American Wedding Customs & Traditions Summary:
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
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. I have gone to weddings held in a back yard to
huge wedding held in a church. They were all beautiful, and right for
Old, Something New Means?
have probably heard the saying:
A Silver Sixpence Inside Your Shoe.'
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.
Why a White
The wedding dress trend currently is 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 over a hundred years ago that.
And that time, white was worn as an announcement of affluence because
white dresses then were only 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 appreciated on a
bride's wedding day. When I was in Santa Barbara from the Courthouse Tower, I saw a wedding where who's color was black.
A common superstition 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 that prevents the wedding may happen.
This is a headache 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 European Wedding dress superstition goes
Married in white, you will
have chosen right.
gray, you will go far away.
Married in black, you will wish
Married in red, you wish yourself
Married in green, ashamed to be
Married in blue, you will always be
Married in pearl, you will live in
Married in yellow, ashamed of your
Married in brown, you will live out
in pink, your fortune will sink.
Red is a lucky color in Chinese, so
in a traditional Chinese wedding the bride wore a Red Dress. Now,
European White dresses have become the norm for Chinese weddings, with
the traditional Chinese dress worn at the banquet.
The type of flowers the bride
clutches during the wedding ceremony signify her emotions towards the
In olden times, the bridal bouquet has herbs and spices instead of flowers.
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
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
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
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
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 AmericanColor Symbolism.
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
During the wedding
Ring Boy (also often called the Ring Bearer)
takes the rings up on a pillow so the bride and
groom can exchange rings.
girls are the cute girls at the head of the wedding
They spread petals down the aisle for the bride to walk on
The flowers the girls carry or strew about
symbolize fertility and
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
or a basket of flowers instead.
girls cannot be technically called flower girls because they don't have
Some strew confetti down the aisle. Some blow
bubbles. I've seen a
wedding where the flower girls carried teddy bears.
Choosinga Flower Girl is an
important decision. Some couples choose a bigger girl
instead of a smaller one, but substitutes as a junior bridesmaid
being a flower girl. There are weddings when smaller girls
are put into
wagons and these are rolled down the aisle. Other couples
(trained) pets in their lives may also be included in the entourage as
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 is a young boy who is special to the couple and
tasked to carry a pillow with the wedding rings on it during the
During the exchange of vows, the ring boy hands the pillow to the
them to exchange the rings.
Nowadays, it's perfectly
acceptable to tie in fake rings to the pillow to wisely avoid any
incidents. If the couple's favorite boy is more than one, it is
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
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
reception line is where the Bridge's Parents, Grooms Parents, and Bride
Groom, and may include the maid of honor and best man. The
is where guests can be introduced to the other side of the family
the wedding ceremony a receiving line of
the Bride and Groom along with their Mothers and it may include the
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
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
move or walk to or after the ceremony.
days, it is considered ill luck when the car won't start or
It is also believed that after the bride is set at the church door the
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.
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.
are a fertility symbol and the man who catches it will be married next
tradition. The garter is worn just above the knee. The bride throws it
in back of her to the single men. There
is a funny story about the garter at my wedding, but I am too
embarrassed to tell it. Another story at my wedding was a
girl friend of a high school friend lunged in front of everyone, and
got the bouquet. The comment was she was super aggressive from some
other friends. The high school friend was very careful when the garter
was thrown, to keep his hands absolutely at his side so there was zero
chance he would get the garter. I wonder what ever happened to them.
reception that follows the wedding and is often a sit down dinner, but
a buffet. There is often games that are played during the
some receptions include a dance. I have been to receptions that varied
from a small dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where the wedding was
attended only by close family, to a very expensive American Steak
Dinner that I don't even want to know the bill. Chinese and Vietnamese
receptions I have found to be the most fun. Getting the couples to kiss
by banging glasses with chopsticks is a fun tradition. As is the part
of where the groom has to share a toast at each table. The important
part is doing what is right for your family, and matches your budget.
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
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
Wedding cakes nowadays have a variety of designs, layers and
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.
cakes can be practical.
Bottom layer can be eaten at the reception, middle layer can be
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.
My wedding cake was a carrot cake with real Butter Cream
Frosting. It was a bit nontraditional at the time, but it was so
delicious! If you have more than one type of cake at a wedding,
everyone will take a sample of both cakes. Our wedding planner
mentioned that, and I saw that later at a neighbors wedding who had a
chocolate and white cake. We did save the top layer of our cake, but we
forgot about it and when we found it again in my in-laws freezer,
nobody had the courage to eat it.
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
the bride or groom. It could be a church where one attended
etc. Or a parish church officiated by a favorite
couples pick a place of worship because of its excellent artistic or
Some couples choose to get married
marriage licenses are easier to acquire, such as Las Vegas or a country
easy application process. Some couples choose to get married
Other couples are more adventurous
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.
couples go all out with their creativity to make their wedding
Sometimes, a hobby or interest will naturally dictate what wedding
most ideal for a couple. Some couples have gotten married airborne,
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
Line in church
Entrance of Wedding
of Cake (sometimes
this is done after the dance, since some people believe when the cake
the reception is over).
of the Garter
makes perfect, so there is a full rehearsal usually the night before
actually wedding. Rehearsals are so important! I went to
one wedding recently that did not have a rehearsal, and you could tell.
It was a beautiful location, but a lot of small things could have been
done that would have made it so much nicer.
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 and a good time for the two families to et to know each
other. Especially since many times some members of the wedding party
have traveled quite a distance. My family flew to NY twice for two
cousin's weddings from California. The location is determined by who
pays for the dinner. With more and more couples paying for everything,
this does change the style a bit.
Other American Wedding Customs
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
Wedding Customs Information
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. Weddings are becoming more multi-cultural, as people from different cultures marry.
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