American Wedding Traditions and Customs
Weddings in America are just as diverse as the couple who comes together to share their lives forever. American Traditional weddings take place in a church with family and friends in attendance to help celebrate the joyous occasion. Weddings in America
also take place in chapels scattered throughout the U.S.,
most renowned in Las Vegas.
Some couples choose a wedding ceremony on a beach or in a garden. Whatever location you choose for your wedding ceremony, here is a look at some of the customs and traditions that seem to stay with couples no matter where they are.
Something Old, Something New
You have probably heard the saying 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a silver sixpence inside your shoe.' No one is really sure when this custom started. It is believed by many to have begun during the Victorian era, while others argue that it started much earlier than that. Nevertheless, couples have honored this custom through the centuries, and even today. Something old represents the guests in attendance at the ceremony who are already married. Something new represents the newlyweds and the beginning of their new life together. Something borrowed signifies something that the bride must give back, such as her veil or her mother's own wedding dress. Something blue is associated with the bride's virginity and purity. Something silver is any type of silver coin that is tucked into one of the bride's shoes to represent wealth and prosperity.
White Wedding Dress
The wedding dress nowadays is usually believed to have to be white or ivory, as this symbolizes purity. This is a newer superstition because white was started to be worn as a wedding dress only during the Victorian age.
And that time, white was worn as an announcement of affluence because white dresses then will only be worn once.
A black wedding gown was considered taboo in the last decades, but recently, this is also becoming an option for brides. Black flatters a woman's figure and skin tone, and this flattery is best needed during a bride's wedding day.
The common superstition these days regarding the wedding dress is that the groom is not supposed to see the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding day.
There is also the superstition for the bride to avoid wearing the dress before the day and see herself in the mirror because something to prevent the wedding may happen.
This is a problem for the brides who want to make sure everything should be perfect on the day.
All brides deserve a perfectly-fitting dress. Some who still want to follow this superstition fit the lining of the dress, and leave all trust to the dress maker.
Some dress makers leave some stitches unfinished and only do the last finishing stitches before the bride leaves for the wedding.
A common rhyme regarding wedding dress superstition goes :
Married in white, you will have chosen right.
grey, you will go far away.
Married in black, you will wish yourself back.
Married in red, you wish yourself dead.
Married in green, ashamed to be seen.
Married in blue, you will always be true.
Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl.
Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.
Married in brown, you will live out of town.
Married in pink, your fortune will sink.
The type of flowers the bride clutches during the wedding ceremony signify her emotions towards the marriage.
In olden times, the bridal bouquet has herbs and spices instead of lowers.
It was believed that these strongly aromatic plants will ward off evil spirits intent on possessing the bride.
At present there are a lot of designs of bouquet the bride may decide to clutch throughout the ceremony.
Some bouquets are cascading, others are pomander balls, some wrapped in delicate fabric.
The designs are endless.
Some brides decide to carry a bouquet of other significant thing for her, such as rice stalks or small branches of a special plant.
Here is more information on the Flowers Symbolism.
The Veil and the Bridesmaids
The purpose of the bride wearing a veil dates back to when people believed evil spirits were around to try and ruin the wedding ceremony. The bride wore a veil to cover her face so evil spirits would not know she was the bride. Likewise, bridesmaid were made part of the ceremony to surround the bride, so evil spirits would be confused about who the actual bride was, and leave. Many couples today still honor these customs, but use the veil to hide the bride's face until it is first revealed to her groom. The bridesmaids are chosen to help the bride celebrate her happy day. This is also true for the
ushers to celebrate with the groom.
Bridesmaid Dress Color
The bride can choose what color that the bridesmaids will wear.
The color usually coordinates with the other themes of the wedding, such as similar to the color of the flowers chosen.
The bride should also think what color flatters the bridesmaids. These days, it is customary for the bride to decide what color and fabric the bridesmaids will wear, and the bridesmaid will then choose the most flattering style for herself.
Some brides choose the other way around, they choose what style the bridesmaids will wear, and the bridesmaids wear different colors of the same style dress. More on American Color Symbolism.
