With the inescapable theme of weddings continuing this week, I thought I would do some research into common wedding traditions and where they originate from.
Most are familiar with the old rhyme of “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” but few are aware of the end line “a silver sixpence in her shoe”. Something old refers to wearing an item that represents a link with the bride’s family and her old life, something new represents good fortune and success in the bride’s new life, something borrowed (which has already been worn by a happy bride at her wedding), is meant to bring good luck to the marriage, and something blue dates back to biblical times when the colour blue was considered to represent purity and fidelity. Over time this evolved from wearing blue clothing to wearing a blue band around the bottom of the bride’s dress and to modern times where the bride includes something blue or blue-trimmed on her person. The silver sixpence symbolises wealth – not just financial wealth but also a wealth of happiness and joy throughout married life. I bought my sister a 1948 silver sixpence (from the year of our Dad’s birth) for her wedding and was able to borrow it for mine – conveniently covering off two of my items in one!
Another interesting tradition is that of tying shoes to the wedding car for the departure of the bride and groom. This stems from the ancient Roman method of transferring authority of the Bride from her father to the Groom when her father gave the Groom his shoes. In later years, guests threw their own shoes at the newlyweds to signify this transfer of authority. I for one am quite glad that I didn’t become a target for smelly shoes!
The wedding ring is well known to be a symbol of enduring and everlasting love from the ancient Egyptian’s phrase “without beginning, without end”, but according to some historians, the first recorded marriage rings date back to the days when early man tied plaited circlets around the Bride’s wrists and ankles to keep her spirit from running away. Egyptian rings were made of woven hemp which constantly wore out and needed replacement. Although Romans originally used iron, gold is now used as it is a symbol of all that is pure. Diamonds were first used by Italians, who believed that it was created from the flames of love.
It’s fairly well known that the carrying of a bouquet was partially in order to cover the smell of the unwashed at the wedding but something that I didn’t realise was that bouquets were often made up of strong herbs and garlic! Apparently these would also frighten away evil spirits as well. As well as being sensitive to smells the pesky evil spirits were obviously also easily befuddled – apparently the reason why brides and bridesmaids wore similar dresses was to confuse them!
The origins of the word honeymoon are not clear and whilst there are references to the word from at least 1546 the taking of a honeymoon holiday only really became common in the early 19th century in the UK. Some sources claim that the honeymoon derived from the ancient practice where the Groom hid his new Bride for one month for mating purposes! It is said that the word “honeymoon” was created to describe this one month cycle of the moon when they would drink mead, which was a honey sweetened alcoholic brew that obviously effects sobriety as well as increasing fertility.
As with the honeymoon many wedding traditions seem to be incredibly old and there are consequently many explanations for the origins of them (or maybe that’s just the misinformation of the internet!) – does anyone have any interesting ones to add?