The origins of common engagement traditions and terms

By July 4, 2018Wedding

Have you ever wondered how certain engagement traditions and terms came to be? In the following months we will cover some of the more commonly practiced traditions and accompanying terms to hopefully bring you some clarity.

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This expression is thought to come from Roman times when the bride wore a girdle that was tied in knots on the wedding day. The groom had the fun of untying the knots before consummating the marriage.

Another, possibly more likely origin comes from the Celtic (pagan) marriage ceremony of hand-fasting, during which the hands of the bride and groom were tied together for a marriage “contract”.


The engagement ring is a promise for marriage. Anthropologists believe the tradition of the engagement ring originated from a Roman custom in which wives had to wear rings that were attached to small keys. This indicated their husbands’ ownership. However, there was another custom of the Roman era in which the man had to “barter” for his future bride. The engagement ring acted as security for the “betrothed.”

The first diamond engagement ring on record was commissioned by the Archduke Maximillian of Austria in 1477. This began a trend for diamond engagement rings amongst the European aristocracy and nobility. As time went on, men presented diamond rings to future brides because a ring containing a diamond was considered more valuable than a plain gold band—thus, it is a stronger promise and offers more security.

For medieval Italians, a diamond engagement ring was given in belief that the diamond was created from the flames of love.


The term betrothed, meaning “formally engaged”, originated in the English language through a combination of bi-, or “thoroughly,” and treowðe, the Old English word for “truth, a pledge.”


Banns, a term derived from a Middle English word meaning “proclamation”, are an ancient legal tradition of the Catholic Church and the Church of England, intended to provide the public with notice of a couple’s intention to marry. This announcement usually takes place for three consecutive Sundays. The purpose of the wedding bann was to allow the public time to put forward an objection to the marriage.



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