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The Bride’s Survival Guide: The History Behind Wedding Ceremony Rituals

While dressed up in your favorite wedding dress that you have dreamt about since you were a child, you can easily incorporate one or two symbolic rituals. It is an excellent way of personalizing your wedding. Even if you happen to be familiar with the wedding ceremony rituals, which are common such as unity candle, lighting, or breaking a piece of glass, you might not know the history behind them.

The following are some of the wedding ceremony rituals that are common and the meanings behind them.

  • Jumping the broom: It is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s and is said to have originated from Wiccan communities and western African weddings. In the 1970s, it became popular in the USA after the publication of the book “Roots” by Alex Halley. The jumping of the broom takes at the end of the wedding ceremony after the couples are officially announced as married by the officiant. The newlyweds then jump over the broomstick before the start of the recessional, symbolizing the old life being swept away and the beginning of their new life.
  • The unity candle: It is a wedding ceremony tradition where the unity candle is lit, and it began about 30 years ago representing two families and two people coming together. Before both parents from both sides take to their seats, the mothers light each a taper candle, placing it just next to the pillar candle. The pillar candle is not illuminated while the wedding ceremony is ongoing. After exchanging their vows, the couple light the pillar candle using the flames from the taper candles, thereby signifying the commitment of several generations.
  • Sand pouring: The origin of this ritual is not clear, but in the 2000s, when it was popularized by Trista Sutter, the Bachelorette star when together with Ryan, her husband, used it in a wedding ceremony that was televised. For that particular wedding ceremony, ritual, the couple poured sand into two separate vases of different colors in the same vessel, thereby creating layered in a pattern that is just unique.

After that, it becomes impossible to separate the two colors, which is symbolic of blending the two people for life. Many couples have tried to embrace this particular ritual, personalizing it using sand from different locations.

  • Love letters: It is a new ritual for wedding ceremonies, but the romantic notion behind it is just great. Before the wedding ceremony, the two partners write love letters to each other, sealing them in a box during the ceremony. The letters are generally accompanied by a bottle of your favorite champagne or wine. You will be able to open the box at a later date, such as a milestone or an anniversary.
  • Ring warming: Believed to be a wedding tradition from Ireland, the ring warming takes place when the wedding bands of the couple are passed around by the guests during the wedding ceremony. Each of the guests is asked to hold them and say a silent, short prayer for the couple. Eventually, the rings return to the couple with blessings as well as positive vibes for a happy, long marriage.
  • Drinking wine: For a long time, wine has been symbolic of prosperity and life. It is something that has been associated with wine for centuries. There are variations of using wines during weddings, especially during religious wedding ceremonies, but common practice is having two small wine carafes, one red and one white. After the exchange of rings, the couples are allowed to pour the wines in a third of the carafe, creating a blend. Each takes a sip of the mixed wine representing their separate lives becoming one.

  • Handfasting: It is a Celtic custom that has medieval roots involving the couple’s hands being bound together using cord or ribbons symbolic of their union. During the middle age, instead of a marriage license, handfasting was used. It happened before weddings were recognized as legal responsibility for the government as well as the church. Each cord is colored, with each color having its meaning, such as white being symbolic of purity while red symbolizing passion.
  • Washing of feet: It is a Christian ritual that is inspired in the bible where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17. It is done symbolically of the couples’ humility, service, and commitment to one another.
  • Burying the Bourbon: It is a southern tradition that is done to prevent bad weather or rain on the wedding day. One month before the wedding day, there is a hole that is dug at the site of the ceremony, and an open bottle of Bourbon is buried upside down.

As per the superstition associated with it, there will be sunshine throughout the day on your wedding day. Immediately the two of you make your vows; you can dig up the bottle and enjoy it with your guests.

While it has never been proven if it works or not, but for sure, what has been determined is that it makes for a priceless photo opportunity.

  • Breaking the glass: During Jewish weddings, after the rabbi announces the newlyweds that they are married, the groom smashes a piece of glass that is wrapped using his foot. It is then followed by a cheer and applause of mazel tov, coming from the guests. Traditions believe that the couple will remain married as long as the glass remains in pieces. Some couples do this tradition in remembers the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.

The above are universal and straightforward and thus, now that you know the meaning behind them, you can easily incorporate them into your wedding to make it unique. Be creative with them, come up with seamless integration of the traditions in your marriage to wow your guests. For more ideas that you can include in your big day to make it stand out from the rest, check out the ultimate bride’s survival guide to get sorted. It has everything that you need as a bride to make your wedding unique.


Photo by Avonne Stalling

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

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