Archive for the ‘Wedding Traditions’ Category

Something Old, Something New

“Something old, Something new,

Something borrowed, Something blue….and a Sixpence in her shoe”

Something old –  Although, many believe and follow tradition as just having something old on their wedding day, the tradition was originated with the belief that an old garter would be loaned to the bride by a happily married woman in the hopes that her happiness in marriage would be passed on.

Something new –  symbolizes the newly weds happy and prosperous future.

Something borrowed – the borrowed item signifies the transfer of happiness from a happily married woman to a new bride. The item is greatly valued by the family and the bride must return the item to ensure good luck.

Something blue – a blue item symbolizes purity and fidelity.  This custom of the bride wearing something blue originated in ancient Israel where the bride wore a blue ribbon in her hair.

Silver sixpence – the placing of a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe was to ensure wealth in the couples married life. More modern tradition allows that the bride may substitute the sixpence with a penny.

(A Victorian Tradition)

Polish Wedding Traditions


In Polish weddings the celebrations may continue for two or three days. In the past, the engagement ceremony was organized by the future groom as a formal family gathering, during which he asked his chosen lady to marry him. There was once a time when the union of a man and woman was more of a business deal than a union of true love.  Women who hoped to marry were expected to possess a tremendous  a fortune, small or large.  The women were expected to bring valuable possessions or worth to the marriage.  This wealth was referred to as a dowry consisting of money, jewelry, a deed to a  piece of property or other tangible items.    A poor young woman without a thing to bring to a marriage was overlooked when another woman had a substantial dowry.    The Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6, celebrates the life of a man who helped three young women receive a dowry.  Legend has it that an impoverished nobleman had three daughters who remained unmarried because he  could not provide them with dowries.  St. Nicholas, after hearing about this, took gold pieces from his coffers and on the night of December 5th, threw them into the window of the house.  Starting with the eldest daughter he continued this gesture.  In essence, he gave them a dowry and they were able to marry.  This was the beginning of the special fund referred to as the coffer of St. Nicholas.    This dowry fund continued until 1932.   The young man in search of a wife, often sought to improve his social and financial status.  The woman were expected to bring their dowry, including clothes for herself and other items useful in establishing a home.  Hence, a Hope Chest was established.  Originally referred to as a dowry chest.  The oldes type of Hope chests in Polan date back to the fifteenth century.

Hope Chest Items:

Table Linen, Table Linens for Serving Coffee, Blankets & Bedding, Bed Linen, Towels, Silver cutlery pieces, Everyday silver cutlery, Glassware & Personal clothing.


Once agreements of marriage were made, a small party or engagement celebration was held to officially announce the betrothal.  This was usually held on a Saturday evening at the home of the bride.  The betrothal was considered very serious, synonymous to being married.

In ancient traditions, before rings, there was the blessing of joined hands over a loaf of bread.  This symbolic rite was called zrekowiny, “hand binding” ceremony.  The table was covered with the best white tablecloth in the home. The bread was placed upon the table and the bride & grooms hands were joined together over the bread.   Their hands were then bound together with an embroidered towel made specially for the occasion.

In the recent years this custom has changed and today an engagement is much more personal and intimate. An elegant dinner party afterwards is still a nice way to inform the closest family members about the couples’ decision to get married.


Stones were associated with certain beliefs and extraordinary powers.

amethysts – protected the wearer against drunkenness.

chrysolite – chased away nightmares

pearls – helped to relieve melancholy

garnets – gave joy to the heart

topaz – soothed anger

One of the oldest symbols of plighted troth from the Renaissance period in Poland  was the “hand in hand” setting.    Crafted in gold or silver.  When clasped together on the wedding day with the engagement ring, on the finger it revealed two hands clasped together.  A symbol of the marriage union.

Placed upon the 4th finger of the left hand as it was believed that a vein in thus finger led directly to the heart.  However during the fifteenth century, the ring was placed upon the 4th finger og the right hand.  This became a tradition.

In some regions of Poland the tradition to invite the wedding guests in person is still upheld. Many young couples, accompanied by the parents, visit their family and friends to hand them the wedding invitations personally.

