10 Wedding Traditions from around the World by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Senior Writer

Wedding Rituals

Tying the knot in any culture comes with a laundry list of traditions and rituals, including the old rhyme, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” Here are some wedding traditions from around the world that go beyond the white dress and veil.


Wardrobe ChangeA Chinese woman in a traditional qipao dress.

In modern China, brides pick not one wedding dress, but three. First, there’s the traditional qipao or cheongsam, an embroidered, slim-fitting frock that’s usually made red for weddings, because red is a strong, lucky color in Chinese culture. Next, the bride might swap into a white poufed ball gown that wouldn’t look out of place at an American wedding — a bridal nod to the popularity of Western trends. Finally, the bride ducks out of the reception to change into a third dress, this one a gown of her color choice or a cocktail dress.

Indian brides decorate their hands and feet with henna.

Credit: jaimaa,

Painted Hands

Before an Indian bride gets married, she and her female friends and family decorate their hands and feet with elaborate designs called menhdi. These temporary designs are made from the plant dye henna, and they last just a few weeks. The menhdi designs are incredibly intricate and take hours to apply, not including the time the bride must wait for the henna paste to dry and stain her skin. Turning the occasion into a “mehndi party” makes the process more fun — and provides some friends and family to help the bride out if she needs anything while she’s being adorned.



Jumping the Broom

A number of cultures, from Celts to Roma (or Gypsies) have incorporated some sort of leap over a broom into their wedding traditions. Today, broom-jumping is most often found in African-American weddings, the tradition rooted in the days of slavery when marriage between enslaved men and women wasn’t legally sanctioned. In the antebellum period, enslaved men and women would declare their union by jumping over a broom together.



Mazel Tov!

The breaking of the glass in Jewish weddings, in which the groom crushes a glass under his foot at the end of the ceremony, is a tradition with murky roots. Some hold that the breaking glass symbolizes the destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, while others say that the broken glass is a reminder that joy should always be tempered. Either way, breaking the glass is usually undertaken in the spirit of happiness today, with wedding guests calling out “mazel tov!” (good luck!) after the glass shatters.



Baby Bridesmaids

Royal weddings in the United Kingdom do bridesmaids with a twist. Usually, the bride’s attendants are young girls rather than the contemporaries. At Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding in 1947, there were eight bridesmaids, most younger than the 21-year-old bride. Diana had five bridesmaids, the youngest of whom was 5. The oldest was 17. Royal bride Kate Middleton took it even younger in her 2011 wedding, inviting her husband-to-be’s goddaughter and Camilla Parker Bowles’ granddaughter, both 3, down the aisle.



Peruvian Cake Pull

In Peru, single female guests take part in a tradition a little sweeter than a bouquet toss. Charms attached to ribbons are tucked between the layers of the wedding cake. Before the cake is cut, each woman grabs a ribbon and pulls. At the end of one ribbon is a fake wedding ring. The guest who picks that ribbon is said to be next in line for marriage.


Slaughtering a Cow

Traditional Zulu weddings are marked by vibrant colors and dance-offs between the bride and groom’s families. Like many brides across the world, Zulu brides might start the day in a Western “white wedding” dress, but change into traditional tribal clothing after a church wedding. In a traditional ceremony, the groom’s family slaughters a cow to welcome the bride. The bride places money inside the stomach of the cow to symbolize that she is now part of the family.



Joyous Processional

Lebanese-style weddings kick off with music, dancing and joyful shouting right outside the groom’s doors. This is the “zaffe,” a rowdy, traditional escort made up of friends, family, and sometimes professional musicians and dancers. This group escorts the groom to his bride’s house, and then sends them off in a shower of shouted blessings and flower petals.



Ransom for the Bride

Russian grooms have to work for their brides. Before the wedding, the groom shows up at the bride’s home and asks for his beloved. In jest, her friends and family refuse him until he pays up in gifts, money, jewelry or simple humiliation. Grooms are forced to do silly dances, answer riddles, and perform goofy tests of worthiness like diapering a baby doll. Once the groom impresses friends and family with this bridal ransom, or “vykup nevesty,” he’s allowed to meet his bride-to-be.



