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Wedding cake

Wedding cake

A contemporary White wedding cake
A contemporary White wedding cake
A German wedding cake
A German wedding cake

A wedding cake is the traditional cake served to the guests at a wedding reception (or in parts of England, at a wedding breakfast) after a wedding. In modern western culture, it is usually a large cake, multi-layered or tiered, and heavily decorated with icing, occasionally over a layer of marzipan or fondant, topped with a small statue representing the couple. Other common motifs include doves, gold rings and horseshoes, the latter symbolising good luck. Achieving a dense, strong cake that can support the decorations while remaining edible can be considered the epitome of the baker's art and skill. The average cost of a wedding cake in the U.S. in 2005 was $543.[1]

Tradition generally requires that the first cut of the cake be performed by bride and groom together, often with a ceremonial knife or even a sword. An older, archaic tradition had the bride serve all portions to the groom's family as a symbolic transfer of her household labor from her family to the groom's family.

Tradition may also dictate that the bride and groom feed the first bites of this cake to each other. Again, this may symbolize the new family unit formed and the replacement of the old parent-child union.

Other guests may then partake of the cake, portions may be taken home or shipped to people who missed the festivities. (An old tradition held that if a bridesmaid slept with a piece of wedding cake beneath her pillow she might dream of her future husband.)

A portion may be stored, and eaten by the couple at their first wedding anniversary, or at the christening of their first child. Sometimes this portion is the top tier, and sometimes a portion of the piece from which the bride and groom fed each other, depending on the local customs. The portion of the cake may be frozen for this purpose; the top tier of the cake may sometimes consist of fruitcake, which could be stored for a great length of time.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Modern adaptions
  • 3 See also
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


A couple cutting a cake.
A couple cutting a cake.

The origins of the tradition of the wedding cake date back to medieval times, when each guest at a wedding was supposed to bring a small cake, the cakes would be stacked on the table in levels and layers (If the bride and groom were able to kiss over the top of the stack it was considered good luck). These cake stacks would eventually merge into one cake and evolve into the modern wedding cake. Sweets are traditional at many celebrations for most if not all cultures worldwide. Ancient Roman records detail sweets distributed at weddings. The book Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain details the ancient Roman practice of dropping a wedding cake on the head of the bride. Medieval and Renaissance resources also mention large cakes at weddings. Such cakes may have been fruitcake.

A large cake can take a long time to make, and without modern refrigeration, a heavy fat and sugar frosting may have prevented spoilage by limiting moisture exposure. Another possibility is the use of sugar and fat required satisfying the need for conspicuous consumption for the families involved in the wedding.

The tiered design of the wedding cake originates from the tiered spire of a well known medieval church in London, England, called St Bride's Church.

Henry VIII of England enacted a law specifying the quantity of sugar a cake may have, possibly to control or tax this prevailing convention.

During World War II, sugar was rationed in Great Britain, so icing could not be made, and cakes were reduced in size. To overcome this cakes were often served inside a box, which had been decorated with plaster of Paris, to resemble a larger, traditional cake.

Modern adaptions

White chocolate cupcakes arranged for a wedding.
White chocolate cupcakes arranged for a wedding.

Recently some western weddings have started to use cupcakes or other individually sized dessert items in place of a larger tiered cake. These individual cakes are often arranged in tiers to represent the shape of the traditional tiered cake.

Wedding cake toppers are small models that sit on top of the cake, normally a representation of a bride and groom in formal wedding attire. This custom was dominant in US wedding in the 1950s where it represented togetherness.[2] Modern weddings have embraced more variety in design and significance. Wedding toppers today are often figures that indicate shared hobbies or other passions.[2]

Not all wedding cakes are traditional - this is a novelty wedding cake depicting the newly married couple.
Not all wedding cakes are traditional - this is a novelty wedding cake depicting the newly married couple.

Wedding photography

Wedding photography

Wedding photography is a major commercial endeavor that supports the bulk of the efforts for many photography studios or independent photographers.

Photography Portal


  • 1 History
  • 2 Technology
  • 3 Approaches
  • 4 Albums, prints, and other products
  • 5 Profession
  • 6 Professional organizations
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


A 1942 wedding with bride in traditional long white wedding dress.
A 1942 wedding with bride in traditional long white wedding dress.

Like the technology of photography itself, the practice of wedding photography has evolved and grown since the invention of the art form in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. In fact, an early photograph, recorded some 14 years after the fact, may be a recreation for the camera of the 1840 wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert. However in the early days of photography, most couples of more humble means did not hire a photographer to record the actual wedding itself. Until the later half of the 19th century, most people didn’t pose for formal wedding photos during the wedding. Rather they might pose for a formal photo in their best clothes before or after a wedding. In the late 1860s, more couples started posing in their wedding clothes or sometimes hired a photographer to come to the wedding venue. (See the gallery at White wedding.)

Due to the nature of the bulky equipment and lighting issues, wedding photography was largely a studio practice for most of the late 1800s. Over time, technology improved, but many couples still might only pose for a single wedding portrait. Wedding albums started becoming more commonplace towards the 1880s. By then, the photographer would start including the wedding party in the photographs. Often the wedding gifts would be laid out and recorded in the photographs as well.[1]

In the beginning of the 20th century, color photography became available, but color photography was still too unreliable and expensive so most wedding photography was still practiced in black and white. The concept of capturing the wedding "event" came about after the Second World War. Using film roll technology and improved lighting techniques available with the invention of the compact flash bulb, often photographers would simply show up at a wedding and try to sell the photos later. Despite the initial low quality photographs that often resulted, the competition forced the studio photographers to start working on location.

Initially, professional studio photographers might bring a lot of bulky equipment, thus limiting their ability to record the entire event. Even candid photos were more often staged after the ceremony. In the 1970s the more modern approach to recording the entire wedding event started evolving into the practice as we know it today.[2]

[edit] Technology

During the film era, photographers favored color negative film and medium-format cameras, especially by Hasselblad. Today, many more weddings are photographed with digital SLR cameras as the digital convenience provides quick detection of lighting mistakes and allows creative approaches to be reviewed immediately.

