We’re all familiar with wedding traditions – you know, brides having to wear white; giving toasts at the reception and carrying the bride across the threshold. We’ve seen these numerous times on films and television shows, as well as being done on actual weddings and receptions. However, have you ever what were the meanings or reasons behind these practices? Here are a few (five) common wedding traditions and how these came about.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue
(and a silver sixpence in her shoe)
Most brides would incorporate all those above (with the exception of the sixpence) in her wedding attire. Something old could be a veil that has been handed down from generation to generation; something new is usually the wedding dress, what’s borrowed could be a piece of jewellery, and the garter around her leg is usually colored blue. This good luck saying started during the Victorian times. The old represents the bride’s link to her past, meaning the family that she will be ‘leaving behind’; the new represents good fortune and success in her new life as someone’s wife; the borrowed item is there to remind the bride that, in case she needs any help, she has always family and friends she can turn to; and blue represents her faithfulness and loyalty to her husband. In case you’re wondering what the sixpence represents, it’s to wish the bride wealth in her married life.
With this ring, I thee Wed
No wedding is complete without a wedding ring. You can do away with the gown, the flowers, the big brass band – but not the wedding ring. So, why do we exchange rings again and why do rings symbolize marriage? During ancient times, when life was much harder and oftentimes shorter, raising a family by yourself would be a very daunting task (still is anyway). In order to ward away evil entities from whisking away the bride’s spirit, husbands would bind their wives’ ankles and wrists with ropes of grass to keep her spirit in her body. Today, husband’s no longer bind the ankles and wrists but just the ring finger. And the ring is not there to ward off evil spirits but as a symbol of the couple’s unending love for one another.
Incidentally, in Sweden, not only does the lady receive an engagement ring and a wedding ring, she also receives a motherhood ring! So in Sweden, it would not be uncommon to see married women with three gold rings on their fingers.
Bouquet and Garter Tossing
Ever wondered why the bride tosses the bouquet and the groom tosses the garter? First, the bride. There was an old tradition where the single ladies would want to ‘tear a piece of the wedding dress’ in order to have the same ‘luck’ as the lady who got married. If you had a big wedding party – you’ll be left with nothing but your knickers! So instead of the single ladies ruining a perfectly nice dress, the alternative was to toss the bouquet and, whoever catches it will be the next one to wed.
Now for the groom and his garter. Still, from years gone by, ‘witnesses’ used to follow the bride and groom to their wedding chamber and (gulp) watch as the couple consummated their wedding. The garter would be brought out by the said witness (or witnesses) to prove that the deed has been done. Since this was such a big violation of the couple’s privacy (or anyone for that matter), the couple would just throw out the garter to prove consummation. As with the bouquet – the gentleman who catches the garter will tie the knot next.
Why there’s a Best Man
Ever wondered why having a Best Man is imperative in weddings? In olden days, the best man wasn’t just there to hold the wedding rings. It is believed that the Germanic Goths, when wooing a lady with flowers and chocolates haven’t been discovered, men ‘kidnapped’ ladies from neighbouring towns and ‘forced’ them into marriage. Of course, this task cannot be done alone, and the best man, the groom’s best friend whom he can trust, would be there to help catch the lovely lass. When it’s time to exchange vows, there’s still a possibility that the bride’s family would attempt to ‘rescue’ her thus, the best man would stand guard during the entire ceremony, alert and well-armed.
Incidentally, the bride stands on the left side of the groom so that he can protect her in case of attack, and also leaves his right hand free to use for defence.
Going on their Honeymoon
So – why do couples go away after their wedding? What’s the origin of going on a honeymoon? There are many theories on how this practice started. Some believe that the term stems from the practice of drinking honeyed mead, supposedly an aphrodisiac, during the first month of marriage to enhance the fertility of the newly-wed couple. Others believe that the word ‘moon’ simply reflect the waxing and waning of the couple’s ardour for each other, when the strongest and sweetest times (honey) happening immediately after the wedding.
A more interesting origin is that honeymoon comes from the Norse word ‘hjunottsmanathr‘ which means ‘in hiding’. Remember how men got themselves brides during the Germanic Goth era? Well, these men, after the wedding ceremony, would keep their lovely brides in hiding until the ladies became pregnant or, until the family has stopped searching for them. It is only then that the couple would come out of hiding and present themselves to the family. It doesn’t sound so romantic, does it?
So that’s how those started? Do you have any wedding traditions in your culture / country / family that is different? Do you think that, a hundred years from now, your descendants will still be practicing these?