According to the old tradition a groom arrives with his parents at the house of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. At that time both parents and parents-in-law give a young couple their blessing. The couple enter the church together and walks up to the altar followed by two witnesses and the parents. In Poland it is quite unusual for the bride to be walked down the aisle or to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The couple is assisted by two witnesses, a man (usually grooms’ side) and a woman (usually brides’ side) who are either family members or close friends.

Wedding Bouquet:

In old traditions, the bride carried a beautifully bound prayer book given to her as a gift from her groom, or perhaps  a rosary, in place of flowers.  However, in the 1830’s the bouquet became popular.

Traditionally, the wedding flowers were purchased by the groom.  The Church flowers usually consisted of red & white carnations. Red & White being the Polish colors.

The Brides also wore wreaths of myrtle, rosemary and roses over the veil.  The wearing of the wreath on one’s wedding day is a Polish tradition that was continued for over a thousand years.  It was customary for young, unmarried girls to wear wreaths in their hair for almost all special occasions, such as church and local dances.  The wreath was a symbol of the unmarried, virginal state.  The Bride weaves her wedding wreath on the Maiden Evening (night before wedding) in front of her attendants.

The groom & groomsmen wore a boutonniere made from myrtle and tied with a white ribbon.

Church Ceremony:

Originally the groomsmen & bridesmaids of Poland entered the church first and made an arch with their hands, the bride and groom would pass through on their way to the alter.  Each pair of attendants following behind through the arch until only one remained, the last pair joining hands and followed everyone else down the aisle.  The bride & groom knelt in the center of the sanctuary.  Bridesmaiids & groomsmen paired off behind and to the left & right with the youngest attendants staying behind them, centered behind the bride & groom.  A white cloth was placed under the couple’s feet as a sign of recognition.

After the wedding ceremony, the newly married couple faces the congregation and exits the church as man & wife.    However, before departing the church, the newly married young woman visits the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Before the congregation stands, the prelude to Ave Maria is begun.  It is at this time when the Bride receives the special bouquet of white lilies, a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from her Maid of Honor.  She slowly walks to the altar placing the bouquet and kneeling at the foot of the altar to pray with bowed head.    She prays for health of her new family and vows to be a good mother to her future children.    Upon conclusion of the Ave Maria the bride unites with her new husband and faces the congregation to begin leaving the church.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen line up across each other creating a color guard for the newly weds to walk past.

The Polish bride traditionally wears a white dress and a veil. The groom, on the other hand usually wears a fitted suit with a bow tie and a boutonniere that matches the brides’ bouquet. During the ceremony wedding rings are exchanged and both the husband and wife wear them on their right hand. When they leave the church the guests toss wheat, rye or oat grains as a symbol that they may always have plenty, especially bread. Nobles and monarchs customarily tossed coins at the married couple for good and prosperous future together.

Once all the guests have showered the couple with kisses, hugs and flowers everyone heads to the reception. It is a custom in Poland to prepare “passing gates” on the way to the reception for the newlyweds, who in order to pass have to give the “gate keepers” some vodka. This is a misinterpretation of an earlier tradition, when the “passing gates” were built when the bride was an orphan and money collected by “gate keepers” from the guests was handed over to the bride as her dowry (being orphan implied usually poverty).

The married couple is welcomed at the reception place by the parents with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes the prosperity, salt stands for hardship of life, the parents wish the young couple that they never go hungry and learn how to deal with every day hardships together. The wedding party lasts (and the bride and groom remain) until the last guest leaves, usually until morning.


Most common about the feast is simply that the guests lack for nothing.  Meats, fish, sweets and spirits such as beer, wine and vodka are very common amongst the choices.  According to old Polish traditions, the wedding feast should have at least ten different items on the menu.

Oczepiny: The Unveiling and Capping Ceremony

The most significant custom associated with a Polish wedding, the Czepek, the cap of the married woman , was placed upon the head of a young Polish bride.  One of the most important and oldest Polish wedding custom.  Removing of the veil (unveiling) and the placing of the cap (capping) is a rite-of-passage from young woman to married woman.  By removal of her veil or wreath and the placement of a cap or bonnet, she enters the ranks of married women.  Traditionally, the cap was made by the brides Godmother.  There are many different variations of the cap throughout history.  The most common used nowadays is a round cap that pins upon the head.  Usually made out of  satin or lace.

