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Rev. John Bostock.
Member of the National
Association of Wedding Ministers
Seeing an open grave, pig, or lizard on the way to the ceremony, or
hearing a crow after dawn on the morning of the wedding are all thought
to be omens of bad luck. Catching a glimpse of a monk or a nun is
also thought to be a omen of misfortune because of their association
with poverty and chastity.
BEST MAN TRADITION
Among the Germanic Goths of northern Europe in 200 A.D., a man
usually married a woman from within his own community. However,
were fewer women, the prospective bridegroom would capture his bride
from a neighboring village. The bridegroom was accompanied by his
strongest friend (or best friend), who helped him capture his
This term has many origins from different cultures. In Anglo-Saxon
times, the groom had the help of "bridesmen" or "brideknights" to
help him capture and/or escort his bride. Later they would make sure
that the bride got to the church and to the groom's home afterwards.
The women who accompanied and assisted the bride were called "bridesmaids" or "brideswomen".
Bridal showers were meant to strengthen the ties between the bride
and her friends, provide her moral support, and help her prepare
for her marriage. Gift giving at showers dates from the 1890's.
The tradition of bridesmaids dressing the same as each other and
in similar style to the bride comes from ancient days when it was
that evil spirits have a more difficult time distinguishing which
one is the bride and putting a hex on her.
In the 1st. century B.C. in Rome, the cake was thrown at the bride
or broken over her head as one of the many fertility symbols
which then were a part of the marriage ceremony. Cutting the
cake together, still a predominant ritual at weddings, symbolizes
couple's unity, their shared future, and their life together
as one. The three
tiered cake is believed to have been inspired by the spire of
Saint Bride's Church in London, England.
CARRYING THE BRIDE
OVER THE THRESHOLD
Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first
time through the front door. If she tripped or stumbled while
it was considered
to be very bad luck. Hence the tradition of the groom carrying
the bride over the threshold.
DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING
The diamond engagement ring originated with King Maximillian who presented
Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in 1477 as a token of his love.
The Venetians Popularized
the custom during the 15th. century. Since the diamond was the hardest
and most enduring substance in nature it
followed that the engagement and marriage would endure forever.
As civilizations developed, political, military, and economic ties
became very important to prominent families and clans. Arranged marriages
were a means of cementing ties between families, middle class family
businesses, and countries. A man's daughters, who were considered
to be his property in those days, provided a means of securing
alliances with other families. Thus dowries were introduced as a
means attracting and securing the most beneficial family alliances
In 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas I decreed that an engagement ring become
a required statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that engagement
rings had to be made of gold which signified a financial sacrifice
on the part of the prospective husband.
From the earliest times, brides have adorned their hair with flowers
and carried bunches of flowers. Traditionally, each type of flower
had a special meaning and significance in and of itself. Flowers
were often thrown at the couple after the ceremony. However today,
most brides pick their flowers for color and personal appeal not
based on the traditional meaning of particular flowers.
The groom's flower, worn on his lapel, usually matches one of the
flowers in his bride's bouquet. This tradition goes back to medieval
times when knights wore the colors of their lady in tournaments.
GARTER AND BRIDAL BOUQUET TOSS
In parts of Europe during the 14th contrary, having a piece of the
bride's clothing was thought to bring good luck. Guests would literally
destroy the brides dress by ripping off pieces of fabric. In order
to prevent this, brides began throwing various items to the guests
- the garter belt being one of the items.
In order to avoid
this problem, it became customary in the 14th century for the bride
to toss her garter to the men. Sometimes the men would
get drunk, become impatient, and try to remove the garter ahead of
time. Therefore, the custom evolved for the groom to remove and toss
the garter. With that change the bride started to toss the bridal bouquet
to the unwed girls of marriageable age. Tradition says that whoever
catches the bouquet shall be the next to marry. She keeps the bouquet
to ensure this destiny.
Seeing a lamb, frog, spider, black cat, or rainbows on the way
to the ceremony is believed to be a sign of good luck!
The tradition of a "Groom's Cake" comes from England and
Ireland. There, the traditional groom's cake is a fruit cake with white
icing. The groom's cake is usually served along with the traditional
wedding cake. Today groom's cakes are very often chocolate instead
of the traditional fruit cake.
