America or the USA is a melting pot of cultures, people, and traditions from around the globe. A wedding ceremony in America is influenced by a variety of factors. The couple’s country of origin, religion, ethnicity, and preferences all play a part in an American wedding. You can be a part of American weddings steeped in ancient tradition or moving towards progressive new ideas.
America is a very large country. It’s this massive size that has historically allowed a large number of people to immigrate there in search of better prospects. People from all around the globe made their way to America to chase the American dream. They also brought along with them their own religions, belief systems, and traditions.
When attending an American wedding, you’ll either see the couple adhering to the traditions of their culture or making up their own version of what they think the ceremony should be. It’s this freedom of expression that makes American weddings such a unique event.
White Wedding Dress
The White Wedding dress is an iconic symbol of weddings all over the world, from movies to TV shows. It is considered to be one of the most common wedding dresses in America.
The tradition originated in England and was brought across the Atlantic Ocean to America. At Queen Victoria’s wedding, held in the mid-1800s, she was seen wearing a white dress made of fine British silk and lace. The highlight of the dress was the long, satin train which required 12 attendants to hold while the queen walked the aisle.
The gown resembled something ripped straight from the pages of a fairy tale. It captured the imagination of the public. And within the same year, brides all over the world were demanding their own white dresses for their weddings.
In modern American weddings, the white dress is considered a classic look. Many brides these days even forego the white and choose to go with something more colorful to stand out even more!
The Wedding Party
The wedding party is made up of people close to the bride and the groom, like friends, siblings, or cousins. You can see them standing on either side of the couple during the wedding ceremony or the reception.
The main role of the wedding party is to assist the couple in all wedding planning activities. But the primary task for them is to handle the bachelor and the bachelorette party. These parties are a way for the couple to enjoy themselves with their closest friends before the stressful day of the wedding.
In ancient times, however, this was not the case. A wedding party has its origins in the Roman Empire, where according to their law, a wedding could only occur in the presence of 10 witnesses. Other cultures had women stand next to the bride wearing similar colored clothes to confuse evil spirits who wished harm upon the newlyweds.
Today, couples get to choose who gets to be a part of their wedding party. The bride may dress in the same colors as the bridesmaids or have them wear something else so they stand out.
The Best Man
Historically, in many European cultures, marriages were considered to be transactions between families. Hence, the best man was required to assist the groom in his dealings with the bride’s family. In many cases, situations devolved into actual physical violence. The best man was thus also required to be proficient with a sword to defend the groom against the bride’s family!
Thankfully, none of that applies anymore. The role of the best man usually belongs to either the groom’s best friend or his closest sibling. Instead of swords, they are now required to handle the ring and other issues that might arise during a wedding.
The First Dance
The First Dance is another tradition whose origins can be traced back to Europe in the 1700s. Nobility in those days used to host lavish balls for their guests. This would be a way for them to honor their guests or show their loyalty toward the monarch. The guest of honor or the highest-ranking noble at these balls would start the party with the first dance.
This tradition was later adopted by common folks for their weddings instead. Nowadays, the bride and the groom open the dance floor by taking the first dance. Some couples perform a slow, romantic waltz while others may opt for an energetic, choreographed dance routine!
The Wedding Cake
If you didn’t know, the wedding cake is another tradition that can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire. Guests attending Roman weddings would crumble a small barley cake or a wheat scone over the bride’s head. This was considered a symbol of fertility and good fortune.
Later, in the medieval period, this tradition evolved further. The wedding reception would contain a large stack of cookies and scones placed on top of each other. The newlywed couple had to kiss each other over the stack, without knocking it down. If they managed to do it, it was considered that good luck will follow the couple in their new relationship.
In modern American weddings, the cake is the centerpiece of the wedding reception. The cutting of the cake is an occasion for pictures of the couple. And in many cases, the traditional feeding each other a bite turns into smearing cake on each other’s faces!
The wedding cake is a symbol of two people coming together to find joy and sharing it with their family and friends.
Another legacy of ancient Rome, in historical weddings, wheat was thrown over the heads of the newlyweds to symbolize fertility. American weddings also have a tradition of ensuring that the couple has a grand and festive exit from the church after the wedding ceremony.
Guests line up on either side of the Church’s exit lane and shower the couple with handfuls of rice as they make their way out. Since rice causes a lot of clean-up issues and attracts wildlife, the practice has been falling out of favor in modern times. A lot of couples are now opting for guests to either blow bubbles, wave sparklers, or just clap and cheer as they leave.
The Threshold Carry
This tradition has its origins in Medieval Europe. It is said that the brides usually loved their parents so much they didn’t want to leave them after the wedding. The groom then had to physically carry her in his arms into her new home. This symbolized him taking the responsibility of keeping his wife safe and happy.
In modern American weddings, the threshold carry is something done for fun and usually is only witnessed by close friends and family.