Ancient Roman wedding ceremonies began with the bride renouncing her childhood so that she could properly prepare for her life as wife and mother. To do this, she began by surrendering her childhood toys. The bride's hairstyle was unique only to brides. Her hair was divided into six locks, and was fastened with fillets on the top of her head.
Like today, the Roman bride's wedding attire was worn only once; the most significant piece of clothing being the flame colored, yet transparent, veil which was worn on the crown of her head beneath wreaths of myrtle branches and orange blossoms. The dress consisted of a simple tunic tied with a woolen girdle over which she wore a yellow cloak and matching sandals.
The first part of the wedding ceremony would begin at the house of the bride's parents. When all was in order, her parents would then hand her over to her groom. This led to the pledge; a simple ceremony in which the young couple would grasp hands and recite their commitment to one another. From there they would go to a place of sacrifice where the bride and groom would sacrifice a pig. The matron of honor would then join the bride and groom's hands together.
In Roman wedding ceremonies the best man also acted as the priest and it was his responsibility to present the wedding contract at the appropriate time, and to ensure that the proper number of witnesses signed it.
The Roman version of a reception was actually a part of their wedding ceremonies. After the wedding contract was signed there would be a huge wedding breakfast feast which was traditionally paid for by the groom and, it has been reported, often lasted until nightfall. This is most likely where the early wedding cake, a simple loaf of wheat flour, salt, and water, was used.
At this time gifts were given and the wedding party made ready for the next part of the wedding ceremony - the procession. During this procession the attendants would lead the bride to her new home. This was quite the event. Flute players announced the procession's progress as they moved. Torchbearers lit the way as designated young children led the way. As they went, and especially as they neared the grooms home, well wishers threw walnuts at the party in a gesture of their hope for the new couple's fertility. Meanwhile the groom went on ahead to prepare the way house for the arrival of his new wife.
The bride's arrival at the new home was the climax of the wedding ceremony: Before the groom could carry the bride through the doorway of their new home a white cloth was spread on the ground and covered with leaves and branches. Likewise, it is reported that the bride would first smear fat on the door post and tie a strand of wool to the door posts to mark the home as her domain before the groom would carry the bride across the threshold and into their new house.
It is easy to see that many of our modern day traditions in wedding ceremonies originated with the Romans and the variations could make for a memorable event should anyone choose to base their wedding after the ancient Roman wedding ceremony.