Ransom for the Shoes

While Russian grooms are ransoming their brides, Pakistani men have to pay up if they want to keep their shoes. After a Pakistani wedding, the couple returns home for a ceremony called the “showing of the face.” Family and friends hold a green shawl over the couple’s heads and a mirror as the bride removes the veil she wears throughout the wedding ceremony. While the newlyweds are busy gazing at one another, the bride’s female relatives make off with the groom’s shoes and demand money for their safe return.


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Why do grooms carry brides over the threshold?

Customs, Rituals & Traditions: Why do grooms carry brides over the threshold?

Written on January 11, 2012 by in Rituals & Traditions, Seattle Wedding Officiants
See their wonderful website with more interesting information here:


Bride on wedding day being carried over threshold

Bride being carried over threshold

Carrying the Bride: Exactly Why?

As it turns out, weddings in the days of yore sometimes followed kidnappings. This explains not only the role of the best man but also why the bride and groom customarily leave the wedding celebration before everyone else. It’s symbolic of the groom stealing away with his bride, whisking her from her family and into a new life with him. The kidnapping theme also explains why grooms carry their brides over the threshold in some cultures. In Medieval Europe, carrying a bride into her new home prevented her from seeming too enthusiastic about losing her virginity. By picking her up and taking her into their home, the groom provided an alibi for his wife’s chastity.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only origin and rationale for a groom carrying his bride across the threshold after their wedding. It appears that this custom also developed in other cultures for different reasons. Chief among these reasons was to thwart bad luck and evil spirits.

Bride and groom over the threshold

Bride being happily carried over the threshold

Superstitious Western Europeans believed that a bride who tripped over the threshold of her new home would irrevocably bring bad luck to her home and marriage. Since the husband appears to have been immune from such happenstance, the groom carrying the bride into the home proved a good way to avoid such a mishap altogether. This fear of tripping appears to have its roots in ancient Roman culture, which held a similar belief.

Much, if not all, of the original meaning behind a groom carrying his bride across the threshold has been lost in modern Western weddings. It’s remarkable that the practice continues, even if a newly wed couple isn’t entirely sure why to do it. It’s almost as if a collective memory of the danger with which a threshold may be fraught remains. And after all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Did you get carried over the threshold on your wedding day?  Was your threshold in some other country on your honeymoon?  I invite you to share your threshold stories with my readers!


Again thanks to the Seattle Wedding Officiants for this interesting article!

If you are looking for a wedding singer for your wedding, – do have a look at my site, which you can find here:


All the best

Marianne Lihannah



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The Bridal Veil and the History of the Veil from Wikipedia

This wedding tradition was brought to Medieval Europe by knights returning from the Crusades. According to the wonderful web site www.renaissance-weddings.net; it was used to protect the bride from ‘the evil eye’ and was a symbol of purity. Veils during the Renaissance could have been any colour. ‘Blue’ however was the traditional colour symbolizing ‘purity. To wear a white wedding veil is a fairly recent tradition.

Wedding veils  (From Wikipedia)

An occasion on which a Western woman is likely to wear a veil is on her white wedding day. Brides once used to wear their hair flowing down their back at their wedding to symbolise their virginity. Veils covering the hair and face became a symbolic reference to the virginity of the bride thereafter. Often in modern weddings, the ceremony of removing a face veil after the wedding to present the groom with a virgin bride is skipped, since many couples have already entered into conjugal relations prior to their wedding day – the bride either wears no face veil, or it is lifted before the ceremony begins, but this is not always the case. Further, if a bride is a virgin, she often wears the face veil through the ceremony, and then either her father lifts the veil, presenting the bride to her groom, or the groom lifts the veil to symbolically consummate the marriage, which will later become literal. Brides who are virgins may make use of the veil to symbolize and emphasize their status of purity during their wedding however, and if they do, the lifting of the veil may be ceremonially recognized as the crowning event of the wedding, when the beauty of the bride is finally revealed to the groom and the guests. It is not altogether clear that the wedding veil is a non-religious use of this item, since weddings have almost always had religious underpinnings, especially in the West. Veils, however, had been used in the West for weddings long before this. Roman brides, for instance, wore an intensely flame-colored and fulsome veil, called the flammeum, apparently intended to protect the bride from evil spirits on her wedding day. Later, the socalled velatio virginum became part of the rite of the consecration of virgins, the liturgical action in which the church celebrates an act of God who has called a Christian virgin to consecrate her virginity to Christ.

