Wedding traditions have been around for centuries, though multiple theories exist as to their exact origins. Modern brides and grooms continue to incorporate these traditions into their big day. Some couples prefer a traditional wedding reception, while others opt for a more customised experience. Either scenario typically consists of a few key components.
Dancing and Music
A live band or disc jockey will likely run the musical entertainment for the reception. Once the wedding party arrives, the bride and groom participate in their first dance as a married couple. Many receptions feature designated dances in which the mother of the groom will dance with her son and the father of the bride will dance with his daughter. Guests are invited to join in on the dance floor.
A meal is prepared and often served buffet-style, eliminating the need for waiters and allowing guests the freedom to fill their own plates. A wedding cake is offered for dessert, with the bride and groom participating in the cutting of the first piece. Ancient Romans considered the wedding cake a symbol of fertility. Guests would break a wheat or barley cake over a bride's head to ensure her luck in childbearing.
Bouquet and Garter Toss
The bouquet represents happiness. Instead of flowers, bouquets used to be comprised of herbs, such as garlic, which were thought to have magical powers that warded off evil spirits. A modern bride tosses her bouquet to a crowd of single females, believing that she who catches it will be next to marry. The garter, a symbol of fertility and fulfilment, is part of a similar tradition. Modern grooms remove the garter from their bride's leg and fling it into a crowd of single males. The recipient is thought to be the next to wed.
It is customary for one or more people to give a speech about the newlyweds during the reception. The speakers are usually members of the wedding party, often the best man and/or the maid of honour. Speeches are congratulatory in nature and tend to be very personalised, consisting of good luck wishes and anecdotes about the couple, such as when and how they met.
Guests at a wedding reception do not usually leave empty-handed. The newlyweds typically provide some sort of gift, or wedding favour, as a token of their appreciation for a guest's attendance. Gloves were the traditional favours in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but modern couples have an extensive list of possible favours from which to choose. Items range from personalised fans and candies to bubbles and photo albums. A couple married in Las Vegas might give decks of cards whereas a couple married in Kentucky might give horseshoe-shaped charms. As with any wedding tradition, the favours are generally customised to the couple's preference.