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Wednesday, Jun 15 2016, 13:14
Cultural traditions --- They are fascinating and provide such wonderful insights into history and how customs have evolved. Ellen
There are so many cultural traditions involved with organising a wedding and some of them we follow because they suggest 'good luck' while others just seem to have become part of a standard wedding plan.
So, as it's prime wedding season at the moment, here's a treat to some of the more interesting wedding traditions and how they came to influence us still, so many years later.
Did You Know ...
The term 'Tying the Knot' came to symbolise marriage with the ancient Celts. They tied the hands of a couple together in the form of an 'endless knot' or better known as the 'eternity knot'. This involved tying the hands in a way that symbolised the binds that held them together, forever. Even today, in many cultures around the world - including Celtic, Hindu and Egyptian - the bride and groom's hands are literally tied together to symbolise their commitment and their bond to each other. This tradition is also linked to hand-fasting, where today, couples use different coloured cords or ribbons to symbolise their commitment.
Today, hand-fasting is growing in popularity as a way to symbolise the bond and commitment between couples, and it can be a very colourful way to add character and meaning to a ceremony, through the careful selection of coloured ribbons or cords, and sometimes adding charms that hold special significance.
Proposing and Asking for the
Bride's Hand in Marriage originated with
the Romans who called this tradition 'the
joining of hands'.
During this ancient time in history, the groom
gave a coin to the bride's father to establish his
purchase of the bride. The father then handed
over his daughter to her future husband. It was
during medieval times when a knight would
pledge his love on his knee as a sign of service to his lady.
Something old, something new,something borrowed,
something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe is a tradition
rooted in that old familiar Victorian rhyme. 'Something old'
suggests the bride's connection to her family and to the past that
she brings to the marriage; 'something new' is hopeful of her good
fortune as a wife; 'something borrowed' represents the bride's
closeness to her family and friends who, it is hoped, will support
her in times of trouble; 'something blue' is a way of highlighting
her purity; and 'a silver sixpence in her shoe' points to the wishes
offered for happiness and the hope that the couple will avoid
The Bride's Veil has a variety of histories. One belief suggests it was an ancient Roman custom of using a veil to confuse evil spirits and keep them away from the bride. Less honourable tales suggest that a veil was used to keep the groom from refusing to marry a woman hefound to be unattractive. And another suggests that during the age where war and bride kidnapping were abundant, putting a sackover the bride's head was a tactic to whisk her away from thegroom.
We have certainly come a long way in modifying the tradition of a veil in the more modern, beautiful headdresses that some bride'schoose. The kidnapping theory is also linked to the groom carrying his wife into their new home, while other custom suggests that it would be bad luck if the bride tripped and fell upon entering her new abode, especially as they believed that evil spirits lurked alongthe bottom of rooms. Today, bridal veils aren't always used, though they are still rooted in tradition. The Wedding March is a traditional pieceof music that was created by the composer,Felix Mendelssohn, and this music was used in William Shakespeare’s play A MidsummerNight’s Dream. It wasn't just intended as a piece of fantasy, but of royalty as well. The Wedding March was selected by Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria of England, when she wed Prince Frederick William of Prussia, andthus the tradition became more and more popular over time.Wedding Rings and wearing them on the lefthand is believed to originate from different customs; the ancientRoman's believed that there is a special vein that run from the ring finger on the left hand directly to the heart, and they coined the phrase 'vein of love'. The second custom seems to come from Medieval Europe where it was common practice for the priest to touch the first three fingers of the bride's left hand to symbolise theHoly Trinity. The never-ending circle shape of the ring symbolises the eternal love between the bride and groom, which werepresented to wives-to-be during the time of the Ancient Egyptiansas ringlets made of hemp. Growing in popularity is the 'Warming of the Rings' at the start of aWedding Ceremony. Rings are tied to a cushion or placed in aspecial pouch and passed from guest to guest throughout the ceremony. Guests are asked to hold the rings for a few momentsand put their heartfelt thoughts, hopes, prayers, blessings etc. into the rings for the couple. This is a really lovely way to involveguests in the 'ring exchange' portion of a ceremony.
The Best Man is literally translated into 'the best man to protect the bride'. Once upon a time, grooms-to-be approached the most capable manthey knew to ward off potential unhappyex-suitors of the bride, as well as to protect thegroom in those moments when things might geta bit nasty. In more modern times, the best man's primary concern is keeping the wedding rings safe and presenting them during theceremony.
The Bridesmaids had a role, onceupon a time, quite different to day's custom. In the time when brawling for the bride was the thing to do, kidnapping her was not uncommon (thus the need for a glorified bodyguard in the Best Man). While matching bridesmaids dresses have become less common in today's weddings, in Roman times when this was a sign of goodluck because people believed that those evil spirits would attendthe wedding in an attempt to curse the bride and groom. Bridesmaids were required to dress exactly like the bride in order to confuse the spirits and bring luck to the marriage.I remember realising this when I saw my grandmother's weddingphoto from the early 1920's - she and her bridesmaid wore thesame dress and for someone unfamiliar with the bride andgroom, it was hard to distinguish who was the bride and who was the bridesmaid!The Kiss! The kiss was, at one time, considered a legallybinding act that fulfilled the contract between the bride andgroom. It was thought that through the kiss, the couple 'exchanged souls' with each other. The Bouquet, and tossing customseems to gain its roots from ancient times whenwedding ceremonies were believed to be evilspirit magnets. In ancient Greek and Roman traditions, brides wore flowers in their hair to discourage the evil spirits (unexpected guests) from settling on the bride. As far back as the 14th century, securing a piece of the bridal gown was intended to bring good luck. Of course, bride's didn't take well to guests cutting pieces of fabric from their weddingdress, so, as an alternative, bride's began to give away personal items, such as the wedding bouquet. Contents of bouquets areequally rooted in rich cultural and historical traditions. Somecultures sew small pockets of herbs into wedding clothing, ordrape flower garlands over the couple's shoulder's for good fortune. In other beliefs, herbs are added to welcome ancestorsand spirits. The Victorians were fascinated by the meanings of different flowers and what they represent in the lives of thewedding couple. And in Tudor England brides carriedmarigolds dipped in rosewater, and ate them afterwards as theywere thought to be an aphrodisiac! In the Middle East the bitterherb 'artemisia' is added into bridal bouquets to ensure thatmarriages will survive bitterness as well as sweetness. Today's brides often include their favourite flowers for their colour and perfume. I have been privileged to see some absolutely exquisite bouquets made from family heirloom jewellery.The tradition of a Honeymoon continues today.According to Babylonian tradition, the father-in-law gave the groom mead to be consumed during the “honey month.” Some beliefs suggest that this length of time also served as a“cooling period” for the bride’s family, who might not havebeen so eager to see their daughter leave home. There are so many culturally-rich traditions in families around the globe, so when you're planning your wedding, consider where some of the traditions you'll incorporate into yourceremony may have originated. Some are quite outdated bytoday's standards, while others still hold some charm andmeaning. The true beauty of creating a celebrant-led wedding ceremony is that there are absolutely no limitations or restrictions on how you design your wedding ceremony, what you want to be said during your ceremony or how you symbolically mark such a significant event in your life. Because a celebrant-led wedding ceremony is not a legal event in the UK (legal procedures are still organised by your local registry office), your imagination and creativity are all you need to plan the perfect occasion! With a Celebrant, you can create your own traditions allowing for considerably more flexibility and freedom in how you wish 'your story' to be told!