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Story #004: Wedding Traditions in Alpha Phi

In celebration of Alpha Phi's 150th Anniversary in 2022, we proudly share stories and moments that have created the legacy of sisterhood originally launched by our ten founders and which we still hold dear today.

This is story 4 of 150.


Wedding Traditions in Alpha Phi

Early Weddings

The first initiated member of Alpha Phi to be wed was Elizabeth "Lizzie" Peebles (Alpha-Syracuse), who left school to marry Civil War veteran and physician Moses Waters in the 1870s. Her nuptials were followed by those of founders Clara Bradley (Alpha-Syracuse), who wed Nat Wheeler, a student at the university, a poet and editor of the Syracusan, and Kate "Kitty" Hogoboom (Alpha-Syracuse), who married classmate James Gilbert. Grace Hubbell was the first Alpha Phi Founder to wed. Her marriage to Syracuse University classmate, James H. Shults, took place on June 29, 1876, at her parents' home in Rochester, N.Y. Her Alpha Phi sisters were all invited, and together they purchased an ice pitcher as a wedding gift.

Over the years, Alpha Phis have supported one another in marriage and celebrated weddings in ways that honor the role the Fraternity and its sisters continue to play in women's lives beyond college. Alpha Phi sisters tended to turn to larger conventions and traditions governing the marriage ceremony and reception. Especially from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, etiquette manuals outlined the proper procedures for weddings, advising the bride, groom and wedding party on all matters, from food to gifts to clothes. In the "personal" columns of the Alpha Phi Quarterly, sisters listed brief accounts of engagements and weddings, which became more detailed over the years.

Often, Alpha Phi brides had their fraternity sisters making up most of the bridal party, with sisters playing the piano or singing at the ceremony. The weddings were often named, as they were written about and discussed, in reference to the bridal party's flowers. For instance, at Tillie Robinson's (Xi-Toronto) wedding in 1901, the violets in the bouquets earned the wedding the label of "the violet wedding."


Candle Pass

For those who become engaged while still in college, traditions include a Candle Pass, which takes place at the end of a chapter meeting. Sisters sometimes sing an Alpha Phi song while passing the lit candle around the room. For engaged women, the candle passes four times and is extinguished by the sister who is newly engaged before she shares the story with the chapter. Fewer passes around the circle indicate other celebrations like receiving a fraternity brother's lavalier or pin.

When it comes to the big day, Alpha Phis have taken great care in putting their personal Alpha Phi touch on the ceremony and celebration.


Pins / Badges

The official Alpha Phi badge is a sleek monogram of gold that depicts the Greek letter Alpha superimposed on the Phi. Inscribed in black on the symbol Phi are the letters a,o,e. Alpha Phi was the first women's organization to use Greek letters as an emblem, making it a special symbol for a wedding day. Wearing a sister's pin is perfect for "something borrowed."

Ideas for how to incorporate the Alpha Phi badge in the wedding festivities:

- Place your pin (or a sister's pin) above your heart, on the inside of your wedding attire

- Place your pin on your bouquet ribbon

- Have any Alpha Phi alumnae in the wedding party place their pins on their bouquets

- Have your Alpha Phi badge mounted on a bracelet or ring to wear

- Pin your badge to your Alpha Phi handkerchief



The handkerchief is beloved among Alpha Phis, and so brides often consider incorporating them into their celebrations.

Add handkerchiefs by:

- Wrapping one around the bride's or bridesmaids' bouquets

- Sharing them as gifts to alumnae who are in the wedding party

- Offering them prior to the ceremony to members attending the wedding

- Embroidering a message on them as gifts for the mother of the bride, mother of the groom, grandmothers, etc.


Ivy, Forget-Me-Nots & Lilies of the Valley

The classic lily of the valley is a fragrant flower that represents a "return to happiness" and symbolizes purity, happiness, luck and humility and is a favorite of Alpha Phis. Lily of the valley is a seasonal flower, which means it can sometimes be an expensive component of a bouquet. If the fresh bloom is not available, many fabric and evergreen options are available and allow the addition to be cost-effective. The forget-me-not flower is a powerful Alpha Phi symbol that represents a connection that lasts through time. It is a delicate flower that makes a wonderful addition to a flower arrangement and may be the perfect "something blue" for the bride. The ivy leaf holds significant meaning to Alpha Phis, as a symbol of the sisterhood that binds us all together. As a wedding element, ivy can add elegance to any style wedding and coordinates with many settings.

Ways forget-me-nots and lily of the valley are often incorporated into wedding celebrations:

- Hair pieces, clips, pins, combs, wreaths or tiaras that incorporate the flowers into the design

- Centerpieces for the reception

- Small bundles of the flowers to decorate the plates of any Alpha Phi attendees

- Handkerchief embroidered with the flowers

- Decoration for wedding cake, cupcakes or other desserts

- Jewelry with lily of the valley, ivy or forget-me-nots

- Men's boutonnieres

- Bridesmaids' bouquets

- Floral arrangements for the ceremony table

- Corsages made of ivy, lily of the valley or forget-me-nots for Alpha Phi attendees

- Small bouquet for the flower girl

- Decoration for ring bearer's ring display

- Seeds of the flowers as party favors

- Bride's bouquet

- Floral arrangement around the altar

- Garter for the bride

- Floral napkin holders for Alpha Phi attendees

- Ivy, lily of the valley or forget-me-not decoration around the chairs at the reception

- Forget-me-not, ivy or lily of the valley sticker or decal on table cards for Alpha Phi attendees

- Alpha Phi alumnae pin, with its ring of forget-me-nots

- Nail polish with forget-me-not blue or lily of the valley white


Alpha Phi-Inspired Gifts

Many sisters find the opportunity to sneak an Alpha Phi touch into wedding, bridal shower and engagement gifts.

Ideas include:

- Embroidered Alpha Phi hankie

- Sterling silver pendant with hand-picked forget-me-not

- Payment for the bride to join the Lifelong Loyalty Society

- Forget-me-not china tea set

- Lily of the valley, ivy or forget-me-not ring

- Lily of the valley, ivy or forget-me-not earrings

- Alumnae pin

- Chapter dangle for badge

- Engraved glassware

- Alpha Phi anniversary pin

- Forget-me-not, ivy or lily of the valley vase

- Ivy, lily of the valley or forget-me-not water pitcher

- Lily of the valley silver

- Personalized Alpha Phi wooden cutting board

- Framed photo of Alpha Phi sisters

- Alpha Phi pillow or other home decor


Songs & Ceremonies

A traditional activity at the rehearsal dinner, wedding reception or before the ceremony is to form a circle with or around the bride and serenade her with a song that holds special meaning to your chapter. Popular song choices include "Lovely Girl" or "All I Needed." Many women request a special song played during the reception that was used among your sisters during recruitment. Others invite Alpha Phi guests to a private room before the ceremony to circle with one another and sing "Hand in Hand" or elect a toastmistress to perform the Loving Cup Symbolic Ceremony.


PHOTO: Adorning the ribbon of the bridal bouquet with the bride's badge or a badge belonging to a beloved Alpha Phi in her life is one traditional way to celebrate sisterhood at Alpha Phi weddings.