The Wedding Traditions

There are many traditions at wedding receptions, especially at a western Pennsylvania wedding reception!  The area in which I grew up was settled primarily by German, Polish, and English immigrants.  Many of our wedding traditions come from that European influence.

* The Bouquet Toss *  It is tradition for the bride to carry a bouquet of flowers while walking down the aisle during the wedding ceremony.  At the wedding reception, the bride tosses the bouquet (usually a smaller version of hers) to a group of all the single ladies attending.  It is believed that the girl who catches the bouquet will be the next to be married.

* The Garter Removal *  It is tradition for the bride to wear a garter on her thigh under her wedding dress.  During the reception, her new husband will remove it with his hands or teeth ;)

* The Garter Toss *  Once the groom has removed the bride's garter, he tosses it to a group of all the single men attending.  It is believed that the guy who catches the garter will be the next to be married.

After the bouquet toss and garter toss, the winners of each are brought onto the dance floor.  The guy who caught the garter has to put it onto the thigh of the girl who caught the bouquet.  It's been said that every inch he puts the garter above her knee is a year of good luck for the bride and groom ;)  It is customary for these two single people to share a dance afterwards.

* Clinking Glasses *  Throughout the dinner at the wedding reception, guests will clink their glasses with a fork or spoon until the bride and groom stand and kiss.  Someone usually starts the clinking every couple minutes :)

* The Cookie Table *  This tradition is said to have originated in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Family members of the bride and groom bake hundreds or even thousands of cookies that are all displayed on the "cookie table" at the wedding.  This cookie table is in addition to the wedding cake now but it is believed that when the tradition began, everyone contributed cookies in place of the wedding cake to spare the bride and groom the expense of the cake.  A PA wedding just isn't a wedding without a cookie table!

* The Bridal Dance *  This is also known as the "dollar dance" or "money dance" and is a Polish tradition done at almost every western PA wedding.  During the Bridal Dance, all of the guests line up for the chance to dance with the bride while Polka music plays.  The Maid of Honor wears an apron and collects $1 (or $5, $10, etc) from each guest.  The guests then get a shot of alcohol if they want (usually a schnapps or whiskey) and then hug or dance with the bride for about 5 seconds.  After dancing with the bride, they join the growing crowd of people holding hands and dancing in a circle around the her.

After all the guests have danced with the bride and are dancing in circles around her, the groom with his groomsmen try to break through the crowd to get to the bride.  The groom eventually reaches his bride and carries her away.

The circle of guests around the bride starts out small...

then gets larger with more circles...

until all the guests are circling around her!

Here is a video of the dancing portion of the Bridal Dance:

My brother combined a western PA wedding tradition with a western PA team... the Steelers!  He and his groomsmen put on Steelers jerseys and tackled their way through the dancing crowd to reach the bride.  Here is a video of the Steelers ending of the dance:

"Success in marriage is much more than
a matter of finding the right person; it is
also a matter of being the right person."
~Leland Foster Wood

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