In spite of diminishing film use, some photographers continue to shoot with film as they prefer the film aesthetic, while others are of the opinion that negative film captures more information than digital technology, with less margin for exposure error. Certainly true in some cases, it should be noted that exposure latitude inherent in a camera's native RAW image format (which allows for more under- and over- exposure than JPEG[3]) varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. All forms of RAW have a degree of exposure latitude which exceeds slide film - to which digital capture is commonly compared.

Currently however, it is fair to say that many professional labs have a greater capacity to provide services in post-production for film compared with digital[citation needed], such as quickly generate adequate prints in the event of some over- or under- exposure. This should change over time, with manufacturers like Kodak announcing a commitment to further develop streamlined services in the area of professional digital lab output.

Technology has evolved with the use of remote triggers and flashes. Wedding photographers are now able to take advantage of travelling light and having the ability to use creative lighting.


Bride&groom in a park. Editorial style. Subjects are posed in photojournalistic style .
Bride&groom in a park. Editorial style. Subjects are posed in photojournalistic style .
A photojournalistic wedding image capturing the drama of the moment.
A photojournalistic wedding image capturing the drama of the moment.

There are two primary approaches to wedding photography that are recognized today: Traditional and Photojournalistic. Traditional wedding photography provides for more classically posed images and a great deal of photographer control and interaction on the day of the wedding. Photojournalistic wedding photography takes its cue from editorial reporting styles and focuses more on candid and unposed images with little photographer interaction. These are two extremes and many of today's photographers will fall somewhere in the middle of these two styles.

A third style that is becoming more and more in demand is a fashion-based approach. In contemporary/fashion-based wedding photography, photojournalistic images of the events of the day are combined with posed images that are inspired by editorial fashion photography as would be found in magazines like Vogue or Vanity Fair.

A bride arriving at the venue, with her father also in the car. The black and white texture, together with her expression, and the composition of the photograph make for a picture that evokes some of the emotion from the day.
A bride arriving at the venue, with her father also in the car. The black and white texture, together with her expression, and the composition of the photograph make for a picture that evokes some of the emotion from the day.

The term contemporary wedding photography is used to describe wedding photography that is not of a traditional nature. The emphasis in contemporary photography is to capture the story and atmosphere from the day, so the viewer has an appreciation of what the wedding was like, rather than a series of pre-determined poses. However, this term can be mistaken for meaning any photograph that is not posed or formal. The advent and advancement of digital cameras and increased use of the internet mean that many people can offer their services as a wedding photographer. However, contemporary wedding photography is more than just not taking very formal photographs and involves the use of composition, lighting and timing to capture photographs that have a strong visual appeal.

There is some uncertainty over what constitutes contemporary and how this differs from other forms of wedding photography. The PSA Journal, March 1994, records a debate on this subject.[4]. This highlights the difficulty with the word contemporary when defining photographic expression, as some feel this term is not sufficiently defined. For example, is photojournalism contemporary or are they different? Photojournalism is easier to define, as the term infers the photography is by its nature similar to journalism, where the emphasis is upon reporting and recording events in a newsworthy manner, whereas contemporary may include an element of photojournalism but is not exclusively that style of photography.

Albums, prints, and other products

A contemporary wedding photographer will usually need to provide some or all of the following:

  • Formal portraiture in the studio (for either the wedding and/or the engagement photos).
  • Outdoor photography (often at a park, beach or scenic location on the day of the wedding and/or for engagement photos).
  • Indoor photography at a church, temple or other private venue during the ceremony and reception.
  • Both posed and candid (photojournalistic) shots of the wedding couple and their guests at the religious or civil ceremony and the reception that follows.
  • Digital services such as digital prints or slides shows.
  • Albums (either traditional or the more contemporary flush mount type of album).
A sample two-page spread from a contemporary flush mount wedding album.
A sample two-page spread from a contemporary flush mount wedding album.

The range of deliverables that a wedding photographer presents is varied. There is no standard as to what is included in a wedding coverage or package, so products vary regionally and from photographer to photographer, as do the number of images provided.

Most photographers provide a set of proofs (usually unretouched, edited images) for the clients to view. Photographers may provide hard copy proofs in the form of 4x5 or 4x6 prints, a "magazine" of images with thumbnail sized pictures on multiple pages, an online proof gallery, images on CD or DVD in the form of a gallery or a slideshow, or a combination of the above. Some photographers provide these proofs for the client to keep, and some photographers require the client to make final print choices from the proofs and then return them or purchase them at an additional cost.

There are a wide variety of albums and manufacturers available and photographers may provide traditional matted albums, digitally designed "coffee table" albums, contemporary flush mount albums, hardbound books, scrapbook style albums or a combination of any of the above. Albums may be included as part of a pre-purchased package, or they may be added as an after-wedding purchase. Not all photographers provide albums; some may prefer to provide prints and/or files and let clients make their own albums.

Most photographers allow clients to purchase additional prints for themselves or their families. Many photographers now provide online sales either through galleries located on their own websites or through partnerships with other vendors. Those vendors typically host the images and provide the back end sales mechanism for the photographer; the photographer sets his or her own prices and the vendor takes a commission or charges a flat fee.

With the increased ability of consumers to scan images and get high quality prints with inexpensive scanners and printers, some photographers are also including high resolution files in their packages. These photographers allow their clients limited rights to reproduce the images for their personal use, while retaining the copyright. Not all photographers release files and those who do will most likely charge a premium for them, since releasing files means giving up any after wedding print or album sales for the most part.

Photographers who do not retain copyright of the images often charge more for their services. In these cases the photographer provides the client with the digital images as part of the wedding package. The client then has unrestricted use of the images and can print any they may desire.


A bride and groom are posed for this location shot using available lighting during the pre-twilight moments of the day due to the desirable soft lighting effects.
A bride and groom are posed for this location shot using available lighting during the pre-twilight moments of the day due to the desirable soft lighting effects.

