It's no secret that an awful lot of things we do during and after weddings are more the products of advertising than actual tradition. See if you can sort out the long-held traditions from the recent marketing innovations. In this case, we'll count anything that pre-dates the Civil War as a real tradition.
The diamond engagement ring
While basic engagement rings have had a little popularity over the last few centuries, the DeBeers company cemented society's fixation on one particular stone with a 20th-century advertising slogan: A Diamond is Forever.
Jumping the broom
This practice originated in slave times as a way for African-Americans to enter their marital bond when actual marriages between slaves were illegal.
Spending time together away from the community dated from the time when abduction of the bride was the norm. If she stayed away until her family stopped looking for her, then her marriage was official.
It depends upon whether you consider a dowry a "gift," but strictly speaking, the practice of collecting and displaying elaborate sets of china, crystal, linens and silverware didn't take off until society brides had pictures of the gift tables placed in the newspapers late in the 1800s.
To follow the true tradition, you're going to have to buy a Vera Wang original -- identical to your own -- for every bridesmaid in attendance. The oldest tradition involves dressing bridesmaids identically to the bride so that evil spirits couldn't find the true bride. As for the modern custom involving ugly dresses for your attendants, well, the improved dying technologies of the late 1800s started that tradition.
Again, to follow tradition to the letter, you'll have to do something a little odd: Carry a snatch of garlic. The original practice was for brides to carry the types of herbs that were thought to lend protection.
The garter toss
Like many traditions, this ritual replaced a pretty awful practice that involved wedding guests disrobing and occasionally molesting the bride.
The Breaking of the Glass
OK, so this custom is so traditional that it felt appropriate to capitalize the name of the practice. It's a ritual that shuffles even the sad times in Jewish history into the wedding ceremony.
The bridal veil
Veiling is about as universal a wedding practice as you'll find across cultures. From preserving the bride's modesty, to showing respect before God, to disguising her from evil spirits, if you've seen a bride at any point in the last 2,000 years or so, chances are, she was veiled.
The big, elaborate, showy wedding
It's fair to question whether a relatively normal practice has been elevated to the level of tradition. But if you're looking at history, the high-priced wedding day is a relatively new innovation, a product of the consumer culture that replaced the events that were completely created by the couple's community.
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