Scotty and I will be celebrating our eleventh wedding anniversary on the 29th. These have really been good years full of travel, friends and laughter.
Ever wonder how weddings have come to be? Some say that modern weddings have little to do with religion but can actually be traced back to the practices of our ancient ancestors.
Marriage by capture is perhaps the oldest form of family formation. The ‘capture’ from a neighboring tribe was done by a zealous bridegroom stealing a bride. He hid her out from her family and friends until their tempers were under control. This was the first honeymoon. And you thought it was all moonlight and roses, didn’t you?
Many anthropologists believe that the bridegroom/thief took along some of his buddies to help him carry her off. These first ‘best man and ushers’ were really along to provide muscle instead of moral support. Often they tied the bride up and fled with her. Her tribesmen gave chase and threw all sorts of things like rocks and spears at the fleeing couple. The practice of tying shoes to the back of the honeymoon car may have come from an old English tradition of throwing shoes at the groom for taking the bride away. It reminds us of those objects thrown in anger.
In some cultures, the ties that bind brides symbolize the actual ropes around the early captive brides…. ropes around the waist, around the arms, and around the legs. The wedding ring became a more civilized view of how a couple should get together. The groom should ‘pay’ for her. The bride was still a piece of property, but now she was bought not stolen. Wedding rings often became a token of purchase.
Our custom of wearing the wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand probably came from the ancient Greeks.
Faulty dissections of the human body led them to believe that a particular vein called the ‘vena amoris’ led straight from that finger to the heart.
A modern American bride usually wears white to symbolize purity and chastity. The truth is that white symbolized Joy not abstinence. In Japan, it is the color of mourning. During the American Revolution, the popular color for brides to wear was red, symbolizing rebellion. Spanish peasant brides often wear black to their weddings, and green is the color to wear in Norway.
Although white originally stood for joy, not chastity, many cultures prize the virgin bride. In many countries, the workingman still has to pay more for the virgin bride than for a widow or divorcee. It wasn’t all that long ago when Arab fathers and brothers could actually slit the throat of a girl found to have had premarital intercourse.
Even though chastity was a pre-marital goal, reproduction became the goal after the wedding. The rice thrown is a fertility symbol as well as the wheat thrown in earlier cultures. The Jews of Morocco often throw raw eggs at the bride so that she will bear children as often and as easily as a hen.
Few cultures believe that a wedding is a time for simplicity. Many of the rich and famous go all out in their celebrations. In the 1800’s a wealthy plantation owner in Louisiana, put on a ceremony which might be the last word in excess. He ordered a shipload of spiders from China and released them in the trees that lined his mile long driveway. After the spiders had draped the trees with webs, he ordered hundreds of pounds of gold and silver dust from California to be blown into the lacy spider webs. This produced a sparkling canopy for the 2,000 quests.
So there you have it…..a little about wedding traditions. God bless you.