Modern ribbon-cutting ceremonies symbolize new beginnings, as similar ceremonies have done for centuries. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is often organized by a city's chamber of commerce when a new business becomes a member or opens a new location. The ceremony is reminiscent of wedding customs that symbolized the start of a marriage partnership but a new business is presented rather than a new family.
Ribbon cuttings have long been traditional components of European wedding ceremonies. In France, the bride might cut ribbons that have been stretched across the road as her groom escorts her to the church, which symbolizes the couple overcoming obstacles together. In Italy, the bride or her father might cut a ribbon that has been stretched across the door of the family home, symbolizing her newfound freedom and leaving her life as a maiden behind.
While ribbons tied together can symbolize a bond between a bride and groom, the cutting of a ribbon signifies a fresh start. Just like a couple beginning a new life together, a new business can use a ribbon-cutting ceremony to show the public that it is open for business. A ribbon can be stretched across an entryway to signify that what is behind the ribbon is waiting to be presented to the world.
Modern ribbon-cutting ceremonies begin to appear in historical accounts at the end of the 19th century. According to Union Parish, La. archives, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held around 1898 for the opening of a railroad line in northern Louisiana. The ceremonies became more common throughout the 1900s. Prominent ribbon cuttings include the opening of the Disneyland Monorail in 1959 and the opening of the World Trade Center in 1973.
At modern ribbon-cutting ceremonies, city officials and neighboring business owners are invited to help celebrate a new business opening or other venture. At the event, a large ribbon is stretched in front of the location and ceremoniously cut by one or more important figures (such as the mayor or business owner) with either standard or oversized scissors. Often, engraved scissors are used and retained as a keepsake.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies generate media coverage and marketing opportunities. Ribbon cutting provides a main event for a gathering that might also include speeches and refreshments. Attendees and participants can also pose with the ribbon and scissors for commemorative photographs that may be framed or appear in local newspapers.