|I scanned this picture from one of my 1895 Harper's Magazines.|
The wedding ring...something every young girl dreams of wearing someday and something every young man wants to make sure he has the perfect one for his wife-to-be. Although I did see mention of prehistoric times, the ancient Romans seemed to be the first to use the wedding ring. Reeds, leather, ivory, iron, and gold were some of the early materials used. Gold became popular in medieval times and was sometimes fashioned with gems. Ruby and sapphire were both popular, but diamond was the favorite. They placed the ring on the same finger we place it on today, the 'ring finger' on the left hand, because they believed the heart was on the left side. They also believed that the third finger held the 'Vena Amoris or the 'Vein of Love' which went directly to the heart. Okay all you romantics say 'awe'.
The bridal bouquet. It seems we can't get married without one these days even if it is just wildflowers. I know when I was a little girl and we pretended to be brides, we may not have had a wedding dress, or a ring, or even a groom, but we always had a bouquet! The bouquets in ancient times were filled with herbs and spices. These were believed to be strong smelling and would ward off evil spirits and would protect from illness and bad luck.
Which brings us to the throwing of the bridal bouquet. The bride was considered lucky on her wedding day and because of that everyone wanted a piece of her luck. If a person could get a fragment of the bride's dress they would obtain some of that good fortune. The brides dress would end in tatters. The bride began throwing her bouquet for the crowd as she made her escape.
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of giving the bride away came from? Think arranged marriages. Daughters were considered the property of their father. When a young woman married, her father actually 'gave' her to the man marrying her and from that moment on she became the property of her husband. Hey ladies, we've come a long way baby!
My niece asked me to find out about the tradition of keeping the small cake that sits on top of the wedding cake and the couple eats on there anniversary. But in the process I discovered that the wedding cake came out of medieval times. The cakes were stacked as high as possible and if the bride and groom could still kiss over them they would have a prosperous life. In the 17th century in England they baked a glass ring into the bride pie and who ever found the ring would be the next to marry. It was also considered rude not to eat a piece of the bride pie. The tradition of the bridal pie and glass ring have disappeared but I thought it an interesting tidbit you'd enjoy. There are many different traditions for the bridal cake, depending on country and time period. So I will stop here, but not before saying I didn't find where the saving of the top cake for the first anniversary came from. But it did occur to me that it couldn't be a tradition terribly old since the cake has to be frozen in order to preserve it.
Superstition brings on many a tradition. Bridesmaids came about to fool evil spirits. Centuries ago the bride's friends would dress like the bride to confuse malicious spirits that might be prowling around. So I was wondering what if there was an identical twin dressed as her bride-to-be sister...couldn't she have fun? ;o)
Throwing of rice came about in ancient times. People brought rice or grain to shower on the newlyweds to wish them a fruitful and prosperous union. We don't throw rice much these days because of people slipping and getting injured, and I understand that even birdseed has been banned from some wedding places! Poor birds! Today flower petals, herbs, biodegradable confetti, and reusable pom poms are given to guests to throw. I'm trying to figure out what these things might represent. Anyone want to take a stab at it?
I can't end this post without the one little rhyme we all know which tells the bride what she needs to have for her wedding day.
And a sixpence in your shoe.
This rhyming tradition comes from the later half of the 19th century. The something old is the brides connection to past friends and family. The something new represents optimism for the future. Something borrowed is for happiness for the bride. The idea is that she would borrow happiness from a happily wedded woman. Something blue is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity. The sixpence is a wish for prosperity and good fortune.
I hope you've enjoyed learning about the wedding traditions. The next time your at a wedding you can lean over to your husband and say, "Do you know why they do that?"
I'm giving away a new two-disc set of LifeWay Women Devotions with Beth Moore, Kelly Minter, and Priscilla Shirer and more. Tell me some wedding traditions you know of or maybe one you'd like to know the meaning of to be entered. I'll draw the winner on June 14th. Don't forget to leave your email address to be entered.
Debbie Lynne Costello is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She attended Heritage University, where she studied Journalism and worked in the editing department.
Her stories are set mostly in Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA during the late 19th century.