The wedding photography industry is home to some of the most respected names within the photography industry, including celebrity wedding photographer Joe Buissink, New York based Christian Oth, California's Mike Colon, Canada's Jesh De Rox, The Bebb's and Denis Reggie. Some of these figures were recently listed in PopPhoto's Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World.[5] These figures represent the historical rise of wedding photojournalism, fashion, couture-style portraits and all digital work-flow.

As a wedding is a one-time event, the photographer must be prepared for the unexpected. Shooting a wedding is both exhausting and invigorating as the photographer is constantly looking for good angles and opportunities for candid shots. Communication and planning time lines before the event will alleviate many of the stresses associated with photographing a wedding. An ability to tactfully take charge also helps - particularly when photographing large groups or families - a common expectation after the ceremony. Having a run list with all of the expected shots is also a useful tool. A photographer may work with an assistant who can carry equipment, arrange guests and assist in the shooting through clothing adjustments or the holding up of reflectors.

Wedding photographers usually have an office or studio which can double as a retail photography studio. In bigger cities you might find dedicated wedding studios that only shoot weddings and may have large studios equipped with make-up and hair and gowns ready for the bride to wear. Some studios also have arrangements with bridal shops allowing the bride to try several gowns during her portrait session.

Professional organizations

Organizations such as the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) support the art and business of wedding photography. Standards and requirements for professional organizations vary, but membership often indicates a photographer is insured which means if they should lose or ruin a large number of images, they can compensate such errors for their clients. Professional organizations offer training, professional competition, and support to members as well as directory services to help with marketing.

Wedding ring

Wedding ring

A wedding ring or wedding band consists of a precious metal ring. In certain countries it is worn on the base of the left ring finger. In other parts of the world, it is worn on the right ring finger (see Post-wedding customs below).

Traditionally, in India and those practicing Hinduism, a toe ring or bichiya is worn instead of a ring on a finger.

Such a ring symbolizes marriage: a spouse wears it to indicate a marital commitment to fidelity. The European custom of wearing such a ring has spread widely beyond Europe.

A white gold wedding ring.
A white gold wedding ring.


  • 1 Traditional customs
    • 1.1 Pre-wedding customs
    • 1.2 Wedding ceremony customs
    • 1.3 Post-wedding customs
    • 1.4 Post funeral
  • 2 Contemporary usage
  • 3 Materials
  • 4 Styles, patterns, fashions
  • 5 Wedding ceremonies that reference rings
  • 6 References
  • 7 See also

Traditional customs

Pre-wedding customs

According to some customs, the wedding ring forms the last in a series of gifts, which also may include the engagement ring, traditionally given as a betrothal present. Other more recent traditions, encouraged by the jewelry trade, seek to expand the idea of a series of ring-gifts with the promise ring, often given when serious courting begins, and the eternity ring, which symbolizes the renewal or ongoing nature of a lasting marriage, sometimes given after the birth of a first child; and a trilogy ring, usually displaying three brilliant-cut round diamonds each, in turn, representing the past, present and future of a relationship.

A European tradition encourages the engraving of the name of one's intended spouse and the date of one's intended marriage on the inside surface of wedding rings, thus strengthening the symbolism and sentimentality of the rings as they become family heirlooms.

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, the exchange of rings are not technically part of the wedding service, but rather are exchanged at the betrothal. It is always a two-ring ceremony. Traditionally, the groom's ring will be made of gold, and the bride's ring made of silver,[1] and are blessed by the priest with holy water. The priest blesses the groom with the bride's ring, and places it on the ring finger of his left hand; he then blesses the bride with the groom's ring and places it on her finger. The rings are then exchanged three times either by the priest or by the best man.[2] While in modern times, the ceremony of betrothal is often performed immediately before the wedding (or "crowning" as it is more properly called), the actual symbolic act of marriage is not the exchange of rings, but the placing of crowns on the head of the bride and groom, and their partaking three times of the "common cup".

Wedding ceremony customs

In British tradition, the best man has a traditional duty of keeping track of a marrying couple's wedding ring(s) and to produce them at the symbolic moment of the giving and receiving of the ring(s) during the traditional marriage ceremony.

In more elaborate weddings, a ring bearer (usually a young boy that is part of the family of the bride or groom) may assist in the ceremonial parading of the ring(s) into the ceremony, often on a special cushion or pillow(s).

In older times, the wedding rings did not only signify a sign of love, but were also linked to the bestowal of 'earnest money'. According to the prayer book of Edward VI: after the words 'with this ring I thee wed' follow the words 'This gold and silver I give thee', at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride. [3]

Not only in England was the wedding ring considered more connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding than a symbol of eternal love and devotion but in most other European countries as well. Sometimes it went as far as being a conditional exchange as this German formula shows: 'I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers'. [3]

In some European countries, the wedding ring is the same as the engagement ring and changes its status through engraving and the change of the hand on which to wear it. If the wedding ring is different from the engagement ring, the question whether or not the engagement ring should be worn during the ceremony leaves a few options. The bride may wear it on her left ring finger and have the groom put the wedding band over it. She may also wear it on her right ring finger. The bride may also continue wearing the rings on different hands after the wedding – this may prevent the engagement ring from scratching and scuffing. Another option is to have the main bridesmaid keep the ring during the ceremony – there are a variety ways to keep it: in a pouch, on a plate, etc. After the ceremony, the ring can be placed back on either the left or the right hand.

Post-wedding customs

In some Western countries (UK, other Commonwealth nations, Ireland, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Italy, France, Sweden, and Slovenia), the wedding ring is worn on the left hand. This choice of finger relates to traditions purportedly dating to classical times, from an early usage reportedly referring to the fourth finger of the left hand as containing the vena amoris or "vein of love"[4]. At least in part due to this tradition, it became acceptable to wear the wedding ring on this finger. By wearing rings on the fourth finger of their left hands, a married couple symbolically declares their eternal love for each other. This has now become a matter of tradition and etiquette in these countries.

