You’re planning your wedding and already daydreaming about living out all those wedding traditions that you’ve seen time and time again at other weddings, but do you really know why they are practiced? Whether you are a Christian or not, most of the wedding ceremony rituals you are familiar with come from ancient Christian wedding practices.
Weddings are jam-packed with symbolism and meaning related to the ancient ceremonial binding practices of two people before God conducted thousands of years ago. But first, let’s get the background story so we can truly understand how these customs came about in the first place.
In Genesis 15:9–10, the ceremonial practice of bringing two people together in holy matrimony was called a blood covenant. The ceremony began with the sacrifice of animals and splitting them in half. The animal halves were then arranged opposite each other on the ground, leaving a pathway between them, which was considered holy ground. During the ceremony, the two individuals would exchange belts and cut the palms of their right hands and then join these hands together as they mutually pledged a vow.
Sounds pretty gruesome, right?
But this ancient practice is reflected in our wedding ceremony traditions with a slightly modernized twist, and without the harmful animal practices.
Seating of Family on Opposite Sides of the Church
Why do the family of the bride and groom sit separately on opposite sides of the church during the wedding ceremony?
It is to symbolize the separation of the animal’s bodies that are given for sacrifice to create the aisle, which is considered holy ground. These participants of the wedding also represent that sacrifice, as many have made sacrifices to help prepare and bring the couple together for marriage.
Wearing the Bridal Veil
Many brides choose to wear a wedding veil. But it’s often chosen for fashion and design purposes over wearing it as part of a customary ritual.
Wearing a veil is a custom that goes back to the ancients, who wrapped brides from head to toe to represent the delivery of a modest and untouched maiden. The bridal veil represents the bride’s modesty and purity as she is presented to her groom.
It is also symbolic of the temple veil that was torn in two during Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Christians often associate the removal of the bridal veil to reflect the union of Christ and His people when he died on the cross for us. When a husband removes his bride’s veil, this can be seen as the couple gaining complete access to one another as they begin their new life.
Exchanging of Wedding Rings
While many people see the symbolic meaning of the wedding ring as an outward symbol of the couple's love and commitment, it signifies even more in light of the blood covenant. A ring was used as a seal of authority on legal documents. When a couple wears wedding rings, they are demonstrating their submission to God's authority over their marriage. In the blood covenant, the two parties exchanged belts, which form a circle when worn.
Many Christians also wear rings to represent God’s word in the bible when he adorned the prophets with jewelry to represent his love, devotion, and commitment to them (Ezekiel 16:8-12).
Throwing of Rice/Confetti
After the ceremony is cover, the rice-throwing tradition commences.
Throwing rice at weddings originates with the throwing of seed. It was meant to remind couples of one of the primary purposes of marriage—to create a family that will serve and honor the Lord. Therefore, guests symbolically throw rice as a blessing for fertility and physical fruitfulness of the marriage.