Many of our modern wedding traditions have their origin in times past. Here's a sampling.
The Bridal Shower tradition has its roots in the 1800's. The story is told of poor a miller who fell in love with a wealthy maiden. But, the father of the maiden was against the marriage. He refused to provide a dowry for her, and a bride could not marry without a dowry. The story goes that the bride had generous friends who "showered" her with so many gifts, they could forego the missing dowry.
Why "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?" The "old" was usually a personal gift from mother to daughter, a symbolic piece of wisdom for married life. The "new" symbolized the new family being formed by the marriage. "Borrowing" is especially important since it is to come from a happily married woman, thereby lending the bride some of her own marital bliss. "Blue" has two traditions, ancient Roman maidens wore blue on the borders of their robes to denote love, fidelity and modesty, while Christians associate it with the purity of the Virgin Mary.
In very early days, fathers would offer daughters as peace offerings to warring tribes. Because of the hostility, the families were placed on opposite sides of the church so the ceremony could proceed without bloodshed. The ceremony united the two warring factions into one family, and the danger was resolved. Today, family members still sit on opposite sides.
Because the early Anglo Saxon groom often had to defend his bride from would-be kidnappers, she stood to his left, leaving his sword-arm free just in case. The "best" warrior in the tribe stood by the groom and was responsible for helping defend the bride, should the need arise. Thus we have the placement for the best man.
Ever wonder where the phrase "tie the knot" comes from? Supposedly this also goes back to early Roman times. The bride would wear a girdle that was tied in many knots, which the groom had the "duty" to untie. As a side note, this can also refer to the tying of the knot in Handfasting Ceremonies, which were usually done without the benefit of clergy.
In early times the bride had to be carried over the threshold because she was (or was pretending to be) reluctant to enter the bridal chamber. In those days, it was considered ladylike to be hesitant at this point. Another legend has it that the bride was carried over the threshold to protect her from any evil spirits which might be lingering there.
The term "Honeymoon" also originated centuries ago. It was the custom for couples to get married beneath a full moon. Then they would drink honey wine for thirty days in a row, to foster good luck. This created the term honeymoon.
The wedding cake originated from the ancient custom where a loaf of wheat bread was broken over the bride's head to symbolize hope for a fertile and fulfilling life. The guests ate the crumbs which were believed to offer good luck. The custom found it's way to England in the Middle Ages where guests would bring small cakes to a wedding and put them in one large pile. The bride and groom were expected to stand over the cakes and kiss.
Loud noises were said to drive away evil spirits, and during the ceremony the guests would make noises to keep the evil away. Today, it's traditional that the bridal party honk their car horns and drag rattling tin cans while leaving the ceremony.