Wedding Traditions We Still Love & Some We've Left Behind
By Felicity Newburry

31 August 2015

The institution of marriage is practiced across the entire world by many different people from diverse cultures with various accompanying traditions. In New Zealand, the rites of the wedding celebration are predominantly influenced by English traditions; however, as the years have gone by, many of these traditions have evolved with the changing times, while some have been left behind entirely. Here is our list of ten wedding traditions - some we still love and some we have left behind! Perhaps they’ll help you decide what to include and what to leave out of your wedding.

Image by Benjamin & Elise Photography

1.     The White Dress

Prior to the Victorian era, brides wore dresses of every colour for their wedding! It was not until 1840 when Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Albert of Saxe-Coburg that the white wedding dress truly took form. Although Victoria only chose the colour to incorporate some lace that she liked, the white wedding dress took off. 175 years later, the white wedding gown still dominates the dress market and is perhaps the most iconic aspect of the modern wedding.

2.     Opposite Sides of the Church

This tradition is rooted in Christian and Jewish religious customs. At Christian marriage ceremonies, the bride would stand on the left with her family and the groom would stand on the right with his family. At Jewish marriages, this was simply reversed. As time has gone on and couples from other beliefs have embraced the institution of marriage, the separation of families during the ceremony has almost faded into nonexistance. At many modern-day weddings, guests are often allowed to sit where they please, whether that be next to their future in-laws or not!

bouquet toss

Image by Apropos Creations

3.     The Bouquet Toss

The bridal bouquet toss was actually invented in England as a preventative measure. Customarily, young women would attempt to tear pieces of the bride’s attire in order to gain some of her good fortune. To escape such an onslaught, the bride would throw her bouquet in one direction and run in the opposite. This tradition still continues in modern marriages; however, the meaning behind the custom has changed. Today, the bouquet toss in an endearing good wish from the bride to the single woman who catches it – a hope that this woman will be the next to marry!

4.     Giving the Bride Away

A father giving his daughter away to his future son-in-law is a sweet sentiment included in many modern-day marriages. For some people however, it is an outdated concept. Its origins are based in the antiquated belief that a daughter is the property of her father until he has sought her an appropriate husband to wed. Today, there are many unique and complex family structures, as well as different viewpoints on marriage and the finding of a partner. This means that the tradition of a father giving his daughter away is steadily dwindling in importance. Many brides walk down the aisle alongside other parental figures or people of importance in their lives. Some brides even choose to do away with any semblance of the tradition by walking down the aisle by themselves. It’s a personal choice, but a less-practiced tradition.

wedding bands

Image by Katja Kircha Photography

5.     Matching Wedding Bands.

The ring tradition came about because of the belief that a vein ran directly from a person’s ring finger to their heart. Though this was eventually proven incorrect, the tradition has continued. Many couples choose rings of different varieties to express their individuality, while others choose to uphold the tradition of matching wedding bands. Wedding rings are an outward expression of the unity and commitment that a married couple has made to one another and as such, is still a valued tradition.

6.     White Icing on the Cake

The white iced wedding cake tradition began in the 17th century and was based purely on the availability of the icing’s ingredients. By the Victorian era, white icing was widely sought after due to its connection with the symbolism of purity. As these values have slowly become considered “old-fashioned” in some marriages, white iced cakes have dated as well. Today, couples are designing their own cakes, based on their own wedding palette or theme, and cake decorators find themselves creating cakes of every kind, in every colour, and every design! White, iced cakes are still popular, but the naked cake has far outstripped it in popularity.

wedding tradition

Image by Porfyri Photography

7.     No Peeks before the Ceremony!

This tradition originated back in the time of arranged marriages where matrimony was more of a business deal than a romantic affair. In these circumstances, often the bride and groom hadn’t even met each another and were prohibited to do so before their vows. This was in order to prevent mishaps, such as the groom calling off the wedding if he didn’t find his bride attractive enough. Unexpectedly perhaps, this tradition has remarkably improved with time, becoming a new spin on an old tradition. Today, many couples choose not to see one another before the wedding so that they can surprise each other, making for a more memorable and breathtaking first glance as the bride walks toward her groom down the aisle.

8.     The First Dance

Traditionally, the first dance was not danced alone by the newly weds; instead, the couple was encouraged to join in once everyone else had begun dancing. In a development of the tradition, the first dance is now reserved for the newly weds alone, as the guests of honor. It is a beautiful tradition that allows the newly married couple a moment alone and the guests a chance to watch and celebrate their union.

wedding party

Image by Billie Brook Photography

9.     Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

The inclusion of bridesmaids and groomsmen in the bridal party dates all the way back to the wedding practices of ancient Rome. Greatly honored guests wore similar attire to the bride and groom in order to distinguish themselves. Typically, ten maids and ten men stood by the bride and groom to protect them from evil spirits or people who might wish them harm. Today, the tradition of bridesmaids and groomsmen is still honoured. Though 20 years ago the wedding party may have been dressed identically, in modern matrimony, customs have seemed to revert back to the tradition of ancient Rome where the wedding party shared a colour or a similar style in their outfits.

10.  Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, & Something Blue!

This is a sweet tradition still adored by many couples years on from its creation. Brides who choose to include this practice in their wedding will wear something to match every part of the phrase. A piece of jewelry from the bride's mother would fit "something old", representing the bride's connection to her family and heritage. "Something new" suggests hope for good fortune and success in the future. The bride often chooses her wedding gown as the ‘new’ item. "Something borrowed" is usually signified with an object that belongs to a happily married woman and is intended to lend the new bride some of the married woman’s luck and joy. Finally, "something blue" is a symbol of love and fidelity and can be represented by a blue item of jewellery or a ribbon incorporated into the dress.

bride and veil

Image by Fineline Photography