Understanding the purpose behind a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies first started with the inauguration of the initiative for the Louisiana Railroad in the late 19th century, but it was nowhere to what we have today. After more research, I learned that it began with the christenings of docks and boats around the late 19th century in the United Kingdom. Christening ceremonies, I remember well, as I was privileged to take part in one each time we got a new boat. We would typically invite our immediate family and some friends to join us as champagne was poured into glasses, and before the toast, another bottle from the same batch was smashed over our boat. Then a typical toast was made: “I thank our family and friends for joining us to welcome a new member into our family. Next, we named the boat and said, “I name this boat (say the name) on this (Say day, date, year) and wish all here happy, healthy, abundant times on the shore and abroad our new boat.”

Another game changer for ribbon-cutting ceremonies involved Alexandra of Denmark, then known as Princes of Whales, when she was part of the opening of the Alexandra Dock in Liverpool in 1881, according to the New York Post. During this ceremony, the chairman of the Dock Board, Mr. T.D. Hornby presented to Princess a parasol of which the handle was decorated in fine, richly studded gold jewels that screwed off to reveal a sharp blade. A ribbon was draped from one side of the dock to the other, and your Highness severed it with the blade. Following the ribbon cutting, a weight was dropped to shatter, the bottle of wine into pieces as Princess said, “I name this dock the Alexandra Dock.” 

Later on, it became customary to celebrate the openings of new bridges, homes, commercial buildings, parks, etc. Often prominent people were asked to cut the ribbon, and the experience of slicing ribbons did not exist before the late 19th century and was not widespread until the 1950s and 1960s.

Understand that planning, marketing, and advertising an upcoming ribbon cutting and grand opening party is not only excellent for the community to build morale but also an excellent way for people to know about it and, if it’s a business, potentially invite others to do business with the establishment. However, where did the mammoth scissors come from as the first cutting by Princess of Whales used the James Bond-type approach with a knife? During the 1950’s Tommy D’Alesandro, Mayor of Baltimore attempted to cut the ribbon with his knife during the first helicopter service between Baltimore and Washington and break tradition when Gov Theodore McKeldin was invited to do so. As you probably guessed, Mayor D’Alesandro did not entirely cut the ribbon and was overwhelmed with shame and ran off but, surprisingly, was greeted with sympathy from the audience. Gov Theodore McHelding then stepped in to cut the ribbon into pieces and handed it to friends in the crowd.

Gov Mckeldin, people thought, would be upset about this, but he just said, and I quote, “I’m grateful for small favors.” Today the commonly known scissors used for ribbon cuttings are 40” and used by the employees of the Milwaukee Bucks. However, I should point out that the giant pair of scissors made are by an automotive-supply firm Tekbas Sirketler Grubu. This Turkish company produced a 3 Meter or 9.842 Feet. It was used for an actual grand opening in 2019, according to the Guinness World Book of Records, and is the largest pair one can buy for a ceremonial grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Now that you have the history, I have yet to answer two big questions. Why ribbon and scissors for a grand opening? Is there a reason for using this? Yes, ribbons and scissors throughout the ages are synonymous with power. Ribbon and scissors mark the turning point in someone’s life or the introduction of something new.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is always part of a grand opening, whether a new home, church, synagogue, hospital, doctor’s office, business, large warehouse, or mass retail store. Grand opening ceremonies with ribbon cuttings are a great way for the new entity to gain excellent exposure through a press release and celebrate the accomplishment the opening of their doors makes. Did you know that ribbon-cutting ceremonies are used not just in the United States but worldwide to commemorate new architecture? Ribbon-cutting ceremonies also inform the community of the new structure of their mission and how it will serve the community. 

Understanding history always makes us appreciate it and motivates all to make it an even more significant milestone to commemorate something new. Making a choice now to embrace, plan, market, and advertise your grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony may improve the business’s potential for long-term success.  Invite not only the mayor of your town, your family, the association leaders you are affiliated with, and the people in your community. Plan social media posts, craft a great press release, provide light appetizers or snacks, and have giveaways if possible. Most importantly, get creative with your ceremony, make it fun, and at a time most people will be able to attend, such as a weekend instead of a weekday.

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