The Wedding Ring
A ring has always been part of a wedding, even if it was only loaned for the ceremony itself! The ring represented the original 'wed', or pledge placed on the fourth finger of the bride's left hand in the presence of a priest and congregation. The fourth finger of the left hand was thought to be the most suitable for a plain gold circle of 'unending love' because they believed a vein - the vena amoris - ran from it straight to the heart!
The Engagement Ring
Originally an engagement ring served as a 'partial payment' for the right to court a bride! It was originally placed on the fourth finger of the girl's right hand. On the wedding day it was transferred to the fourth finger of her left hand by the bridegroom. The same ring, therefore, served for betrothal and wedding.
However the Marriage Act of 1754 ended the binding nature of betrothals and the engagements that replaced them were a less serious affair. As if to symbolise the difference, a plain gold band gave way to a more elaborate ring containing precious or semi-precious stones.
The Wedding Veil
The veil often represents the 'something borrowed' of the modern bride. An old veil is thought to be luckier than a new one especially if it was worn by a happily married close relative. Royal brides do not arrive veiled at church. Some say this tradition derives from a time when precautions had to be taken against any last minute substitution!
The Bride's Garter
Hundreds of years ago, it was common practice for the guests to follow the wedding couple to their bed. As the years past, the tradition started getting out of hand with some of the guests trying to disrobe the bride. To ward off the guests, the groom would throw the garter.
The Wedding Dress
The tradition of wearing a white wedding dress gained popularity in the Victorian Age. Queen Victoria wore a beautiful white dress to marry her beloved Alfred, and it started a world-wide trend. Prior to that most women wore their best dress--even if that dress was black. Whatever the colour, numerous superstitions attach to the wedding dress. It is unlucky to try it on in its entirety before it is donned for the wedding. For this reason a few stitches are often left to be added at the last minute. Above all the bride must not look at herself in the mirror in full dress until shortly before she leaves for the church.
"Something Old, Something New,
Something Borrowed, Something Blue"
Perhaps the best known of all wedding rhymes and faithfully observed by most brides today. It is relatively new having originated in early Victorian days. It symbolises the bride's old life and the new one on which she is now embarking. An antique piece of jewellery is an excellent idea for the something 'old'.
'Something borrowed' symbolises the community aspect of marriage. Blue is the colour of true religion and constancy. It may also account for the popularity of jewellery set with sapphires, blue topaz and aquamarines.
The Bouquet Toss
Whoever catches the bouquet is the next one to wed! (Wedding etiquette and tradition still believed by many to this day!)
The Wedding Rice
A symbol of fertility thrown over the couple as they leave the church.
It has been claimed that in medieval times, the bride and groom were given mead - a honeywine - in the evening after the wedding. It was said that the couple would drink of it and then make love. If, as a result, the bride gave birth nine months after the wedding it was a great honour to the brewer of the mead! It would increase his business and reputation, and often the baby would be named after him.
The Top-tier of the Wedding Cake
In the days of old, the top-tier of the wedding cake was to be placed under the couple's bed so that the bride would be fertile and bear strong children. After a year, the bride and groom would consume what was left of the cake for luck or health. Needless to say, the tradition has changed somewhat in recent years, but you still find the newlyweds putting cake in their freezer till the first anniversary.
Over the Threshold
The tradition of carrying the bride over the doorpost comes from as far back as the ancient Romans. It was tradition for the family to anoint the doorpost with fine oil and herbs. For this reason the groom would lift the bride over the threshold so she would not slip
"Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity" - George Bernard Shaw