Rings, because of its circular shape, symbolize eternity, endlessness…
thus a never-ending marriage. Rings can be made of gold, platinum and other metals. Some are encrusted with jewels to signify the value of a couple’s love.
couples have their names or messages engraved on the rings before the wedding.
During the wedding ceremony, the
Ring Boy (also often called the Ring Bearer) takes the rings up on a pillow so the bride and groom can exchange rings.
Flower girls are the cute girls at the head of the wedding procession.
They spread petals down the aisle for the bride to walk on flowers.
The flowers the girls carry or strew about symbolize fertility and
hope. Others say that in the early times the bride
and groom were made to wear flowers to ward off evil spirits.
Either way, the beauty of flowers and the cuteness of flower girls add
cheer to the wedding festivities.
one will see the changing face of the flower girl. Some girls do not strew
flower petals on the way to altar. Some flower girls carry a mall bouquet
or a basket of flowers instead.
girls cannot be technically called flower girls because they don't have flowers.
Some strew confetti down the aisle. Some blow bubbles. I've seen a
wedding where the flower girls carried teddy bears.
a Flower Girl is an important decision. Some couples choose a bigger girl
instead of a smaller one, but substitutes as a junior bridesmaid instead of
being a flower girl. There are weddings when smaller girls are put into
wagons and these are rolled down the aisle. Other couples with significant
(trained) pets in their lives may also be included in the entourage as a flower
pet or ring bearer pet. There is also an Etiquette
for Flower Girls. Here are articles with information on and Flower
Girl Tips , Flower Girl Dresses, and Flower
Ring Boy (or Ring Bearer)
Ring Boy or Ring Bearer is a young boy who is special to the couple and is
tasked to carry a pillow with the wedding rings on it during the procession.
During the exchange of vows, the ring boy hands the pillow to the couple for
them to exchange the rings.
Nowadays, it's perfectly
acceptable to tie in fake rings to the pillow to wisely avoid any untoward
incidents. If the couple's favorite boy is more than one, it is acceptable to
have two ring bearers. If the couple has no favorite boy in mind, they can
skip having a ring boy and have the best man hand over the rings during the
exchange of vows.
Other couples choose to
have a favorite girl to be Ring Bearer instead.
is also becoming common for highly regarded pets to carry the pillow with the
reception line is where the Bridge's Parents, Grooms Parents, and Bride and
Groom, and may include the maid of honor and best man. The receiving line
is where guests can be introduced to the other side of the family
After the wedding ceremony a receiving line of
the Bride and Groom along with their Mothers and it may include the maid of
honor traditionally, but often includes the entire wedding party.
The act of attendants throwing rice at the new couple after their wedding ceremony signifies that they wish the couple happiness and prosperity. In recent years rice has been replaced with things such as birdseed and even blowing bubbles. It has been thought that rice is hard to clean up, and birds could just eat the birdseed. Bubbles are festive, so they have become quite popular over the years as well.
The wedding car is just as important in the wedding rites.
The wedding car is the first venue for a couple to be alone and have
privacy after they leave the church or the reception. In
older times, it is considered good luck to have the wedding carriage drawn by
gray horses. It is also a good omen if the wedding carriage meets a gray
horse on the way to reception. It is considered bad luck if a horse refuses to
move or walk to or after the ceremony.
days, it is considered ill luck when the car won't start or breaks down.
It is also believed that after the bride is set at the church door the car
should travel for a short distance before going back. Not doing so would
cause the bride or groom bad luck.
cars are usually decorated with flowers, or a sign that says Just Married,
or hung with tin cans. These tin cans clank along
the pavement as the car moves. The noise it makes is
believed to ward off evil spirits.
Single ladies in attendance at the wedding reception are invited to come up and try to catch the bride's bouquet. This is a custom that represents which lady will be the next to be married. As the custom goes, she is to take a small piece of the wedding cake home and slip it under her pillow that very night. She will then have a dream about the man she will soon marry.
Catching the Garter
are a fertility symbol and the person who catches it will be married next per
reception that follows the wedding and is often a sit down dinner, but some have
a buffet. There is often games that are played during the reception and
some receptions include a dance.
