Bridal parties, jumping the broom and throwing the bouquet, here's how these wedding traditions originated

Photographer: AwesomeShotz
Photographer: AwesomeShotz

It is no doubt that wedding traditions are evolving to accommodate modern couples. It would seem that many of these traditions revolved around fighting of bad spirits and demons on the wedding day. From jumping the broom, throwing the cake on the bride’s head to the veil that was used to chase evil spirits away, we look at some customs whose origins may surprise you.

READ MORE: Taraji P Henson and Nicki Minaj join the list of celebs with a million-rand ring

Wedding dresses weren’t always white

wedding dresses

According to it was Queen Victoria who started the white wedding dress trend. 

While many associate the white wedding dress and veil with purity, the colour white only became popular after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert back in 1840 (which makes this trend, oh, only about 179 years old). 

Apparently she simply chose a white dress because she fancied it. Of course, this went down a treat, as today white is the most popular wedding gown hue in Western cultures. 

READ MORE: Here are 10 'naked' wedding dresses for edgy brides to try out as seen on runways this year so far

Before that, people were known to either wear their Sunday best, or blue. Blue was worn specifically among early Christians as the colour was closely associated with the Virgin Mary and represented wholesomeness.

The protective veil

Beautiful African American Bride in a Veil

A wedding veil symbolises a lot things, from the bride being pure or not having a child to a recently discovered reason: to scare off demons. According to MetroUK, wedding veils started being a thing in Roman times when brides were covered from head to toe in a massive red veil called the ‘flammeum’.

READ MORE: Reimagining the bridal veil – here are 4 bold veils for millennial brides to try out straight from the runway

The Romans were scared of evil spirits popping into the wedding ceremony to curse the couple so they thought making it look like the bride was on fire, by covering her in the red veil, would scare the demons off.

We're not too sure how effective or necessary the practice was, but we're definetely glad it left us with this accessory that adds a bit of spice (be it drama or glamour) to any wedding gown.  


The origin of bridesmaids is not to have the bride be accompanied by her friends to make her stand out, while they were wearing the same dresses and she in a gorgeous dress with a trail.

According to Southern Living, bridesmaids originally wore similar dresses to the bride to confuse her exes and outsmart evil spirits. That way, the evil spirits wouldn't know which woman in the group was getting married.

The bridesmaids’ role was crucial for the bride in early Roman times, as they would line up to form somewhat of a protective shield while walking the bride to the groom's village. The group of women, who were similarly dressed, were expected to intervene if any vengeful paramours tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry.

Throwing the bouquet

wedding origin

In 2019, we know that throwing the bouquet is to bless single and unmarried women since it is believed that the one who catches the bouquet will be next to get married. However, the origin of throwing the bouquet comes from the Ancient Greeks, where brides would carry clusters of herbs and spices instead of flowers to ward off evil spirits.

The best man

wedding origins

Southern Living explains that the existence of runaway brides began in the ancient times where brides would be forced to get married and then decide to run away. The best man's duty originates from keeping the bride from running away from the ceremony.

Sometimes he was even asked to kidnap her. When the parents didn't approve of the marriage, the best man was tasked with ensuring the groom was able to take her away regardless of how her father felt.

READ MORE: From a pregnant bridesmaid being told to get an abortion to fat-shaming, these weddings got off to a rocky start

The interesting part about the term ‘best’ in best man wasn’t because he is the best friend or best cousin, the term was added to the title because that person had to be the strongest and most capable of the lot when it came to using a sword or weapon to fight off enemies and rival attackers during the wedding ceremony. 

Instead of being eaten, cakes were thrown at brides 

View this post on Instagram

Simple yet striking. Saturday setup #1

A post shared by CakeLab (@cakelabsa) on

Sure, some couples love to playfully shove wedding cake into each other’s mouths, maybe smearing it across a cheek or a chip, but this tradition goes way back.

Instead of being eaten, the first wedding cakes were thrown at brides (yes, at their faces!) to enhance their chances of fertility. The tradition itself stems from ancient Rome, where loaves of bread were broken over a bride’s head as wheat represented fertility.

READ MORE: 5 wedding rules you don’t have to follow

Jumping the broom

According to the African American Registry the history of incorporating the act of ‘jumping over a broom’ during the wedding ceremony is said to have originated in Ghana.  This tradition is both heartbreaking and fascinating, as it is rooted in slavery.

Because slaves weren’t allowed to get married the act of jumping over a broom was implemented by African tribes to honour unions that weren’t legally recognised. In some African cultures the broom holds significant spiritual value (in many cases they are used to ward off evil spirits).

READ MORE: From throwing her sister out of her wedding to demanding R420 000 compensation, here are 4 brides who refused to be upstaged on their wedding days

Thus, the act of jumping over a broom during a ceremony was incorporated as both a means to acknowledge the union, but also as a means to “sweep the floor clean” by starting afresh, leaving the old behind.

You know about ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’ but did you know about the sixpence in the shoe?

While many brides choose to forego this age-old tradition, the ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue’ is a custom not only derived from an old English Rhyme, but associated with bringing good luck and fortune to the bride.

What you probably may not have heard of is the fact that many brides wore a sixpence in their shoe for added good luck. Today, Swedish brides are probably those closest to continuing with the tradition, except with a bit of a difference.

Instead of a sixpence, Swedish brides place one silver coin in their left shoe (gifted from her father) and one gold coin (from her mother) in their right shoe. According to this tradition blesses the couple.

Do you know of any other interesting wedding traditions? Or have you incorporated a little known tradition in your wedding? Tell us about it.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 1181 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 458 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2547 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 68 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 919 votes