Weddings in the United States

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There are many traditions and customs for Weddings in the United States, most of which are based on a wide array of factors such as religion, culture, and social norms.

History[edit]

In ancient times, weddings were based out of commodity, rather than desire or love. In fact, the word "wedding" implies the security the groom's family provides to the family of the bride when the couple marries.[1] Additionally, brides were chosen based on their economic worth. The wedding had little to do with love. This trend lasted until the 19th Century, when couples started to marry for love.[2]

During the 19th Century in America, weddings were usually small family gatherings at the home of either the parents of the bride or the parents of the groom. The ceremonies were intimate and not elaborate. The announcement of the newly married couple took place at their church on the Sunday following the wedding. Weddings did not become elaborate until the 1820s and 1830s, when upper class couples would have wedding ceremonies similar to what is common today. Brides usually wore the best dress she owned, so her dress was not always white, as white dresses were impractical to own. Not until the middle of the 19th century did brides start buying a dress made specifically for her wedding day. At the same time, couples began to hire professionals to prepare floral arrangements and wedding cakes, rather than making them at home.[2]

Today, couples in the United States are waiting later in life to get married. The average age for males getting married in the United States is 27 years old, whereas, women's average age is 25.[3]

Cultural Traditions[edit]

Attire[edit]

The saying, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpense inside your shoe," dates back to the Victorian era and requires the bride to accessorize her wedding attire in certain ways to promote good luck in her new marriage. Many brides in the U.S. do this for fun. The "old" is supposed to represent the past, particularly the bond between the bride and her family. The bride might choose to wear a piece of jewelry from one of her elders, or another accessory given to her from an older relative. The "new" represents the couple getting married and their future together. Usually, the bride's wedding gown or wedding ring is used as a new item. "Something borrowed" is something that is taken from the families and meant to be returned. By borrowing something, the bride is continuing the link between herself and her family to maintain loyalty and future comfort.[4] The borrowed item must come from a happily married woman in order to pass on marital happiness onto the new couple.[5] "Something blue" represents the bride's faithfulness and loyalty. Easy ways to incorporate the color blue is for the bride to wear blue flowers in her hair or a blue garter.[4] The silver sixpence is meant to be tucked into the bride's shoe and is supposed to bring the new couple wealth in money and love in their new life together.[5]

Many brides today choose to wear white bridal dresses at their weddings. However, brides before the 19th century just wore the best dress they owned. It wasn't until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria popularized white bridal dresses by choosing to wear white instead of the traditional royal silver dress.[6]

Brides often accompany their white wedding dresses with a veil. Sometimes seen as an accessory today, the veil has a history of symbolizing a bride's modesty and innocence, namely her virginity.[7]

Before the Wedding[edit]

Many brides have bridal showers before their wedding, during which she receives gifts from the guests. The bridal shower is usually thrown by the bride's chosen maid of honor and is humorous in nature.[8] Although it is often seen as a fun and relaxing time for the bride, it wasn't always seen that way. Bridal showers originated in Holland for brides who were refused dowry from their fathers. A woman's friends would give her several gifts to allow her to have the necessary dowry to marry whatever man she chose.[7]

Many couples will make precautions so that they will not be able to see each other before their wedding ceremony. Today, this is done merely to uphold tradition and superstition, but the idea stems from the early days when marriages were arranged. In these cases, the bride and groom would meet each other for the first time at their own wedding.[9]

Ceremony and Reception[edit]

During the ceremony, it is customary to include bridesmaids and groomsmen in the event. The members of the bridal party are chosen to share the happiness with the couple getting married. Including bridesmaids in the ceremony originated as a technique of confusing evil spirits as to who the actual bride was.[10] Groomsmen originated not for protection, but many centuries ago when men had to capture women in order to marry them. In order to steal the woman they chose to marry, men needed to pick the most capable man to help him, hence "best man".[7]

Today, "giving the bride away" has a very different meaning. The bride's father accompanies her on her walk down the aisle to show approval of the groom. Centuries ago, fathers actually did give their daughters away to their future husbands, since females were property of their fathers.[7]

The meaning and origin of the ceremonial kiss that traditionally concludes the ceremony has several different interpretations. In the Roman era, a kiss was used to seal legal bonds and contracts. A marriage, a type of lifelong contract between two people, is sealed with the ceremonial kiss. It is also believed that this kiss allows the couples' souls to mingle together. Today, the wedding kiss is usually just used as a form of endearment.[11]

