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The wedding veil has evolved over the centuries, and has signified youth, virginity, and modesty. Roman brides were married in swathes of brilliant yellow, while Viking queens wore metal skullcaps. Many Japanese brides still wear the traditional tsuno-kakushi -- a white hood that supposedly hides the horns of jealousy. In the United States, George Washington's daughter Nellie was one of the very first brides to don a veil. Legend has it that Nellie was sitting by a lace-curtained window when one of her father's aides walked by and fell head over heels in love with her lace-framed face. When the two married, Nellie recreated the effect by donning a lacy veil, and inadvertently set a trend that is still prevalent among Western brides today.
Identically Dressed Attendants
Keeping evil spirits away from the couple on their wedding day is a recurring theme in wedding tradition. If your attendants complain about having to wear the exact same thing (although these days, of course, they don't have to match!), tell them this: Bridesmaids used to wear the exact same outfit as the bride so that evil spirits would be confused as to just who was the actual couple.
Headpieces are chosen separately from veiling. Though the earliest brides said their I do's crowned with floral and herbal wreaths -- which continue to be popular, particularly for outdoor and beach ceremonies -- there are many other options for the bride today. Eastern Orthodox brides know to look forward to a crowning ceremony when they marry, during which both the bride and groom have ornate crowns placed on their heads; the crowns are blessed and exchanged three times, and when they are removed the couple is officially married. Similarly, the Finnish bride wears a gold crown, which she places on the head of a bridesmaid -- while blindfolded -- during a reception dance. It is said the lucky maid will be the next to marry, much in keeping with the tradition of American brides tossing the bouquet.
The Wedding Kiss
Yes, this is what the big wedding kiss symbolizes--the swapping of souls between the bride and groom. Even earlier than this Christian belief, the Romans used a kiss to seal a contract. The kiss was considered legally binding. What's more, a bride marrying in the Church of England had to kiss the minister before she smooched the groom.
Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
The tradition of the bride wearing something old (for continuity), new (optimism for the future), borrowed (happiness), and blue (fidelity, good fortune, and love) on her wedding day stems from an Old English rhyme. The something borrowed comes from the superstition that happiness rubs off, so the bride borrowed something from a happily married woman. Something blue comes from the notion that the shade denotes fidelity, purity and love.
Many brides consider their dress to be their something new. There are a few options if cost is a factor: something old - a family heirloom such as your grandmother's wedding band or string of pearls; a lace handkerchief; an old hat pin secured on the inside of your gown; something borrowed-a family member's or friend's headpiece or veil; a piece of your mother's jewelry; something blue- garter, blue toenail polish, or lingerie.
Additional customs relating to luck include: sewing a small pouch filled with a piece of bread, a sliver of wood, a bit of cloth, or a dollar bill into the hem of a bride's petticoat to protect against future shortages of food, shelter, clothing, or money.
The circular shape of a wedding ring symbolizes eternal love. Gold represents enduring beauty, purity, and strength, all appropriate marriage sentiments. Why wear the ring on the third finger of the left hand? The ancient Egyptians believed that the vein in that finger ran directly to the heart. As for that big rock of an engagement ring, brides have the Archduke Maximillian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy to thank for that: In 1477 he offered his beloved a diamond as a betrothal gift -- the first recorded diamond engagement ring.
We call it a “toast” when we drink to someone because of an old French custom in which a piece of bread was put in the bottom of the wine cup--for flavor. Partygoers would drink and pass the cup; when it reached the person being toasted, he would drain it--crouton and all.