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The Evolution of the American Wedding

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The romantic and whimsical tradition of the typical American wedding is embedded in the serious and very un-romantic world of finance, and many specific parts of the ceremony symbolize or mimic portions of that financial process. Let’s start with the word “wedding” itself, which comes from wedd, which literally means the purchase of a bride. “Purchase,” in this context, means exactly what it means in every other context: to buy, then own to do with it what you will, a particular piece of property. The property, in this case, was a person bought from another person for the express purpose of “sexual release, procreation, and household labor.”

We’ve moved on from that strange and creepy way of thinking, and the notion of a man owning a woman is clearly taboo in the United States at this point. In addition to altering those tired mindsets, American wedding traditions have helped enable the bride by feminizing the wedding ceremony itself, putting the women in charge of the flowery, lacey, satiny aesthetic.

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However, it took a long time for weddings to evolve to what they are today. Before the early 1800s, weddings were vastly more subdued affairs. An article in The Examiner explained that before there was a large middle class, many Americans couldn’t afford a lavish ceremony. Instead, to celebrate the union of a couple, they had intimate parties at their houses with their families, a far cry from the debt-inducing ceremonies and receptions we see today. Generally, the parties were held in the parents’ house and were held within the family’s means. To make the marriage more public, a Sunday church service was held in order to recognize them in holy matrimony.

In addition to having less extravagant ceremonies, brides wore less extravagant dresses. Many women simply wore their best dress, or bought a new dress for the occasion that was still wearable on a daily basis. Most women wore darker colors and floral patterns, partially in the name of practicality. Darker colors and floral patterns were not nearly as difficult to clean as white and ivory dresses, but they were also generally considered more stylish (Patches from the Past). The bridal veil, which was first used to hide the bride until the knot was tied should the groom not like the looks of his new wife, was added to wedding bonnets, which were often the only piece of bridal garb a bride could afford, so she wore it with a dark-colored dress.

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The bride’s emblematic white dress was popularized by Queen Victoria of Great Britain (and now has its own Wikipedia page), who chose a white satin gown for her big day. Ingenuity in an effort to mimic the stylish royalty made it possible for even middle class women to wear a white dress, and the style took off like wildfire.

After the Industrial Revolution, many Americans began to enjoy more luxuries as part of a burgeoning middle class, and the wedding ceremony was one of the main parts of life to get an upgrade. In the 1920s, just 80 years after Queen Victoria’s wedding, professional wedding planners came on the scene. By the 1950s, according to Random History, weddings were becoming uniform across the nation and brides began to rebel against those ideas. Some brides chose not to get married in churches, while others asked the whole bridal party to take a trip, giving rise to the concept of the destination wedding in the 1970s.

By the 1980s, British Royal family nuptials set a trend once again. Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s patently traditional wedding (which also has its own Wikipedia page) brought the cookie cutter marriage ceremony back into style, adding a few bucks to the average expenditure in order to mimic Di’s dream day, bringing the average cost of a wedding today up to $25,200.

The current wedding climate in the United States seems to be changing again, many wedding planners have reported. The coming of age of the kids who grew up on Harry Potter books (the first book came out in 1997, meaning the kids who were 11, Harry’s age, at the time are now nearing 30) has brought on many Harry Potter themed weddings, and the widespread embracement of nerddom has made the prospect of a high fantasy themed wedding more attractive than ever.

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One tradition that is just as prevalent as ever is the exchange of (diamond) wedding rings.  Typically the diamond wedding ring that the bride receives has a variety of smaller diamonds around the band, as opposed to the diamond engagement ring, which usually features one large diamond.  Of course, now more than ever, there are many, many variations to these ring styles that people have been exploring.  If you are in possession of a diamond ring of any sort and are looking to sell it, please check out Diamond Lighthouse.  Getting people the most money for their diamond jewelry is a tradition that we have started that is sure to last for a very long time.

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