With the opening of our 1800s Replica Historic Church available for Weddings and Vow Renewals, we wanted to take a look into many common wedding traditions still performed.
Have you ever wondered why the Bride wears a white dress? Or why we eat a tiered wedding cake? Or why the Bride tosses her bouquet? Or why we host a bridal shower?
Where did these traditions come from? Why do we do them?
Join us for a multi-part mini-series as we uncover the history behind many common Wedding Traditions!
From ancient times and throughout many cultures, the circle has represented eternity because it has no beginning and no end. When today’s couples exchange rings pledging their unending love, they are participating in a tradition that is more than 7,000 years old.
The Wedding Band
The custom of using rings as part of the nuptials dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who first used braided hemp or reeds to make a ring. Only the woman was given a ring as a symbol of the man’s trust in the woman’s ability to care for his property. As more substantial and expensive materials became common in making rings, the more trust was shown to the woman and the wealth of the man could be seen.
The Romans are believed to have actually linked the ring to marriage. Early wedding bands are called fede bands and feature two clasped hands. This style of ring has been popular on and off throughout history and can be seen today in the Irish Claddagh ring. Later Roman rings featured carvings of the faces of the bride and groom. This style of ring was popular into the Middle Ages.
In many cases during the Middle Ages, the ring was a symbol of an exchange of money or other valuables representing a contract, sometimes a legal one, between two families.
Rings took many forms over the years. In the 1400s, a short verse (or posy/posie) might be engraved on the outside of the rings. Puzzle or gimmel rings were popular during the 1400s to 1600s. These interlocking bands would be worn individually by the couple until the wedding day when they were joined together for the bride to wear.
The Betrothal or Engagement Ring
The tradition of the engagement ring originates from the 1400s when the father of a young girl would send a piece of jewelry, often a diamond ring, to the father of a young boy proposing their children be married. By the end of that century, men were giving women rings themselves.
It is interesting to note that this custom started with the rich and ruling class and slowly worked into the general population so that today, the engagement ring is an accepted part of the wedding ritual.
What about the men?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that so far I’ve only discussed wedding bands and women. That’s because it wasn’t until World War II (1939-45) that men began wearing wedding bands to any great extent. The thought is that men chose to wear wedding bands to remind them of wife and family back home.
On the other hand, my father, who worked with industrial machinery, never wore a wedding ring because he feared that it would be caught in the equipment. About 10 years ago, my friend got a tattoo on his ring finger instead of a wedding band while his wife has a traditional engagement ring and band.
So Which Finger?
Although there is no specified finger on which to wear your wedding ring, many people follow the custom of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans of the Ancient World who believed that the ring finger on the left hand connects directly to the heart by the Vena Amoris (Vein of Love) and thus has magical properties. Many Europeans wear their wedding rings on their right hand. Some traditions do not involve wedding rings at all.
Regardless of what rings you decide to wear, we wish all couples a beautiful and memorable wedding.
Have a question about a Wedding or party tradition that you want answered? Are you interested in renting the many venues managed by the Osceola County Historical Society for weddings, meetings, parties or events?
Making Your Story – History!
“The History of the Wedding Band.” With These Rings. http://withtheseringshandmade.com/history-of-wedding-rings/.
Leafloor, Liz. “Why Do Couples Exchange Rings with Vows? The Elusive Ancient Origins of Wedding Rings.” Ancient Origins, October 9, 2015. http://www.ancient-origins.net/history-ancient-traditions/why-do-couples-exchange-rings-vows-elusive-ancient-origins-wedding-rings-020559.
Noreen. “The Origins of Wedding Rings and Why They’re Worn on the 4th Finger of the Left Hand.” Today I Found Out, September 27, 2010. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/09/the-origin-of-wedding-rings-and-why-theyre-worn-on-the-4th-finger-of-the-left-hand/.
Robb, Stephen. “Wedding rings: Have men always worn them?” BBC News, April 8, 2011. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-12986535.
Photo Courtesy: Groom puts the ring on bride’s finger at wedding c. 1907.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZC4-1917.