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The History Behind 7 Western Wedding Traditions

Although, in recent years, weddings have been breaking conventions, there are still many traditions that seem to have stood the test of time.

Whether it’s throwing rice at newlyweds or eating one-year-old wedding cake, there are some seemingly strange wedding traditions out there, so we’ve taken a look at the history behind them.

Women Proposing On A Leap Year

Although this tradition is no longer as prominent as women propose to their partners all the time, there once was a time where it was unheard of for a woman to propose to her partner. In later years, however, a tradition formed that women were able to propose marriage, but only on a leap year.

This has been said to have its origins in Irish folklore, where, in the fifth century, an Irish nun called St. Bridget proposed to St. Patrick on February 29th. He did turn her down but, to make up for it, he granted that women would, for the rest of time, be allowed to propose to men on a leap year.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Photo credit: Hannah Dougal Art & Photography

Way back when, it was often assumed that the bride and groom had never kissed before their wedding ceremony and, in Roman times, a kiss was a legal bond which sealed contracts. However, as much as “you may now kiss the bride” is used in many, many wedding ceremonies, it is not traditionally part of religious ceremonies.

Getting Down On One Knee

Despite lowering yourself to one knee when proposing seeming a little bit unnatural, its origins make a lot of sense and it dates all the way back to medieval times. Knights would go down to one knee to display loyalty, obedience, and respect to their lord, so making the same gesture to their significant other when proposing marriage seemed like the natural way to display their love and loyalty.

Throwing Rice

Traditionally, wedding guests would shower the newlyweds with rice after the wedding ceremony. This practice can be dated back to the ancient Romans as it was believed that the throwing of rice symbolised rain which, in turn, symbolised strong fertility, prosperity, and good fortune.

In recent times, however, rice throwing at weddings has been dampened by the (now proven to be false) rumours that birds would be harmed by eating the remains. It’s because of this rumour that it’s now common to see the married couple showered with bubbles or confetti after the ceremony instead.

The Bride Carrying A Bouquet


Photo credit: Beth Cole Photography

As pretty as bridal bouquets are, they have a slightly more sinister origin. This tradition comes from ancient times where women would often be seen carrying bunches of garlic, spices, and herbs with the intention of warding off evil spirits. The contents of a bride’s bouquet would have different meanings, too. For example, lilies symbolise purity and orange blossoms symbolise happiness and fertility.

Saving The Wedding Cake For A Year Later

It may seem a little bit strange that many couples will save the top tier or a few pieces of their wedding cake for their first wedding anniversary, but this tradition is still strong today. It is said to stem from the early 1900s where the newlyweds would save part of their wedding cake to be eaten at their first child’s Christening, as brides were expected to become pregnant within their first year of marriage.

Standing To The Left Of The Groom


Photo credit: Beth Cole Photography

It’s a tradition for brides to stand to the left of the groom during the wedding ceremony. This is because, in Anglo-Saxon England, grooms would hold the bride’s hand with their left hand during the vows, leaving their right hand free to draw their sword on anyone who tried to steal their soon-to-be wife during the ceremony.

Whichever traditions you may choose to incorporate or flout in your wedding, Holbrook Manor will be able to make your perfect day come to life. For more information on how we can host your wedding day, take a look here

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