Startling Origins of Wedding Traditions

Since the month of June just rolled in, let’s talk about weddings.

Few weeks ago I was asked to emcee a wedding reception. Actually, my daughter (now 21) and I were the emcees and I really enjoyed the experience. I have done emceeing for same kind as well as other events before, but this was the first time I shared the task with my daughter. We got compliments in doing the gig, so maybe next time we should charge a fee for our services.

In preparation for the job we did some research of some of the common wedding traditions and its origins. What we found about these traditions were really fascinating and some even shocking. I’ll share some of them here:

Wedding veil. This wedding tradition dates back to the days when the marriages were pre-arranged. Well, I understand that arranged marriages exist up to this day. Traditionally, the bride’s family or perhaps also the groom’s family would not allow the groom to see his bride until the day of the wedding. This is because if he didn’t like her looks, there was a chance that he might not agree to marry her. Thus, the veil was used to conceal the bride’s appearance up until the time the groom raises the veil after the ceremony. I can only imagine how many grooms got surprised or perhaps even horrified on their wedding day.

Bridesmaids. It is now customary to have bridesmaids to be part of the wedding entourage. They usually wear matching outfits that are similar or closely similar to the bride’s. According to the tradition and superstition, the reason there were bridesmaids that were garb with same clothes as the bride was to confuse the evil spirits and prevent them from finding the bride and thus spare her harm. I wonder if during those days when the bride blends with her bridesmaids, did that confused the groom too?

Bestman. The groom usually picks his closest friend or a brother to be his bestman. However centuries ago, men resort to stealing or kidnapping their bride-to-be from their family if they disapprove of him. So the groom chooses his “best man” to protect him and his bride from the pursuing family. They are called best man for a reason, as they are the best swordsman or the best warrior. And so you thought their job was just to secure the wedding rings.

Bride and Groom’s position. It is by tradition that the bride stands at the left side of the groom during the wedding ceremony. So when they face the congregation, the bride is on the right and the groom is on the left from the perspective of the audience. I heard that the reason for this is because the bride should be always right. I am not arguing that, because my wife tells me so. However, the real reason for the tradition again dates back centuries ago, when duels can ensue during the wedding. The bride is on the left side of the groom so his right arm is free to hold a sword in case there is a fight.

Ring on the left hand’s fourth finger. Do you even wonder why we put our wedding band on the left fourth finger? The reason we put the ring here is because the Romans believe that there is an artery in this finger that connects directly straight to the heart. However, anatomically that does not exist. It’s a myth. If I can suggest it should be worn on the middle finger. So when somebody annoyingly flirts with you, you can flash your middle finger with your wedding band on it, to tell them to back off.

Bride’s flower bouquet. At the recent wedding that we emceed for, the ceremony was delayed as the bouquet of flowers was delivered late. So we have to wait for several minutes until the flowers arrived. Obviously the ceremony is not complete nowadays without it. However in the olden times, the bride carry a bouquet for a more practical reason. During the time of the Bubonic Plague in Europe where millions of people die, the bride carry a bouquet of garlic and herbs to cover up the stench of death around them. It was also thought that the bouquet of herbs or flowers can ward the evil spirits.

Bouquet toss. It is now a tradition that the bride will toss her bouquet of flowers to the gathered single ladies. The one who caught the bouquet is thought to be the next in line to be wed. However that was not the purpose the bride throw away the bouquet centuries ago. During those days, the crowd could be so envious of the bride that they would attack her, tore up her clothes and grab her bouquet. So the bride would purposely toss the bouquet to the crowd to prevent her from being assaulted. What a mean crowd.

That’s all for now folks. Do you know of other wedding traditions with bizarre ancient origin?

Lastly, I heard that before it became a traditional wedding march, it was actually a wedding run….

(image from the web)

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