Weddings are a blessed time joining a man and a woman together for life. But while marriages have been with us since the beginning of human history, wedding traditions have morphed and changed. Some of the ancient traditions we still practice today have interesting beginnings.
Groomsmen and Bridesmaids
Today, it is customary for a bride to have her closest friends or family as her bridesmaids, and the groom his groomsmen. In fact, the choice of maid of honor or best man can be a source of contention for some families. However, this tradition has changed a bit since ancient times.
The woman’s consent hasn’t always been a requirement for marriage. If a man couldn’t find a woman in his area to marry, he went to the next village to kidnap one. So, the man took one or a group of his friends to help him with the caper. Only the “best man” would be chosen for such an important and dangerous endeavor. Likewise, the groomsmen would protect the groom if the bride’s family came to take her back during the ceremony.
Roman law required a witness, which is how bridesmaids originated. The maid of honor would make sure a wreath was prepared, the precursor to the bouquet, and helped the bride get dressed on the big day. The other bridesmaids would help decorate for the wedding feast, similar to what happens today.
Something Borrowed . . .
“Something old; something new; something borrowed; something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” This ancient rhyme is repeated as a woman’s wedding day approaches. Each of the objects has a specific meaning that hearkens back to the Victorian Age.
Something old represents a tie to the family, and is traditionally something from the bride’s mother or grandmother. Something new represents a bride’s future happiness. The bride also borrows something—preferably from an older woman who has had a happy marriage—to represent the bride borrowing a little bit of marital happiness for her own union. Blue represents love and fidelity. In ancient Israel, women wore blue ribbons on the border of their dresses for that reason.
As for the sixpence . . . brides put them in their shoe to represent wealth.
Why the Wedding Party Dresses Alike
Groomsmen and bridesmaids often dress alike for the ceremony. That tradition dates back to a time when the groomsmen dressed similarly to the groom, and the bridesmaids to the bride. Why? It was hoped that if evil spirits decided to harm the bride and groom, they would be confused as to who the bride was and who the groom was. It also worked for any human who sought to harm the bride and groom.
It’s fun to know the source of these Western wedding traditions, and watch as new ones are added to the sacred ceremony observed in every culture around the world.
M. R. Anglin writes YA fiction with a fantasy twist. In “Lucas, Guardian of Truth,” an eleven year old boy with a vivid imagination must trust a mysterious creature that transports him to Kalaria, a place where nothing is as it seems. There, Lucas learns that he is the Guardian of Truth, destined to save Kalaria from the Mind Master, a creature bent on destroying the planet, and his imagination as well. Visit MR at http://www.lyeland.com
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Sources for the wedding traditions: http://www.theweddinglens.com/blog/why-bridesmaids-groomsmen/