In the 19th century, wedding veils came to symbolise the woman’s virginity and modesty. The tradition of a veiled bride’s face continues even today wherein, a virgin bride, especially in Christian or Jewish culture, enters the marriage ritual with a veiled face and head, and remains fully veiled, both head and face, until the ceremony concludes. After the full conclusion of the wedding ceremony, either the bride’s father lifts the veil giving the bride to the groom who then kisses her, or the new groom lifts her face veil in order to kiss her, which symbolizes the groom’s right to enter into conjugal relations with his bride.[12]

The lifting of the veil was often a part of ancient wedding ritual, symbolising the groom taking possession of the wife, either as lover or as property, or the revelation of the bride by her parents to the groom for his approval.

A bride wearing a typical wedding veil

In Judaism, the tradition of wearing a veil dates back to biblical times. According to the Torah in Genesis 24:65, Isaac is brought Rebekah to marry by his father Abraham’s servant. It is important to note that Rebekah did not veil herself when traveling with her lady attendants and Abraham’s servant and his men to meet Isaac, but she only did so when Isaac was approaching. Just before the wedding ceremony the badeken or bedeken is held. The groom places the veil over the bride’s face, and either he or the officiating Rabbi gives her a blessing. The veil stays on her face until just before the end of the wedding ceremony – when they are legally married according to Jewish law – then the groom helps lift the veil from off her face.

The most often cited interpretation for the badeken is that, according to Genesis 29, when Jacob went to marry Rachel, his father in law Laban tricked him into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older and homlier sister. Many say that the veiling ceremony takes place to make sure that the groom is marrying the right bride! Some say that as the groom places the veil over his bride, he makes an implicit promise to clothe and protect her. Finally, by covering her face, the groom recognizes that he his marrying the bride for her inner beauty; while looks will fade with time, his love will be everlasting. In some ultra-orthodox traditions the bride wears an opaque veil as she is escorted down the aisle to meet her groom. This shows her complete willingness to enter into the marriage and her absolute trust that she is marrying the right man. In Judaism, a wedding is not considered valid unless the bride willingly consents to it.

In ancient Judaism the lifting of the veil took place just prior to the consummation of the marriage in sexual union. The uncovering or unveiling that takes place in the wedding ceremony is a symbol of what will take place in the marriage bed. Just as the two become one through their words spoken in wedding vows, so these words are a sign of the physical oneness that they will consummate later on. The lifting of the veil is a symbol and an anticipation of this.

In the Western world, St. Paul’s words concerning how marriage symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church may underlie part of the tradition of veiling in the marriage ceremony.[13]


The first recorded instance of veiling for women is recorded in an Assyrian legal text from the 13th century BC, which restricted its use to noble women and forbade prostitutes and common women from adopting it. The Mycenaean Greek term a-pu-ko-wo-ko meaning “craftsman of horse veil” written in Linear B syllabic script is also attested since ca. 1300 BC.[3][4] Ancient Greek texts have also spoken of veiling and seclusion of women being practiced among the Persian elite.[citation needed] Statues from Persepolis depict women both veiled and unveiled.[citation needed]

Classical Greek and Hellenistic statues sometimes depict Greek women with both their head and face covered by a veil. Caroline Galt and Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones have both argued from such representations and literary references that it was commonplace for women (at least those of higher status) in ancient Greece to cover their hair and face in public.

For many centuries, until around 1175, Anglo-Saxon and then Anglo-Norman women, with the exception of young unmarried girls, wore veils that entirely covered their hair, and often their necks up to their chins (see wimple). Only in the Tudor period (1485), when hoods became increasingly popular, did veils of this type become less common.

For centuries, women have worn sheer veils, but only under certain circumstances. Sometimes a veil of this type was draped over and pinned to the bonnet or hat of a woman in mourning, especially at the funeral and during the subsequent period of “high mourning”. They would also have been used, as an alternative to a mask, as a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was traveling to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn’t want other people to find out about. More pragmatically, veils were also sometimes worn to protect the complexion from sun and wind damage (when un-tanned skin was fashionable), or to keep dust out of a woman’s face, much as the keffiyeh is used today.

