‘Twas the rare 29th day of the month of February which is a very auspicious day. A tradition lives that on this day in a Leap Year women get the chance to propose marriage to men! Aree baba! Been discussing proposals, weddings & marriages all day yesterday which led to do some reserach on wedding traditions. Here are some back-stories on 10 aspects of marriage that I enjoyed learning:
1. The Wedding Party:
*Sigh* from my reading, a lot of marriages in ancient times happened when a man abducted the woman he wanted to marry. He had to capture and flee with his woman fighting all those who dared to obstruct him on his mission. As the exercise was hard (the bride would have people to protect her) the groom would be aided by his best friend: the best man. The best man would be responsible for helping in any activity to ensure the kidnapping of the bride, including combat with her protectors, and guarding their secret location from them.
Since the kidnapping had to be executed perfectly to ensure the groom would not fail or get caught, he enlisted the help of groomsmen: gentlemen who intentionally endeared themselves to the bride in order to be the groom’s “inside men”. Accomplices if you will. The bride too, had her own battalion of women to help her: bridesmaids, who were to confuse the captor and protect the bride.
The hopless romantic in me is absolutely loving all this!
2. Standing Order:
When at the alter, the bride and groom usually stand on the right & left respectively. This is because, during the bride’s abduction, the groom would hold her in his left arm so that his right hand would be free to wield the sword and fight off his opposition.
3. Engagement & Wedding Rings:
The first people said to have given the diamond engagement rings were the ancient Italians who wanted to mark their betrothed before they fully possessed them. They chose diamonds as they believed like the stone, their union would be able to withstand a lot & still maintain it’s glory & lustre.
Wedding rings however were usually circular bands that symbolized eternity as a circle has no end. Wedding bands are worn on the third finger of the left hand because within the finger runs a vein that connects to the heart. The rings on the couple’s identical fingers represents that they now join their hearts and are bound by that union.
Wedding rings were made of iron as it was resilient and not expensive hence could be afforded by more people. If cracked or broke, it was a bad omen. Later more people adopted the fashion of using precious metals to make their wedding bands, especially gold, for their value. Some wedding bands are known to have both iron and gold to bring together the strength & beauty (respectively) to a marriage.
4. Wedding Dress:
The pristine white wedding gown was popularized by Queen Victoria who veered away from the norm of silver wedding gowns during their family weddings. Traditionally, wedding gowns are culture specific and the colors mean different things to different people. Muslims tend to get wed in green a lot while Anglo-saxons believed that a green gown depicted a wanton bride (as if she rolls in the grass a lot *wink wink*) while white is worn for mourning in some cultures and thus can never be worn during the wedding.
There are traditions and superstitions that warn against a bride making her own dress (I wonder if Amsale knew about this). More bridal gown superstitions include: having the last stitch done right before the wedding ceremony & never trying on the complete ensemble before the day of the wedding. This is more of a “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” superstition, one that is so upheld that brides are warned against using their marital names, even lightly, before the wedding. Apparently it’s safest to use your maiden name only when the marriage is pronounced! Bad-luck to do so prior.
They also say that bridesmaids are elaborately dressed in a bid to trick and confuse any evil spirit that may be sent to harm the bride. Bridesmaids = decoys!
Veiled brides were most common in arranged marriages whereby the groom was not allowed to see who he was making the life-long commitment until he agreed to the terms of marriage which was not supposed to be based on her aesthetics. The man then got to see his wife for the first time either by personally lifting the veil off of her face or by looking at a reflection of her face through a mirror the bride would hold under her veil. LOL I wonder if that still happens and if there were ever any shockers!
6. Wedding Kiss:
The newlyweds kiss after being announced as husband and wife. Marriage is a contract/promise and traditionally those were sealed with a kiss which was legally binding. Oh di fouf!!! Can you imagine having to kiss your CEO or HR after signing the employment contract? Thank Heavens it only applies to marriages nowadays. Others still, believe that kissing inter-changes (or is inter-locks?) the souls of the newlyweds thus making them one.