In other countries such as Germany, Greece, Russia, Spain, Slovakia, India, Colombia, Venezuela, and Poland, however, it is worn on the right hand. Orthodox Christians and Eastern Europeans also traditionally wear the wedding band on the right hand. Jewish couples wear the wedding ring on the left hand, even though it is placed on the right hand during the marriage ceremony. In The Netherlands, Catholic people wear it on the left, all others on the right; in Austria, Catholic people wear it on the right. In Belgium, the choice of hand depends on the region of the country. Greek people, many being Orthodox Christians, also wear the wedding rings on the right hand in keeping with Greek tradition. A traditional reason to wear the wedding ring on the right hand stems from Roman custom. The Latin word for left is "sinister", which in addition to this sense also has the same senses as the English word. The Latin word for right is "dexter", a word that evolved into "dexterity". Hence, the left hand had a negative connotation and the right a good one.

Post funeral

Although in law, and in most religions, a marriage ends on first death, conventions (and perceived symbolism) around the wearing of wedding rings after a partner's death vary considerably. Traditions include the surviving spouse continuing to wear their own wedding ring after their partner's death, but on the ring finger of the other hand; removing their wedding ring at their partner's funeral; and taking charge of, and wearing (sometimes on the same finger as their own), their dead partner's ring. In many cultures, the length of time and way in which a surviving spouse wears their ring is not dictated by a common custom, but varies by family tradition and choice of the surviving spouse.

Contemporary usage

In the United Kingdom and the United States in past generations, women wore wedding bands much more commonly than men did. Today, both partners often wear wedding rings, though for work-related reasons, personal comfort or safety a spouse may remove it from time to time. Others may object to the idea of precious metals, or dislike the idea of declaring their legal status through jewelry. Either partner may also wear a wedding ring on a chain around the neck, thus conveying the socially equivalent message to wearing it on a finger.

The double-ring ceremony, or use of wedding rings for both partners, is a relatively recent innovation. The American jewellery industry started a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging this practice in the late 19th century.[5] Learning from marketing lessons of the 1920s, changing economic times, and the impact of World War II, led to a more successful marketing campaign, and by the late 1940s, double-ring ceremonies made up for 80% of all weddings, as opposed to 15% before the Great Depression.[6]

One interpretation states that the woman wears the wedding ring below the engagement ring, thus making it closer to the heart. Another practice holds that the woman should wear the wedding ring above the engagement ring, thus sealing the atmosphere of the engagement into the marriage. Still others prefer that the wedding ring should be worn alone. Further, modern ring sets in the United States are often marketed as a three-piece set, including the man's wedding band, the woman's engagement ring, and a slender band that is mounted to the engagement ring before the wedding, converting it into a single, permanent wedding ring.


Most religious marital ceremonies accept a band of any material to symbolize the taking of marriage vows, with unusual substitutions permitted in marriages under unusual circumstances.

To make wedding rings, jewellers most commonly use a precious yellow alloy of gold, hardened with copper, tin and bismuth. Platinum and white alloys of gold are also used, although the slightly yellow "white" gold alloys of the past have been largely replaced by a cheaper nickel-gold alloy, covered with a thin plating of rhodium which must be reapplied after some years of wear. Titanium has recently become a popular material for wedding bands, due to its durability, affordability, and gunmetal grey colour. Tungsten carbide, often with gold or platinum inlays, is recently being used as well. The least expensive material in common use is nickel silver for those who prefer its appearance or cost. Marrying couples are also beginning to use stainless steel, which has the same durability as platinum or titanium, and can accept a finer finish than the latter. Silver, copper, brass and other cheaper metals do not occur as frequently because they corrode over time and thus do not convey a sense of permanence. Aluminium or poisonous metals are almost never used.

Contrary to popular urban legend, titanium rings can be removed quite easily using a jeweller's ring cutter or specialized ring opening pliers.

Styles, patterns, fashions

A 14th century Jewish wedding ring
A 14th century Jewish wedding ring

A plain gold band is the most popular pattern. Medical personnel commonly wear it because it can be kept very clean. Women usually wear narrow bands, while men wear broader bands.

In France and French-speaking countries, a common pattern consists of three interwoven rings. They stand for the Christian virtues of "faith, hope and love", where "love" equates to that particular type of perfect disinterested love indicated by the ancient Greek word agape. Provocatively, this pattern slides off quickly, because the rings flow over each other.

Women in Greek and Anatolian cultures sometimes receive and wear puzzle rings – sets of interlocking metal bands that one must arrange just so in order to form a single ring. Men wryly give them as a test of their woman's monogamy. Even when the woman masters the puzzle, she still cannot remove and replace the ring quickly.

In North America and some European countries, many married women wear two rings on the same finger: an engagement ring and a plain wedding band. Couples often purchase such rings as a pair of bands designed to fit together. In addition, some women who have been married a long time wear three rings on their finger (from hand to tip): a wedding band, an engagement ring, and an eternity ring. This three-ring combination is especially common in the UK.

Engraving wedding bands is also becoming very popular in the United States.

Celtic-style wedding bands have become more popular in the U.S., Canada and other English-speaking countries with large numbers of people claiming Irish or Scottish descent. This style of wedding band will often be engraved or embossed with a Celtic knot design, which is meant to symbolize oneness and continuity. Sometimes a Claddagh design is also used to symbolize fidelity.

Russian wedding rings are traditionally three interlocking bands of rose, white and yellow gold, worn on the right hand.[1]

Wedding ceremonies that reference rings

  • Church of England (1662 Book of Common Prayer) - "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."[7]
  • Jewish - "With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel." - Said in Hebrew by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding and by both the bride and groom at a Reform Jewish wedding
  • Roman Catholic - "N., take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."[8]
  • Greek Orthodox - "The servant of God (N.) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (N.), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." - from the Greek Orthodox Service of Betrothal, part of the Mysterion of Holy Matrimony, said while the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the rings over the bridegroom's head

Wedding invitation

Wedding invitation

Modern Wedding Invitation
Modern Wedding Invitation
Mix of wedding invitations
Mix of wedding invitations

A wedding invitation is a letter asking the recipient to attend a wedding. It is typically mailed four to six weeks before the wedding date. Wedding invitations may be printed using one of the following methods: engraving, lithography, thermography, letterpress printing and sometimes blind embossing. They can be ordered from an artist, or vendor, specializing in invitations. For the artistically inclined, they can be handmade.

