You may have heard people say they hear wedding bells ringing, whether it was in reference to your any-minute-now proposal or your quickly approaching wedding date. And yes, churches have bells that are often rung as the newlyweds make their way back up the aisle, but is that all those bells mean? Ahead, we investigate by breaking down the various interpretations and origins behind this well-known wedding day tradition.
The symbolism of wedding bells is actually two separate types of bells, though both ideas come from ancient Celtic and Irish history. The first is church bells. In historic times, bells were believed to ward off evil spirits, so newlyweds would be blessed with the loud ringing of bells. Start a marriage without evil spirits? Sounds good to us! The ringing of bells was also used as a way to spread the news across long distances, so bells after a wedding let the whole area know that the couple was now happily married. While the superstition about evil spirits may not be so common today, the joyful sound of bells and their association with weddings has stuck around. Bells are often tolled at church after a wedding ceremony (sometimes by the newlyweds themselves) to mark their grand exit.
Based on cultural traditions, it’s not unusual for bells to be incorporated into wedding ceremonies to represent abundance and prosperity. Irish weddings will often see the bride and groom receiving a bell as a wedding gift or a “Bells of Ireland” flower (an annual summer bloom that's symbolic of good luck) integrated into the bride’s bouquet. In Guatemala, the groom’s mother breaks a white ceramic bell—which is filled with grains, including rice and flour—as a sign of good fortune to the newlyweds. In both of these instances, the wedding bells are used to symbolize the start of your new future together.
The second type is the small bells that might be passed out to guests to ring, either as the couple exits the church or during the reception as an encouragement to kiss—similar to the clinking of wine glasses. The sound of bells is also supposed to remind the couple of the vows they've made as a commitment to each other. Whether you've seen them on Pinterest (perhaps, you've even added them to your dream wedding mood board) or noticed them being used as reception table décor at a ceremony you've attended, bells are becoming increasingly more popular. When used as decoration, you'll most often find two bells tied together with a bow to represent two people joined together in marriage. No matter how you choose to incorporate them, the happy sound of ringing bells is a beautiful addition to any wedding day.