Western Colorado Wedding Guide – Wedding Traditions

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Have you ever wondered why we throw rice at the bride and groom on their departure? Or why the bride and groom feed each other cake. Many traditions today stem back many years, or even centuries, and most are still recognized today. Many traditions and rituals were formed to keep evil from the bride and groom, give them good luck and some are symbols of fertility. Many traditions are done in ceremonies because that’s what you do when you get married. What people don’t realize are these traditions and symbols have true meanings.

Weddings have symbolized a steady force that ensures continuation of society. Even the most primitive ancestors recognized how fragile human life was and the daily struggle for survival. A man coming together with a mate was a need for protection and they didn’t take good fortune for granted. Go figure… men need women to make them feel secure. Churches or Chapels have been the ideal place to bless the union.

Western Colorado Wedding GuideThe Anglo-Saxon word “wedd” supposed the bridegroom would likely promise to marry the woman and barter goods or money with the bride’s daddy. The term “wedding” originates from the root phrase which means, “gambling” or “wager”. In precedent days a wedding was in fact a purchase of a woman.

Bridal parties helped the groom prepare for the capture of the bride. The “Bridesmen” or “Brideknights”, known today as the “Best Man”, would help keep the groom safe from enemies and make sure the bride made it to both the ceremony and to the groom’s home or hide out after the ceremony. Today the Best man keeps the groom sane and sober before the wedding.

In medieval times men wore their swords on the right side. When the bride was being captured the groom would hold her in his left arm to keep is right side free so if a battle for the bride occurred he could get to his sword easily. Hence to this day the bride stands on her father’s left when walking down the aisle and stands on the left of the groom.

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Groomsmen, ushers and bridesmaid were used in the wedding party and wore similar cloths to trick and confuse evil spirits keeping them away from the bride and groom.

Bridal Showers helped the bride prepare for marriage, receive moral support and strengthen friendships with her friends. A gift would be put in a parasol and opened above the bride’s head so the gift would shower over her.

Stag parties were the groom’s big feast the night before the wedding where he would say good-bye to his carefree days of bachelorhood and swear to continue allegiance with his comrade. This is now known as a Bachelor Party. It is now common for brides to have their own “stag party” know as the Bachelorette Party.

Over 2000 years ago wedding gowns were red or a bright color. The wife of Napoleon III broke the tradition and wore white for celebration. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Prince Albert that cultures adopted white for the wedding gown. Queen Victoria wore white to mean purity and virginity. Today white once again symbolizes joy and celebration, not many women these days can use Queen Victoria’s meaning.

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An aisle runner is used for the bride, to keep her dress from getting dirty. It is rolled out for the bride after the last person in the procession reaches the alter. The bride and her escort are the only ones to walk on the runner.

Veils have several origins. Veils were worn in the dark ages to keep evil spirits away or restrain the jealous old boyfriend from ruining the wedding day. If they could not see the brides face they would stay away. In arranged marriages the groom would see his bride for the first time when her father would gave her away to the groom who then lifted the veil. It would have been interesting to see the looks on some grooms faces. In the 16th century hair pieces with delicate veils grew to be popular. Lace become popular after Queen Victoria’s wedding ceremony in 1840.

Wedding rings have many meanings. The circle is a symbol of the sun, the earth and the universe of wholeness and perfection, continuity and never ending love. Rings were supposed to keep evil spirits away from the bride and if the ring was dropped during the ceremony it was a sign of bad luck. Ancient Greeks and Romans believe that since the vein from the third finger on the left hand went to the heart the rings should be worn on that finger and the bride and grooms hearts would be joined together.

Originally rings were made of rushes, hemp or braided grass, which had to be replace every year. The Romans chose more durable iron to symbolize the permanence of marriage. Gold has been a popular choice symbolizing lasting beauty, purity and strength. Diamonds became popular after the King of Egypt gave his betrothed his symbol of love. The diamond is the strongest element on earth, which symbols love to last forever, and Diamonds are girls’ best friends.

We’ve heard it a thousand times… on her wedding day, a bride is suppose to wear “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in your shoe!” Many brides still follow this age-old tradition, but what exactly does it mean? And why blue? Something Old signifies a sense of continuity, tradition and represents the link to the bride’s old life and her family. Something New signifies hope for the future. Something Borrowed borrow something from a friend who is happily married. Something Blue signifies fidelity, purity and love.

This is why you see so many garters with blue ribbon or detailing!

A Silver sixpence in your shoe signifies wealth – both financial wealth and a wealth of happiness and joy.

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Ceremony sealed with a kiss. The kiss represents the exchange of spirits, uniting the couple in body and spirit. Some cultures consider the kiss the legal bond that seals the marriage contract. Plus it’s really fun.

