Wedding Customs

Please feel free to copy as many of the following wedding questions/answers and trivia. Many wedding couples include the "Customs & Traditions" or even "I Spy" in their wedding programs to see how much their guests really know about wedding traditions. Please let your guests know where you found the information - www.pyramidband.com

If you have any other wedding traditions or customs, and would like to share them. Please feel free to forward them on to the PYRAMID BAND. We will post as many as possible.

A special thanks to the following sources for the wedding trivia: ASRDJ, ivillage, Sarah Bienias, Lisa Groman, Superweddings, and Ultimate weddings.

 

Wedding Customs & Traditions

Weddings are filled with customs and traditions..."Something old, something blue..."and all that stuff! Have you ever stopped to wonder what on earth it all really means and where it all originated? Most of these customs have endured the test of time, having been begun centuries ago. They have been maintained over time because such traditions carry with them the promise that they will bring happiness and good fortune to the couple at this transitional time in their life - and who could be brave enough to tamper with that?

When to marry ?
According to an old legend, the month in which you marry may have some bearing on the fate of the marriage:
"Married when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind and true;
When February birds do mate, you wed nor dread your fate;
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know;
Marry in April when you can, joy for Maiden and for the Man;
Marry in the month of May, and surely you'll rue the day;
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you will go;
Those who in July do wed, must labor for their daily bread;
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see;
Marry in September's shrine, your living will be rich and fine;
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry;
If you wed in bleak November; only joys will come, remember;
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last".

Why is there an engagement ring ?
Only one ring was used until the 13th Century, when Pope Innocent III declared that a waiting period was needed between betrothal and the wedding, and the engagement ring was born. The first engagement rings were not diamonds - the first diamond engagement ring was given in 1477 when Maximilian I (King of Germany) proposed to Mary of Burgundy.

Why is there a wedding ring ?
The circular shape of a wedding ring symbolizes never -ending love. According to folklore, the ring protected the bride from evil spirits. If the bride or groom dropped it during the ceremony, it was bad luck. Egypt was the first place gold rings were used. In Egypt, gold rings were used to show wealth. When a couple was married, the man placed a gold ring on her finger to show that he trusted her with his money.

Why is the ring worn on the third finger of the left hand ?
Ancient people believed that the vein in the third finger on the left hand ran directly to the heart. During Medieval times, the ring placement was used to symbolize the trinity - it was placed on the thumb (the Father), the index finger (the Son), and the middle finger (the Holy Spirit) before finally placing it on the ring finger for the Amen. In America, the tradition of the left hand is still in place; however, in many European countries, the ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. In Greece, a woman wears the ring on her left hand while she is engaged, and then moves it to her right hand during the marriage ceremony.

Why does the bride wear a veil ?
The veil was worn in many cultures to symbolize youth and virginity for many years. It is said that during weddings, the veil was worn to ward off evil spirits. The Romans wore yellow or red wedding veils (called a flammeum). Early Christian brides wore blue or white veils to demonstrate purity. George Washington's granddaughter Nellie Custis, who was complemented by her groom when she stood next to a lace curtain, wore the first lace veil . She decided that her veil should be lace for the wedding, and the tradition continued.

Why does the bride wear white ?
White has been the symbol of celebration for 2000 years, since the Roman era. The tradition for the bride to wear white began in the 16th century. During Victorian times, it was a sign of affluence - since it was assumed that a woman would only be able to wear a white gown once or twice before it became soiled. The tradition became solidified in 1840 when Queen Victoria (rebelling against the tradition of Royal brides wearing silver) instead wore white for her wedding to Prince Albert. At the beginning of the 20th century, it symbolized purity. Today, it again symbolizes the joy of the wedding day.

Why does the bridal party carry flowers ?
Early Roman brides carried bundles of herbs to ward off evil spirits, and to encourage fertility. Grooms often carried herbs for the same purpose. Greeks used ivy as a sign of indissoluble love. Orange blossoms were carried by the ancient Saracen people as a symbol of both the joy of the wedding and the fertility of the fruit. Today, pretty wedding blooms convey a message.

Why is it considered bad luck for the groom and the bride to see each other before the wedding ?
In ancient times, a wedding marked a break between something old and new, which could never overlap. If the groom saw the bride before the wedding, she would not be pure and new.

Why does the ceremony end with a kiss ?
From the days of ancient Rome, the kiss was a legal bond that sealed contracts, and thus, betrothal. Christians incorporated the betrothal ceremony into the marriage ritual. It was also believed that when a couple kissed, part of their souls was left behind in the other when their breath exchanged. Occurring at the end of marriage rites, the kiss announces a new status.

Why throw rice ?
The custom of throwing rice at the newlywed couple was to symbolize fertility. In some cultures, it was not rice which was thrown, but rather small cakes or pieces of a crumbled cake. Today some still throw rice, but more commonly confetti, rose petals or bird seed are thrown in place of rice due to a number of practical and environmental reasons - the symbolism remains the same!