This takes place late into the evening after some music and dancing have comenced.  The Bride sits in the middle of the dance floor facing the guests.  The maid of honor, usually designated to do the honors, stood behind the bride.  The maid of honor was sometimes helped by the bride’s new mother-in-law.    Single girls stood next to and behind the bride and maid of honor to lend support.  Married women lit small candles and surrounded the bride and her single friends while the veil was removed and joined in signing.  The band/music begins and the maid of honor starts removing pins holding the veil or wreath in place.    Very popular in the United States is the Twelve Angels Song, (Rosnie Trawka – The Grass Grows), or (Dwanas’cie Listeczek – Twelve Leaflets).  As soon as the wreath or veil is removed from the brides head, the bride is surrounded by the unmarried girls who sing.    As the cap is placed upon the brides head, she is accepted into the circle of married woman, officially becoming a married woman.

Money Dance:

In Poland  the czepek dance took place after the oczepiny ceremony in country weddings.  Guests pay money for the privilege of dancing with  the bride.    when the groom paid for the privilege of a dance with his new wife, it signaled their exit from the festivities.  Festivities continued long after the bride & groom departed.

Wedding Cake:

A wheat cake or biscuit was baked and broken.  The first bites eaten by the bride and groom.  The remainder of cake was broken over the bride’s head.  Guests gathered up the crumbs and ate them.  The cake was made with wheat flour as a symbol of fertility and the earht’s abundance.  Meant to guarantee the bride and groom a life of prosperity and many children.

Bouquet toss:

Although this custom has become more modern, the tossing of the bouquet, traditionally – since the bride did not carry a bouquet, she tossed her veil to the bridesmaids.  The bridesmaid whom caught it would be the next to marry.

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Puerto Rican Wedding Traditions

With the exception of capias and bride dolls, there are no real different wedding traditions.  Weddings can be created to perceive a Puerto Rican Aura.  Some of the things that can by utilized to create such an image are; coqui, orchids, tropics, palm trees, seashells, Tainos, guitars, coconuts, rum, pig roast, and amapolas.    These will remind others of Isla del Encanto.

Traditionally, the wedding party was held in the bride’s parents house or yard, since there were no ballrooms or banquet halls.

Large bulbs of light were strung outside in the yard, in the trees.  Servind all Puerto Rican foods and desserts.  With the wedding cake made of coconut, rum or pineapple flavoring.  Traditionally the “brindis” was made using coconut cups.  the bride and groom may drink espresso using coconut cups.  This is more of a ritual.Capias was attached to ribbons that hung from the bridal bouquet.  These were given to all the guests.  At the reception the bride and groom cut off the capias from the bougquet and pin them on the guests.  A piece of “abeto” fern (spiny fern used in weddings) was attached to the capia and the capia sat in the middle of the fern.  The capias included a piece of folded narrow ribbon printed with the bride and groom’s names on one end and the date of the wedding on the other.

Bridal Bouquet:

Made using wild flowers of Puerto Rico, amapolas, flamboya’n flowers and margaritas.  Among this may also be orchids.  A fan may also be included, as they were a traditional part of a woman’s attire.


May carry a fan and an amapola (maybe a silk amapola) – the flor maga, similar to an amapola, is the official flower of Puerto Rico.

To add romance, during the ceremony, play a tape of coqui’ sounds low for background.

The Doll:

Traditionally, it is customary for a doll, dressed similar to the bride, to be placed at the head of the main table.  This can be a Barbie or a larger doll, dressed in a wedding dress to match the brides.  The “bride doll” is covered with little charms to be given to the guests as gifts.

For the Bride and Groom dance  they may chose a danza criolla, a Puerto Rican waltz.

Wedding Ceremony:

While performing the wedding ceremony, the Priest blesses a plate of coins and gives them to the groom.  After wedding vows are exchanged, the groom gives the plate of coins to his bride.  She keeps them as a wedding gift from her husband.  The gift of coins represent good luck and prosperity for newlyweds.

