• Bridal Shower Several traditions refer to this. One is that at a party, the bride's friends placed small gifts inside a sun umbrella and opened it over the bride's head.
  • White Wedding Dress In the beginning, the bride simply wore her best dress, but in the 1840s Queen Victoria chose a white wedding dress rather than the royal silver one. And brides have unknowingly copied her to this day.
  • "Tying the Knot" In the Roman Empire, the bride wore a girdle tied in knots. Thus, the wedding was described as "tied in knots."
  • Throwing the Wedding Bouquet The bride was considered lucky, and people tried to tear a piece of her dress as a good-luck charm. The bride's tossing the bouquet gave the people the possibility of a good-luck memento without having her dress torn.
  • Bridesmaids' Dresses Often there was much superstition, and since the bride needed to be protected from evil, bridesmaids wore dresses like the bride to confound evil spirits.
  • Bride's Veil Some researchers believe that because marriages were arranged, the groom didn't always see his bride beforehand, and, for fear that he wouldn't like what he was being "given," she was veiled until the deal was sealed.
  • The Money Dance Some couples didn't have enough money for a dowry, so the money dance assured that the bride's family would have some money to give to the groom's family. Today the money is often used for the couple's honeymoon.
  • Tossing Rice Originally nuts and grains, which represented prosperity and many children, were thrown. But during poor harvest times, rice was tossed instead.
  • Wedding Cake In Roman times, wheat or barley wedding cakes were broken over the bride's head in the hope she would be fertile. For good luck, guests grabbed pieces to take home. Historians haven't figured out where the tradition of smashing the cake into each other's faces began.
  • Ring Finger Prior to the fifth century, the wedding ring was placed on the index finger. But later, the belief that a vein leading to the heart was in the third finger caused it to be changed to this finger containing the "vein of love."
  • Diamond Wedding Rings Italian culture first included diamonds in the wedding ring to represent flames of love. In the earliest records, the wedding ring began on the bride's wrists and ankles where her groom tied plaited circlets to prevent her spirit from running away.
  • Honeymoon Some cultures required the groom to hide his bride for a one-month cycle of the moon and drink mead, a honey-sweetened alcoholic brew that was thought to increase fertility.
  • Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold One theory is that the groom and his friends "stole" the woman from another tribe, and she had to be carried into his house.

Here are a few international wedding customs:

  • Chinese The bride and groom wear red clothing and serve tea to their parents. In return, the parents give the couple a red envelope filled with cash. Each mother also gives the couple gold jewelry or heir­looms.
  • Scottish The newlyweds leave the ceremony to the playing of bag­pipes. Gifts are most often sent beforehand and put on display at the reception.
  • Jewish The marriage is arranged through a professional matchmaker who receives a set legal fee or a portion of the dowry. The wedding ceremony ends with the couple drinking wine from a glass, and then the groom steps on the wine glass, breaking it. This act, an expres­sion of sadness at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, shows that even at a moment of greatest rejoicing, the couple always places Jerusalem as their highest joy. Another common tradition is that of the chuppah, an embroidered cloth (most often a prayer shawl) suspended on four poles, which represents the home the couple will build together.

What style of wedding do you and your future spouse desire? You need to decide together what traditions you'll want for your wedding. Each of you comes from a different background and has different family ideas and traditions. Consider writing out all the possibilities that are of interest to both of you, and then each of you number your priorities from one to ten, with one being your top priority. Then combine the lists, including as many top preferences as you can.