WEDDING TRADITIONS Customs evolved from practical and romantic gestures

Sometimes a single event or a common practice provided the basis for what is now the nuptial norm.
In days of yore, betrothed couples began the traditions that brides and grooms carry on today.
Ever wonder why brides toss their bouquets? Or why it is important that the bride wear something blue?
To cure your curiosity, here are a few hows, whys and wheres of wedding traditions from the editors of Home & amp; Garden Television:
UTradition has it that Maximilian of Austria was in a sweat over how to propose to his chosen lady. With some advice from a counselor, Max slipped a diamond engagement ring onto the left hand, third finger of Mary of Burgundy, thus starting a trend that's lasted more than 500 years.
UWhy a diamond? The ancient Greeks called the diamond the "Venus stone" because, they said, it shone like the planet Venus. Associating the stone with the goddess of love, the ancients compared the stone's inner flare with that of the "inner fire" of passion. The Greeks also called the stone "adamas," meaning eternal or unchanging, a characteristic of the diamond's nature of being the hardest natural substance on earth.
UThe engagement ring and wedding band are traditionally worn on the third finger on the left hand under a belief that a vein ran from that finger directly to the heart.
UBridal showers today give the bride's friends and family the opportunity to help the couple start a home. In an older age in Holland, a father would often refuse to contribute to his daughter's wedding dowry if he disapproved of her suitor. Nearby villagers would "shower" the bride with gifts to compensate for her father's lack of giving.
UOriginating in England, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" is almost as traditional a phrase as "I do." "Something old" symbolizes the bride's tie to her family and her previous way of living. Often family heirlooms, these items represent the transition into the bride's married life while not forgetting the one she had. "Something new" represents prosperity in the bride's new marriage. "Something borrowed" is used to remind the bride that she has friends and family at her side when she needs help or advice. "Something blue" symbolizes faithfulness and loyalty.
UThe idea of the bachelor party roots a little deeper than the concept of a few guys hosting the groom's last hoorah before he weds. Originally called the bachelor dinner or stag party, this tradition began in Sparta in the fifth century. Military comrades would feast and toast a groom on the eve before a friend's wedding. Today, the bachelor party usually is held close to the wedding date.
UThe wedding party traditionally came about as a means of support and protection. Since our primitive ancestors came together in tribes to promote protection and survival rather than mere companionship, the tribes often forbade intertribal marriages. Some historians believe the first marriages may have been group marriages to the tribe rather than to any one person. Tribal rivalry soon provoked men from some tribes to capture women from other tribes to make wives of them. Thus the first groomsmen were usually small armies standing with the groom at the marriage ceremony to protect him and his wife-to-be from the bride's angry family.
UBridesmaids became a tradition much later as weddings became planned events. Their primary role was to assist the bride in dressing for the wedding and decorating for the wedding feast. For a long time, bridesmaids often wore the same dress as the bride while groomsmen dressed similarly to the groom. Today this tradition accomplishes uniformity. But at the time of the first weddings it was a way to rid the wedding site of evil spirits or rival suitors; the wedding party hoped the unwelcome visitors wouldn't be able to tell which two people were the real bride and groom.
USince prebiblical times, veils have been worn in many cultures as a symbol of the bride's purity and modesty. However, legend has it that the lace veil was inspired by Nelly Curtis, George Washington's adopted daughter. It is said that when Nelly's fiance first saw her, she was standing behind lace curtains. Wishing to re-create that moment, she made her veil from lace.
UTossing the garter and bridal bouquet isn't just a way of relieving the bride of poor leg circulation and bad allergies. Today it indicates that the gentleman who catches the garter and the lady who catches the bouquet will be the next to marry. However, in ancient days, wedding guests believed it would bring good luck if they left the wedding celebration with a piece of the bride's attire. Sometimes the tradition became uncontrollable, with wedding guests literally ripping off pieces of the bride's gown. Grooms soon began tossing the garter to protect their brides from the chaos, still offering a piece of luck to male wedding guests. Brides soon began throwing their bouquets as gifts of luck for female wedding guests.
UThe honeymoon now often gives the bride and groom a chance to perfect snow skiing or scuba diving skills, but at one time it involved much more. After the wedding, the groom would take his bride to a secluded place for a month, or a full lunar cycle. During that time, the couple would drink mead, a honeyed wine meant to enhance the newlyweds' marriage.

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