Symbolism is everywhere

Each symbol has a story to tell, but whether it holds meaning for you is another story. As a celebrant, creating meaningful ceremony is my job (lucky me!). If I can infuse a wedding with special, specific symbolism, I’m a happy camper. When you think about it – just about everything in a wedding is symbolic – from walking down the aisle and back, and most everything in-between.

When planning a wedding, it enriches the experience to know some of the history of the customs we usually take for granted. It may even inspire you to come up with your own symbols for your wedding.

Here are some familiar wedding traditions that have a lot of symbolism and history, after all, that’s what makes them traditions and it’s why they’ve lasted so long.

A bride’s veil is quite ancient. It was once thought to be worn to conceal the bride’s beauty from evil spirits who would steal her away. Another, similar explanation was that it protected her from the ‘evil eye,’ which could ruin the marriage. Some historians say it signifies the bride’s submission to her husband, yet others say the opposite. The Greeks and Romans used something similar, with a canopy held over the couple to protect them. We still see this today with the Jewish Chuppah or the altar canopy in the church.

The bride’s bouquet was all about fertility, but also may have been used to mask unpleasant smells in a time when bathing was not as accessible. Today specific flowers still hold meaning, each with their own symbolism, although most of us don’t really think about that part.  When you carry a bouquet, you are doing something that dates back to at least to the 15th century. Wow!

And the groom’s boutonniere was thought to bring good luck, but today perhaps it’s just a way for guys to get in on the flower action, and dress up their clothing.

Tossing rice was also about fertility. A successful crop could mean the difference between life and death, and a successful (read: large) family was needed to work collectively for that goal. That’s why grain was thrown over the couple! Today although other items are used instead, such as birdseed, confetti, flower petals or bubbles, the origin is clear.

Wedding rings. We often hear about the circle having no beginning and no end, the symbol of completeness and all that. But the Romans, the first to introduce rings of precious stones and metal, used the ring to show the value of the man’s possession – his wife. Don’t think about that when you exchange your rings, though.

Tying the Knot: A cord to bind the couple together is another ancient ritual, not only for Irish or Celtic people, but in Mexico, the Philippines and Spain where it is known as the lazo or lasso (many spellings abound). There is a similar cord ritual known as a God’s Knot or Cord of Three Strands, where couples weave two individual cords together with a third cord in the center representing the importance of God in your marriage. From Ecclesiastes: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Every religion, cultural and country has its own wedding symbols, steeped in history and meaning. When the story of your life is told, what symbols will stand the test of time?

Once more thank you for the  gorgeous photos Lisa Rhinehart!!!




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    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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