Ever considered how much history and tradition there is in weddings? We’ve listed some of them below and hope that they will give you a greater understanding of how certain rituals and beliefs came about, that we still honour in our wedding ceremonies today.
The Bachelor Dinner
More commonly known today as the bachelor party, this celebration in the groom’s honor was originally called the bachelor dinner, or stag party. Like many other wedding traditions, the custom has stood the test of time. It first came about in the fifth century, in Sparta, where military comrades would feast and toast one another on the eve of a friend’s wedding. Even today, a bachelor party customarily takes place quite close to the actual wedding date, as it has become known as the groom’s last taste of freedom. Despite the risqué entertainment that is associated with stag parties today, bachelor parties have not always entailed this controversial element. Although rowdy and boisterous, bachelor parties are traditionally organized to allow the jittery groom and his wedding attendants to release some anxieties before the big day.
The Wedding Party
During the “marriage by capture” era, close friends of the groom-to-be assisted him when he kidnapped the bride from her family. The first ushers and best men were more like a small army, fighting off the brides angry relatives as the groom rode away with her.
Bridesmaids and maids of honour became more common when weddings were planned. For several days before the marriage, a senior maid attended to the bride-to-be. This maid or matron of honour, as we know her today, ensured that the bridal wreath was made and helped the bride get dressed. All bridesmaids helped the bride decorate for the wedding feast.
For a long time, bridesmaids wore dresses much like the bride’s gown, while ushers dressed in clothing that was similar to the groom’s attire. This tradition began for protection against evil rather than for uniformity; if evil spirits or jealous suitors attempted to harm the newlyweds, they would be confused as to which two people were the bride and groom.
Before the use of flowers in the bridal bouquet, women carried aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away as they walked down the aisle. Over time, these were replaced with flowers, symbolizing fertility and everlasting love. Specific flowers have special meanings in many cultures. In Hawaii, the bride and groom wear leis; newlyweds in India don floral headdresses.
The wedding is one of life’s primeval and surprisingly unchanged rites of passage. Nearly all of the customs we observe today are merely echoes of the past. Everything from the veil, rice, flowers, and old shoes, to the bridesmaids and processionals, at one time, bore a very specific and vitally significant meaning. Today, although the original substance is often lost, we incorporate old world customs into our weddings because they are traditional and ritualistic.
Old world marriage customs continue to thrive today, in diluted, disguised and often upgraded forms. Customs we memorialise today were once “brand new” ideas. Although historical accuracy is hard to achieve, the historical weight attached to old world wedding customs and traditions is immense.
Remember, as you plan for your wedding, to create new family traditions and customs to be handed down to your children and their children. Just think, maybe someday, your “new custom” will be as unique and exciting as those we know today.