After "kidnapping" his bride, the groom would take her and
go into hiding. By the time the bride's family tracked them down,
the bride would probably already be pregnant! A "bride price" would
then be negotiated.
An earlier source is the early Jewish custom of the bride and groom
spending a week together alone immediately after the marriage feast.
The earliest reference to this practice is Jacob's marriages to Leah
KISS THE BRIDE
T he kiss dates back to the earliest days of civilization in the Middle
East. A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts,
etc. In Ancient Rome a kiss was still being used as the legal bold
to seal contracts. Hence the obvious use of the custom at the end
of the wedding ceremony to "seal" the marriage vows. It
also originates from the earliest times when the couple would actually
make love for the first time under the eyes of half the village!
It was the largest mass wedding in history, when nearly 21,000
couples from the Moonie cult all got married on the same day.
The event was also 'attended'
by another 9,800 couples who took their vows via a satellite link.
Sir Temulji Nariman and his wife Lady Nariman were hitched for
a grand total of 86 years, although they did have a distinct
advantage over most people.
Both were aged just five when they got married.
Of course, it's a sad fact that not all marriages last. But some people
really do seem to make a habit of getting divorced. The person who
is credited with being married the most times is former Baptist minister
Glynn Scotty Wolfe, who has taken on 28 brides - and divorced 27
Wedding dresses can make a major dent in your budget, but however
much you spend it will be nothing compared to the outfit created
designer Helene Gainville. Estimated to be worth a cool £3.5
million, the dress is embroidered with diamonds mounted on platinum.
Not the sort of thing you would want to put in the attic after the
The oldest recorded bride was Minnie Munro, who got hitched at
a sprightly 102 years of age. Minnie, from Australia, wed a
of 82. Britain's
oldest recorded bride was just one day off her 100th birthday when
she took her vows with a man nearly 20 years her junior. Apparently
the age gap was not thought to be a problem for them.
Playing pranks on the newlywed couple was also a tradition, which
began with the intentions of warding off evil spirits. Loyal
friends of the
couple would do this in hopes that the spirits would take pity
on the couple for already being picked upon enough, and would
Rice has been used as a symbol of fertility and as a wish for
pantry" in various parts of the world from ancient to modern times.
In the past, rice was not the only thing thrown at the bride and groom
as the left the wedding. Wheat, instead of rice, was thrown in France,
figs and dates were thrown in Northern Africa, and a combination of
coins, dried fruit, and candy was thrown in Italy. In some European
countries eggs are thrown!
Rice is not harmful to the birds that eat it, but an article in California
professing this to be the case, has caused birdseed to replace rice
at most weddings. Flower petals, confetti, baubles, and balloons are
often used today instead of rice.
Rings were used as currency in the Middle East prior to the advent
of coinage and were a sign of a persons wealth. In ancient times
the wedding ring was thought to protected the bride from "evil
spirits". Ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron.
early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and
commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with
two clasped hands.
Very early rings had a carved key through which a woman was thought
to be able to open her husband's heart.
In 3rd. century Greece the ring finger was the index finger.
In India it was the thumb. The western tradition began
with the Greeks who believed
that the third finger was connected directly to the heart by a route
that was called "the vein of love."
In almost half of U.S. weddings either the bride or groom
has been married previously.
This tradition originated in England during the Tudor period.
At that time, guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom
in their carriage. It was considered good luck if their carriage
was hit. Today, more often than not, it is beverage cans that
to a couples car instead of shoes. It should also be noted that
the English consider it good luck if it rains on their wedding
In Sparta, during the height of Greek civilization, soldiers were the
first to hold stag parties. The groom would have a party for his friends
the night before he was to marry. He would bid farewell to his bachelorhood
and pledge his continued allegiance to his comrades.
In early times, for Christians, Sunday was the original day of choice
for weddings because it was not a work day. The Puritan revolution
in England during the 17th century changed all that - because the
Puritans thought it improper to be festive on the Sabbath. Saturday is now the traditional day.
SOMETHING "OLD", "NEW", "BORROWED", AND "BLUE"
The tradition of carrying one or more items that are "old", "new", "borrowed" and "blue" also
comes from English. There is an old English rhyme describing the practice
which also mentions a sixpence in the brides shoe. Something old, signifying
continuity, could be a piece of lace, jewelry, or a grandmother's handkerchief.