Often, wedding invitations are mailed in double envelopes. The inner envelope may be lined, is not gummed, and fits into the outer envelope. The outer envelope is gummed for sealing and addressing. Tissues are often provided by manufacturers to place over the engraved text, originally this tissue protected the engraving against smudging or blotting, but improved printing techniques mean they are now simply decorative.[1] Traditionally, the mother of the bride addresses the wedding invitations. However, if she chooses not to, the mother of the bride may outsource this responsibility to a professional calligrapher or a friend with good penmanship.

In countries that issue them, the envelope may be franked with love stamps. The United States postal service issues a love stamp each year specifically denominated to cover the double weight of the invitation and reply (a rate slightly less than the cost of two regular stamps).


  • 1 Response card
  • 2 Other items
  • 3 Save The Date
  • 4 References
  • 5 In pop culture
  • 6 See also

Response card

Along with the wedding invitation, the ensemble may also include a response card and envelope. The response card is traditionally used for gathering totals for the caterer and getting a general number of guests attending. The recipient is asked to mail back the response card roughly three weeks before the wedding or by the date indicated. The envelope is pre-addressed and pre-stamped by the wedding party for ease. A new more modern option is sending the response card as a pre-addressed and pre-stamped post card. Using the post card eliminates the need for an inner envelope for less formal weddings.

Other items

Other pieces often included in the ensemble are the reception card or folder, map or direction card, and accommodation information. The reception card simply lists the addresses and times of any post-wedding events, such as a cocktail hour, dinner or dance. Map or direction cards provide details about the location of the wedding and reception. The accommodation information gives helpful tips about airfare, transportation or hotel arrangements for out-of-town guests. Local attractions may be featured as well. Often the accommodation information is sent in advance with the save the dates.

Save The Date

A save the date is similar to an invitation and is mailed up to one year before the wedding date. Save the dates simply announce that the wedding date has been set and encourages recipients to plan for the event. It is not used as a substitute for the wedding invitation and typically mentions that an invitation will follow. The save the date can also allow you to let guests know what area of the country the wedding will be held. Save the Date cards are only necessary for weddings that occur on holidays or destination weddings. They are an optional piece for weddings not occurring on holidays or destination weddings.

Participants in wedding ceremonies

Participants in wedding ceremonies

In a traditional wedding, the wedding party refers to the group of people participating in the ceremony with the bride and groom (formally, bridegroom). The bridal party consists of the maid of honor (matron of honor if she is married) and the bridesmaids. The groom is accompanied by the best man and the groomsmen. Finally, any flower girls and page boys (including the ringbearer) are traditionally included in the wedding party.


  • 1 Bride
    • 1.1 Attire
    • 1.2 History
  • 2 Groom
    • 2.1 Etymology
    • 2.2 Customs
  • 3 Bridesmaid / Maid (Matron) of Honor
    • 3.1 North America
    • 3.2 United Kingdom
  • 4 Best man
    • 4.1 Duties
    • 4.2 Best man in various cultures
  • 5 Bridesmaids
    • 5.1 "Bridesmaid" as an idiomatic term
  • 6 Groomsmen
    • 6.1 Gifts
  • 7 Flower Girls
  • 8 Page Boys
    • 8.1 Ringbearer
  • 9 Officiant/Celebrant
  • 10 Gallery
  • 11 External links
  • 12 References




A bride is a female participant in a wedding ceremony: a woman about to be married, currently being married, or, in some uses, very recently married (applicable during the first year of wifehood). The term used to mean 'daughter-in-law', as newly married women at one time moved into the husband's family home. Further back, the word possibly comes from the Teutonic word for 'cook'.[1] A bride is typically attended by one or more bridesmaids or maids of honor. Her partner, if male, is the bridegroom or "groom", after the wedding, in marriage, her husband. In same-gender weddings, two feminine participants may both be termed brides. In some cultures, successful sexual intercourse between the bride and bridegroom is a required step to complete ("consummate") the wedding ceremony.


In Europe and North America, the typical attire for a bride is a formal dress and sometimes a tiara. Usually, the dress is bought only for the wedding, and never worn again. For first marriages, a white wedding dress is usually worn, a tradition started by Queen Victoria's wedding. Etiquette once prescribed that a white dress should not be worn for subsequent marriages, since the wearing of white was mistakenly regarded by some as an ancient symbol of virginity, despite the fact that wearing white is a fairly recent development in wedding traditions. Today, brides may wear white, cream, or ivory dresses for any number of marriages; the color of the dress is not a comment on the bride's sexual history. In fact, up until the 19th century, the bride generally wore her best dress, whatever color it was, or ordered a new dress in her favorite color and expected to wear it again.

In addition to the gown, the bride often wears a veil and carries a bouquet of flowers. A garter may also be worn by the bride, and later removed by the groom during the reception (US).


A photograph of a wedding party probably from the late 1870s to 1880s.(Note the black or dark colored wedding dress which was common during the early to mid 19th century.)
A photograph of a wedding party probably from the late 1870s to 1880s.(Note the black or dark colored wedding dress which was common during the early to mid 19th century.)

The term appears in combination with many words, some of them obsolete. Thus "bridegroom" is the newly married man, and "bride-bell," "bride-banquet" are old equivalents of wedding-bells, wedding-breakfast. "Bridal" (from Bride-ale), originally the wedding-feast itself, has grown into a general descriptive adjective, e.g. the bridal party, the bridal ceremony. The bride-cake had its origin in the Roman confarreatio, a form of marriage, the essential features of which were the eating by the couple of a cake made of salt, water and spelt flour, and the holding by the bride of three wheat-ears, a symbol of plenty.