Why tie cans to the newlywed's vehicle ?

The tradition of tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed's vehicle originated long ago when items which would produce noise were tied to the back of the couple's carriage to scare away evil spirits.

 

Why is the bouquet tossed ?
As the bride left the festivities, she tossed her bouquet to a friend, so the friend would have luck and protection.

Why is the garter tossed ?
Since guests in olden times would literally rip off pieces of the bride's gown as good-luck tokens, eventually the bride simply threw her garter into the crowd. The custom has evolved for the groom to remove the garter worn by the bride and throw it back over his shoulder toward the unmarried male guests. Whoever catches it will reportedly be the next gentleman to marry.

 

JEWISH SYMBOLS & RITUALS

The Jewish wedding service contains many beautiful symbols and rituals.  We hope the following will enable you to appreciate their beauty and meaning.

In traditional Jewish literature, marriage is actually called kiddushin, which translates to "sanctification" or "dedication".  "Sanctification" indicates that what is happening is not just a social arrangement or contractual agreement, but a spiritual bonding and the fulfillment of a mitzvah, a worthy deed prescribed by Jewish Law.

 

The Ketubah
Prior to the ceremony the marriage contract or ketubah is signed in a private ceremony.  The ketubah is the legal document that sets the terms of the marriage and the commitment to each other.  It is a declaration of love and lifelong commitment.  Once signed, the marriage is legal and valid under Jewish law.

The Bedeken
The bedeken, or unveiling of the bride, follows the signing of the Ketubah and occurs immediately prior to the ceremony.  The groom is escorted to the bride to ensure that he is marrying the woman he loves.  This custom dates back to biblical times when Jacob mistakenly married Leah, instead of her sister Rachel, because he did not see her face on the wedding day.

The Processional
Following the ancient practice of treating brides and grooms like queens and kings, the wedding party serves the role of the regal entourage.  In Jewish weddings, it is also customary for both parents to accompany the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle.  This symbolizes that a marriage is a union of families, not just individuals.

The Chuppah
The public marriage ceremony takes place beneath a chuppah or a wedding canopy.  This canopy is symbolic of the home we will create.  Much like the fabled tent of Abraham, the chuppah is open on all four sides to signify that loved ones are always welcome in our hearts and home.   The parents are located around the chuppah to share their love and support for us.

Circling
Circling is an old tradition, representing a mans of protection through the creation of a symbolic wall.  It can also be seen as a way of binding the couple to each other.  The bride will circle the groom seven times.

Birchot Eirusin
Holding a glass of wine, the Rabbi will recite a blessing of thanks followed by a blessing of the betrothal, whereupon the bride and groom, followed by both sets of parents, sip the wine.  Many times the cup (or cups) may hold a very special meaning to the families.  The cup may be a family heirloom, or have been received as a special gift.

Rings

According to tradition, the verbal declaration of marriage is not binding in and of itself.  There must be an act of kinyan, a formal physical acquisition.  This is accomplished by our giving and acceptance of each of our wedding rings coupled with our recitation of a statement in Hebrew called the haray aht, which is similar to the "I Do".  We will place the rings on each other's right index finger, which according to ancient belief, is directly connected to the heart

Haray Aht is the declaration recited by the groom as he places the ring on the bride's finger.  he entire phrase is transliterated as "haray aht m'kdeshet li b'taba'at zu k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael".  Translated, the phrase declares, "By this ring, you are consecrated to me, in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel".  It is the central, legally operative phrase of the ceremony, which forms the first half of the wedding ceremony.  When the bride places the ring on the groom's right index finger she will recite the phrase, "ani l'dodee v'dodee li," which translates to "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine".  Jewish law suggests that the wedding band be simple, without piercings or stones, to symbolize the unbroken union of marriage.

At this time, the rabbi will read from the ketubah, and then give the ketubah to the groom who will present it to the bride.

Shevah B'Rachot

The sheva b'rachot or seven blessings are recited over the second glass of wine.  The seven blessings give praise for the creation of the fruit of the vine, the earth, for humanity, for the creation of man and woman, for the miracle of birth, for bringing the bride and groom together, and for their joy.  Although only the last two deal with the wedding specifically, the blessings as a whole help place us in the context of Jewish history.  After the blessings are recited, they will share the blessed glass of wine.

The Breaking Of The Glass
The breaking of the glass by the groom is the final ceremonial responsibility to joyously complete the wedding.  The glass is encased in a special cover, to contain all the pieces.  The cover represents all of the wedding guests, family, friends, and the entire community who pledges that they will always support the couple through all the exigencies and challenges of life.  There are many explanations as to why he breaks the glass, including the fragility of marriage and that, like the shattered shards, it is permanent and unchangeable.  Upon the breaking of the glass it is customary for the guests to say mazel tov, which means good luck.

Yichud

Following the ceremony, the bride and groom go to a private room to share their first moments together as husband and wife.

 

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