Catholic Church Traditions

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

The Bridal Procession

The Bride walks down the aisle accompanied by her father on the right and by her mother on the left hand. Traditionally, flower girls may toss petals of rose to prevent the surfacing of evil spirits from below. Before reaching the altar, the father kisses the bride and gives here hand to the groom who is waiting at the end of the aisle. After paying due respect to the bride’s parents, the couple will proceed to their special seats placed before the altar. The gesture signifies the handing over of the bride to the groom for the purpose of forming a new family.

The Wedding Gown & Veil

The Wedding gown and the veil symbolise purity and innocence. The trend of a long white gown was initiated by Queen Victoria in her wedding with Albert in 1840. Traditionally, the veil was introduced to protect the bride from evil spirits, and to hide her face from the groom until after the ceremony.

The Bouquet

The bouquet symbolises fertility and the start of a new life. The tradition of the bouquet of flowers and herbs was introduced in medieval times to protect from evil spirits. After the wedding, the bouquet was burned inside the house, to chase away the evil spirits, and the ashes tossed to the wind. Nowadays, after the wedding reception, the bouquet is tossed to the maids to wish good luck for their future marriages.

The Joining of Hands

During the exchange of the marriage consent, the spouses join their hands to signify their total commitment to one another.

The Wedding Rings

The rings, made of gold or platinum, symbolise the everlasting love and fidelity of the spouses. The circular shape represents their circle of love that has no beginning or end. The rings are placed on the ring-finger because it was believed that a vein runs directly from there to the heart, and the ring was placed there to keep love from escaping from the heart.

The Arrhae

The Arrhae, or coins, that the groom place on the hands of the bride symbolise the sufficiency of material possessions that the husband should provide for the material needs of the family.

The Unity Candles

The two candles to be lighted on both sides of the couple symbolise the presence of Christ in their married life, as well as the union of their two families.

The Marriage Veil

The veil placed on the bride’s head and extended to the groom’s shoulder after the exchange of consent symbolises that as Christ is the head of the Church so the husband is the head of the wife. Moreover, by covering her head, the bride reserves her beauty exclusively for her husband. This veil is different from the one related to the gown.

The Cord

The cord which is placed in an 8-shape around the couple’s shoulder symbolises that the responsibilities of married life should be carried together; moreover, it signifies the unity and indissolubility of marriage.

The Shower of Rice & Confetti

As the newly married couple leaves the church, the wedding guests shower on them rice and confetti to wish them prosperity in life.

The Garters

The Garters were introduced as a symbol of modesty. Usually, these were of colour blue in association to the Virgin Mary, and also in reference to an ancient nuptial rhyme, which said that every bride should wear: “Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue, with a sixpence in your shoe.”

Nowadays, after the wedding, the groom will toss the garter to all the single men for good luck. The catcher then places the garter on the leg of the maid who caught the bouquet.

The Wedding Cake

The wedding cake is a custom inherited from ancient Romans, which symbolises prosperity and fortune. Originally, it was made of seeds and grains to signify fertility.

The White Doves

The white doves set free during the wedding are a symbol of purity and innocence, as well as a sign of peace being announced to the whole world.


Reference: Title: The Sacrament of Marriage Catechesis & Rite; Author: Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI

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