Under Tiberius the cake-eating fell into disuse, but the wheat ears survived. In the middle ages they were either worn or carried by the bride. Eventually it became the custom for the young girls to assemble outside the church porch and throw grains of wheat over the bride, and afterwards a scramble for the grains took place. In time the wheat-grains came to be cooked into thin dry biscuits, which were broken over the bride's head, as is the custom in Scotland to-day, an oatmeal cake being used. In Elizabeth's reign these biscuits began to take the form of small rectangular cakes made of eggs, milk, sugar, currants and spices. Every wedding guest had one at least, and the whole collection were thrown at the bride the instant she crossed the threshold. Those which lighted on her head or shoulders were most prized by the scramblers. At last these cakes became amalgamated into a large one which took on its full glories of almond paste and ornaments during Charles II's time. But even to-day in rural parishes, e.g. north Notts, wheat is thrown over the bridal couple with the cry "Bread for life and pudding for ever," expressive of a wish that the newly wed may be always affluent. The throwing of rice, a very ancient custom but one later than the wheat, is symbolical of the wish that the bridal may be fruitful.

The bride-cup was the bowl or loving-cup in which the bridegroom pledged the bride, and she him. The custom of breaking this wine-cup, after the bridal couple had drained its contents, is common to both the Jews and the members of the Greek Church. The former dash it against the wall or on the ground, the latter tread it under foot. The phrase "bride-cup" was also sometimes used of the bowl of spiced wine prepared at night for the bridal couple. Bride-favours, anciently called bride-lace, were at first pieces of gold, silk or other lace, used to bind up the sprigs of rosemary formerly worn at weddings. These took later the form of bunches of ribbons, which were at last metamorphosed into rosettes.

Bridegroom-men and bridesmaids had formerly important duties. The men were called bride-knights, and represented a survival of the primitive days of marriage by capture, when a man called his friends in to assist to "lift" the bride. Bridesmaids were usual in Saxon England. The senior of them had personally to attend the bride for some days before the wedding. The making of the bridal wreath, the decoration of the tables for the wedding feast, the dressing of the bride, were among her special tasks. In the same way the senior groomsman (the best man) was the personal attendant of the husband.

The bride-wain, the wagon in which the bride was driven to her new home, gave its name to the weddings of any poor deserving couple, who drove a "wain" round the village, collecting small sums of money or articles of furniture towards their housekeeping. These were called bidding-weddings, or bid-ales, which were in the nature of "benefit" feasts. So general is still the custom of "bidding-weddings" in Wales, that printers usually keep the form of invitation in type. Sometimes as many as six hundred couples will walk in the bridal procession.

The bride's wreath is a Christian substitute for the gilt coronet all Jewish brides wore. The crowning of the bride is still observed by the Russians, and the Calvinists of Holland and Switzerland. The wearing of orange blossoms is said to have started with the Saracens, who regarded them as emblems of fecundity. It was introduced into Europe by the Crusaders. The bride's veil is the modern form of the flammeum or large yellow veil which completely enveloped the Greek and Roman brides during the ceremony. Such a covering is still in use among the Jews and the Persians.[2][3]



A bridegroom (often shortened to groom) is a man who is about to be married, or who has just been married. His partner, if female, is known as the bride, who is typically attended by one or more bridesmaids and a maid or matron of honor. In same-gender weddings, two masculine participants may both be termed grooms. The groom will after that ceremony be called a husband of his new spouse.


The word "bridegroom" is derived from bride and the archaic guma, "man", from the Indogermanic root of "earth" (for "ghmún"), which evolved into Latin humanus and Germanic and English "man" and "groom". Through folk etymology the word became assimilated to groom, meaning a servant.


A bridegroom is typically attended by a best man and groomsmen.

In western cultures, the groom usually wears a dark coloured suit or tuxedo during the wedding ceremony. In US tradition, at the end of the wedding, it is the groom's privilege to remove the bride's garter and toss it over his shoulder to the group of male guests, much like the "tossing of the bouquet" performed by the bride. It is traditional belief that whomever catches the garter will be the next to be married.

Bridesmaid / Maid (Matron) of Honor

The bridesmaids, possibly including a maid of honor (US) or chief bridesmaid, are members of the bride's wedding party in a wedding. Specifically, a maid of honor (or matron of honor, if the woman is married) is the primary attendant with the most honors and duties of the bridal party, and is considered the equivalent of the groom's best man or (if there are several bridesmaids) ushers.

North America

In North America, a wedding party might include several bridesmaids, but the maid of honor is the title and position held by the bride's chief attendant, typically her closest friend or sister. If she is married, the title matron of honor is used. In modern day weddings some brides opt to choose a long-time male friend or brother as their head attendant, using the title "Man of Honor".

A bridesmaid's activities may be as many or as varied as she allows the bride to impose upon her. Her only required duty is to participate in the wedding ceremony. Typically, however, she is asked for help with the logistics of the wedding as an event, such as addressing invitations, and for her help as a friend, such as attending the bride as she shops for her wedding dress. Many brides expect a chief bridesmaid to arrange and pay for a bridal shower as well as the bachelorette party (US) or hen's night (Australia and UK).

On the day of the wedding, her principal duty is to provide practical and emotional support. She might assist the bride with dressing and, if needed, help the bride manage her veil, a bouquet of flower, a prayer book, or the train of her wedding dress during the day. In a double-ring wedding, the chief bridesmaid is often entrusted with the groom's wedding ring until it is needed during the ceremony. Many brides ask bridesmaids, if they are adults, to be legal witnesses who sign the marriage license after the ceremony.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the term "maid of honour" originally referred to the female attendant of a queen. The term "bridesmaid" is normally used for a bridal attendant. However, when the attendant is married, or is a mature woman, the term "matron of honour" is more commonly used. The influence of American English has led to the Chief Bridesmaid sometimes being called the Maid of Honour.

In the UK, a "maid of honour" is also a type of small cake.

Best man

The best man is the chief male assistant to the bridegroom at a wedding. Usually the groom extends this honour to someone who is close to him, generally either a brother or his closest male friend. Alternatively, should one of the groom's male friends have been directly responsible for introducing the groom to his bride (or otherwise responsible for bringing them together), the honor of best man might be extended to him in gratitude. In a remarriage, a son of the groom may sometimes act as best man.


