The United States has few wedding traditions that are totally unique to the U.S. Virtually all U.S. wedding traditions and customs have either been taken directly from a wide range of other countries and cultures – primarily European – or they have evolved from traditions in other nations.
This is certainly easily understood since the United States was originally populated by immigrants from many lands, primarily Europe. These immigrants brought their own wedding traditions with them, and these traditions, stirred in the melting pot of the United States, have slowly evolved into the traditional “American” wedding ceremony.
In truth, many people still retain many of their ethnic wedding traditions, and this, too, has become part and parcel of the “American” wedding ceremony. In the U.S. we are very comfortable in allowing a wide diversity of traditions and ceremonies.
There are a few things that all U.S. weddings have in common. To begin with, U.S. wedding ceremonies may be either religious or civil. Most brides prefer a large and rather elaborate ceremony if it is their first wedding
Marriages are not “arranged.” A typical U.S. wedding takes place between two people who have sought out a partner and have found someone whom they believe they can share their life with. In other words, in the United States marriages are based on LOVE. They are not arranged to strengthen family business or influence.
Old wedding traditions may have held that a prospective groom had to ask the bride’s father for his blessing, but that tradition is seldom respected any longer, if it was ever respected to a wide degree in the U.S. While a young man and a young woman hope that both sets of parents will give their blessing to a union, and often a blessing will be asked more as a courtesy than for an actual blessing, such a blessing is not required or always sought.
Wedding planning can be elaborate and time-consuming and many brides today opt to have a professional wedding planner take care of the thousand-and-one details of the glorious day. A Traditional United States wedding is a fairly large and elaborate affair, especially when it is the first wedding for the bride. Traditionally the bride wears a while wedding dress and white wedding veil.
Prior to the wedding itself, it is traditional for the Maid of Honor to throw a bridal shower as part of the bridal ceremonies. During the bridal shower the bride-to-be will receive small gifts, often of a humorous nature, often gifts for use on the honeymoon.
While a religious setting, such as a church, synagogue or mosque is not mandatory, the more traditional U.S. weddings do take place in a religious setting. Family and friends are formally invited. Ushers seat guests, there are bride’s maids, a best man, flower girls, a ring bearer, music (often chosen by the bride and/or the groom) and many other amenities designed to make the day special and memorable.
The traditional ceremony itself is often conducted by a religious leader known to the bride and/or the groom. The ceremony may include wedding vows written by the bride and the groom, in which they speak of their love and their desire to make their partner safe, happy and secure, and to be faithful to their partner and their partner alone for the rest of their lives.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, it is traditional for the official to ask if anyone present knows of any just cause why this man and this woman may not be legally married. Getting no response, the official asks the couple to exchange wedding rings, a symbol of their never-ending love and commitment to one another, and then the happy couple is pronounced, in front of family and friends (witnesses) to be husband and wife.
Traditionally the newlyweds kiss to seal their union.
As the couple leave the church they are often showered with rice or wheat (symbols of fertility) and the couple is then taken to a home, restaurant or other facility where a wedding reception takes place. Speeches and toasts are given to the new couple, wishing them every happiness.
Gifts are an important part of the U.S. wedding tradition. Gifts are given to help the new couple establish a new home together; often gifts of cash are given. A couple may “register” at a specific store where their gift needs are tracked. This allows well-wishers to not only purchase gifts that are truly useful to the new couple, but to also be assured that no one else has purchased the same gift.
Following the reception the couple traditionally goes on a honeymoon, during which their marriage is consummated. A honeymoon may last from several days to two or more weeks.
Couples who do not wish to go through the stress of an elaborate traditional wedding ceremony may choose to elope. An elopement involves much less work and much less preparation. The couple merely goes to a justice of the peace and is quietly married in a civil wedding ceremony. They may or may not include a small number or friends and/or family.
U.S. wedding ceremonies and wedding customs are among the most flexible in all the world. Whatever your weddings needs are, whatever your ideas of the perfect wedding venue, the wedding customs and wedding ceremonies that are right for you, you will find that they will all find a welcome home within the ideal of the American Wedding tradition.