flowers, and what they wear, they also have to honor many traditions, even if they don’t
understand their origins or meanings. However, to not follow these traditions,
understood or not, might mean bad luck for the marriage or, at the very least, disgruntled
Every culture cherishes its own marriage traditions and superstitions. Many are
not understood but are still seriously followed because “it’s always been done that way”
(Kendrick). Even people not normally superstitious wouldn’t think of violating these
Many traditions originated from old rhymes, folktales or tribal traditions whose
origins are lost in time. For example, one of the original meanings of the word
“wedding” was to gamble or wager. This comes from the time when a bride price was
required before marriage. This bride price could include land, social status, political
alliances or money. Thus, the “Anglo-Saxon word ‘wedd’ meant that the groom would
vow to marry the woman, but it also referred to the bride price (money or barter) to be
paid by the groom to the bride’s father” (Kendrick).
There are equally surprising origins for such traditions as the ring finger, wedding
ring, engagement ring (and its diamond), and wedding cake. For example, the finger
used as the ring finger differs from culture to culture. In Greece during the third century
the index finger was used. In India they used the thumb. The “modern” ring finger
started being used in the fourth century when the Greeks originated the belief that the
third finger was connected to the heart by the “vena amoris,” or the vein of love.
Use of a wedding ring can be traced back to Roman times, and even back then it
was made of gold. Roman rings were often decorated with a carving of two hands to
symbolize two people journeying through life together as one. Early women’s rings also
had keys carved in them, symbolizing that women were able to unlock the hearts of their
It was “Pope Nicholas I [in 860 AD, who first] decreed an engagement ring become a
required statement of nuptial intent,” (Kendrick). He insisted that this ring also be made
of gold, it’s worth requiring a sacrifice on the man’s part for the woman he was about to
marry. This ring went up in value in the fifteenth century when a diamond was added to
it. It was believed that the diamond’s durability and strength would symbolized the
strength of the relationship.
Most of these traditions deal with the strength of the relationship (or its worth or
value), but there are other wedding traditions that deal (directly or indirectly) with
fertility. For example, in the first century BC the Romans began using wedding cakes.
However, these cakes weren’t eaten, they were either thrown at the bride or broken over
her head (Kendrick). This was believed to assure many healthy children for the couple.
In more recent times it became common for the couple to save the top tier of their
cake to be eaten on their first anniversary. This originated in the ninetieth century, when
the extra tiers of the wedding cake were preserved and served at the christening of the
couple’s first child, an event that normally occurred about a year after the marriage.
A wedding cake is for the most part white. Many would probably say this was to
symbolize purity or virginity, but there was actually an economic reason for it. In
Victorian times, "ingredients for the wedding cake were much harder to acquire,
especially for the icing. White icing meant that only the...