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June 19th, 2002

Here Comes the Bride

Where did those pesky wedding traditions come from?

 
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Summer’s here and weddings abound. While there’s nothing wrong with love, there’s plenty amiss with weddings. It’s a pressure cooker. Bride and groom are attacked with advice and guided towards pricey options. Money vanishes. Fights brew. It’s no surprise why couples elope.

Still, weddings are rituals and most couples follow the rules: the traditions. But what are wedding traditions and where did they come from? Are they real traditions or are they just money-grabs by the enormous wedding industry – Let’s take a look at a few.

Satin and silk
Hold on to your lace: the white dresshas only been a fixture at weddings for two hundred years. Before the nineteenth century, women wore light blue, silver, or green dresses; white, after all, was the color of mourning. Indeed, light blue was deemed the color of purity (remember Mary?) and is why brides are supposed to wear “something blue” to the ceremony.

The white dress came into vogue after England’s Queen Victoria broke the tradition of her day and wore white. It was an act of extreme wealth: women of modest means would never have worn a white dress as it would be easily dirtied before they could wear it again.

Nice rock
While engagement rings have been around since the Middle Ages, the diamond engagement ring only become fashionable in the fifteeenth century, when an Austrian Archduke gave one to his fiance. At the time, it was considered bad luck to give a diamond engagement ring as the diamond broke the flow of the ring and, hence, the endless love the ring symbolized.

Nevertheless, a diamond engagement ring was a nice down payment?proof that a man could properly afford his bride. Nowadays, De Beers has successfully convinced young couples to blow two-months salary on a rock and many do. It’s a controversial choice: diamonds fuel many African wars.

Father-daughter stroll
For those of us in the Western world fortunate enough not to be sold to our spouses, the act of walking down the aisle on Dad’s arm is one of father-daughter affection. The tradition, however, is a direct leftover from the time when women were always considered to be the property of a man, usually father or husband. When a father handed the bride to her fianc?, he handed her over to her new owner.

Take me to Jamaica
While the concept of a honeymoon is swell, its origins are dubious – if not debatable . According to one legend, a Norse wedding involved a man kidnapping a woman and taking her into hiding – known as ‘hjunottsmanathr’. His buddies would protect him from her searching family and thereby allow the groom sufficient time to repeatedly rape his new wife. When the young woman was pregnant or her family had stopped looking, the couple would return.

Given the relative emptiness of certain wedding traditions, it is important for couples to realize they don’t have to incorporate all into their ceremony. I didn’t. But people sometimes have the idea that certain traditions are required by church, state, society, or their families. Maybe and maybe not. For a Catholic wedding all that you really have to have is a man, woman, two witnesses, a minister (usually priest or deacon), Bible readings, a blessing, and a vow of eternity. Everything else is window dressing.

A wedding is too an important an event to plan without thought?to just stay the course. Do your research. Make your wedding meaningful.

 
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The Author : Sue Birnie
Sue Birnie writes from Ontario in Canada.
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