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Etiquette & TraditionsSomething Old Something New - Wedding Traditions and Beliefs
Getting married? Take a look at some of the wedding traditions and beliefs many of which still exist today. What were their origins and meanings. This light hearted article explores some of them in detail.
The Wedding Ring
A ring has always been part of the wedding ceremony , even if it was only loaned for the day! The ring represented the original 'pledge' and was placed on the fourth finger of the bride's left hand in the presence of a priest and a congregation. The fourth finger of the left hand was thought to be the most suitable for a plain gold because they believed a vein ran from it directly to the heart!
The Engagement Ring
Originally an engagement ring served as a payment for the right to court a bride! It was originally placed on the fourth finger of the girl's right hand. On the wedding day it was transferred to the fourth finger of her left hand by the bridegroom. The same ring, therefore, served for betrothal and wedding.
However the Marriage Act of 1754 ended the binding nature of betrothals and the engagements that replaced them were a less serious affair. The plain gold band was replaced with a more elaborate ring containing precious or semi-precious stones.
The Wedding Veil
The veil very often represents the 'something borrowed' of the bride today. An old veil is thought to be luckier than a new one especially if it is worn by a happily married close relative. It is interesting to note that Royal brides do not arrive veiled at church. Some speculate that this tradition derives from a time when precautions had to be taken against any last minute substitutions!
The Bride's Garter
Hundreds of years ago, it was common practice for the guests to follow the wedding couple to their bed! Over the years the tradition started getting out of hand with some of the guests trying to actually disrobe the bride. To ward off these over zealous guests, the groom would throw the garter.
The Wedding Dress
The tradition of wearing a white wedding dress gained popularity in the Victorian Age. Queen Victoria wore a beautiful white dress to marry her beloved Alfred, and it started a world-wide trend. Prior to that most women wore their best dress - even if that dress was black! Whatever the color, numerous superstitions attach to the wedding dress. It is unlucky to try it on in its entirety before it is worn for the wedding. For this reason a few stitches are often left to be added at the last minute. Above all the bride must not look at herself in the mirror in full dress until shortly before she leaves for the church.
"Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue"This is arguably the best known of all wedding rhymes and faithfully observed by most brides today. It is actually relatively new having originated in early Victorian days. It symbolizes the bride's old life and the new one on which she is now embarking. An antique piece of jewelery is an excellent idea for the something 'old'.
'Something borrowed' symbolizes the community aspect of marriage. Blue is the color of true religion and constancy. It may also account for the popularity of jewelery set with sapphires, blue topaz and aquamarines.
The Bouquet Toss
"Whoever catches the bouquet is the next one to wed". This is wedding etiquette and tradition that is still believed by many to this day!
A symbol of fertility.
It has been claimed that in medieval times, the bride and groom were given mead - a type of honey wine - in the evening after the wedding. It was said that the couple would drink of it and then make love. If, as a result, the bride gave birth nine months after the wedding it was a great honor to the brewer of the mead! It would increase his business and reputation, and often the baby would actually be named after him.
The Top-tier of the Wedding Cake
In the days of old, the top-tier of the wedding cake was to be placed under the couple's bed so that the bride would be fertile and bear strong children. After a year, the bride and groom would consume what was left of the cake for luck or health. Needless to say, the tradition has changed somewhat in recent years, but you still find the newlyweds putting cake in their freezer till the first anniversary.
Over the Threshold
The tradition of carrying the bride over the doorpost comes from as far back as the ancient Romans. It was tradition for the family to anoint the doorpost with fine oil and herbs. For this reason the groom would lift the bride over the threshold so she would not slip.
And finally I leave you with the words of the great author George Bernard Shaw who summed up the popularity of marriage rather succinctly by saying:
"Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity" - George Bernard Shaw
Paul G Wright