Pastel and green arrangement of bouquet flowers.
Beautiful laced bride poses in green garden with long-flowing veil.
You might have picked up on the fact that I've been to a few weddings in my time. Just a couple ... hundred! :) But even if you haven't been to as many weddings as I have, chances are good you can list off a few of the traditions that many modern Western weddings have in common. There's a diamond engagement ring, a bouquet of flowers, a white dress, and a really cool cake. Right? Did you ever wonder where these shared traditions come from? Well, wonder no more, because I slaved over a hot internet until I found the answers for you!

Bridal Bouquet & Wedding Flowers
Wedding flowers are such longstanding tradition that it's hard to imagine them even HAVING an origin. I can easily picture Eve carrying a beautiful armful of flowers when she married Adam -- haha! Flowers and wedding just GO together! But like all of our other wedding traditions, the use of flowers at weddings does have a source.

There are two big reasons why brides began carrying flowers at their weddings. Firstly, flowers and herbs were believed to be a way to ward off evil spirits, illness, and bad luck. The favored plants for scaring away those evil spirits were fairly ... fragrant. Carrying smelly botanicals like garlic, dill, and sage would help to protect the bride and ensure a happy, healthy, fertile marriage. The second important reason for the bridal bouquet was symbolic. The flowers and plants that the bride held had meanings. Love, purity, and fidelity were all meanings connected to the blooms, including favorites like marigolds and myrtle. By carrying those flowers, the bride also carried those attributes into the wedding and the marriage.

Those are historically valid reasons, but they leave out one of the most important aspects of bouquets and wedding flowers -- they're GORGEOUS!
Bright and green colored bouquet for bridesmaids.
Bride and groom gently kiss as bride holds flowy bouquet.
Bridesmaid holds pastel, natural bouquet arrangement outdoors.
Pasley and soft pink arrangement of bouquet bundle for bridesmaids.
The Wedding Cake
The wedding cake has a long, long history, with variations going all the way back to Ancient Rome! Wheat and grain were symbolic of fertility and good fortune, so bread would be broken over the bride's head to bring good luck. Nothing says luck like crumbs in your hair, right? -- haha! In the Middle Ages, it was a wedding tradition for the bride and groom to lean toward one another with a big pile of rolls and bread loaves between them. They would kiss over the bread for luck and good fortune. Later fruitcakes became an expected treat at weddings. Because of the dried fruit and high alcohol content, these cakes could last for years, so the couple would often keep a piece to eat on their anniversary or at the birth of their first child.

It's a little difficult to imagine in these days of Twinkies and Girl Scout Cookies, but sugar was once a precious luxury. The white wedding cake that is now traditional started out as a way to show off. The whiter the icing, the more pure (and therefore the more expensive) your sugar was. Modern wedding cakes with multiple tiers and decorations were spurred into being by Queen Victoria. Her own wedding cake (see the illustration below) was 9 feet around! And that was when she was just a wedding rookie! As she married her nine children to royal families all over Europe, the cakes got even more impressive. I wonder what Queen Victoria would think of the naked cakes and dessert tables that are popping up in weddings today!
Middle aged royal wedding cake in European times.
Five tier white modern wedding cake with orchids.
Blue and white geometric styled wedding cake.
The Wedding Gown
Before the modern era, wedding dresses were basically ... just dresses. A woman would either were her nicest regular dress, or she would have a new gown made for the wedding and then THAT would become her nicest regular dress afterward. The dress might happen to be white, but other colors were just fine. Blue was very popular, since it was symbolically associated with the Virgin Mary, and therefore with purity and goodness. And because the dress was going to be worn again and again in the future, women who weren't super wealthy were more likely to wear darker colors and patterns -- that wouldn't show stains -- to their wedding.

So when did the white gown become a thing? When our friend Queen Victoria wore a white satin gown to be married to her beloved Prince Albert. Paintings like the one below, drawings, and etchings of the young couple were circulated far and wide, and within decades white wedding dresses were the norm for brides. Even with the recent emergence of trends toward blush and gray wedding gowns, most of us tend to picture brides in white dresses.
Modern era wedding party and theme.
Groom softly kisses bride on cheek during first-moment looks before wedding.
Bride softly poses while surrounded by cacti garden.
The Diamond Engagement Ring
The use of engagement or betrothal rings go all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that the ring finger of the left hand was connected straight to the heart by a major vein. Later, Ancient Romans wore a gold ring out in public and an iron ring while at home. That way they got to show off the bling in public, while making sure the gold ring didn't get damaged by housework. Pretty smart! But what about diamonds, you ask? In the 15th century, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed with a ring set with diamonds in the shape of the letter M (below left). That didn't exactly start a worldwide trend, though! Diamonds have been popular among royalty and the extremely wealthy for centuries, but they didn't become THE stone for engagement rings until recently!

In the Victorian Era, it was fashionable to set engagement rings with a variety of stones (sometimes spelling out sweet messages, like REGARD, DEAREST, or ADORE). Victoria herself wore an engagement ring shaped like a snake, set with an emerald -- her birthstone (below right). And thinking back to my childhood reading, Anne of Green Gables wore a pearl engagement ring. Then, after the Great Depression, everything in the engagement ring world changed! Diamond prices were at a drastic low, and engagement rings were falling out of style, especially among young people. DeBeers began an intensive marketing campaign to promote the diamond engagement ring. They coined the phrase "A diamond is forever," and established the diamond as the standard for engagement rings. You only have to at a few ring fingers today to see just how successful DeBeers was!
Ancient Egyptian gold rings.
Beautiful wedding ring display with pink rose display.
So now you know -- some of these wedding traditions have been thousands of years in the making! Aren't we lucky to live now, when they have evolved from smelly herbs and piles of bread into stunning florals and elegant cakes?

------> If you are planning your wedding, which traditions to keep and which to change are up to you! We have the perfect tool to help you make it a special, unique day! Click here to download a FREE form to help you brainstorm all the ways you could create a wedding that is totally YOU! You and your fiancé aren't cookie-cutter people, so your wedding shouldn't be, either! Download your copy today!
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