Colonial Wedding Traditions

September 29, 2014 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

GeorgeWashington-VirginiaStatueLove and marriage are a part of the rich history of American weddings traditions dating back to the earliest Colonial times from 1492 to 1763. During this period, Europeans established colonies in the yet to be United States including settlements in Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, the Carolinas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Courtship and marriages were an important part of life then as much as they are now. Over the centuries, traditions related to weddings have changed and some have remained the same. Read on to learn about colonial wedding traditions.

Wedding Ring Thimbles

In early colonial America, thimbles were used as engagement and wedding rings. This practice originated from the Puritans who shunned the wearing of jewelry and ornaments as part of their religious practice. Thimbles were chosen because they were considered practical; they could be used for sewing items for the family and worn on the finger. Eventually the custom evolved, the top of the thimble was cut off after the wedding ceremony to symbolize the payment of a bride’s dowry and then worn as a ring.

Colonial Wedding Dances CivilWarBand-Fiddle

During colonial times, dancing was the main form of social entertainment especially at celebrations and weddings. Often young couples met at dances for supervised courtship activities. It was tradition to hold a dance at the home of the bride the night before the wedding and the first Sunday after the wedding. There were two types of dances: fancy and country. Fancy dances were often partner dances and included allemandes, minuets and hornpipes. Country dances comprised of circles dances, line dances and informal jigs and reels. Music was performed by a variety of singers and a mix of instruments such as fiddles, harpsichords, flutes, pianofortes, banjos, fifes and drums.

The Wedding Feast

Colonial wedding feasts often lasted for two or more days and were considered very extravagant celebrations. Each family would serve tremendous quantities of food and the fare would be the very best that they could afford for the occasion. The wedding feast included main dishes such as venison, roasted pig, duck, oysters, fish and clam chowder. Breads and side dishes consisted of pumpkin casseroles, rye bread, cornbread and potatoes. Popular drinks included tankards of spiced hard cider and steaming cups of coffee. The wedding cake was typically a one-layer fruitcake with a single nutmeg baked inside. Tradition has it that whoever received the slice of wedding cake with the nutmeg inside would be the next to marry.

Re-enactors-CivilWarWomenBridal Gowns

The tradition for bridal gowns during colonial times was for the bride to wear her best dress. Fabrics and textile were considered very expensive, so the wedding dress served multiple purposes and worn for special occasions as well. It was not until the Victorian Era that white became the tradition.

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