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The History of the white Wedding dress – thanks to Wikipedia for this interesting historic evidence.

White wedding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Not to be confused with Mariage blanc.
This article is about the set of wedding traditions.

A white wedding is a traditional formal or semi-formal wedding originating in Europe.

The term originates from the white color of the wedding dress, which first became popular with Victorian era elites, after Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress at her wedding; however, the term now also encapsulates the entire Western wedding routine, especially in the Christian religious tradition, which generally includes a ceremony during which the marriage begins, followed by a reception.

 History of the white dress

A bride from the late 1800s wearing a black or dark colored wedding dress.

The tradition of a white wedding is commonly credited to Queen Victoria’s choice to wear a white wedding dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.[1][2]

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Royal brides before Victoria did not typically wear white, instead choosing “heavy brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread,” with red being a particularly popular color in Western Europe more generally.[1] European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colors, including blue, yellow, and practical colors like black, brown, or gray. As accounts of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe elites followed her lead. Because of the limitations of laundering techniques, white dresses provided an opportunity for conspicuous consumption. They were favored primarily as a way to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that the bride would choose an elaborate dress that could be ruined by any sort of work or spill.[3] The color white was also the color girls were required to wear at the time when they were presented to the court.[4]

Although women were required to wear veils in many churches through at least the 19th century, the resurgence of the wedding veil as a symbol of the bride, and its use even when not required by the bride’s religion, coincided with societal emphasis on women being modest and well-behaved.[3]

Etiquette books then began to turn the practice into a tradition and the white gown soon became a popular symbol of status that also carried “a connotation of innocence and sexual purity.”[2] The story put out about the wedding veil was that decorous brides were naturally too timid to show their faces in public until they were married.

By the end of the 19th century the white dress was the garment of choice for elite brides on both sides of the Atlantic. However, middle-class British and American brides did not adopt the trend fully until after World War II.[5] With increased prosperity in the 20th century, the tradition also grew to include the practice of wearing the dress only once. As historian Vicky Howard writes, “[i]f a bride wore white in the nineteenth century, it was acceptable and likely that she wore her gown again …”[2] Even Queen Victoria had her famous lace wedding dress re-styled for later use.[3]

The portrayal of weddings in Hollywood movies, particularly immediately after World War II, helped crystallize and homogenize the white wedding into a normative form.[6]

The white wedding style was given another significant boost in 1981, when three-quarter billion people—one out of six people around the globe—watched Charles, Prince of Wales marry Diana Spencer in her elaborate white tafetta dress with a 25-foot-long train.[3] This wedding is generally considered the most influential white wedding of the 20th century.[3]

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‘Hand Fasting’ – ancient Celtic Marriage Ritual

According to a great Pagan Wedding Planner’s web site, you can read the following about ‘Handfasting’ and it’s History‘:

A ‘Handfasting’ is a beautiful marriage ritual based on ancient Celtic tradition. In days of old the Handfasting was traditionally seen as a rite of betrothal, lasting a year and a day. If all goes well, after the year and a day the two lovers would hold a second Handfasting ceremony that would bind together hearts, minds, bodies and spirits for as long as love is shared between the two.

Today many Handfasting ceremonies skip the betrothal period especially if the couple have been together some time and go straight to the joining of the couple for the duration of their love. A Handfasting can last forever, so long as love remains, even unto the lives that may follow. The only thing that may sever a Handfasting is if the love between the couple fades.

Most often a Handfasting will be held outside, in as natural a setting as possible amongst nature and the Elements. The space chosen is decorated with flowers and foliage of the season, lit with candles and perfumed with incense. It is a space that is honoured and made sacred to the Elements of nature, and one that is made special for this most honoured and romantic tradition. Handfastings are a time of joyous revelry and magical merriment. It’s a perfectly wonderful reason to dress in fanciful, flamboyant garb and wear flowers in one’s hair, entering into the spirit of romantic times past.

