Many highlights of today’s modern weddings, such as tossing the bouquet to single women, are steeped in ancient traditions, some which are surprising and downright shocking. They reflect a less civilized time of superstitions, evil spirits and deadly epidemics. You can add rude and rowdy guests to the list, too.
Before we get to the bouquet tossing, take a quick look at how some of these “civilized” traditions began:
- Bridesmaids – Today the bride chooses female relatives and best friends to honor them and to provide emotional support on her wedding day. Hundreds of years ago, bridesmaids were there to provide protection for the bride. They were deliberately dressed similarly in order to confuse evil spirits that might be lurking, eager to harm the bride.
- The Wedding Ring — Wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand dates back to ancient Roman times. The Romans believed that the vein in the third finger ran straight to the heart. The circle of the ring itself symbolizes everlasting love.
- Bridal Bouquet – In medieval times, bridal bouquets in 14th century Europe had a more practical purpose. The worst pandemic in history, known as the Bubonic Plague, ravaged Europe, killing 25-million people in five years. Even on joyous wedding days, the Plague was never far away. As a result, brides carried bouquets of garlic and herbs, designed to protect her from the Plague, evil spirits and foul odors. By happy contrast, today’s bridal bouquets are stunning floral arrangements and symbols of fertility.
Tossing the Bouquet
The tradition of tossing the bouquet originated in England as a way for the bride to pass along her good fortune to others. But the reason for tossing the bridal bouquet goes back to those rude and rowdy guests we mentioned earlier. Before bouquet tossing became a new wedding tradition, unmarried female guests would assault the bride and tear off pieces of her clothing or bridal bouquet, hoping the remnants would bring them the good fortune of being the next one to get married. At some point in time, brides started defensively throwing their bouquet into the crowd to avoid being attacked by her wedding guests.
A Modern Wedding Update from Martha Stewart
On her Martha Stewart Weddings website, Stewart suggests a new bouquet-throwing tradition. Don’t throw your wedding bouquet, she advises. Keep it for yourself and throw a special “fortune bouquet” to the unmarried guests. The fortune bouquet is composed of a dozen or so smaller mini-bouquets bound together with a ribbon. Before you throw it, untie the ribbon so that the mini-bouquets can fly off in different directions, each with its own romantic fortune written for the lucky recipient. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
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