Lost to the Ages: Wedding Traditions from Days of Yore

“I do.”

“I do.”

“You may now kiss the bride.”

American engagement and wedding traditions have become pretty cut and dry.  You date.  You fall in love.  The date is set.  Invitations are mailed.  You exchange rings, light unity candles, pour sand…you get the idea.  But courtship and marriage traditions of the past, for all the similarities to the present day, had some rather notable differences…notable differences indeed.  Presented below are some of the more unusual, fickle and just plain odd engagement and wedding customs of days gone by – an interesting window into American culture that is, though not that long ago, long forgotten.

Frog Went a Courtin’

Ah sweet, romantic courtship.  Most of us think of modern courtship as typical dating.  Boy meets girl.  Boy asks girl out.  Boy brings girl presents of chocolate, flowers, wine or my personal favorite, a masterfully crafted mix tape of obscure but meaningful music.  Boy lingers on front porch in the hopes of a goodnight kiss from girl.  If the date is successful – Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But as recently as the 1800’s courtship looked VERY different in America.

♥  Northern US courtship traditions were rather surprising.  Many would engage in a practice called “bundling.”  Believed to be a Dutch tradition, the man and woman would be tucked into bed together, sometimes dressed and sometimes only partially clothed.  This was meant to build intimacy between the potential couple without being, um, intimate.  As you may have guessed this resulted in more than its fair share of, shall we call them, “early births” in the marriages.  Go figure.

  Southern US courtship traditions more closely resembled our current dating habits, albeit a more controlled version.  A typical southern courtship consisted of visits from the suitor for a pleasant evening conversing on the porch or in the parlor all while under the watchful eye of a chaperone.

2 Strikes = A Home Run

Think modern girls invented playing hard to get?  I’m afraid not, ladies.  This little love game has been around longer than you think.

♥  In the southern US it was not uncommon, and was actually considered good form for women to refuse her suitor’s proposals not just once, but at least twice if not more before accepting his offer of marriage. That’s gotta be rough.  Poor fellas! 

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding

The often elaborate white wedding dress – an essential staple for most brides and symbol of purity.  If you think this is an old, time honored tradition then you are incorrect.

♥  White wedding gowns?  No way.  Brown or dove grey silk bridal gowns were the colors of choice once upon a time.The bridesmaids were the ones who wore white.  Funny when you consider how shocked people were when Pippa Middleton, The Dutchess of Cornwall’s maid of honor (and sister), wore that smashing Sarah Burton gown…in white! *Gasp*  White wedding gowns started to gain favor and a very slow acceptance after Queen Victoria rocked a satin one (adorned with bright orange flowers no less) in 1840.

Gimme!  Gimme!  Gimme!

Brides to be, I can already here your upc scanners exploding from shock as you walk the aisles at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I have some bad news about those wedding gifts you’re so excited about receiving.

  Hold on to your seats.  Traditionally there were no wedding gifts given to the happy couple.  Yup.  You heard me.  So when you get that god awful bright green and orange glass salad bowl with a duck and hunting dog pattern on it from your third cousin Jaime who you haven’t even spoken to in 5 years, instead of cursing her, her exceptionally bad taste and the fact that she completely disregarded your gift registry, just be thankful you got anything at all.  Besides…bust it out at parties and all your hipster friends will find it cool and ironic.

Do you know of any unusual or long forgotten wedding traditions?  We’d love to hear them!  Feel free to share them in the comments.

Until next time!

Kisses & Chaos,

Alli Woods Frederick


About The Author:

Alli Woods Frederick is an artist, photographer, writer, reiki master, intuitive & zombie slayer extraordinaire who blogs at KissesAndChaos.com. She is also the art editor for All Things Girl Magazine. Her feline companion, Mischa the Wonder Cat, is currently being considered for sainthood. She has a deep and abiding love of fancy dress, Bruce Campbell, Bob Hope, Adam Ant, the 1930′s & tea parties. She has a borderline unhealthy obsession with ghosts, shoes, zombies, the deep south, England and glitter, though not necessarily in that order. Her photography has been featured in F-Stop Magazine and All Things Girl and her writing has been featured on HelloGiggles.com, The Goods, Kind Over Matter and in The Radical Uprise Issue #021: Grow/Create. Her photography has been exhibited at Springbox Gallery in Portland, Oregon. To view more of her photographic/artistic work visit AlliWoodsFrederick.com.

Images  |  Spellbound by Lidia Camacho  |  frog went a courtin’ via mamalisa.com  |  handsome couple via remainstobeseen.com  |  dress via victoriana.com  |  gift via makeyourhouseahome.com  |

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Engagements, Weddings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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