The wedding day… that fun, wacky, horrifying, wonderful, nightmarish, migraine-inducing, day of days. In all it’s commercialized, overly-abused, mistreated, tired state, it’s still a major date in a great many lives. For some, it’s a goal, a destination. For others, a happenstance. For others, yet again, it’s akin to a holy day, a day of reverence, a Day. Capital D. For others, it’s a joke, a drive-through Happy Meal during a drunken bender in Vegas (oddly enough, a lot of those marriages last the longest). But, for everyone, it’s an experience, steeped in history and tradition, embedded in our social DNA.
Where does it come from? Why a bouquet? What does it all mean?! I did some digging and found out. So, come take a walk with me down the path of discovery…
– “Wedding” – Originates from the word “wed” which simply meant that a man would marry his bride and then pay her father. (Clearly, money has been a factor from the beginning. Sheesh)
– Originally, a groom and his groomsmen (or bridesmen, or bridesknights) would kidnap a woman from a different tribe. (easy peasy, right? Not so much. Read on…)
The groom and his men would fight the bride’s family and tribe with swords (the groom held his sword in his right hand, while holding the bride in his left). (thus, the bride on the left today)
If the groom and his men were successful, the groom would hide the bride for a month for mating. The term “honeymoon” is said to derive from the whole moon cycle during this time. While imprisoned, the bride would drink honey mead, which was said to increase fertility. Thus, “honeymoon.” (not a great way to meet one’s husband…)
– The best man was typically the strongest, toughest companion to the groom. So, he would be the best choice in assisting the groom in fighting to steal the bride.
– At one point, marriages were used at bargaining tools in trading land, obtaining money, improving social standings, or forging political alliances. (This still has implications today, frightening enough as it sounds)
– Brides and bridesmaids originally wore similar outfits to confuse evil spirits.
– Carrying the bride over the threshold was originally part of stealing her away from her tribe and hiding her elsewhere, particularly in whatever hideout the groom saw fit to ensconce.
– Bouquets were originally constructed of strong-smelling herbs like thyme and garlic. The arrangement would both scare away evil spirits and hide the stench of the unbathed guests.
– The bridal veil was designed to hide the bride, as a true mystery to the groom, until the very last minute prior to actually being wed. That way, the money paid to the bride’s family stood a better chance of not being revoked by a dissatisfied groom. In other words, the groom didn’t even know what his bride looked like until the moment he married her. (Risky business, that!)
– Bachelor parties originated with Roman soldiers. The purpose was to signify their comrade’s departure from unruly bachelorhood and his entry into commitment. (Not too different from today)
– Even tossing the bouquet was originally intended to keep fanatic guests away from ripping pieces off of the bride’s gown.
So, while you’re busy arguing with your fiance about cummerbunds and the merits of smoked versus blackened salmon, remember that it could be far far worse. You could be kidnapped while you watch your family engage in a sword fight, or you could be traded for land. You could be so sickened by the smell of your nearest and dearest that you fend off the stench with an aromatic bouquet of garlic, while driving off evil spirits. Best of all, you could be imprisoned for a month, drunk on honey wine, just so your loving hubby can enjoy his conquest. Or, you could simply never meet or know your future partner until the very day you are to wed, only to be rejected, at the altar, while he takes his money back. The idea of getting married is to celebrate what should already be an amazing, awesome, ridiculously fun relationship, and to make official a commitment that should exist with or without a slab of metal on your finger. So, belay the bickering about table arrangements, who’s parents are paying for what, whether or not to invite Uncle Bob (he’s smelly), and just have fun with it. You never know, that particular shade of chartreuse might be enticing to evil spirits!
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