09 August 2019

Cakes, Garters and Buttonholes

Red wedding dress by designer Tran Phuong My

The White Wedding Dress

We take it for granted that a bride wears white on her wedding day, but this is a relatively recent Western tradition. Historically, most brides could not afford a new dress, so they wore their best dress whatever colour that happened to be.  It wasn't until Queen Victoria married in a white gown that white bridal dresses became all the rage. In the East, however, red is often chosen as it is considered lucky and good for prosperity. 

Wedding dress by Oscar de la Renta - 2019 collection

The Cake

The contemporary wedding cake originates from all over the globe and is a mix of different cultural traditions. In ancient Rome a cake was broken over the bride's head to bring good fortune to the union. Luckily this tradition is no longer practised at the wedding reception. Once the married couple has eaten their share, guests would scrabble for cake crumbs as it was considered to bring them good luck.

A French wedding cake - the Croquembouche

Closer to home in Medieval England, cakes were piled high into a tower, and the bride and groom were challenged to kiss over it. A successful kiss was to believed to foretell a  prosperous marriage. It was such a fun idea that it inspired a French pastry chef to create the Croquembouche, which is still popular in France today. 

The Garter

A wedding garter by La Gartier.com

You may think that the removal and tossing of the garter is a cheeky modern custom, but its origins date back to the dark ages. It was considered lucky to take home a piece of the bride's clothing, and her clothes were often ripped from her body! During this time garters were worn to hold up a woman's stockings and were easy to remove. It became customary to throw it to the crowd of bachelors eager to be the next in line to find a bride. There are even reports of men grappling the bride as she stood at the altar, a practice that was eventually banned by the church.

“Someone told me the delightful story of the crusader who put a chastity belt on his wife and gave the key to his best friend for safekeeping, in case of his death. He had ridden only a few miles away when his friend, riding hard, caught up with him, saying 'You gave me the wrong key!”

— Anais Nin

The Button Hole

It is customary for the groom to wear a boutonniere, flowers in his buttonhole to match the bride's bouquet. But its origins in the UK are not merely a question of style and harks back to the days of the chivalrous knights. A knight of the realm would wear his lady's colours on his armour ( the colours of her family house) to signify that he fought only for her. When not in fighting garb, he would wear them on his left breast above his heart as a sign that he loved her. 

The Rhyme

Wedding slippers fit for a princess by Dolce Gabbana

'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in her shoe.'

We all know the wedding rhyme something old something new, but did you know it has a final line, 'and a silver sixpence in her shoe'? It was once customary for the father of the bride to place a sixpence in his daughter's shoe before the wedding as a way of wishing her prosperity. 

“Marriage rates remain at historical lows despite a small increase in the number of people who got married in 2016. Most couples are preferring to do so with a civil ceremony and for the first time ever, less than a quarter of everyone who married had a religious ceremony. Meanwhile, the age at which people are marrying continues to hit new highs as more and more over 50s get married.”

— Kanak Ghosh, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch
Office for National Statistics

Shop the collection