The ceremony is presided over by a Priest and Priestess chosen by the couple for their knowledge of the Rite. The space is made sacred with words and gestures that acknowledge nature and the Elements and fortuitous spirits are invoked

The couple are invited into the Sacred Circle to exchange their vows one to the other. They gaze lovingly and deeply into one another’s eyes and whisper promises to each other as the Priest and Priestess gently binds their wrists together with a red cord. This is the actual ‘fasting’ – the red cord signifying love and knots indicating the tender bondage of their mutual commitment, hence the saying -tying the knot. Rings are exchanged along with their promises of love and the whole Rite is viewed as a sacred act between the two.

When the ceremony is over the happy couple jump the broomstick, which is a symbol of the joining together of man with woman, to ensure love and happiness for their future. Food and wine are then shared with the guests to celebrate this wonderful occasion. A Handfasting is a truly beautiful ceremony to behold and guest will take away with them a sense of times past and true romance.

History of Handfasting.

This lovely ritual has it roots in ancient times and many believe that it developed in the Celtic cultures of Europe and the British Isles. Originally it was a betrothal or a promise of marriage between two people who would then spend a traditional term of a year and day together to see if they were compatible. After this time, and if they were in agreement the vows could be taken again and they would be considered married. The Handfasting ritual takes its name from the joining and tying of the hands of the couple to be wed, usually with cords. This is where the term “tying the knot” comes from today in reference to getting married. The Handfasting ritual would have been performed by an important member of the community – chieftain, Priest, Priestess, Shaman or Elder, who would have guided the couple through the ritual and presided over them as they exchanged vows in front of witnesses, probably the whole community. The witnessing of the ritual by friends and the community would make it law in the eyes of the community as no official records would have been kept until the introduction of a “Church based” wedding.

This custom spanned the centuries and was still legal in many parts until 1753 when one Lord Hardwick passed an Act through Parliament declaring that marriages in England could only be legal if sanctioned by the Church. This law however was exempt in both Scotland and the Channel Islands. The Act set the precedence for modern Church marriages in the UK ever since with some updates being allowed for modern times. However Handfastings continued to be legal in Scotland up until 1939, particularly in the Highlands and Islands where they may not have had a permanent Clergyman. If this was the case a Handfasting ritual could be performed and then when a traveling Clergyman visited the community the marriage could then be legalised by the Church. As a direct result of Lord Hardwick’s Act and its strict marriage laws the famous town of Gretna Green became popular with English couples running away to get married as Scotland was outside the jurisdiction of English law. Gretna Green is still a popular choice for marriage because of the romantic associations it has had of eloping lovers running away to seal their love against all odds!

Today, Handfasting is the choice of many Pagans and Magical Folk when choosing to commit to a partner. It is sometimes, although not always preceded by a civil ceremony. Whether or not the marriage has been legally performed, in the eyes of the pagan community the couple Handfasted are seen as married within Pagan tradition. For those people who follow a Pagan Path the vows taken within a Handfasting ceremony are no less binding than those taken in a Church or Registry Office.

Thanks to ‘Pagan Wedding Planners’ for all this info. For more Information visit their wonderful website on  www.paganweddingplanners.co.uk

If you need a wedding singer for a Celtic Marriage Ceremony, or in fact any marriage ceremony, visit:


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What songs to sing at a wedding?

Is the hymn dying out?


Thanks for this picture by Infrogmation at flickr.com

Studies have been made that many people now express a preference for personal favorites or contemporary songs. Often the music chosen by the family – specified by a person to be played at a wedding as well as a funeral – is light-hearted.

However reports also indicate that many celebrations are still traditional, led by a minister. Within the percentages classified as contemporary, hymns still often feature in the order of service.

As a wedding singer, – I strongly experience both these quite opposite trends.  On my web site I have a very long repertoire list, yet often people just request their own favourite songs. In that way my repertoire list gets forever longer and longer. It is wonderful as a singer to get to know so much wonderful music really well. Also a great privilege to attend so many special celebrations.

Today I was singing at a real country wedding in an ancient wonderful church. Here the choice of music was a complete mix of musical styles, which brought a great mix of new and old. The hymns were there, – mixed in with sacred music, and contemporary music as well. Something for every taste. When we left we could wave to the newly weds riding off in a horse carriage. This seems to be a much rarer experience, – it is usually the fancy cars one sees the couple drive off in.

