The Superstitious Reasons Behind Many Wedding Customs
Everyone is familiar with wedding traditions like having bridesmaids, ringing church bells, and tying cans to the newlyweds’ car. But did you know that many of these customs that are still used today are actually rooted in ancient superstitions? It is fascinating to discover the reasons behind some of our most common wedding customs.
What would a wedding be without a lovely bevy of bridesmaids to help the bride plan her wedding, walk down the aisle at the ceremony, and dance at the reception? These days, we think of bridesmaids as the women with whom the bride most wants to share her joy. But when they slip into their taffeta dresses and pearl bridesmaid jewelry, few ladies think about the origins of the wedding party: to confuse the evil spirits. Ancient belief held that evil spirits were drawn to the pure happiness of brides, and many measures were taken to prevent them from harming her. In ancient times, bridesmaids dressed just like the bride, so that if an evil spirit were to come on the scene, it would be unable to tell which woman was the bride and would give up and leave. So when you thank your attendants with their gifts of pearl bridesmaid jewelry, be generous. It turns out that your bridesmaids are doing a lot more than just tying bows on favor boxes and assembling wedding programs!
There is something so joyful about the pealing of the church bells as the newlyweds walk arm in arm together out of the chapel at the end of their marriage ceremony. Most guests probably don’t give too much thought to the reason why ringing bells became a customary part of weddings. Actually, it goes back to the same origins as the bridal party: to ward off evil spirits. Since they were thought to be lured to celebrations like weddings, people did anything they could to try to drive them away. It was thought that loud noises scared off the spooks, so the church bells were rung loudly to protect the newlyweds.
This brings us to our next custom: tying tin cans to the bumper of the newlyweds’ car. It is not just to annoy them or to draw attention to the fact that they were just married. Once again, it goes back to the evil spirits. Long before there were cars, noisy things like pots and pans were tied to the back of the newlyweds’ carriage or wagon. The loud clanging was to frighten off the spirits and allow the bride and groom to travel safely. As cars became the most common form of wedding transportation, the tradition of tying noisy things to the back continued. Writing “Just Married” on the rear window or filling the entire car with inflated balloons, well that’s just for fun!
Have you ever wondered why guest shower newlyweds with rice when they exit the church? It is such a standard part of a wedding that few have given much thought to the reason behind pelting the bride and groom with rice. This is another very old custom, and it started because rice was a symbol of fertility. When the friends and family of the newlyweds showered them with grains of rice, they were really showering them with wishes for a fruitful marriage with lots of children. Knowing the reason behind the rice custom makes substituting birdseed seem a bit odd, if more environmentally friendly, doesn’t it?
Countless other familiar wedding customs have ancient origins. The bride and groom close their marriage ceremony with a kiss because in Roman times, a kiss legally sealed a contract. The groom stands to the right of the bride because to keep his right hand free to draw his sword. When we include the old traditions in our modern weddings, they are even more interesting when we know some of the origins of the customs.