Wedding cakes are widely seen as symbols of fertility.[12] While now they are an enjoyable snack for the wedding guests, wedding cakes have a more serious history. Sharing the first piece of wedding cake is still a ritual in weddings, but it originated as a way to ensure fertility for the bride in her attempts to have children. Superstition says that a bride cannot bake her own wedding cake or taste it before the wedding, or else risk losing her husband's love. If she keeps a piece of the cake after the wedding, she supposedly ensures that he will remain faithful.[13]

A way that guests at a wedding can participate in giving the bride and groom a lucky future is by the tradition of throwing rice. The superstition originated when guests would throw nuts and grains in the hope of bringing the couple a good harvest and many children to help with the harvest.[6]

As a symbol of luck, the newly married woman traditionally throws her bouquet to the unmarried women at the wedding. The one who catches the bouquet is supposedly the next to be married.[10]

Throwing the bride's garter to the single men at the wedding is a tradition similar to the bouquet toss. The groom must remove the garter from his new wife's leg and toss it to the single men at the wedding. It is commonly believed that this man will be the next one to marry.[14] An older custom in England involved guests raiding the bride's chamber for stockings. These stockings taken from her room would then be thrown at the groom. Whoever landed their stocking on the groom's nose would be the next one to marry.[9] Even earlier than these traditions, it was an ancient custom for the bride or groom to throw the bride's garter to the marriage witnesses to confirm that their marriage had been consummated.[7]

After the Wedding[edit]

After the wedding reception, the newlyweds usually leave for their honeymoon, a trip to the destination of their choice. During this trip, which lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, the couple consummates their marriage.[8] The term "honeymoon" comes from ancient Teutonic weddings, where the newly married couple would drink honey wine for thirty days after their wedding. Weddings were only held on a night where there was a full moon. They drank the honey wine for a month, thirty days, until the next full moon, hence the name "honey moon.".[7]

The tradition of the groom carrying his new wife across the threshold has many different interpretations. The act today symbolizes luck and the bride giving the groom her virginity.[4] Similarly in older generation, brides had to appear unwilling to give in to their new husband. The husband would pretend to force his new wife into giving in to him by carrying her over the threshold. In the days when men captured their wives and actually did force women to marry them, she was also forced over the threshold because she was unwilling.[7]

American Traditions[edit]

Weddings in the United States are the most varied and flexible in the world. There are not many wedding traditions that are unique to the United States because most are derived from other cultures. Most of these customs stem from Europe. Indeed, it is considered an American tradition to follow the traditions of one's culture or religion.[8] That said, some wedding traditions remain as the default the U.S.

It is customary to give newlyweds gifts for their new home together at the wedding reception. To prevent duplicate gifts and having to return gifts that are not liked, most couples "register" at department stores. Couples pick out items they would like to receive as gifts, and their friends and family can choose to buy one of those items.[8]

Additionally, although most American weddings are typically elaborate and involve extensive professional planning,[8] some DIY home weddings in America (or including Americans) can be quite simple in terms of ceremony, albeit costly in terms of the sweat equity involved regarding the logistics.[15][16][17]

Religious Traditions[edit]

Jewish[edit]

In a Jewish wedding both the bride and the groom are walked down the aisle by both of their parents, which is different from other religions.[18]

Jewish couples are married under the chupah, which resembles a decorated tent like structure. This symbolizes that the bride and groom are coming together and creating a new home. This religious tradition comes from the Biblical wedding of Abraham and Sarah.[18]

The ketubah is a Jewish wedding contract. The rabbi reads it under the chupah after the ring ceremony. Many couples frame their ketubah and display it in their home. Traditionally, the ketubah was written in Aramaic, but today many Jews use Hebrew instead. Like most married couples have documents to show they are married. The rabbi reads this contract under the chupah after the ring exchange.[18]

Hindu[edit]

Hindu weddings have some unique traditions as well. These range from the exchanging of garlands (Jaimala), which represents the acknowledgement of acceptance and respect, to the lighting of a sacred fire (Havan), which represents the commitment the couple has to each other. Other traditions include taking seven steps together as a married couple, wearing Henna on the hands and feet, and the groom putting a dot of red powder on his bride’s forehead.[19]

Christian[edit]

Christian weddings have many traditions that are commonly associated with weddings in general. The most important traditions for Christian weddings are the blessing and exchange of wedding bands and the bride and groom each offering his or her own wedding vows.[20]

Types of Weddings Ceremonies[edit]

Traditional/Formal[edit]

Traditional, formal, religious weddings are the most common type of wedding in the United States. Many couples opt to marry in the church of their faith, as it is common for couples to share the same religion. Whether the couple is Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, or any other religion, it is common practice to get married in the church of that faith. However, many couples today do not share the same faith. These inter-faith couples can also have a traditional wedding ceremony.[21] Religious officials have become increasingly cooperative with marrying couples that are not of the same faith.

