5 Types of Wedding Arches and Altars with a Brief History

There are no rules to say where you need to have the ceremony performed on your wedding day.  It can be in a church, on a beach, in a backyard, a home or on a hillside.  However, one aspect that most everyone relies on is the altar.  The altar of a wedding defines the ceremony space.  This is where the couple starts their new beginning of matrimony and where vows and rings and kisses are exchanged.   

The significance of the altar is not where it is but that there is an altar for the ceremony.  Therefore, having an altar arrangement, particularly in the shape of an arch is something that can have historical significance but it can also be a pretty aesthetic that helps tie your ceremony and reception together. 

The wedding arch and the arched altar itself dates back to at least the ancient Greeks and Romans.  These arches held significance and were used in part of altar sacrifice ceremonies. The sacrifices were made to gods, and the arch was believed to open the connection between the earth and the sky above.  It was thought to be a doorway and this in between space was a place where magic could occur.  

Additionally, in mythology an arch represents the door that one must pass through to enter another world through space and time.  It creates an opening of new perspectives, seeing the other side as it were. 

The night sky and the stars were thought to be kingdoms themselves, therefore, the opening between the earth and sky allowed us mere mortals to then become purveyors of our own kingdoms.  As in “the home is the castle”.  There is symbolism in the couple sacrificing their previous life and families.  By standing in front of the arch after the wedding ceremony the couple are showing the guests and the world that they are one and solidifying their connection. The couple is creating a new family, or “kingdom” by standing together under the archway that connects them to the heavens. 

In the present day, the ceremony arch is a reminder, even subconsciously, to the ancient time when we were sacrificed to the heavens and created magic by opening the archway between the earth and sky. 

The shape of the arch itself holds symbolic meaning and the structure can lend different significance to the ceremony.  A curved arch represents the future home and the journey of moving towards a new life.  An arch that has doors will emphasize the passage of past and future.  A square arch will symbolize stability for the new couple. 

Another arch we see is the “arch of sabres” or saber arch.  This originated in Spain and could date to the medieval period, but some reports see it as a medieval revival in the 19th century.  The custom of using the arch occurs after the couple leaves the church, and they would go through an “arch of sabres”.  This symbolizes that the couple will be together forever.  It is also a way to symbolize the future home of the couple and suggests initiation and renewal.  

Walking through an archway of any kind, can mean you are getting rid of the old and moving onto a new phase of life.  The arches also embody strength and support.  In America and western countries, arches became part of protestant and non- religious ceremonies.  Rather than holding religious significance, now they are used to decorate ceremony locations, particularly outside.  

Today, knowing what arch/alter options are out there can help make a decision regarding what type of ceremony you want.  Knowing your altar options can also help determine what type of wedding theme you are after. There are many different options in what we use at the altar, not only the shape, but also the decorations we use.  Even still, some couples choose not to use an actual structure, but they choose to use a floral arrangement or greenery to create the image of an arch.  Some couples even choose to use a traditional Christian cross instead of an arch when they are not having their wedding in a church.  Here are 5 different types of arches and altars that are out there, but remember the possibilities are rather abundant: 

1. Broken Arch / Asymmetrical

2. Circle

3. Square

4. Diamond / Hexagonal 

5. Cross

Using a non-traditional shape or unexpected flower arrangement can bring a personalized touch to your wedding that will help match the overall feel you want for your wedding day. 

Adding the use of flowers and greenery to the arch and altar will help to create a ceremony space that is tailored to your wedding day.  There are options like using a garland, an attached arrangement or greenery wrapped around the arch.  You can also add draped fabrics, lanterns, or lights to help create a beautiful look. 

Whatever you decide will help to customize your wedding day to your tastes, and the arches are used as a ceremony space, statement piece and even a photo op.  However,I like to think there is a subconscious connection to our history and the magic and mythology we all once believed in before we knew more. 


www.delameremanor.co.uk “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Wedding Arches” 

www.liknedin.com ; Christian, Zita “The Wedding Ceremony Arch: A modern symbol with ancient meaning”

www.breezesc.com Breeze, Emma “What is the origin of wedding arch?”www.bloominghaus.com “Wedding Flower Arches; Everything You Need to Know (2023)”

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