April 2015

Canadian Wedding Traditions, Both Old and New

European wedding tradition involving bridesmaids reaching for bouquetAll couples are different, and a wedding that reflects their personalities and preferences is a common goal. In Canada, many wedding customs incorporated in the celebration are influenced by European-Christian, particularly British, traditions.

The White Dress

A conventional white wedding dress, purchased specifically for the occasion, is still the most popular choice of Canadian brides. The custom of wearing white started in the Victorian Era and symbolized purity.

Something Old, Something New

It is considered good luck for brides to wear “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” The tradition originated from an old English rhyme. The fifth and final item referenced in the rhyme, not usually adhered to outside of Britain, is “a sixpence in your shoe.”

  • “Old” stands for continuity. Some brides choose to wear a family heirloom.
  • “New” represents optimism for the future. The wedding dress or shoes can be two examples.
  • “Borrowed” represents borrowing joy from a happily married couple in hopes it rubs off on your own relationship. A piece of jewelry or handkerchief are items that can be borrowed.
  • “Blue” is meant to represent loyalty and fidelity. Brides sometimes wear blue garters or tie a blue ribbon in their bouquet.
  • “A sixpence in your shoe” is the desire for prosperity and good fortune.

The Groom Stands on the Right

Many couples still choose to get married in a church, but there are numerous other options including gardens, beaches and the homes of family and friends. No matter where the ceremony occurs, it is customary for grooms to stand on the right side and brides on the left while they exchange vows. This tradition evolved in Europe centuries ago. Grooms needed easy access to their swords in the event someone attempted to abduct their brides. While there is no longer a worry of brides getting kidnapped at the altar in modern day Canada, the custom has endured.

Bridal Party

Having a bridal party is an Anglo-Saxon tradition. Grooms would have knights assist their brides in getting to ceremonies safely. The knights would also escort couples back home to prevent them from being attacked and their dowries stolen.

Bouquet Toss

It is traditional for a bride to carry a bouquet of flowers and toss it towards all the single women after the wedding. Whoever catches it is supposed to be the next to marry. This custom originated from brides wanting to protect their dresses from unmarried women who would rip bits off the gowns for good luck. Brides started throwing pieces of bouquets towards them so they would have something pretty and not try to tear off their dresses.


Many couples go on a honeymoon after they are married. The term “honeymoon” comes from a traditional drink couples would consume. They would drink mead wine, which was made from fermented “honey” and water, for a month after their wedding. The month represents a full cycle of the “moon.”

New Wedding Trends

While traditions are practices and rituals that have stood the test of time, trends are much more recent and easily come and go. Here are some current wedding trends.

  • Bite-Sized Desserts

As an alternative to the big wedding cake, it is becoming popular to offer individual bite-sized desserts. They can be served off a tray at each table.

  • Metallic Accents

Metallic accents are popping up everywhere. Foil on invitations, floral table decorations in gold and silver vases and metallic specks on desserts are all ways to add some sparkle to the occasion.

  • Chef Interaction

Instead of traditional buffets or sit down dinners served by waiters, more couples are ditching convention when it comes to cuisine and letting their guests interact with chefs.

Weddings often include traditions. However, it is also fun to mix some new trends into the festivities.

The Religion of Hockey

Cartoon drawing of a hockey player hitting the puckHockey is religion to many Canadians, but the actual religious beliefs of the men who play the game are often a much more taboo topic. Hockey players, with a few notable exceptions, are some of the least vocal athletes when it comes to professing their spirituality.

The Influence of Religion in Other Professional Sports

Many other professional sports teams welcome displays of religion. It is not uncommon for NFL players to participate in a pre-game prayer or an on-field post-game one on bended knee. Similar demonstrations of faith are also prevalent in the NBA and MLB. NASCAR drivers take part in an invocation before each race. Quarterback Tim Tebow and basketball superstar Jeremy Lin are both devout Christians and don’t hesitate to let others know.


The Impact of Harold Ballard

The inherently reserved Canadian culture is one reason hockey players may be less likely to readily acknowledge their religious beliefs. Another is the comments made by deceased Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard in the early 1980s. He publicly berated centre Laurie Boschman numerous times, including after a post-season loss to the New York Rangers, claiming his born-again Christian beliefs made him “soft.”

The incident became a big news story and the 20-year-old Boschman had to defend his spirituality to the international media. He did not back down and said the Maple Leafs owner was ignorant about Christianity. However, hockey is a tough guy’s sport, and the impact of Ballard’s criticism left a lasting impression. Boschman more than proved him wrong and went on to a successful career playing for Edmonton, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Ottawa, where he was named team captain. Today, Boschman organizes chapel programs for the NHL and is the Senator’s team chaplain.


