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)

Tender Rituals

Rituals. Since the dawn of time humans have formed rituals and traditions that defined our civilization and our cultures.

The Mayans are known for the seemingly cruel rituals of human sacrifice, self-mutilation and blood-letting. The Native Americans have the Sun Dance, where they perform their ritual dances, use the traditional drums, with passing of the sacred pipe and tobacco offerings, and in some cases, body piercings.

Then there is this people, that dye their hair different hues, put mud on their face at night, then washes it off and paint their faces with pastel colors during the day, and hang stones in their pierced ears. This last ritual that I mentioned is not of any ancient civilization, but of modern-day women. And men too.

Then there is the family traditions and rituals. Most of these are quite endearing. Each individual family form their own, and sometimes these traditions are passed on to the next generation like a family heirloom. I would say, my family are making our own.

For so many years now, my son would not sleep without me reading him a book. When he was much younger, I read him bedtime stories or poems which are simple and short. But as he gets older, we are reading books from big complex machines to animal oddities, to science adventures and space exploration. And even if its late or we are all tired, he would not get me out of this ritual, and he would still urge me to read (even if he can read very good now!) to him before he sleeps.

By reading to my son in bed, I would have a quiet moment with him, and my way of tucking him in for the night. Though, after I read to him, he would ask his mom to come too, and have his blanket pulled up over him and its edges stuffed under his side pillows (he only wants his mom to do this, not me). So it was literally tucking him in.

Few nights ago, I was on-call. I left before eight in the morning, and was not able to come home until about one o’clock in the morning the next day. My wife told me that my son anxiously waited almost till midnight for my return. I guess he missed his bedtime story.

For my daughter, it is a different ritual. Unlike me who wakes up early, my daughter is not a morning person. If she has her way, she will sleep until the sun is halfway up in the horizon. Even though she has an alarm clock that has a loud annoying sound when it goes off, but  still she would sleep through it. So I have to help her get up in the morning.

Many mornings, I would come to her room to wake her up and then leave, only to come back to her room half an hour later, and she would be still sleeping or she had fallen back asleep. What does a father do? Drag her literally out of bed. She actually gave me permission to do it. She even told me to just carry her out of her bed and dump her in the bathroom. But I can’t as she is too heavy now for me to carry.

Every morning, after I hear her alarm clock, I would go to her room, throw her blanket off, and pull her by the feet out of bed and prop her up. Then I would be greeted by a sleepy head with eyes still close, that says “Thanks Dad.”

I do have different rituals with each of my kids. One I have to settle down to bed, the other, I have to crank out of bed. I know these rituals will not last forever. Sooner or later, my son will be older and will not ask for a bedtime story anymore. I would be really surprised if he still ask me to read to him if he’s in high school or even college! And for my daughter, maybe soon (hopefully!) she’ll get up on her own, as she becomes more and more independent. I know I cannot be there to wake her up in her college dorm.

For the time being, I will cherish these tender rituals while they last.

One of these days, my kids will be out of our home and will be on their own. Maybe they will form new rituals with their own family and their children. Or maybe, just maybe, they would miss their old man, and would pass these rituals to their kids.

And someday, when my wife and I are old and weak, I hope they would come and visit, and read to me, and help me out of bed. And we will reminisce, that is if my memory is still intact, our tender rituals.