In the context of a traditional American/British white wedding, the best man's duties typically include:

  • Organizing a bachelor party (U.S.) / stag night (U.K.) / buck's night (Aus.) for the groom
  • Possibly helping plan or organize some details of the wedding
  • Assisting with wedding-day logistics and unforeseen circumstances that arise
  • Assisting the groom on the morning of wedding day
  • Getting the groom to the wedding on time
  • Supervising the groomsmen or ushers
  • Ensuring the rings are brought to the ceremony (usually they will have been given to the best man either earlier in the day or previously) and then passing these to the bride and groom at the appropriate point in the ceremony
  • Acting as a legal witness to the marriage
  • Giving a speech at the wedding and thanking the bride's parents
  • Making a toast to the bride and groom at the reception
  • Dance with the Maid of honor and helping to ensure that other guests make it to the dance floor and dance
  • Decorating the car of the married couple
  • Returning the Groomsmen's tuxedos / morning suits (U.K.), if they are rented

In the US, the groomsmen assist the best man with these functions.

When the groom wishes to give this honor to a woman, she may be termed the "best woman" or "best person", or may still be referred to as the 'best man'. The bride's equivalent of the best man is the maid or matron of honour. A neutral term is "honor attendant".

Best man in various cultures

In Uganda a best man does what is described above but he is also challenged to guide the newlyweds in ways of marriage. This means that ideally a best man must be married, preferably to one wife and should be in position to give sound, tried and tested advice. A best man must be a confidant and be discreet about the details he shares with the new couple.[citation needed]

In Ukraine a best man is responsible for guarding a bride during the wedding. When he steps away traditionally a shoe gets stolen from the bride. Then the best man has to pay a ransom in exchange for returning the shoe -- usually by either drinking vodka or paying money.[citation needed]

In Bhutan the best man presents himself at the wedding as a ceremonial guardian to both bride and groom. Thereafter he performs for the guests before commencement of marriage. These performances can last for 5 hours with the exhausted best man returning to his wooden carriage very similar to a dog kennel. He remains there to watch on before joining the other guests to celebrate the special occasion - usually in a drunken stupor.[citation needed]


Portrait of two bridemaids.
Portrait of two bridemaids.
Bridesmaid and junior bridesmaid. North Carolina, U.S.A.
Bridesmaid and junior bridesmaid. North Carolina, U.S.A.
A young bridesmaid at a wedding in Thornbury Castle, South Gloucestershire, England
A young bridesmaid at a wedding in Thornbury Castle, South Gloucestershire, England

A bridesmaid is a girl or young woman who attends to the bride during or after a wedding or marriage ceremony. Traditionally, bridesmaids were chosen from unwed young women of marriageable age.

In early Roman times, bridesmaids formed a kind of bridal infantry as they accompanied the bride to the groom's village. This "protective shield" of similarly outfitted bridesmaids was supposed to intervene if any wayward thugs or vengeful suitors tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry.

However, the Western bridesmaid tradition seems to have originated from later Roman law, which required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits believed to attend marriage ceremonies. The bridesmaids and ushers dressed in identical clothing to the bride and groom, so that the evil spirits would not know who was getting married. Even as late as 19th century England, there was a belief that ill-wishers could administer curses and taint the wedding. In Victorian wedding photographs, for example, the bride and groom can look very similar to other members of the bridal party.

A bridesmaid is often a close friend or sister. Often there is more than one bridesmaid: in modern times the bride chooses how many to ask. Historically, no person of status went out unattended, and the size of the retinue was closely calculated to be appropriate to the family's social status. Then, as now, a large group of bridesmaids provided an opportunity for showing off the family's social status and wealth. The principal bridesmaid, if one is so designated, is called the maid of honor if she is unmarried or the matron of honor if she is married. A junior bridesmaid is a girl who is clearly too young to be marriageable, but who is included as an honorary bridesmaid.

Bridesmaids in Europe and North America are often asked to assist the bride with planning the wedding and a wedding reception. A bridesmaid is also typically asked to play a role in planning wedding-related events, such as a bridal shower or bachelorette party, if there are any. However, according to etiquette expert Judith Martin, the required duties of a bridesmaid are very limited: "Contrary to rumor, bridesmaids are not obliged to entertain in honor of the bride, nor to wear dresses they cannot afford."[4] A junior bridesmaid has no responsibilities beyond attending the wedding.

Since modern bridesmaids, unlike their historical counterparts, can no longer rely on having their clothes and travel expenses paid for by the bride's family, and are sometimes even assessed fees to pay for parties that the bride wants to have before the wedding, it has become customary for the bride to present the bridesmaids with gifts as a sign of gratitude for the support and financial commitment that comes with their roles.

"Bridesmaid" as an idiomatic term

The term "bridesmaid" itself has also come to refer to one who comes close to attaining what is desired, only to fall just short, alluding to the fact that though a bridesmaid plays a large role in a wedding, she is not the one for whom the ceremony is given nor is she the center of attention. Commonly recited expressions about this member of the wedding party are "always a bridesmaid, but never a bride" and "thrice a bridesmaid, never a bride"-- an old charm that can be broken by being a bridesmaid seven times.

The term is used especially commonly to refer to a sports team or athlete that routinely comes close to winning an award or championship, only to come up just short. Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets had stated, for instance, that he was tired of being the "bridesmaid" after two consecutive losses in the NBA finals (to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 and to the San Antonio Spurs in 2003). Other notable bridesmaid teams during the 1990's were the Buffalo Bills, Utah Jazz, the England Cricket Team (for reaching the finals of the Cricket World Cup thrice and not winning it even once) and the New York Knicks.

This idiomatic usage of the word bridesmaid most probably began in 1917 when Fred W. Leigh and Charles Collins composed "Always a Bridesmaid":

'Why am I always a bridesmaid,
Never the blushing bride?
Ding! Dong! Wedding bells
Always ring for other gals.
But one fine day –
Please let it be soon –
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.'

