American wedding traditions are a hodgepodge that originate from other countries. Being a veritable blend of people, the U.S. is a mixture of different cultures, religions and customs. However, there are several things U.S. weddings have in common, and these are the things that have become tradition in America.
American weddings are not arranged matches for the benefit of either family. A couple gets engaged and married out of love for each other and because they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Their marriage is a commitment to one another.
Traditionally, weddings are usually conducted as a religious ceremony in the United States, however they can be performed by a Justice of the Peace as a civil union as well. Most weddings take place in a church or chapel. Guests, family and friends of the bride and groom are formally invited to attend the ceremony and reception.
The bride's friends and family sit on the left side of the venue, and the groom's friends and family sit on the right side. This is because in medieval times, men wore their swords on the right side of their bodies and would draw their swords with their left hands to protect their wives.
It is customary for the bride to wear a veil as part of her wedding ensemble. Traditionally, the groom is not supposed to see the bride during the day of the wedding until she walks down the aisle. It's considered bad luck. In much older times, the veil was a requirement so that the groom did not see the bride's face before the ceremony was complete; this way he would not have the opportunity to change his mind about marrying her if he did not like the way she looked.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom will recite vows to each other expressing their commitment to the union. The vows may be the standard "I promise to love you ... 'til death do us part," or the bride and groom may choose to write their own vows to each other. In the vows, each person makes a promise to be loyal, supportive, and to love the other for the rest of their lives.
At the end of the ceremony, the priest, pastor, or Justice of the Peace will announce to the groom "you may kiss the bride." Then the union is sealed with a kiss, and the couple is announced as Mr. and Mrs. Groom's last name. During the Roman era, a kiss was a way to seal a legal agreement, therefore a kiss at the end of a wedding is an agreement between the bride and groom of a lifetime commitment to their new family.
The bride and groom are traditionally showered with rice or bird seed when they leave the church. At one time, wheat was also used. Wheat and rice are symbols of fertility. Today, many couples opt to use bubbles instead of grain.
Adrianne Loggins is a freelance writer. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Furman University and a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Northeastern University. Her writing has appeared at Bodimojo.com, in the North End's Scene Magazine, and in the New England Newspaper and Press Association Bulletin.