NHL Exceptions to the Rule

There are a handful of NHL players who are very open about the role of Christianity in their lives. Religion has also become more mainstream in hockey than it was in the days of Harold Ballard.

  • Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher was born in Ontario and is a forward for the Nashville Predators. His wife is Grammy-winning country singer Carrie Underwood. Fisher was raised in a devout Christian household and has always been outspoken about his spirituality. His uncle was also the team chaplain for the Toronto Blue Jays. The book Defender of the Faith: The Mike Fisher Story by Kim Washburn discusses the role of religion in his life and how he also always puts God first.

  • Dan Ellis

Saskatoon-born goalie Dan Ellis had a different upbringing than Fisher. His parents divorced when he was 11, and he was a troubled teenager. The turning point came when his father signed him up for a Christian hockey camp. From that point on, religion and hockey were the most important things in Ellis’s life. He currently plays for the San Antonio Rampage and sports a cross on the back of his goalie mask.

  • Shane Doan

Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan grew up in a small town in Alberta. In addition to his love of hockey, he knew he wanted to help others and has become a mentor to young players. Doan is very committed to his family and says his wife and children are gifts from God.


Hockey Ministries International

Hockey Ministries International (HMI) is a faith-based organization that has been working with the hockey community since 1977. It now has a presence in 35 leagues and serves junior and NHL players. HMI provides non-denominational chapel services, and any interested team can also have an assigned chaplain. The organization is not officially endorsed by the NHL, but is permitted to send periodic emails to coaches and team management informing them of its services and programs.

Religion and hockey are far from synonymous. However, more players are becoming comfortable openly embracing their spiritual beliefs.

NASCAR and Religion

NASCAR pack during a raceNASCAR is one of the most popular sports in the United States. It is second only to the NFL in television ratings. The NASCAR season is 10 months long and runs from February through November. The race circuit often moves to a different city each week.

Many drivers and crew members are from the south and grew up in religious households. Moving around so much during the season makes it challenging for them to have a relationship with a local church. Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) helps fill the spiritual gap. Pastors from the organization travel the circuit and arrange worship services that many NASCAR drivers, their families and crew members attend. They take place after the mandatory drivers’ meetings before each race and are held in conference rooms, chapels and sometimes garages.

Motor Racing Outreach

MRO is a nonprofit group founded in 1988 by famed driver Darrell Waltrip, his wife and a few other drivers. It is funded mostly by donations and employs five chaplains who cover the three NASCAR racing series’. Race day services are not the only duty of MRO pastors. They also minister to the hundreds of fans who camp out at race tracks. On occasion, the chaplains plan visits to local hospitals with crew members wearing their race uniforms.

There is also a mobile community center which is a custom-built truck that spreads out into a covered patio. It has a library, bible club and choir, and is usually parked close to the track. Visitors to the center can often see racecars driving by.

The MRO has sometimes been called the glue that holds NASCAR families together. Auto racing is a life and death sport that can put significant stress on relationships. Competing on the circuit is also a transient lifestyle and hard on the families of both drivers and crew members. On top of everything else, NASCAR families experience the same life trials and tribulations other people do.

Pre-Race Invocation

NASACAR is one of only a handful of sports that has a televised invocation before each contest. It is typically given by a minister from a local congregation wherever the circuit is that week. The invocations usually involve the pastor thanking God for the weather, crew, drivers and fans, and praying for a safe race. Sometimes they are brief and even funny. Invocations can also be filled with strong religious messages, depending on the minister in charge. There has been some debate in recent years about whether invocations should continue to be a part of the pre-race activities. One argument is that it is an outdated ritual that may turn off fans that aren’t religious.

NASCAR Driver Deaths

NASCAR is a dangerous sport and there have been a number of drivers injured and killed in accidents over the years. Since the sport began in the 1940s, there have been 68 driver deaths. 1956 was the deadliest year on record with five fatalities. There have been 14 deaths at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida, the highest number for any race track. Two drivers who have died at the wheel are:

  • Dale Earnhardt

One of the most decorated race car drivers of all time, Earnhardt died from a head injury he sustained in an accident during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. He was 49. Over the course of his career, Earnhardt achieved 76 NASCAR victories.

  • Adam Petty

Adam Petty was the son of Kyle Petty and a fourth generation driver. He died in a practice session in 2000 in Loudon, New Hampshire at the age of 19.

NASCAR is an exciting, but deadly way of life. The time commitment that comes with competing makes it difficult to have a normal family experience and regularly attend church. It is easy to understand how the services organizations like MRO provide can be important to people involved in the sport.