Wedding Traditions, Customs, and Etiquette

Wedding Rituals: Traditional Wedding Ceremonies

By Christine Schultz
August 22, 2017
Wedding Veil

Here’s a look at some common wedding customs, traditions, and etiquette—from then and now!

“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards.”
–Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)

When People Get Married

June was traditionally the most popular month to marry, and still very common. Why? The goddess Juno (for whom June is named) was the protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing, so a wedding in Juno’s month was considered most auspicious.

The idea of June weddings also comes from the Celtic calendar. On the Cross-Quarter Day of Beltane, or May Day (May 1), young couples would pair off to court for 3 months and then be wed on the next Cross-Quarter Day (Lammas Day, August 1). Youths being impatient, the waiting period was shortened to mid-June, and the popularity of June weddings was ensured.

Of course, June also brings good weather so it’s easier for guests to travel to your wedding, whether by horse-drawn buggy or airplane! The Old Farmer’s Almanac wedding weather forecast can help determine the best possible time to get married!

Sunday used to be a popular wedding day; it was the one day most people were free from work. Puritans in the seventeenth century put a stop to this, believing it was improper to be festive on the Sabbath.

In early U.S. history, Wednesday was the luckiest day for weddings. Friday was avoided as the “hangman’s day.”

Today, Saturdays are busiest, despite this old rhyme:
Monday for health, Tuesday for wealth, Wednesday best of all; Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, Saturday for no luck at all.

The Traditional Wedding Party

According to tradition, only an unmarried woman could be a maid of honor, and only the brother, best friend, or father of the groom could be the best man.

The original purpose of the bridesmaid and the best man was to aid in the capture of the bride, get her to church on time, and keep any hostile family members away! Now the bridesmaids usher the guests to their seats, and the best man carries the ring and offers a toast.

Once the flower girl’s role was not simply to spread petals down the aisle, but to protect the bride from the Devil with her shield of virginity. Today, the ring bearer can be a girl, boy, or even a dog!


History of Diamond Engagement Rings

Although engagement rings have been popular through the ages, it wasn’t until Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented a diamond to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 that the tradition of offering the most enduring gem on Earth took hold. These days, the majority of brides receive diamond engagement rings.


The Tradition of Throwing Rice

Rice is the latest in a long list of fertility symbols that have been thrown at newlyweds. Over the centuries, guests have tossed cakes, grain, fruit, sweetmeats, and biscuits.

Nowadays, it’s common to shower the couple with rice or the more environmentally-friendly birdseed. Another idea is to toss dried rose petals.


Other Wedding Traditions

Being given away is a tradition that evolved from the days when men bought brides from fathers or, even worse, captured them! Today, brides ask either parent or both parents to walk them down the aisle.

The traditional wedding vows have given way to more personal expressions of love. Many couples have dropped the wording “honor and obey” in favor of promising to be each other’s best friend.

Marriage Advice: Final Words of Wisdom

We asked married readers of The Old Farmer’s Almanac to share their advice for making marriage work. Here’s what some said.

  • “Be prepared to give more than you think you are receiving, and you will receive more than you know.”
  • “The secret is Communication, Compromise, Cooperation, and Compassion.”
  • “Listen, listen, listen.”

More About Weddings

Need advice on what to give for a wedding gift? Look at our list of the best wedding gifts.

Read about more of our favorite wedding folklore, find out about the history of wedding dresses, and learn about how the flowers used in weddings have special meanings!

Check out some wonderful photos from our wedding photo contest.

What traditions did you practice at your wedding? Let us know in the comments below!


The 2002 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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June Wedding

The reason to have a June wedding is so that the first born baby will arrive the following spring and have a much better chance at survival than a baby born during the winter. Most of nature does this. Babies born in spring have all summer to thrive and be better prepared for the next winter.

wedding traditions

My sister (who lives in Switzerland) brought a wonderful European tradition to my wedding in the United States. She had a parasol hand painted with our names and wedding date. Then during the "first dance" my husband held the parasol over our heads and guests threw streamers which caught on the parasol to form a rounded curtain so we were in our "own private little world" while still surrounded by well-wishers. Don't know the origins of the tradition but it is simply amazing.

Weddings: Final Words of Wisdom

In Christine Schultz's list of Final Words of Wisdom, the 4 C's should be 5 C's including: 'Complimentary'. (IE: Compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses; not oppose, nor assimilate.)

give 100% no matter what.

give 100% no matter what. When you both give all you both receive all. Never go to bed angry. And I love you is a must everyday.

The last words my husband and

The last words my husband and I said to each other before he died unexpectedly was "I love you!" It is a precious memory that has given me great comfort.

I really did not know the

I really did not know the history of the diamond as a engagement ring. thanks for sharing the information.

Remember that sometimes "The

Remember that sometimes "The Least Said Is The Least Mended".

Remember that sometimes "The

Remember that sometimes "The Least Said Is The Least Mended"

be honest & truthful &

be honest & truthful & never forget how you felt the day you shared your vows,why you chose each other, keep that feeling,and the love you felt that day will carry you through all your good and bad tomorrows. It has worked for us 44 years.