Wedding cakes are not just dessert
to be served to guests during reception. The wedding cake is cut together by the couple during the wedding reception.
Then the husband and wife exchange bites of the cake. This is the first act the couple does together as husband and wife.
The sweet wedding cake symbolizes caring and nurturance between the couple.
Wedding cakes are also usually white, to symbolize purity. In ancient Rome, the wedding cake is a loaf of bread.
This cake is broken over the bride's head. The guests would then scramble for the crumbs.
There are also numerous superstitions about good luck for those who can bring home the crumbs of the wedding cake.
Putting crumbs of a wedding cake under one's pillow will make a guest dream of the future spouse. Crumbs are also believed to enhance fertility.
Wedding cakes nowadays have a variety of designs, layers and flavors.
Besides choosing a cake in one's favorite flavor, couples also have to choose the cake according to practical reasons.
- Fruit cakes stand up better because of the volume added by the fruit.
Fruit cakes are especially great for multi-layered tiers as it can hold the weight of the tiers.
- Chocolate cakes can present a problem.
Couples are expected to exchange bites of the cake and smile for the photographer right after.
Brown smears on the teeth or face will not be flattering on pictures.
- Fondant cakes also hold up better, even during warm weather.
- Three-tiered cakes can be practical.
Bottom layer can be eaten at the reception, middle layer can be distributed for
give-aways, and the top layer can be saved and frozen for the next big occasion, such as the first wedding anniversary or the baptism of the couple's first child.
Weddings are traditionally held in
places of worship. Churches, chapels and temples are usual venues to get
married. Often a wedding venue is chosen because of its significance to
the bride or groom. It could be a church where one attended growing up,
etc. Or a parish church officiated by a favorite priest. Some
couples pick a place of worship because of its excellent artistic or historical
Some couples choose to get married where
marriage licenses are easier to acquire, such as Las Vegas or a country with
easy application process. Some couples choose to get married in their
Other couples are more adventurous and
pick an assortment of venues to exchange their "I Dos". Some
want to hold their wedding outdoors. A pretty garden, the sea, a public
park are beautiful places that will make a wedding memorable. Other
couples go all out with their creativity to make their wedding unique.
Sometimes, a hobby or interest will naturally dictate what wedding location is
most ideal for a couple. Some couples have gotten married airborne, under the
sea or up the mountains.
There is no limit to where a
wedding can be held. As long as a place is special for both the bride and
groom, any place is the perfect place to hold a wedding.
Order of Events
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
Reception Line in church
Grand Entrance of Wedding
Cutting of Cake (sometimes
this is done after the dance, since some people believe when the cake is cut
the reception is over).
Throwing of the Garter
Throwing the bouquet
Father Daughter Dance
makes perfect, so there is a full rehearsal usually the night before the
The rehearsal dinner is given as a thanksgiving meal to the entourage who have come to practice the wedding march. This is done very near to the wedding date. It is often sponsored by the groom's family.
Other American Wedding Customs
- Gift registration. Couples today can window shop around favorite specialty stores and sign up with the bridal registry. In the registry, they can specify what they need or want. The stores where the couple is registered can be announced during the engagement, or written in the wedding invitation. This way, well-wishers can check out from the store most convenient to buy from and decide on a gift that will surely be used and liked by the couple.
- Bridal Shower and Groom's Stag Party. These parties are organized by the maid of honor for the bride, and the Best Man for the groom. It is also done days before the wedding, sometimes the day before. The ladies and gentlemen enjoy the night with activities they consider enjoyable. It is the party that signifies farewell to the bride's and groom's carefree, single life.
While once believed to be totally true by those given in to superstition, the custom is just an act of fun and tradition these days, as no one really believes this anymore. The same is true with the garter thrown by
the groom to all of the single men hoping to catch the keepsake.
It seems that American wedding customs have deep-seeded beginnings in superstition. Nowadays, couples use these Wedding traditions and customs for
entertainment and for the sake of tradition. The truth is, the couple has all the power they need to make their marriage last through the love that they have for each other. But, it never hurts to throw in a little luck just because it is so much fun.
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