Wedding handkerchiefs have a long and meaningful history. Carrying one on your wedding day is not only symbolic, but it also serves a very important purpose throughout your special and emotional day. You can carry a wedding handkerchief that has been handed down through your family or choose one that is embroidered with blue flowers to fulfill the “something blue” rule.
The first historical mentioning of the handkerchief is included in the poems of Gaius Catullus, a Roman poet from the 1st century B.C. Handkerchiefs were carried by the wealthy and ruling social classes of the Roman era and became a symbol of luxury and stature. These first handkerchiefs were made of linen, but they were eventually made out of less expensive materials of the time in order to make them more affordable for the middle-class. Roman handkerchiefs were mainly used to cover the mouth and nose as protection from bad weather, unappealing smells, and infectious diseases, but they were also carried and placed decoratively into the folds of the Roman robe.
In the centuries to come, the handkerchief served a variety of different purposes at different times throughout history. While it was initially used for the practical purposes of shielding or cleaning the nose, it also became a tool to be used to attract attention. At theater performances, beloved actors would be greeted with waving handkerchiefs in the air by their adoring fans. During the reign of Henry II, the handkerchief became popular among the lords and ladies of the royal court. These handkerchiefs were heavily decorated with extravagant embroidered designs and made of the finest and most expensive fabrics.
The Catholic Church used handkerchiefs during religious ceremonies and devout women began wearing handkerchiefs on their heads as decorative coverings. Ladies of the court would often present knights their handkerchief head coverings as a symbol of their favor. These handkerchiefs were being made of the finest fabrics from around the world, such as silk and lace, and they transformed from useful pieces of cloth for the nose to elaborately decorated pieces of cloth for show. It was used more often as a tool to flirt with members of the opposite sex and when given away was meant to symbolize ones intentions as a love interest.
However, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the pocket handkerchief became more popularly used by men rather than women. With the popularity of tobacco snuff throughout Europe, the handkerchief once again was used for a more practical purpose. Since tobacco snuff was snorted rather than smoked, this caused an unsightly problem by leaving a brown residue under the noses of those who enjoyed the popular activity. Colored handkerchiefs began being used by those who enjoyed a bit of the snuff in order to wipe away the tell-tale signs of their tobacco use from the nose.
By the 19th century, every respectable lady and man carried a handkerchief in her purse or his pocket. Every kind of shape, style, and design of handkerchief was now being made because everyone carried one with them at all times. Made of linen, silk, or cotton, the popularity of the handkerchief remained strong throughout the 1950s, yet more recently with the introduction of disposable tissues, the handkerchief has mostly a sentimental appeal.
Perhaps the most popular use for the handkerchief today is for use by the bride during the wedding ceremony. Because of its history as a symbol of a woman’s love for her chosen man, the traditional use of a wedding handkerchief is a must-have in any wedding ceremony. These wedding handkerchiefs are now beautifully embroidered, adorned with lace, and often decorated with blue flowers or ribbons to be used as your something blue item. It can be wrapped around a bouquet of flowers, tucked inside the glove, or even hidden away in the bosom. No matter what you choose to do with your wedding handkerchiefs, it is a nice, symbolic, and practical item to carry to the altar on your wedding day.