It is common for traditional or formal weddings to follow certain norms. These common practices include designer dresses, groomsmen wearing tuxedos, elaborate invitations, beautiful flowers, limousine service, and fine dining and live music at a reception that follows the ceremony.[21]

Destination[edit]

Destination weddings are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Destination weddings, or "wedding aways" and "weddingmoons", allow the couple to completely design their wedding ceremony to fit the location. From beach weddings to weddings in Las Vegas or New York City, many Americans are choosing to marry at a location far from home. The options for destinations are limitless.[22]

Destination weddings have several advantages. From getting to spend an extended time with family, to an easy transition to a honeymoon, destination weddings are very appealing. Additionally, while destination weddings can be very expensive, they are on average less expensive than weddings at home.[22]

Military[edit]

A couple whose bride and/or groom is enlisted in the Armed Forces may have a military wedding in which the bride and/or groom wears their uniform. A military wedding is considered a formal wedding and guests should dress formally. Often, the guests will also be in the armed forces and will wear their uniforms as well.[23]

The ushers who are in the armed forces traditionally form an "arch of steel" with their swords or sabers. However, only active duty servicemen participate, as they can only carry their sword or saber if they are active duty. The arch is usually formed at the conclusion of the ceremony, and the head usher signals the formation by yelling "center face." After the bride and groom pass through the arch, the ushers return to their bridesmaids to exit with them. Civilian ushers may or may not stand at the arch, a decision usually made by the bride and groom.[23]

Elopement[edit]

To marry by elopement means that the wedding ceremony is done in secret, usually with just witnesses. Even though eloping seems simple, the marriage's secrecy can complicate family relationships.[14]

Couples in the United States choose to elope for many varying reasons. 46% of couples eloping do so because of parental opposition to the marriage, 20% of couples elope to avoid attention, 12% because of financial reasons, 8% due to an unexpected pregnancy, and 14% for other reasons.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The History of the Weddings", 2006-09-05. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  2. ^ a b "Here Comes The Bride: A History of the American Wedding", 2008-05-08. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  3. ^ National Marriage Project, The State of our Unions, 2006
  4. ^ a b c "Bridal Traditions". Oklahoma Woman (Oklahoma City: ProQuest): 10. June 2002. 
  5. ^ a b "Wedding Traditions". GaGirl. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  6. ^ a b "The Marryin' Man: Traditions & Superstitions". Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "The History of Wedding Traditions". Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "United States Wedding Traditions", 2004. Retrieved on 2009-07-17.
  9. ^ a b "Wedding Customs: Tracking Tradition". the knot. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  10. ^ a b "American Wedding Customs". essortment. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  11. ^ "The History of Wedding Traditions." Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  12. ^ Wilson, Carol (2005). "Wedding Cake: A Slice of History". Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture (University of California Press) 5 (2): 69–72. doi:10.1525/gfc.2005.5.2.69. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  13. ^ a b "The Tale of the Tossing of the Garter and other Customs". WedAlert.com. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  14. ^ http://www.utahbrideguide.com/venues/articles/athome.asp
  15. ^ http://apracticalwedding.com/2008/10/emma-mikes-at-home-wedding/
  16. ^ http://www.doityourself.com/stry/intimate-home-weddings
  17. ^ a b c "Guide to the Jewish Wedding", 2001-06-30. Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  18. ^ "Hindu Traditions", 2009. Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  19. ^ " Christian Wedding", 2009. Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  20. ^ a b "The Four Most Popular Types of Wedding Ceremony", 2009-07-10. Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  21. ^ a b "Destination Weddings 101". Retrieved on 2009-07-15.
  22. ^ a b http://life.familyeducation.com/weddings/cultural-experiences/49073.html. "Types of Weddings", Retrieved on 2009-07-10.
  23. ^ Popenoe, Paul. "A Study of 738 Elopements". American Sociological Review (American Sociological Association) 3 (1): 47–53. doi:10.2307/2083511. JSTOR 2083511. 

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