to have two people share a piece of cake, which can sometimes result in cake smashed on each other’s faces.” Today, many couples still choose to have a wedding cake made of macarons or cupcakes.
The tradition goes back to ancient, when guests would crumble small barley cakes or wheat scones over the bride’s hair to represent fertility and good luck. In medieval times, Merrymakers used a different version of this tradition. The couple would kiss on top of a huge stack of cookies or scones. They would be lucky if they could keep the tower standing without it falling.
Throwing rice for newlyweds
In American weddings, it’s tradition to have the newlyweds make a grand exit. In the past, guests would throw rice as the newlyweds got into their car to leave (decorated in signs of marriage). The guests don’t throw rice any more because it’s too messy and dangerous. Instead, they send the couple off with bubbles, sparklers or dried lavender.