3 Shockingly Sexist Origins Of Wedding Traditions

Traditions are peculiar, enticing entities.

They constantly evolve and never fail to attract staunch followers who don’t question why they give out candy on Halloween, decorate trees for Christmas, blow out candles on birthdays, or look for Punxsutawney Phil on February 2nd.

Wedding traditions in particular have some dark roots filled with chat of evil spirits and misogynistic beliefs that would make any modern-thinking person’s head spin. Though these traditions now have more cheerful, heartfelt meanings, this wasn’t always the case.

1. The Wedding Veil

Historically, the wedding veil has been touted as a way to protect the bride from evil spirits and enchantment, and as a way to show respect before God during a religious ceremony. But it has another meaning. When arranged marriages were the norm, some brides and grooms wouldn’t see each other for the first time until they were standing at the altar. The bridal veil served as a way to shield the groom from a face he may not have been too happy to be stuck with for the rest of his life. Guess no one thought to pacify a potentially upset bride with a veil for the groom. This thinking can also be traced back to the practice of not seeing the bride until the ceremony on the day of the wedding — wouldn’t want the groom changing his mind, would we?

2. Giving the Bride Away

Few people can hold their tears when a father tenderly walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her away to her husband-to-be. It’s become one of the most touching aspects of the wedding ceremony. However, this tradition comes from literally giving away a daughter. Back in the arranged marriage days, daughters were largely considered to be the property of their fathers. A father would transfer ownership to the groom, often for money, goods, or both, thus giving away his daughter.

3. The Best Man

Today, for the most part, the best man is a position reserved for someone the groom trusts wholeheartedly and considers to be a close cohort, perhaps a good friend, brother, or other relative. In ancient times, it was much more than that. In addition to being a reliable companion, the best man needed to be strong and skilled to fend off the woman’s family when the groom kidnapped the woman he wanted to make his bride. The best man also walked down the aisle with the groom to help fight off the bride’s family, just in case they tried to recapture her. Similarly, ever wonder why the bride always stands to the left of the groom? It’s so his sword arm is free if he needs to fight.

So if someone you know is getting married or you’re planning your own wedding, maybe it’s time to forego some traditions — unless you think the bride’s family will try to recapture her. In that case, make sure the groom is on the right to free up his sword arm.


Do you know of any other wedding traditions with questionable origins or surprisingly weird meanings? Share them in the comments!


 Additional image: MaxViral

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Emily Koo
Emily Koo
Emily Koo is a writer & musician living in Seattle, WA, by way of Randolph, MA. She’s a huge fan of her dog, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia references, and tea tree oil-infused toothpicks. Learn about her mundane life on Facebook.