7. Something Old, Something New. . .
You know how it goes: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue & a silver sixpence in her shoe.” But do you know what it represents? Something old may either mean that both the bride and groom will still maintain the good relationships they had with their friends even through this new path they take in their lives. A different perspective is that something old actually refers to the garter from a woman who has been happily married gifted to the newlywed bride so that she may also enjoy the same. Something new is symbolic of the novelty of matrimony and the new path into the future as husband and wife. Something borrowed is usually bequeathed to the bride by her family as a symbol of love & remembrance as well as to offer their blessings. For the blessings to continue to flow through the generations, the gift has either to be returned after the wedding or handed down to a different generation later in life. This has perptuated the practice of giving family heirlooms to a new bride on her wedding day. Beautiful if you ask me. something blue represents luck, fidelity and prosperity. A sixpence coin was placed in the brides shoe to bless them with good fortune and wealth. To this day, some brides still uphold the practice by placing a silver coin in the shoe.
This is my absolute favorite part! A honeymoon usually took place after the kidnapping of the bride whereby the groom would take them into hiding in a secluded secret location where her people would not be able to find her. This practice is still honored by the man making honeymoon arrangements without revealing them to anyone (maybe just his betrothed).
The place was typically a romantic destination where the man would hope to seduce the woman into being with him without reluctance. He would employ all seduction techniques to arouse her enough to give herself up to him & they’d spend endless days & nights of passion. By the time they re-surfaced after the honeymoon, the bride would be pregnant & thus no opposition from her family would be able to break their matrimony. A pregnancy was also considered binding.
8. Stag Party & Hen Night:
These soirees were named after those very animals for good reason. A stag night is the all-male farewell-from-bachelorhood party a groom holds or is held for. It’s called “stag” because it’s the last time the man can be somewhere unaccompanied because he does not belong to anyone. A hen night is for the bride and it’s traditionally where other women would divulge the secrets and knowledge to maintaining a happy home- kind of like mother hen. don’t mistake it for some boring lecture as they also discuss ways to please your man & usually gift lingerie! A last hurrah for the bride and groom with their friends.
9. Garter/Bouquet Toss & Confetti Toss:
Long ago, newlywed brides used to throw their garters to the men as a “you can look but you can’t touch” tease of a gesture but sometimes some of the men would get drunk and disorderly and try to get the garter off her themselves! The groom then had to intervene & be the one to take it off & toss it to the men, sometimes having to distract them from this agitation by using his teeth! This is why it happens in the same fashion to date.
Over time, the bouquet a bride carried was thought to depict fertility & a beautifully blooming life so she would toss this to the unmarried women at a “passing-of-the-baton” to rub off some of the luck from the bride.
In addition, the groom is known to wear a boutonniere with a flower from the bridal bouquet to reflect the medieval practice of knights wearing their beloved’s colors as an open show of their loyal love.
Confetti (or nuts & grains in some instances) is tossed over the married couple as a gesture of well wishes. Confetti being tiny cut and in large volumes blesses them with “life’s little pleasures in abundance” while the grains are life-giving seeds and this constitutes a fertility rite.
10. Bride Price, Mahr, Dowery & Dower:
To most these terms are used interchangeably but they each hold distinct meanings. I for one, have been corrected in my use after my research. Bride price is the payment made to the bride’s parents/family for her hand in marriage. It’s agreed upon after negotiations by the groom’s family & the bride’s family. It is meant to compensate the family for whatever loss they may incur service-wise after she departs to her matrimonial home. Mahr, on the other hand, is the amount paid to the bride herself and not her family/parents. The bride herself negotiates the Mahr. Dowry, contrary to popular (and my) belief, is payable to the groom! Not the bride. The woman’s family pay dowry as an incentive to the groom not to treat his wife an an ill manner & to protect her from his family. Dowry is paid under the circumstances where woman from a wealthy background insists on getting wed to a “pauper”. The dowry is meant to ensure that the woman can still enjoy a certain level of luxury even when her man cannot provide it independently. Lastly, dower is a pledge by a man to his bride, payable after he dies & renders her a widow. This can be done during marriage negotiations or during the marriage itself. should the wife survive her husband, the dower elevates her to dowager status.The dower is specifically intended to ensure the proper maintenance of the widow in her provider’s absence.
Yes, I know, too much of will & Kate and Kim Kardashian but i can’t help it I adored the Royal Wedding & the Fairy-tale Wedding! *swooooooooon* gorgeous!!! I’m going to do some more reading on weddings especially Indian wedding rites as I find the walk around the sacred fire to be incredibly romantic! I will definitely incorporate it into my wedding Inshallah. Let’s see what else I find out. . .