A modern US wedding: The big day

US weddings have certain rituals and traditions that are shared by many couples. Here is some background to these traditions.


Giving away the bride

An American bride is usually walked down the aisle by her father, who is said to be “giving her away” or “giving her hand in marriage”. This dates back from the times when daughters were considered to be the property of their fathers. Nowadays, it is merely a symbol of the bride’s parents’ blessing of the groom and the marriage.

The marriage ceremony

An American wedding may take place anywhere, but a church, courthouse or outdoor venue is usually chosen.

The ceremony itself depends on the couple’s religious beliefs, but it tends to be solemn and formal. The most common non-religious form is derived from a simple Anglican ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, and can be performed in less than ten minutes. The priest asks the couple whether they agree to marry and asks the guests if there are any objections. Then the bride and a groom exchange rings as symbol of their love and unity. They are then pronounced husband and wife, and the groom kisses the bride.

Music, speeches, and additional ceremonies are often added to the ceremony. 


The unity candle

Many couples in the USA hold a unity candle ceremony during their wedding, following the exchange of rings.

A special candle holder with three candles is used, in which the side candles represent the bride and groom, and the middle one represents the marriage and the new family unit. The two flames merge into one, as do the newlyweds by getting married.

The unity candle is not associated with any particular religion, but the ceremony may be accompanied by readings and prayers.


The rose ceremony

One beautiful American wedding tradition is the rose ceremony, often done after a unity candle ceremony.

A rose may be given to the bride and groom’s mothers, or the bride and groom themselves exchange roses.

In exchanging a single red rose, which in the language of flowers means “I love you”, the bride and groom are giving the first gift to each other as husband and wife.


rice-petalsAfter the ceremony

Rice or birdseed is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as a symbol of fertility. Bubbles are often blown instead, or rose petals thrown.

In a modern New Orleans wedding tradition, a jazz band accompanies the bridal party from the church to the reception venue as the guests wave handkerchiefs and the bride and groom wave festive decorated umbrellas. There is usually dancing involved.

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