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History of Marriage

Since time began women and men have been getting married all over the world. It's a symbol of love, commitment and eternity.

Tradition is a strong part of the marriage ceremony. Whether you get married on the beach, in a marquee tent or in a church, most of the elements are going to be the same. Ultimately it's two people who love each other forging a common bond.

Marriage rates have fluctuated over the times. Studies show that marriage rates in Western countries change whenever economic and social conditions change. For example, during depressions and recessions marriage rates seem to fall. Another example is the fact that marriage rates increased in the years immediately after WWI and WWII.

In Australia, the marriage rate has declined since 1970 due to factors such as changes in the approach to marriage and living arrangements. For example, there are more de facto relationships these days. However, most people still regard marriage as a blessing, as you seem to do since you're getting married!

Wedding Traditions

All wedding traditions, such as the wedding cake and the white wedding dress, stem from very early times. Since then, these traditions have been followed by most people. Here you can read about the origins of these traditions, and what they symbolise.

The Engagement and Wedding Rings
The first people to wear wedding rings were the Pharaohs of Egypt, who believed that the "circle" was a symbol of eternal love. The wedding ring is also said to symbolise perfection, perfect unity with no beginning and no end, holiness, peace, sun, earth, and universe. In 1549, King Edward VI of England decided that the third finger of the left hand was to be the ring finger. He believed that this finger had a special vein called the "vena amoris", or the "vein of love", which ran directly to the wearer's heart. It was not until the 13th century that engagement rings existed. That was when Pope Innocent III declared that there should be a waiting period between the engagement and the wedding ceremony. Hence, he decided that there should be both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. However, it was not until the 15th century that the engagement ring was set with a diamond. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given by Arch Duke Maximilian of Austria I to his fiancée Mary of Burgundy in 1477.

The Best Man and the Bridesmaid
Most grooms and brides have at least one best man and at least one bridesmaid, respectively. Not everyone of course, but it would be nice to share the most special day with best friends.
This tradition started in Europe in the 2nd century A.D. At that time men were supposed to marry women from their own community. But what if, in his own community, the man couldn't find a woman who could be a suitable wife to him?! Then the tradition was that he had to either try to make a woman from another community fall in love with him, or he would just kidnap her! If he had to kidnap a woman his best friend was supposed to help him. Therefore, this partner in crime came to be called the "best man".
The tradition of the bridesmaid also started in Europe in the 2nd century A.D. The term "bridesmaid" was given to the woman who helped the bride prepare for the wedding, as well as escorting her to the church. These days, though, some people have more than one bridesmaid.

The Hens and Bucks Nights
Hens and Bucks parties became tradition in the 1890s. The Hens Night was meant to deepen the bonds between the bride and her female friends. The Bucks Night symbolised the end of the groom's bachelorhood.

The White Wedding Dress
Since 1499 wedding dresses have almost always been white. Why do you think that is? Did someone just think it was a nice colour and everyone else followed? No, there is another reason. All colours have a meaning; they symbolise something. White is a symbol of purity. Brides had to be pure and innocent when they got married; they especially had to be virgins.

The Veil
The tradition of the veil started in the U.S. in the 1700s. As with the wedding dress the veil is always white. Therefore, one of the reasons that the bride wears a veil is that it represents purity since that is what white symbolises. Youth, virginity and modesty are also symbols of the veil. Virginity, of course, is part of being pure. The veil often covers the bride's face, which signifies modesty.

The Headpiece
Headpieces have always been popular. The earliest brides donned flower and herbal wreaths. These days, however, many brides wear crowns to feel extra royal! However, for outdoor wedding ceremonies it is more suitable to wear flower and herbal wreaths.

"Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue"
This tradition is also often followed, but what does it really mean? "Something old" symbolises perpetuity. "Something new" stands for happiness and optimism for the future. "Something borrowed" also means happiness for the future. And last, but not least, "something blue" means faithfulness, good luck, and love. (What's a marriage without love?!!)

The Gloves
All elegant and wealthy women used to wear gloves, not only at weddings. Now, though, women only wear them when they get married, to add a bit of elegance and grace.

The Train
The train was introduced in the Middle Ages. It was to represent the bride's status. The longer the train, the higher was the bride's status. This is why all royal brides, even now, wear incredibly long trains.

The Wedding Cake
The wedding cake originated in Rome in the 1st century B.C., when it was decided that it had to be white (for purity). Cakes are often eaten at parties, but the wedding cake is not just a cake eaten at a wedding. It's far more special than a normal cake! First of all, the wedding cake symbolises good fortune, fertility and purity. A normal cake only symbolises that people have a sweet tooth! Secondly, the wedding cake is more beautiful because of its elaborate embellishments.

The Bridal Bouquet Toss and the Garter Toss
Have you ever been to a wedding where a bridal bouquet was tossed (and a garter, but these are not as common)? Did you catch it? Maybe you did and that's why you are about to get married now!! Anyway, the tradition was that the bride would throw her bridal bouquet to the single women in the audience to see who would be married next. The custom of the garter toss was that the groom was to remove the bride's garter and then throw it to the bachelors in the audience. The man who caught it would be the next to marry. These traditions came about in the 14th century.

The Honeymoon
These days the honeymoon is a time for the newlyweds to relax and have a good time by themselves. Before, however, the honeymoon was not so relaxing, especially if the bride had been kidnapped. If so, the groom would have to hide his new bride from her family until she got pregnant, because then marriage would be necessary anyway. This "hiding of the bride" then became known as the "honeymoon".

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