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Weddings and marriages have been a part of various cultures around the globe for centuries. Even today, no matter where you’re from, it’s easy to recognize that weddings are steeped in tradition.

Some of those traditions stand the test of time and are still done today. Others feel more like trends that come and go. The ones that have stuck around feel incredibly special and engrained in our culture, making them all the more meaningful when they’re included in a ceremony and celebration.


So, which trends have lasted? What are some of the 18th-century marriage customs that are still included in weddings today? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones and where they originated. Understanding what they truly mean will allow you to see why they’re so important, and why they have remained in weddings across the country for all these years.

The Placement of the Rings

Most people tend to get excited about a proposal with a beautiful, glistening engagement ring. But, did you know engagement rings weren’t popularized until the 20th century? Wedding bands, on the other hand, have been significant symbols for centuries. They are a tradition that goes beyond the 1700s, with the oldest recorded exchange of rings taking place in Egypt nearly 5000 years ago.


Wedding bands and their placements are a tradition that remains today, but you may not know why. The rings themselves symbolize an endless commitment and dedication to one another. There have been a few different theories as to why rings are placed on the fourth finger of the left hand, including:


●        The belief that there is a vein in that finger referred to by the Romans as the “vein of love.”

●        It is the “sealed” finger after a priest touches the first three in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

●        It is worn on the less-injured/less-used hand, so it won’t get damaged.


Whatever the origin might be, most people still choose to wear their wedding bands on the fourth finger of the left hand. It’s usually used as a complement to an engagement ring, though the two rings symbolize different levels of intent.

Say Yes to the Dress

Beautiful, flowing wedding dresses get a lot of attention in today’s ceremonies. There are even television shows specifically dedicated to finding the perfect one. We might consider wedding dresses to be standard fare for a traditional ceremony. But, once upon a time, they were a luxury worn by the rich.


Throughout history, there have been “wealth cycles,” which is why it often appears that the rich get richer. Those cycles can come from celebrity families, royalty, or business tycoons. You undoubtedly have heard some family names that you associate with wealth and prosperity. Chances are, those families have been in that lifestyle for quite some time.


During the 1700s, weddings felt a bit more like a social investment. For the extremely wealthy, they served as a way to “show off.” It was also the norm for people in certain brackets of wealth to marry those of similar standing. Today, some of those traditions have changed. But, the wedding industry is larger than ever, bringing in over $60 billion each year. The average wedding dress costs over $1,500, but the price can go much higher. 


So, in some ways, the social investment aspect of weddings hasn’t changed much since the 1700s. We may not like to think of it that way. But, from fancy dresses to expensive decor, weddings can still be a strong display of wealth, even if it’s a subconscious decision.

Dancing the Night Away

A wedding reception just wouldn’t be complete without dancing. In the U.S., most wedding guests have come to expect a few traditional dances to take place before the night is over, including:


●        The entrance dance for the bride, groom, and bridal party

●        The couple’s first dance

●        Parent dances

●        Anniversary dance

●        Garter toss/dance


Different religions and cultures may include additional dances, like the Hora for Jewish couples.


The music at today’s receptions might be different – we’re willing to bet no one was clucking along to “The Chicken Dance” in the 18th century. But, dancing itself has been a part of wedding traditions since the 1700s.


In that era, the bride performed something called a wreath dance. Married women would dance around the bride in a circle until they became tired or a groomsman came and “stole” the bride’s wreath, representing her maidenhood. Guests would break the wreath, and it was believed that whoever took home a piece would be married within a year. That’s a nod to another one of our current traditions – the bouquet toss.


Traditions are meant to stay in place for a reason, even if many of them adapt and change over time. It’s interesting to see, with weddings more popular than ever, what has remained the same over the years, and why certain traditions remain so symbolic.


About the Author:
Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho, and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.