WHY IT BECAME “BAD LUCK” FOR THE GROOM TO SEE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Until relatively recently, brides were considered the property of their father. Their futures and husbands were arranged without their consent. The marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom saw his future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the day of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar. To prevent this from happening, it became “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.
THE WEDDING VEIL
Brightly colored veils were worn in ancient times in many parts of the world and were considered a protection against evil spirits. Greek and Roman brides for yellow or red veils (representing fire) to ward off evil spirits and demons. At one time, Roman brides were completely covered with a red veil for protection. In early European history, with the advent of arranged marriages veils served another purpose – to prevent the groom from seeing the brides’ face till after the ceremony was over. Brides began to wear opaque yellow veils. Not only could the groom not see in, the bride could not see out! Therefore, the father of the bride had to escort her down the aisle and literally give the bride to the groom. Nellie Custis, the daughter of Martha Washington, is credited with wearing the first lace veil. Today, prior to a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is the groom who ritually “veils the bride”. The reason for this tradition goes back to the marriage of Jacob to Leah (the older sister) when he thought he was marrying Rachel (the younger sister) whom he loved.
THE TERM “WEDDING”
Although some brides were kidnapped, marriage by purchase was the preferred method of obtaining a wife. The “bride price” could be land, social status, political alliances, or cash. The Anglo-Saxon word “wed” meant that the groom would vow to marry the woman, but it also referred to the bride price (money or barter) to be paid by the groom to the bride’s father. The root of the word “wedding” literally means to gamble or wager!
THE “ENGAGEMENT RING”
In 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas I decreed that an engagement ring become a required statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that engagement rings had to be made of gold that signified a financial sacrifice on the part of the prospective husband.
THE DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING
The diamond engagement ring originated with King Maximillian who presented Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in 1477 as a token of his love. The Venetians popularized the custom during the 15th century. Since the diamond was the hardest and most enduring substance in nature it followed that the engagement and marriage would endure forever.
THE “WEDDING RING”
Rings were used as currency in the Middle East prior to the advent of coinage and were a sign of a person’s wealth. In ancient times the wedding ring was thought to protect the bride from “evil spirits”. Ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron. In early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped hands. Very early rings had a carved key through which a woman was thought to be able to open her husband’s heart.
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS TO THE GROOMS LEFT
After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left to protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against sudden attack.
THE GARTER AND BRIDAL BOUQUET TOSS
In parts of Europe during the 14th century, having a piece of the bride’s clothing was thought to bring good luck. Guests would literally destroy the brides dress by ripping off pieces of fabric. In order to prevent this, brides began throwing various items to the guests – the garter belt being one of the items. It became customary in the 14th century for the bride to toss her garter to the men. Sometimes the men would get drunk, become impatient, and try to remove the garter ahead of time. Therefore, the custom evolved for the groom to remove and toss the garter. With that change the bride started to toss the bridal bouquet to the unwed girls of marriageable age.
From the earliest times, brides have adorned their hair with flowers and carried bunches of flowers. Traditionally, each type of flower had a special meaning and significance in and of itself. Flowers were often thrown at the couple after the ceremony. However today, most brides pick their flowers for color and personal appeal not based on the traditional meaning of particular flowers. The groom’s flower, worn on his lapel, usually matches one of the flowers in his bride’s bouquet. This tradition goes back to medieval times when knights wore the colors of their lady in tournaments.
THE GROOM CARRYING THE BRIDE OVER THE THRESHOLD
Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first time through the front door. If she tripped or stumbled while entering it was considered to be very bad luck. Hence, the tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold.
THE BRIDAL KISS
The kiss dates back to the earliest days of civilization in the Middle East. A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts, etc. In Ancient Rome a kiss was still being used as the legal bold to seal contracts. Hence the obvious use of the custom at the end of the wedding ceremony to “seal” the marriage vows.