In 1925 the Listerine Company used it in their ad campaign, claiming that at the root of the 'always a bridemaid' syndrome was halitosis, or bad breath.[5][6]


In a North American/Australian or British wedding a groomsman or usher is one of the male attendants to the bridegroom in a wedding ceremony. Usually the groom selects his closest friends and/or relatives to serve as a groomsmen, and it is considered an honor to be selected. From his groomsmen, the groom chooses one to serve as best man. In a typical white wedding, the duties of a groomsman typically include some or all of the following:

  • helping the best man plan the bachelor party(U.S.)/Stag Night(U.K)/Buck's Night(Aus.) for the groom
  • ushering guests to their seats before the ceremony
  • escorting the bridesmaids down the aisle during the ceremony and reception
  • giving speeches and toasts (however, this duty is usually performed by the best man)
  • doing whatever is necessary to help make the groom's wedding experience a smooth & enjoyable one
  • and sometimes dancing with bridesmaids and other single female guests at the reception

The groom may also designate other male friends and relatives to act as ushers, whose main task is ushering guests to their seats before the ceremony.

In a military officers wedding, the role of groomsman is replaced by Swordsmen of the Sword Honor Guard. They are usually picked as close personal friends of the groom who have served with him. Their role includes forming the traditional saber arch for the married couple and guests to walk through.


To show appreciation and gratitude, the bridegroom will traditionally purchase gifts for his best man and groomsmen. These gifts are generally known as groomsmen gifts. Groomsmen gifts serve as both a thank you to all the groomsmen or ushers who take the time (and spend the money) to be a part of your wedding celebration. Groomsmen gifts are also a way to commemorate the special day for years to come.

Traditionally, the bridegroom will give a gift to both his father, the bride's father and the ringbearer.

Flower Girls

A flower girl is a participant in a wedding procession. Like ring bearers and page boys, flower girls are usually members of the bride's or groom's extended family, but may also be friends.[7]

Typically, the flower girl walks in front of the bride during an entrance processional. She may spread flower petals on the floor before the bride or carry a bouquet of flowers or thornless roses. Once the processional is over, a young flower girl will sit down with her parents. If the ceremony will not be particularly long, an older child may prefer to quietly stand at the altar with the other honor attendants.

Because very young children are overwhelmed by the duties, and older girls may feel insulted by a "baby" role, the recommended age is between four and eight years of age,[8] or even older, if not offensive to the girl's feelings.

There may be more than one flower girl, particularly if the bride has several young relatives to honour. This practice is more common at British royal weddings, at elaborate weddings modeled after royal weddings, or at Victorian-themed weddings.

Historically, the clothing was provided by the families of the bride and groom, but most modern couples expect the parents of the flower girl pay for her dress.[7]

Her male equivalent is the ringbearer or page boy. Often the ringbearer and the flower girl are made to look like a couple, and they may be dressed in miniature versions of the bride's and groom's clothes.

Page Boys

A page boy is a young male attendant at a wedding or cotillion.

This type of wedding attendant is less common than it used to be, but is still a way of including young relatives or the children of relatives and friends in a wedding. A page is often seen at British royal weddings. There may be many pages for effect at cotillions.

In a formal wedding or a white wedding, the page may be involved with the following:

  • A ringbearer is a special page, who carries the wedding rings for the bridal party. This is a modern term, and it is perfectly correct to refer to the Ringbearer
  • Traditionally, page boys may carry the bride's train, especially if she is wearing a dress with a long train.

Ringbearers and page boys are usually nephews or young brothers and are generally no younger than about 5 nor older than 9 or 10.


In a formal wedding, a ring bearer or pageboy is a special page, who performs one of two functions.

  • A ring bearer carries the wedding rings for the bridal party. This is almost always symbolic, with the ring bearer carrying a large white satin pillow on which imitation rings are sewn, the real wedding bands being in the safekeeping of the best man. If the real rings are used, they are tacked on with thread.
  • A pageboy traditionally carries the bride's train if she is wearing a dress with a long train.

The ringbearer as a separate role is a relatively modern innovation; in a white wedding ceremony best man carried the rings.

Ring bearers and pageboys are usually nephews or young brothers (although they can also be nieces or sisters) and are generally no younger than about 5 nor older than 9 or 10.


In the United States, Canada and many other countries around the world, a celebrant is a person who performs religious or secular celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.

Some Celebrants are ordained clergy, while others are Officiants empowered by the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC), the American Humanist Association (AHA), or the Society for Humanistic Judaism. (SHJ). In Australia, where Celebrants are commonly hired, they may be certified by any one of a number of Celebrancy training programs, while in the UK, most belong to one of a number of Humanist organizations, including the British Humanist Association and the Humanist Society of Scotland.

Celebrants may perform alternative and nontraditional ceremonies in places, and under circumstances where mainstream religious clergy will not. Some Celebrants perform same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies. Celebrants, also called Officiants, often perform ceremonies in parks, on beaches, on mountains, on boats, on hiking trails, in hotels, in banquet halls, in private homes, and many other places.

Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding ceremonies, but Celebrants or Officiants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. In Canada and in the US State of Massachusetts, the only places in North America where same-sex marriages are legalized, Celebrants and Officiants perform many LGBT weddings.

In Scotland, since a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, humanist weddings are now legal, providing that they are conducted by an Authorized Celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland making Scotland one of only three countries in the world where this is the case. (The other two are the USA and Norway.)

Celebrants differ from Chaplains in that Celebrants serve the unaffiliated public at large, while Chaplains are usually employed by an institution such as a hospital or other health care facility, the military, etc.

In Australia, Celebrants have a slightly different role, as regulated by local and national laws. See Celebrant (Australia) for more information.

In the United States, Celebrants are professional ceremony officiants who believe in the power and effectiveness of ceremony and ritual to serve basic needs of society and the individual. They collaborate with their clients to create and perform personalized ceremonies that reflect the client’s beliefs, philosophy of life, and personality; not the Celebrant’s. See Celebrant (United States) for more information.


Modern participants in weddings.

Brides in history