Have a great day!                      www.weddingsinger-uk.net


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Looking for a beautiful religious hymn for your wedding ceremony?

If you are looking for a beautiful religious hymn for your church wedding – I have come across some alternative words to Gustav Holst’s beautiful hymn “I vow to Thee my Country” (Thaxted 192)

I think he would have much prefered these alternative words, as he wasn’t patriotic at all and would have hated how patriotic his beautiful song has become with the words, we know mostly know it for.

Here are the alternative words by Cecil Spring-Rice:

We pledge to one another before the Lord above,
Entire and whole and perfect, this union of our love;
a love that will be patient, a love that will be wise, that will not
twist with envy nor lose itself in lies;
a love that will not falter, a love to hold us fast, and bind us together
as long as life shall last.

We pray that God will guide us through all the years to be.
Our lives be shaped by courage, hope and serenity.
Through joy and celebration, through loneliness and pain,
may loyalty, compassion and tenderness remain, that those
who share the blessing of love that cannot cease, may walk the paths of gentleness,                   into the place of peace.

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‘Marriage rituals in Pagan Scandinavia’ – from Wikipedia

Marriage As it was the core of the family, marriage was the most important social institution in pagan Scandinavia. A wedding was thus an important transition not only for the couple but also for the families involved. A marriage was a legal contract with implications for among other things inheritance and property relations, while the wedding itself was the solemnization of a pact in which the families promised to help each other. Because of this the male head of the family had the final say in these matters. However it is clear from the sagas that the young couple also had a say since a good relationship between the spouses was crucial to the running of a farm. A wedding was a long and collective process subject to many ritual rules and culminating in the wedding feast itself. The procedures had to be followed for the divine powers to sanction the marriage and to avoid a bad marriage afterwards. However accounts in the sagas about the complicated individual emotions connected to a marriage tell us that things did not always work out between the spouses.[57] Freyja (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. As a prelude to marriage the family of the groom sent the groom and several delegates to the family of the bride to propose. Here the date of the betrothal was set. This was the first legally binding step between the families and the occasion was used to negotiate the inheritance and property relations of the couple as well as the dowry (heimanfylgja) and wedding present (mundr) from the groom’s family. Those were the personal property of the bride. Usually the bride’s family were less wealthy than the groom’s but in most cases the difference was not great. Thus the dowry was an investment by the bride’s family that made it possible for her to marry into a more powerful family.[58] When an agreement on these matters had been reached, the deal was sealed at a feast.[59] These conditions were reserved for the dominating class of freeholders (bóndi/bœndr), as the remaining parts of the population, servants, thralls and freedmen were not free to act in these matters but were totally dependent on their master.[58] The wedding (brudlaup) was the most important single ritual in the process. It was the first public gathering of the two families and consisted of a feast that lasted for several days. Anything less than three days was considered paltry. The guests witnessed that the process had been followed correctly. The sources tell very little about how a wedding was related to the gods. It is known that the goddess Vár witnessed the couple’s vows, that a depiction of Mjolnir could be placed in the lap of the bride asking Thor to bless her, and that Freyr and Freyja were often called upon in matters of love and marriage, but there is no suggestion of a worship ritual. From legal sources we know that leading the couple to the bridal couch was one of the central rituals. On the first night the couple was led to bed by witnesses carrying torches, which marked the difference between legal marital relations and a secret extra-marital relationship.


Freyja (1901) by Johannes Gehrts.

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History of the ‘Wedding Ring’ from Wikipedia

Wedding ring

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A white gold wedding ring.

A wedding ring or wedding band is a metal ring indicating the wearer is married. Depending on the local culture, it is worn on the base of the right or the left ring finger. The custom of wearing such a ring has spread widely beyond its origin in Europe. Originally worn by wives only, wedding rings became customary for both husbands and wives during the 20th century.

A pair of rings

 Traditional customs

 Pre-wedding customs

According to some customs, the wedding ring forms the last in a series of gifts, which also may include the engagement ring, traditionally given as a betrothal present. This tradition was already in use in Ancient Rome and is possibly much older.

