The different wedding traditions we follow

Louise Carroll
 |  Special to the Ledger

Traditions and superstitions are similar but very different.

Superstitions are based on actions that are lucky or unlucky, but traditions are beliefs and customs that have been passed down through generations.

Superstitions are all about the supernatural and they are often regional. Although 13 is the scary number in the United States, in Italy, Brazil and some other countries, the unlucky number is 17, so some airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa have no 17th row. Who knew?

I guess it is a matter of what you don’t know can’t hurt you. Traditions, too, can be regional, or even a tradition that is observed just in a family.

Traditions are all about customs passed down by our ancestors that are respected, and continue to add interest and significance to our lives.

It’s a tradition to plant peas on St. Patrick’s day, but if you don’t, the only consequence might be a poor pea crop or a good crop. The tradition of pea planting on St. Patrick’s Day is because that is the perfect time to plant peas in Ireland.

Faith and begorrah! Which is the Irish equivalent of “By golly” in English. You may still want to plant peas on the big Irish holiday because few people want to break with tradition, but a successful crop depends on where you live and what variety you plant.

Families have traditions. Probably for 40 years or more our family tradition was we ate chili on the day before Thanksgiving.

Mainly it started so I would have time to do all the Thanksgiving preparations, and then continued as a tradition until the younger generation took over the cooking, and chili no longer happens the day before Thanksgiving.

Does your family have a tradition? I would really like to hear about it.

Weddings are a part of our culture that is steeped in tradition from the father giving the bride away, to the bride throwing her bouquet.

The father giving the bride away dates back to a time of arranged marriages where the father was transferring ownership of the woman. Today we cringe at the very thought of a person giving away in exchange for a price or dowry. The tradition exists today as a loving, often deeply moving moment, in the wedding when the father escorts his daughter down the aisle to meet with the man she is about to marry.

Many brides still enjoy the “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” It is customary for the bride to carry or wear items that fit with each one of these categories in keeping with tradition.

Something old signifies the family and friends at the wedding. Something new signifies the couple, something borrowed is a piece of clothing, a handkerchief or a piece of jewelry usually borrowed from a mother, aunt or close friend and something blue signifies the bride’s purity or virginity.

The tradition continues although few give any thought to the meaning. It’s just a fun tradition. I am not a fan of the bride and groom smearing a piece of cake on each other’s cheeks, but giving each other a taste is nice.

Not that anyone asked me or cares what I think but is my column, so I am expressing my opinion.

The wedding cake tradition began in ancient Rome, where guests broke a loaf of bread over the bride’s head to symbolize fertility.  I assume this was very stale bread that it would actually break.

You already know how I stand on the misuse of cake. After the loaf broke the guests would scoop up the crumbs for good luck. The whole scene got messy. It is much nicer today when they don’t bonk the bride on the head and instead, cake is sliced and we can eat it with a fork.

It’s a tradition to save the top tier of the wedding cake to eat on the couple’s first anniversary. The old tradition said that it was assumed the couple would have a baby within the year and by saving the tier of cake they could celebrate without having to buy another cake.

Carrying the bridal bouquet is an age-old tradition that began not with flowers, but with herbs and was used to signify the emotions of the bride during the wedding.

The significance of the bouquet is missing, but the bride chooses her flowers, so they are important to her and it continues as a lovely tradition.

Tossing the bouquet is when all the unmarried ladies line up, the bride turns her back to them and tosses the bouquet over her shoulder and the one who catches it is most likely to get married next. We don’t know if that works because no one keeps track of such things.

Some years ago, I attended a hillbilly wedding in Ohio. I am not being derogatory; my invitation read a hillbilly wedding.

By the way, it was in October and it was very cold in a huge tent. When the wedding didn’t begin on time, I learned we had to wait until the “guy with the shotgun showed up” because you can’t start the wedding until he fires the shotgun because that is the tradition. He finally showed up in a very sorry-looking pickup truck, fired the gun, and the wedding began.

While for some this might fall into the category of funny wedding traditions, but it certainly makes for a more unusual experience.

People keep the wedding traditions alive and well because it is part of the wedding experience that has been passed down over hundreds of years. The why they were done is long gone, but the traditions are part of the culture and tie us all together in shared experiences.