Something new, signifying optimism in the future, could be an article
of clothing or the wedding rings. Something borrowed, signifying future
happiness, could be handkerchief from a happily married relative or
friend. Something blue, signifying modesty, fidelity and love, comes
from early Jewish history. In early Biblical times, blue not white
symbolized purity. Both the bride and groom usually wore a band of
blue material around the bottom of their wedding attire, hence the
tradition of "something blue". Originally the sixpence was
presented to the bride by her future husband as a token of his love.
Today, very often, it is the bride's father who places a coin in the
brides shoe prior to leaving home for the church.
TIE THE KNOT"
The term "tie the knot" also goes back Roman times. the bride
would wear a girdle that was tied in many knots which the groom had
the "duty" of untying. Also in Celtic weddings, the bride and grooms hands are tied together during the ceremony usually with a piece of cloth of the grooms clan tartan. This practice carries on to this day.
The term originates from the sixteenth century. At that time
a small piece of bread would be placed in a goblet of
wine. The goblet would
be passed from guest to guest until it reached the person being honored
who would drain the goblet and eat the morsel of bread in the bottom.
This tradition is practiced at weddings today - usually in the form
of one or more champagne "toasts". The best man has the honor
of giving the first toast. Usually the bride and groom remain seated
for the toasts while all the guests are usually standing to honor them.
The couple may then make a few remarks thanking their families, wedding
party members, and guests. They may also "toast" each other
or share a "toast" together. Often special glass or silver
goblets are used by the bride and groom.
The tradition of tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed's vehicle
originated long ago when items which would produce noise were tied
to the back of the couple's carriage to scare away evil spirits.
Brightly colored veils were worn in ancient times in many parts of
the world and were considered a protection against evil spirits Greek
and Roman brides for yellow or red veils (representing fire) to ward
off evil spirits and demons. At one time, Roman brides were completely
covered with a red veil for protection.
In early European history, with the advent of arranged marriages veils
served another purpose - to prevent the groom from seeing the brides'
face till after the ceremony was over. Brides began to wear opaque
yellow veils. Not only could the groom not see in, the bride could
not see out! Therefore, the father of the bride had to escort her down
the aisle and literally give the bride to the groom.
Nellie Custis, the daughter of Martha Washington, is credited with
wearing the first lace veil.
Today, prior to a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is the
groom who ritually "veils
the bride". This tradition goes back to the marriage of Jacob
to Leah (the older sister) when he thought he was marrying Rachel (the
younger sister) whom he loved.
WEARING A WEDDING RING
The reason that the engagement ring and wedding band is worn on the
third finger of the left hand is because the ancient Egyptians thought
that the "vein of love' ran from this finger directly to the
WEDDING AS A TERM
Although some brides were kidnapped, marriage by purchase was the preferred
method of obtaining a wife. The "bride price" could be
land, social status, political alliances, or cash. The Anglo-Saxon
word "wed" meant that the groom would vow to marry the
woman, but it also referred to the bride price (money or barter)
to be paid by the groom to the bride's father. The root of the word "wedding" literally
means to gamble or wager!
WHITE WEDDING DRESS AS TRADITION
The tradition for the bride to wear white began in the 16th century
and is still commonly followed today. This is a symbol of the bride's
purity and her worthiness of her groom. The tradition became solidified
during the time of Queen Victoria who rebelled against the royal
tradition for Royal brides to wear silver. Instead, the queen preferred
the symbolism, which is expressed by wearing white. The brides of
the time quickly emulated the queen, and the tradition has continued
in full force to this day.
WHY THE BRIDE
STANDS TO THE GROOMS LEFT
After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left
to protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against
sudden attack. Also the best man would stand on the grooms right as his right hand man, after the pronouncement, the groom and bride turn around to face the guests, the bride is then on the grooms right to become his new right hand man.
IT BECAME "BAD LUCK" FOR THE GROOM TO
SEE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Rev. John Bostock would like to thank the National Association of Wedding Ministers for some of the above information.
Until relatively recently, brides were considered the property of their
father. Their futures and husbands were arranged without their consent.
The marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective
groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their
prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom saw his
future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the day
of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar.
To prevent this from happening, it became "bad luck" for
the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.