Wedding Traditions

Weddings in the UK and across the world are steeped in pageantry and traditions, some of which date back a long, long time. So that you’re armed with all the information you need to plan your traditional wedding, we take a look at a selection of popularly used wedding traditions.

Something Old, Something New…

Before the day has even begun, a very well known tradition is for the bride to bring “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue”. As with any tradition, it has a hidden meaning that isn’t that widely understood.


  • Something Old – Representing the bride’s family and own personal past
  • Something New – To signify the bride’s new life
  • Something Borrowed – A memento to represent the fact that friends and family are still there to help when they are needed
  • And Something Blue – Which interestingly, symbolises purity and dates back over 2000 years

 The Wedding Garter as a Wedding Tradition

It derives from a tradition in medieval England and France called “fingering the stocking.”  I kid you not!

Wedding guests would actually go into the wedding chamber and check the bride’s stockings for signs that the marriage, and hence the wedding, had been consummated properly. Further, in France, the bride would shake with terror at the end of the wedding ceremony because wedding guests would actually rush her at the altar to snag a piece of her dress, which was considered a piece of good luck.

Further, in France, (only in France!!) the bride would shudder with terror at the end of the wedding ceremony because guests would actually rush her at the altar to snag a piece of her dress, which was considered a piece of good luck.  Can’t rally see that one coming back with the costs of dresses being what they are.

Bridesmaids Dresses – A great Wedding Tradition!

Apparently, bridesmaids were dressed pretty much the same as the bride.  Think of it as insurance of the groom – he wouldn’t know who he was marrying until the wedding service was done and the veil lifted.  Times have moved on and bridesmaids now tend to be dressed totally different to the bride.  Modern gossip is so that the bridesmaids don’t outshine the bride, hence some of the…erm…more interesting bridesmaids dresses and colour combinations that have been seen! ;-)

Speaking of bridesmaids, this little post gives an indication of gifts to buy them.

The Wedding Veil

Another extremely well-known part of a wedding day is that moment when the groom lifts the veil to reveal their blushing bride’s face. The veil itself is not just there to provide the ‘big reveal’ moment for the congregation, but also it is said to ward off evil spirits.

The Victorians turned that reverence into a status symbol. During Victorian times, when archaic customs were formally incorporated into proper weddings, the weight, length and quality of the veil were a sign of the bride’s status. Royal brides always had the longest veils and the longest trains and woe betide anyone trying to out do a member of the Royal family.

Wedding Traditions - The Veil



We’ve all been there – throwing handfuls of tiny paper shapes over the happy couple as they leave, but few will realise that this tradition is to encourage fertility. Something that makes more sense when you consider that in olden times, rice and grain were thrown instead of confetti.

The Wedding Bouquet

Wedding Traditions – If you are a traditional kind of person you should be carrying garlic and dill down the aisle, not flowers. Until modern times, brides did carry garlic and dill. The practice probably originated from the time of the Plague, when people clutched the herbs over their noses and mouths in a desperate effort to survive.

It was also common for ladies to carry such things to avoid the general smell of walking around the streets – no sewage led to some stinky smells going on!

Survivors of the plague can give tremendous protective powers to anything that has provided comfort, and the herbs made it into the ceremony marking renewal. Over time, brides added sweeter smelling flowers to the arrangement, and a whole dictionary of meaning arose to define each type of flower used.

A more recent, American addition to the wedding ceremony is the throwing of the bouquet (usually backwards over the shoulder) to the awaiting guests and the saying goes that the person who catches it will be next to be married.

Many Others


There are so many other traditions and you only realise this when you try and think of them all. Other traditions include:


  • Wedding Pearls – Representing a wedded life without tears
  • The groom seeing the bride before the wedding – Just bad luck
  • Carrying the bride over the threshold – Linked to protecting the couple from evil spirits in their new home

Whether you include all, some or none of the many wedding traditions that exist will depend on how superstitious you are. However, there are some traditions like the first dance, which are just nice to have at your wedding and don’t require any belief system to be involved.


Wedding traditions are an integral part of many weddings and it’s interesting to know that some have been practised for thousands of years and many are rooted in pagan traditions!


Thinking of inviting children to your wedding?  Have a read through this page – it may help!



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Wedding Traditions
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Wedding Traditions
Bristol Wedding Photographer
Wedding Traditions - where do they come from and why
Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller Photography
Andrew Miller Photography