As soon as you say “Yes!” to the ring and begin your engagement, your entire circle of friends and family readily begin offering you “advice” that sounds something like “OMG you MUST do this!” or “Yasss you MUST have that!”. Maybe it’s because they honestly know you well enough to know these are things you will love or maybe it’s because they’re one of “those” people who know everything. Regardless, you will have more than enough people telling you what you need or don’t need to do on your most special day. So instead of taking up this magazine space to be yet another one of those “OMG you MUST have this at your reception!” spots, I decided to just explore the traditions that are often thought of as “musts” at wedding receptions for centuries.
When you think about it, the receiving line is really the most logical of all of the wedding traditions. The actual meaning of reception is the act of receiving – so it only makes sense to have a receiving line. This line typically begins with the Bride’s parents, then the Groom’s parents, then the Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, Groom, and Bride. It was used to give each guest a passing moment to visit with the wedding party and for wedding party to thank each guest for being a part of the celebration. Many, many years ago, this was done at the beginning of the reception and over time it moved to the end of the ceremony. At today’s weddings, though, it has all but vanished from the wedding scene. We believe that in this world of the fast & furious, a receiving line simply takes up too much time for the young & restless. Instead, we now have the ever compelling introductions.
Honestly, after research, I believe introductions have nearly come to replace the receiving line. While it is not a personal touch like the receiving line, it does allow the guests – all at once – to “receive” the newlyweds and wedding party into the reception party. Of course, we all know this is also a time for the wedding party to shine – do a dance, execute a flash mob, or just runway into the room with all eyes on them.
Who thought of having a cutting of the cake ceremony?? According to more research, cakes at weddings date all the way back to the Roman Empire if not further. As with many of these traditions, the focus was on fertility and good fortune. The cake – or back then it was more of bread – was crumbled over the heads of the Bride and Groom to encourage fertility. Any crumbs that fell were quickly snatched up by guests to take home so that they themselves would have good luck. These days we’re more focused on the beauty and taste of the wedding cake – and of course, whether or not they smash it into each other’s faces!
Way back when, bouquets were not so gorgeous and elaborate. In those days, they were made of herbs more than flowers. So the Bride carried her bouquet of special herbs to keep away any bad spirits on her special day. However, because anything associated with the Bride on her Wedding Day was thought to bring good luck, guests would often try to steal bits and pieces of items from the Bride. Eventually, this led to the Bride tossing the bouquet which gave her some peace from everyone trying to snatch it from her. In more modern times, the toss turned into a catching game, with the catcher of the bouquet becoming the next female guest destined to be married. They even went so far as to say she would marry the one who caught the garter!
Yes, there was a time when the male guest who caught the garter would share a dance with the lady who caught the bouquet, and they were destined to be the next married couple. Today, with guests bringing their own dates to the party, it could get awkward if we still tried to carry out that tradition. However, it would still be less awkward than back in olden days, when the garter toss was not actually a toss at all. The garter has an interesting history. It was used to hold up stockings of ladies and as I’ve said, anything that is part of the Bride was considered to bring good luck. The Bride would have to contend with fending off people from trying to steal her garter throughout the evening.
Or as some call it, the Money Dance. Living in Kentucky, we don’t have any strong ties to the Dollar Dance, but we have had a few Brides from Pennsylvania where this dance is a grand part of their wedding traditions – likely because of their strong Polish ancestry. It is thought that the Dollar Dance originated in Poland where it was called the apron dance. The Bride actually wore an apron, and there was a specific order in which guests – including parents and the wedding party – would dance with the Bride. Each guest would pin money to the apron for the couple to use toward building their new life together. This tradition still lives on in Pennsylvania- less focus on the money part, but it still uses a specific Polka song, and now includes each guest taking a shot of liquor as they step up to dance with the Bride. Never be afraid to step outside of the box and add or delete an event from your reception – or even more fun, adding to or changing up an old tradition! It’s your day and now that you know some of the history behind these wedding reception traditions, YOU can decide if you MUST have them at your reception – or not!