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, the exchange of rings is not technically part of the wedding service, but rather are exchanged at the betrothal. It is always a two-ring set given to her by the priest or by the best man. The orthodox Christian Church of Greece has recently stopped performing betrothal blessings separately, as these were often non-committing, and a betrothal ceremony is the initial part of the wedding service anyway. In many families an informal blessing is now performed by the betrothed ones’ parents in a family dinner that formalizes the betrothal. The ceremony of betrothal is now possibly performed immediately before the wedding (or “crowning” as it is more properly called), and the actual symbolic act of marriage is not the exchange of rings, but the public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or leader.

The future bridegroom may also give his future bride a jeweled ring (in North America since the 1930s)most commonly set with a diamond upon proposing to her. After the wedding the wedding band is worn on the ring finger, closest to the hand, and the engagement ring is worn in front of it. The rings usually match and sometimes interlock or are fused together to form one ring.

 Wedding ceremony customs


In several traditions, the best man or maid of honour has the duty of keeping track of a couple’s wedding rings and to produce them at the symbolic moment of the giving and receiving of the rings during the traditional marriage ceremony. In more elaborate weddings, a ring bearer (who is often part of the family of the bride or groom) may assist in the ceremonial parading of the rings into the ceremony, often on a special cushion.

In older times, the wedding rings were not only a sign of love, but were also linked to the bestowal of ‘earnest money’. According to the prayer book of Edward VI: after the words ‘with this ring I thee wed’ follow the words ‘This gold and silver I give thee’, at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride.

Historically, the wedding ring was rather connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding rather than a symbol of eternal love and devotion. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Both families were then eager to ensure the economic safety of the young couple. Sometimes it went as far as being a conditional exchange as this old (and today outdated) German formula shows: ‘I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers’.

The double-ring ceremony, or use of wedding rings for both partners, is a relatively recent innovation. The American jewellery industry started a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging this practice in the late 19th century.In the 1920s, ad campaigns tried introducing a male engagement ring, but it failed due to the necessity that its advertising campaigns make secret appeals to women.Marketing lessons of the 1920s, changing economic times, and the impact of World War II led to a more successful marketing campaign for male and female wedding bands, and by the late 1940s, double-ring ceremonies made up for 80% of all weddings, as opposed to 15% before the Great Depression.

 Post-wedding customs

A gold banded engagement-wedding-anniversary ring combination welded together.

After marriage, the ring is worn on the hand it had been placed on during the ceremony. By wearing rings on the fourth finger, a married couple symbolically declares their eternal love for each other. This has now become a matter of tradition and etiquette.

Some cultures exchange additional rings: In some parts of India, Hindus may use a toe ring or bichiya which is worn instead of a ring on a finger; although this is only for women, and increasingly worn along with a finger ring. In the eastern parts of India, primarily West Bengal, an iron bangle, or ‘loha,’ is worn by women. Increasingly, this bangle is given a gold or silver coating to improve its appearance. In Romania spouses celebrate their silver wedding anniversary (25 years of marriage) by exchanging silver wedding rings, which are worn on the 4th finger of the left hand along with the original (usually gold) wedding ring.

Byzantine wedding ring, depicting Christ uniting the bride and groom, 7th century, nielloed gold (Musée du Louvre).


 Wedding ceremonies that reference rings

  • Church of England (1662 Book of Common Prayer) – “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
  • Jewish – “With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel.” – Said in Hebrew by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding and by both the bride and groom at a Reform Jewish wedding
  • Roman Catholic – “N., take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Eastern Orthodox – “The servant of God (N.) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (N.), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” – from the Eastern Orthodox Service of Betrothal, part of the Mysterion of Holy Matrimony (“crowning”), said three times while the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the bride’s ring over the bridegroom’s head, he then places the bride’s ring on the groom’s hand. The same words are said three times over the bride, reversing the names of the bride and groom, placing the groom’s ring on the bride’s hand. The rings are then exchanged three times (either by the priest or by the best man), so that the bride and the groom end up with their own rings. In Eastern Orthodox the wedding ring is worn on the right hand rather than the left.
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