Wedding Traditions in America

Throughout the centuries, wedding traditions have originated from all across the globe but started with the Mesopotamian nations. Married couples and their families have created what is believed to be their own traditions in America. In time, some of these traditions have faded; however, for others, the traditions are passed on from generation to generation. The cross cultural wedding traditions have survived its existence because they create meaningful weddings that people love to remember.

During the 19th Century, weddings were small family gatherings at the home of either the parents of the bride or the parents of the groom. The ceremonies were intimate and not elaborate. The announcement of the newly married couple took place at their church on the Sunday following the wedding. Weddings did not become elaborate until the 1820s as technology took weddings mainstream. With the start of the American upper class with couples pouring more money into the wedding retail industry, wedding traditions evolved.

Cultural Traditions

Is it customary to include bridesmaids and groomsmen in the event?

The members of the bridal party are chosen to share the happiness with the couple getting married. In ancient Roman times, having bridesmaids (even wearing the same color dress) in a wedding ceremony originated as a technique of confusing evil spirits as to who the actual bride was. Groomsmen originated to help the groom capture women of their interest. In order to steal the woman they chose to marry, the groom needed to pick the most capable man to help him, hence “best man.” Today, “giving the bride away” has a very different meaning. The bride’s father accompanies her on her walk down the aisle to show approval of the groom. The meaning and origin of the ceremonial kiss that traditionally concludes the ceremony has several different interpretations. In the Roman era, a kiss was used to seal legal bonds and contracts. A marriage was sealed with the ceremonial kiss that allowed the couples’ souls to mingle together. Today, the wedding kiss is usually just used as a form of endearment.

Italian-American Weddings: La Bella Figura

With the ability to live an Italian lifestyle in an American society, Italians have embraced their culture and have freely expressed it in the USA. In Wisconsin, with the development of railroads, Italian immigrants poured in. Marriage was kept traditional, as it was initiated by the families and the families granted the bride and groom their consent during the engagement ceremony. Upon attaining a license, both family’s relatives and friends attended the church service. The morning after the church service was spent at the bride’s home, while the groom’s family was expected to host a wedding feast. Brides received dowries from their parents, while it was the groom’s responsibility to purchase his bride a wedding dress. The “Italian wedding” theme’s endurance proves that even though the immigrants were living in America, their festivities and special events remained Italian.

Irish-American Weddings: Tying the Knot

Though the majority of Irish immigrants continued to inhabit urban centers, principally in the northeast but also in such cities as Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, a significant Irish population went further afield. The phrase ‘tying the knot‘ comes from an old Irish tradition that symbolizes the bond of marriage in the same way that the exchanging of rings does in most ceremonies today. The Claddagh Ring has now hit mainstream and it is widely given by young Irish men to their girlfriends as a gift, and sometimes it’s inherited from a family member. The ring has a part in wedding ceremonies. Giving a bell to the wedding guests as a wedding gift is another Irish tradition that has crossed over to America. The chime of bells is said to keep evil spirits away and also remind the married couple of their wedding vows.

Greek-American Weddings

’The heart that loves is always young’ – Greek proverb

The traditional elements of the Greek wedding have remained unchanged. The only difference is that the wedding service conducted by a Greek Orthodox priest may now be said in both Greek and in English. The hour-long ceremony is conducted around a small table on which two wedding crowns, the book of the Gospels, the wedding rings, a cup of wine, and two white candles are placed. The two-part Greek Orthodox wedding includes the betrothal and the wedding proper. The wedding rings are placed on the bride’s and groom’s right hands, and the official wedding sponsors (koumbari) exchange the rings three times. During the wedding ceremony, both the bride and groom hold a lighted white candle and join right hands while the priest prays over them. Crowns (stephana) joined with a ribbon are placed on their heads. After the couple shares a common cup of wine, they are led around the table by the priest in the ‘Dance of Isaiah’. It symbolizes the joy of the church in the new marriage. With the blessing of the priest, the couple is proclaimed married, and the crowns are removed.

The wedding reception reflects the influence of both Greek and American tradition and is notable for its abundance of food, dancing, and singing. The wedding cake is served along with an assortment of Greek sweets that may include baklava and koufeta as well as bomboniere (wedding candy).

Jewish-American Weddings

Mazel Tov! The history of the Jewish people on the North American mainland dates back to 1654. The Jewish wedding customs create a meaningful link between past, present, and future. Similar to many other wedding traditions, a Jewish wedding is full of meaningful rituals, symbolizing the beauty of the relationship of husband and wife, as well as their obligations to each other and to the Jewish people. A traditional wedding begins with a groom’s tish which is Yiddish for table. The first time a bride and groom see each other in an Orthodox wedding is during the veiling of the bride. Nothing says “Jewish wedding” more than the sound of breaking glass.