United States Wedding Traditions

United States customs

Most weddings in the United States follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary, but common components are listed below.

Before the wedding
  • The host sends invitations to the wedding guests, usually 6 weeks prior the wedding. Invitations may most formally be addressed by hand to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion. Large numbers of invitations may be mechanically reproduced. As engraving was the highest quality printing technology available in the past, this has become associated with wedding invitation tradition. Receiving an invitation does not impose any obligation on the invitee other than promptly accepting or declining the invitation, and offering congratulations to the couple.
  • While giving any gift to the newlywed couple is technically optional, nearly all invited guests who attend the wedding choose to do so. Wedding gifts are most commonly sent to the bride’s or host’s home before the wedding day. Gifts are typically not brought to ceremonies or receptions, and any that are will not opened, but rather placed aside for later delivery to the newlyweds’ home.
  • A color scheme is selected by some to match everything from bridesmaids’ dresses, flowers, invitations, and decorations, though there is no necessity in doing so.
At the wedding
  • A wedding ceremony is often at a church, courthouse, or outdoor venue. The ceremony is usually brief, and is may be dictated by the couple’s religious practices. The most common non-religious form is derived from a simple Anglican ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer.
  • The bride usually wears a white, off-white, silver, or other very light-colored dress, particularly at her first marriage. Brides may choose any color, although black is strongly discouraged by some as it is the color of mourning in the west.
  • Rice is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony to symbolize fertility. Some individuals, churches or communities choose birdseed due to a false but widely believed myth that birds eating the rice will burst. Because of the mess that rice and birdseed make, modern couples often leave in clouds of bubbles.
  • The wedding party may form a receiving line at this point, or later at a reception, so that each guest may greet the entire wedding party.
At the wedding reception
  • Drinks, snacks, (or often a full meal at long receptions) are served while the guests and wedding party mingle.
  • Often the best man and/or maid of honor toast the newlyweds with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne is usually provided for this purpose.
  • In a symbolic cutting of the wedding cake, the couple may jointly hold a cake knife and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake, which they feed to each other. In some sub-cultures, they may deliberately smear cake on each other’s faces, which is considered vulgar elsewhere.
  • If dancing is offered, the newlyweds first dance together briefly. Often a further protocol is followed, wherein each dances next with a parent, and then possibly with other members of the wedding party. Special songs are chosen by the couple, particularly for a mother/son dance and a father/daughter dance. In some subcultures, a dollar dance takes place in which guests are expected to dance with the one of the newlyweds, and give them a small amount of cash. This practice, as is any suggestion that the guests owe money to the couple, is considered rude in most social groups as it is contrary to basic western etiquette.
  • In the mid-twentieth century it became common for a bride to toss her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women during the reception. The woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In a similar process, her groom tosses the bride’s garter to the unmarried men, followed by the man who caught the garter placing it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet. While still common in many circles, these practices (particularly the latter) are falling into less favor in the 21st century.
 Wedding gifts

The purpose of inviting guests is to have them witness a couple’s marriage ceremony and vows and to share in their joy and celebration. Gifts for the wedding couple are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some couples and families feel, contrary to proper etiquette, that in return for the expense they put into entertaining and feeding their guests, the guests should pay them with similarly expensive gifts or cash.

The couple often registers for gifts at a store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of household items, usually including china, silverware and crystalware, linens or other fabrics, pots and pans, etc. Registries are intended to aid guests in selecting gifts the newlyweds truly want, and the service is sufficiently profitable that most retailers, from luxury shops to discount stores, offer the opportunity. Registry information should, according to etiquette, be provided only to guests upon direct request, and never included in the invitation. Some couples additionally or instead register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund. Some find bridal registries inappropriate as they contravene traditional notions behind gifts, such as that all gifts are optional and delightful surprises personally chosen by the giver, and that registries lead to a type of price-based competition, as the couple knows the cost of each gift. Traditionally, weddings were considered a personal event and inviting people to the wedding who are not known to at least one member of the couple well enough to be able to choose an appropriate gift was considered inappropriate, and registries should therefore be unnecessary. Whether considered appropriate or not, others believe that weddings are opportunities to extract funds or specific gifts from as many people as possible, and that even an invitation carries an expectation of monetary reward rather than merely congratulations.

