Category Archives: Wedding facts and fiction

Wedding Traditions

Have you ever wondered where the quirky little sayings and actions relating to weddings come from? As I do my research on getting married in Russell and the Bay of Islands, I am forever intrigued what I find out. There are of course many explanations to these traditions and a lot are traced back from historical evidence but according to my Dad, many are also classified as being ‘an old wives tale’ ….. I disagree Dad!

Please enjoy this list of ‘Wedding Lore & Traditions’ by Elizabeth Olson..

Giving Away the Bride

The tradition of the father giving away his daughter has its roots in the days of arranged marriages. Daughters in those times were considered their father’s property. It was the father’s right to give his child to the groom, usually for a price. Today a father giving away his daughter is a symbol of his blessing of the marriage.

Tossing the Bouquet

Tossing the bouquet is a tradition that stems from England. Women used to try to rip pieces of the Jules Russell Churchbride’s dress and flowers in order to obtain some of her good luck. To escape from the crowd the bride would toss her bouquet and run away. Today the bouquet is tossed to single women with the belief that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.

The Wedding Ring

The wedding ring has been worn on the third finger of the left hand since Roman times. The Romans believed that the vein in that finger runs directly to the heart. The wedding ring is a never-ending circle, which symbolizes everlasting love.

Wearing a white wedding gown

Jules bikini runPrior to the 16th century this most important Western European Wedding tradition was not common. To this day a traditional Irish bride often wears a blue wedding dress, rather than a white one. This is because blue symbolized purity in ancient times. It wasn’t until the year 1499 that a white wedding dress began to symbolize virginity and purity when Ann of Brittany popularized the white wedding dress and the tradition became part of Western European wedding culture.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Sixpence in Your Shoe

“Something old” represents the bride’s link to her family and the past. The bride may choose to wear a piece of family jewellery or her mother or grandmother’s wedding gown. “Something new” represents hope for good fortune and success in the future. The bride often chooses the wedding gown to represent the new item. “Something borrowed” usually comes from a happily married woman and is thought to lend some of her good fortune and joy to the new bride. “Something blue” is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity of the bride. A sixpence in her shoe is to wish the bride wealth in her future life.

The Best Man

In ancient times, men sometimes captured women to make them their brides. A man would take along his strongest and most trusted friend to help him fight resistance from the woman’s family. This friend, therefore, was considered the best man among his friends. In Anglo-Saxon England, the best man accompanied the groom up the aisle to help defend the bride.

Bride on Groom’s Left

Because grooms in Anglo-Saxon England often had to defend their brides, the bride would stand to the left of her groom so that his sword arm was free.

The Tiered Wedding Cake

The origin of the tiered wedding cake also lies in Anglo-Saxon times. Guests would bring small cakes to the wedding and stack them on top of each other. Later, a clever French baker created a cake in the shape of the small cakes and covered it in frosting. It is now known as the tiered cake.
Read more: Wedding Lore and Traditions | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/weddinglore1.html#ixzz2MX17Xjol

Bay of Islands Wedding History – The Origins of Marriage

I have always been interested in marriage and the whole ceremonial institution. So when I became a celebrant in Russell and the Bay of Islands I decided to do some research. Here is a great article on the origins of marriage from The Week Magazine.

How old is the institution of Marriage?
The best available evidence suggests that it’s about 4,350 years old. For thousands of years before that, most anthropologists believe, families consisted of loosely organized groups of as many as 30 people, with several male leaders, multiple women shared by them, and children. As hunter-gatherers settled down into agrarian civilizations, society had a need for more stable arrangements. The first recorded evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting one woman and one man dates from about 2350 B.C., in Mesopotamia. Over the next several hundred years, marriage evolved into a widespread institution embraced by the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. But back then, marriage had little to do with love or with religion.

What was it about, then?
Marriage’s primary purpose was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man’s children were truly his biological heirs. Through marriage, a woman became a man’s property. In the betrothal ceremony of ancient Greece, a father would hand over his daughter with these words: “I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring.” Among the ancient Hebrews, men were free to take several wives; married Greeks and Romans were free to satisfy their sexual urges with concubines, prostitutes, and even teenage male lovers, while their wives were required to stay home and tend to the household. If wives failed to produce offspring, their husbands could give them back and marry someone else.

When did religion become involved?
As the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful institution in Europe, the blessings of a priest became a necessary step for a marriage to be legally recognized. By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God’s grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.

Did this change the nature of marriage?
Church blessings did improve the lot of wives. Men were taught to show greater respect for their wives, and forbidden from divorcing them. Christian doctrine declared that “the twain shall be one flesh,” giving husband and wife exclusive access to each other’s body. This put new pressure on men to remain sexually faithful. But the church still held that men were the head of families, with their wives deferring to their wishes.

When did love enter the picture?
Later than you might think. For much of human history, couples were brought together for practical reasons, not because they fell in love. In time, of course, many marriage partners came to feel deep mutual love and devotion. But the idea of romantic love, as a motivating force for marriage, only goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Naturally, many scholars believe the concept was “invented” by the French. Its model was the knight who felt intense love for someone else’s wife, as in the case of Sir Lancelot and King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. Twelfth-century advice literature told men to woo the object of their desire by praising her eyes, hair, and lips. In the 13th century, Richard de Fournival, physician to the king of France, wrote “Advice on Love,” in which he suggested that a woman cast her love flirtatious glances—“anything but a frank and open entreaty.”

Did love change marriage?
It sure did. Marilyn Yalom, a Stanford historian and author of A History of the Wife, credits the concept of romantic love with giving women greater leverage in what had been a largely pragmatic transaction. Wives no longer existed solely to serve men. The romantic prince, in fact, sought to serve the woman he loved. Still, the notion that the husband “owned” the wife continued to hold sway for centuries. When colonists first came to America—at a time when polygamy was still accepted in most parts of the world—the husband’s dominance was officially recognized under a legal doctrine called “coverture,” under which the new bride’s identity was absorbed into his. The bride gave up her name to symbolize the surrendering of her identity, and the husband suddenly became more important, as the official public representative of two people, not one. The rules were so strict that any American woman who married a foreigner immediately lost her citizenship.

How did this tradition change?
Women won the right to vote. When that happened, in 1920, the institution of marriage began a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, each union consisted of two full citizens, although tradition dictated that the husband still ruled the home. By the late 1960s, state laws forbidding interracial marriage had been thrown out, and the last states had dropped laws against the use of birth control. By the 1970s, the law finally recognized the concept of marital rape, which up to that point was inconceivable, as the husband “owned” his wife’s sexuality. “The idea that marriage is a private relationship for the fulfillment of two individuals is really very new,” said historian Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. “Within the past 40 years, marriage has changed more than in the last 5,000.”

Men who married men
Gay marriage is rare in history—but not unknown. The Roman emperor Nero, who ruled from A.D. 54 to 68, twice married men in formal wedding ceremonies, and forced the Imperial Court to treat them as his wives. In second- and third-century Rome, homosexual weddings became common enough that it worried the social commentator Juvenal, says Marilyn Yalom in A History of the Wife. “Look—a man of family and fortune—being wed to a man!” Juvenal wrote. “Such things, before we’re very much older, will be done in public.” He mocked such unions, saying that male “brides” would never be able to “hold their husbands by having a baby.” The Romans outlawed formal homosexual unions in the year 342. But Yale history professor John Boswell says he’s found scattered evidence of homosexual unions after that time, including some that were recognized by Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. In one 13th-century Greek Orthodox ceremony, the “Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union,” the celebrant asked God to grant the participants “grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints.”

source:theweekmagazine.com