Wedding Traditions And Folklore
By Wanda Lou Willis
Several wedding customs observed today are merely echoes of the past. Though the specific meanings and origins may be lost, old world customs are a part of our marriage customs because they are traditional and ritualistic.
The engagement ring represents a binding contract. Some engagement rings had six birthstones representing the joining of the two families.
“Regards” or “Dearest” engagement rings became fashionable in the Victorian era. The first letter of the precious gems spelled out “Regards” or “Dearest.” I.e.; Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond, and Sapphire.
The use of diamonds in rings goes back to the Romans who valued them entirely based on their belief in its supernatural powers. The wearer is protected from poisoning, insanity and evil while attracting good fortune. Not until the mid 20th century did diamond engagement rings gain the popularity they have today. This is due to a campaign launched by De Beers diamond importers that also included one of the most famous and enduring advertising slogans: “A Diamond is Forever.”
Engagement and wedding rings are worn on the third finger of the left hand. Ancient Romans believed that the vein in this finger went directly to the heart.
The wedding ring symbolizes eternal love and lasting marriage. During the Tudor period, it was the practice to engrave inside the ring the couple’s initials and date along with a motto. Whole books were devoted to these mottos such as; “In thee a flame; In me the same” or “Not two but one; Till life be done”
The tradition of the bridal shower has its roots in Europe. The father of the bride provided a dowry, or trousseau, representing the bride’s worth to the marriage. If the father did not or could not provide the dowry, her friends would “shower” her with gifts. While providing a dowry no longer exists giving gifts to the bride-to-be remains.
Queen Victoria chose white for her wedding gown instead of silver, which was the traditional color of Royal brides. White, representing purity, became the traditional color of bridal gown. Before the white dress, brides wore their best dress of any color. The color trend for 2008 wedding gowns range from shades of yellow, orange, red, and silver with the attendants wearing brighter shades.
Folklore belief held that brides were particularly vulnerable to evil spirits and many of the customs and traditions associated with weddings are to provide protection. The veil was used to disguise the bride and outwit malevolent spirits. Today it is associated with modesty and chastity.
Today the use of bridesmaids, groomsmen and best men is a way for close friends to be an intimate part of the special day. In the past, they protected the couple from jealous suitors. In addition, according to folkloric belief, the bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed in outfits identical to the couple in order to confuse evil spirits and disgruntled suitors. The best man was the groom’s personal well-armed bodyguard remaining at his side throughout the marriage ceremony. The bride’s place to the groom’s left was for her protection. His right hand was free to use for defense.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue dates to Victorian times. Today’s brides still follow this good luck saying. They may choose to wear a piece of antique jewelry. New represents good fortune and success. The wedding gown is considered the new item. Borrowing is to remind the bride that friends and family will always be there for her. The object is usually a lace handkerchief. Blue object, symbolizes faithfulness and loyalty is the garter.
Much folklore is associated with the bridal bouquet. For good luck the bride would include in her bouquet either heather, rosemary, lavender, or ivy. In Elizabethan England a bride would tuck garlic and onion among her flowers to frighten off evil spirits. A bride and her attendant walking up the aisle strew with rose petals is a lovely tradition symbolizing that the bride’s path trough life would be like “a bed of roses” a life of ease and grace. Tossing the bouquet and garter is believed to bring good luck. Whoever catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next to marry. The garter, removed by the groom from his bride’s leg, is tossed to the single men and whoever catches it will be the next to marry.
When the happy couple leaves the church guest tossed rice; however, today they might blow bubbles or toss rose petals. It has been the custom to tie shoes to the back of the carriage or car as the couple left for their honeymoon. This once was a symbol that the father was transferring his authority to her husband and that she could not runway. Cans tied to the bumper, horns honking any and all noise making is a folklore carry over that the noise would scare evil spirits.
At one time European weddings were held under the full moon. After the ceremony the bride and groom would drink honey wine for one full moon cycle, thirty days or one month which became known as the “honey moon.” Today, a honeymoon is a vacation to a romantic get-away.