Letters of thanks for any gift are traditionally sent promptly after the gift’s receipt. Tradition allows wedding gifts to be sent up to a year after the wedding date. Thanks should be sent as soon as possible, preferably within two weeks.

Italian Wedding Traditions

 Ambasciata:  In the past, the wedding was organized by a family memeber or matchmaker.  The matchmaker would carry a message or “ambaxciata” to the bride-to-be’s family in the hope to be accepted.  Should the bride’s family accept the fiance’s proposal, wedding bells would be forseen in the future.

Serenade: In some parts of Italy, on the night before the wedding,  a party known as a Serenade, is thrown outside of the bride’s home by the groom. His family and friends come and wait for the bride, entertaining themselves until she appears. The groom then sings to his bride to further seduce her. Once his song is sung, the grooms family and friends are invited by the parents of the bride for a buffet.

Sposa Bagnata, Sposa Fortunata:  “Wet Bride, Lucky Bride”, a tradition indicating that if it rains on your wedding day, you will have a very fortunate marriage.  The rain symbolizing abundance and good luck spilling over onto the new family.

Di Venere e di Marte Ne’si Sposa ne’si Parte:  “On Friday and Tuesdays one does not marry and one does not depart”.  Tuesdays are known as the day of the God of war “Mars”.  Friday is known to the Cabala as the day evil spirits had been created.  Other countries exclaim Friday is the most romantic day, as it is under protection of Venus, the God of love and harmony.

The Mirror:  It is custom that the groom should never see the bride’s dress and the bride, on her wedding day, should not look  at herself in the mirror.  Unless a shoe or a glove is removed before attempting this.

The Wedding Procession:  Some villages of Italy still practice this custom of the groom walking the bride and the wedding party to the church.  Objects such as a broom may be encountered along the way.  The bride picks up the broom to symbolize that she will keep a clean home.  A crying baby would be comforted by the bride to illustrate she will be a good mother.

Borsa:  A satin pouch, carried by the bride during the reception, to hold gifts of money received.  This pouch is guarded by the bride’s grand-mother during the festivities.

The Wedding Bouquet: In Italy the groom buys the bouquet for the bride.

Per Cen’tanni: “for a hundred years” A toast given by the best-man, then drinks are passed aroung by the best-man.

Bomboniera:  paper confetti and/or white sugar coated almonds illustrating purity.  Rice is usually thrown upon the bride & groom after they are wed.  This is for a sign of abundance and prosperity.  White dove couples are also sometimes released to signify the joy and bond of the new couple.

Shattered Plate:  As the wedding ceremony concludes, the bride and groom traditionally smash a plate together.  The number of pieces broken signifies the number of years of happy marriage to be enjoyed as husband and wife.

It is also traditional for the grooms family to give a dowry to the bride and to provide the engagement ring. The bride’s family is then responsible for receiving the guests of the wedding in their home for a reception afterward.

The color green is very important in the Italian wedding. In Italy, the tradition of something blue is replaced with something green. This color brings good luck to the married couple. The veil and bridesmaids also were important in an Italian wedding. The tradition began in Ancient Rome when the veil was used to hide the bride from any spirits that would corrupt her and the bridesmaids were to wear similar outfits so that the evil spirits were further confused.

An old Roman custom was that brides threw nuts at rejected suitors as they left the ceremony.

In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a Venetian Table, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Venetian Hour.

After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation.

The night before the wedding, two unmarried young women (sign of purity) prepare the bed.

Throwing the bouquet, the girl who catches the bouquet will soon receive a marriage proposal.  Traditionally, the bouquet was made of orange blossoms representing abundance, happiness and prosperity.

Threshhold: Holding the bride in your arms while you pass by the new house was done to avoid the bride from tripping which would be bad luck.  Dates back to Roman times, they believed Divine spirits did not want to welcone the bride into the new home should she trip.

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