The Bride carrying a bouquet comes from the old tradition of strong smells having the power of warding off evil spirits and bringing good fortune. This is probably based in herbalism, wherein plants have medicinal properties and the fragrance of them can eliminate pests and diseases.
Also see Aromatherapy for the influences that scent has on mood and energy.
During the plague in England, people wore pouches of flower petals around their necks to (they thought) stop them catching the plague – thought to be carried by strong smells! They also doused their coins in vinegars to sterilise them. Their thinking was sound for the times.
The throwing of the bouquet is ‘the Bride spreading her good fortune and luck’ – to survive to an age to marry and procreate was indeed a sign of strength and good luck. Supposedly whoever catches the bouquet will be blessed with good luck and be the next to marry.
Honeymoon derives from honey the base for mead which the Bride would drink as it was believed to increase fertility and moon where it was believed that to marry on a full moon would bring good fortune to both families.
Engagement and Rings
The tradition of getting engaged dates back to when a Groom would choose a hard working girl, grab her, and ride off with her before her father could stop him. Heartbreaking for the father who had spent time and money rearing a good worker for the family! Over time the situation evolved whereby the father was entitled to demand payment for his valuable asset – he would give the groom a set time to pay, hence engagement.
The ring arrived as part payment, and demonstrated the groom’s willingness to pay.
Wedding cake has several origins – one dates back to when most marriages took place after harvest. The cake represented fertility and good luck, with the handing out of pieces of cake representing the passing on of good luck.
Horseshoes (usually made of sugar or these days plastic) and other symbols of good luck are often used to decorate the cake.
During the service, the Groom stands on the right of the Bride. This presumably goes back to the days when a gentleman wore a sword – should any man challenge the Groom to his right to his Bride, he was free to draw his sword with his right hand whilst protecting or holding his Bride with his left. It is thought to be why men escorting ladies walk on that side also. See any renaissance faire in your area.
Carrying his Bride over the threshold dates back to when it was thought a new Bride was vulnerable to evil spirits and bad luck – he would carry her over the threshold so leaving the evil spirits and bad luck on the outside. And pretty much to stop her turning into an evil, scolding shrew due to the spirits taking over her body while she was between girlhood and womanhood.
The ‘Best’ Man
In the times when a Groom would kidnap his Bride, incurring the wrath of her father and family, the Best Man (the Groom’s most trusted friend) was there to help in any fight.
When it came to the ceremony, he was there just in case the father or family decided to take the Bride back
The phrase ‘tie the knot’ comes from the Romans – the bride wore a girdle with lots of knots, which the groom had the fun of untying. Also from the placing and binding of cords on the hands during a handfasting ceremony.