Bridal bouquets were first made of special herbs and spices not flowers. This was done the ward off evil spirits. Certain herbs used were symbols of fertility. Greeks carried ivy for unending love. Interesting fragrant flowers were added to bouquets for cover up body odor since soap and deodorant weren’t invented. Tossing the brides bouquet to single women came about in more modern times. The single women who caught the bouquet would be next to find a husband and marry. Smart women would run from the bouquet.

Brides started wearing garters in the 14th century to save herself and her dress; drunken males would try and rip her dress off for good luck. She would take the garter off before the rush and tossed it to the crowd before things got out of hand, still sometimes the bride would be mould. Husband’s started taking the garter off (mainly to save his new wife). Now the garter is thrown with lots of cheers to unmarried male guests.

Not all brides carry a handkerchief, but if they do it’s considered a good omen. Early farmers thought the brides wedding tears were good luck and brought rain to their crops. Later, it was said if a bride cried at her wedding she would never shed a tear about her wedding again. I’m not sure what it meant if the bride blew her nose in the hanky.

Legend has it that Saint Dunstan gave the horseshoe a special power against evil. Approached by Satan to make horseshoes for his cloven feet, Dunstan knew he was the devil. He shackled him to the wall to attach the horseshoes. The devil was freed after promising never to enter a house with a horseshoe.

Today the horseshoe is a symbol of good fortune and fertility. In Britain, and many other countries, a Bride carries a replica of a horseshoe on her wedding day for good luck. There is a ribbon attached to the shoulders of the horseshoe and it is carried on the wrist.

Shoes also had interpretation in historical time. In medieval times a satisfied bride used old shoes. Egyptians would likely trade sandals when goods were exchanged. If the bride’s daddy gave her away to the bridegroom, he would also give the groom her sandals to show she now belonged to him.

Anglo-Saxon times, the groom would tap the heel of the brides shoe to show his authority over her. In later times shoes were thrown at the couple. Thankfully that changed and shoes were tied to the couple’s car.

Receiving lines were formed to bless the bride and groom and give them good luck. This was also a time when you figured out how many people you didn’t know at your ceremony.

Wedding cakes are a symbol of fertility. Ancient Romans baked the cake out of wheat and barley and would break it over the bride’s head or actually hit her over the head with it. Over time it would be tradition to stack the cakes as tall as possible. In England, guests would bring small cakes and stack them. The bride and groom had to kiss over the top with out knocking it over. If they were successful, they would have a lifetime of good fortune.

During King Charles II of England reign, it was customary for cakes to be a palatable palace iced with sugar. The couple feeding cake to each other is supposed to be in a loving manor, but today some brides and grooms try and see who can spread it on each others face first.

In the old days the top tier would be put under the couples bed so the bride would be more fertile and bear strong children. After a year the couple would consume what was left of the cake for luck and health (yum). Today the top layer is saved in the freezer and eaten on the couple’s first anniversary. A big wedding cake was also good to share with guests.

Throwing grains, such as rice, wheat or birdseed at the couple on their departure symbolizes basic human desire for fertility, a success life including health, careers having financial security.

Honeymoon – Following the bride’s abduction and wedding ceremony, the groom put himself and his bride in hiding so the bride’s family wouldn’t find them. The bride and groom would drink fermented honey (honey is an ancient symbol for life, health and fertility) and mead. This kept the bride sedated and kept her from screaming. Brides usually became impregnated during the honeymoon. The honeymoon usually lasted a full moon cycle.

Hence, drinking fermented honey for a full moon cycle became the “Honeymoon”. If the bride did give birth 9 months later it was a great honor for the brewer. His business would increase and the new child was named in his honor. In modern days couples go on a Honeymoon to enjoy themselves as a newlyweds. It helps relieve the wedding stress.

There are many different ideas about the Threshold. It was thought evil spirits were waiting for the bride at the door of their new home and if the bride walked through the door the first time they entered as husband and wife she would step on the spirits and make them angry.

When groom carried his new bride over the threshold she would not be touched by the evil spirits. It was also once told that to sweeten the couple’s marriage the couple’s family would paint the doorway with honey, ancient Romans would families put fine oils and herbs on the doorpost. The groom would carry the bride so her dress wouldn’t get dirty and to keep her from slipping.

Over the years marriages have changed from a bride being bought or kidnapped for marriage, to a man and woman coming together in a marriage for Love. This has not had a significant change in the traditions and symbols used in a wedding ceremony. Whether the ceremony is elaborate or simple, many weddings cannot avoid using ancient traditions and symbols.

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