|Babylonian Bridal Auction|
Sunday, December 6, 2015
While stories of star-struck lovers getting married make for good tales, historically marriage had little to do with love. In ancient times, marriage was more like a business deal. According to Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, "It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force."
Marriage is an ancient institution with the first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dating back 4,000 years in Mesopotamia. It was an institution that primarily regulated property rights and political privileges and contracts reflected that. In that ancient world marriage primarily served to preserve power.
Kings and others of the ruling class married off daughters to build alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs. These deals were basically business mergers, the forging of military coalitions, or the finalizing of peace treaties. It was seen as a way to build strategic alliances between families. Those getting married often had no say "no" in the matter even in marriages between the lower class. In those cases, the purpose of marriage was to choose a marriage partner with a good work ethic, strength, skills and robust health – and to produce heirs. If they had adjoining plots of land that was a real bonus.
For most of history love played no part in marriage because it was considered too serious a matter to be based on such a frail emotion. In ancient Mesopotamia arranged marriages were the standard. Often the bride and groom had never even met. In some cases bridal auctions were held and women were sold to the highest bidder. Economically, marriage filled the role that banks and markets do today. It organized and transferred property and gave individuals access to new workers for the family business.
This is also where the dowry came into play. Until the late eighteenth century, the marriage dowry was the largest amount of cash or movable goods a man would acquire in his lifetime. As a result, men were often more interested in the dowry than the bride.
The "widow's third" was a part of the marriage contract that guaranteed European women that upon their husband's death she would be provided for.
I'm not saying love was never part of marriage in ancient times, it just wasn't the norm and was definitely not necessary. Until the late 18th century, parents had the right to arrange their children's marriages and could dissolve a marriage if it happened without their permission.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Jumping the broom is an historical ritual with Celtic roots. Like many traditions, exactly how and where it started is brought into question. Some say it started with the Romani Gypsy people living in Wales and others say it originated with the Welsh people themselves. Today variations of this ritual are practiced by Welsh, Celtics and Druids as well as the nomadic Romani. In fact, the earliest mention of this tradition is tied to the Romani and dates back to the 18th century. Today, common-law broomstick weddings are still practiced in some parts of Wales as a centuries-old custom called priodas coes ysgub.
Along with this heritage, some say jumping the broom comes from an African marriage ritual which was practiced in the U.S. during the days of slavery when blacks weren't allowed to marry. However, others attribute this as a practice taken from the whites. Either way, secret ceremonies were held as black couples committed themselves to each other by stepping over a broomstick in front of family and friends.
Now the tradition is practiced as a folk tradition in various parts of the world from Eastern Europe to the Americas.
The type of broom used in these ceremonies were besom brooms, which are constructed by tying twigs or straw together against a strong rod or stick. Back in the 18th century, brooms were found just inside the door to every home with bristles up to ward off evil spirits and to protect the home and all who lived there. Sometimes it was hung over the door with the bristles facing opening of the door for good luck. It was considered one of the first lines of defense for the homemaker.
Today, jumping the broom is thought to represent the couple entering a new life together, and sweeping away their single lives including former problems and concerns.
Jumping the Broom Variations
While we can dispute where and how jumping the broom started, I'd rather focus on variations of the practice as wedding planners have started to include the custom today. Jumping the broom can take place at the church, the reception, the couples' new home, and is often included in neo-pagan unions, too.
- Place the broom at an angle by the rear door of the church.
- Groom jumps first, followed by the bride.
- Broom laid on floor and couple jumps over it hand-in-hand as high as they can.
- Broom laid in the entryway to the new home with bride and groom taking turns jumping over it. (Another variation of this one is for the groom to carry his bride over the broom into their new home.)
Another old custom involves the couple jumping over a crossed broom and sword held by the best man and the maid of honor. This practice represents cutting of ties to parents and the ties being swept away as the couple crosses a new threshold to start a new life together.
Some who want to eliminate the broom because of its Wiccan associations may choose to step over a sword instead of a broom.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The legend of the Nurnberg Bridal Cup is centuries old. It is said to have started in Nurnberg, Germany, where a wealthy nobleman lived with his daughter, the Mistress Kunigunde. She fell in love with a young goldsmith who was an ambitious sort. The wealthy nobleman didn't approve of the relationship and he and his daughter were at odds, for her heart was set on the goldsmith and no other for her husband. As a result, one by one she refused many rich suitors who asked for her hand in marriage.
The daughter's behavior enraged her father and so he had the young goldsmith thrown into the darkest dungeon. His daughter cried and cried, but he would not be swayed by her tears. To the nobleman's dismay, imprisoning the young goldsmith in the dark dungeon did not stay her love for the young man. Her broken heart started to show in her pale pallor which grew worse day by day.
Finally, at his wits end, the nobleman reluctantly came up with a proposal. He said, "If your goldsmith can make a chalice from which two people can drink at the same time without spilling a single drop, I will free him and you shall become his bride."
Of course when he thought up the challenge, he thought it an impossible task, but the young goldsmith was motivated by love. He mustered all his skill and crafted a masterpiece. He sculpted a young maiden with a smile as beautiful as that of Mistress Kunigunde. The skirt worn by this damsel was hollow and served as one cup. The second was a bucket which the girl carried over head with extended arms. It was crafted to swivel and so two people could drink from the cup without spilling a drop.
The goldsmith met the challenge. He and the nobleman's daughter were joined in marriage and were said to drink from the romantic bridal cup. Today the bridal cup remains a prized wedding tradition with the cup a symbol of good luck, love and faithfulness.
Photo credits: Amazon
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Today, flower girls are a pretty standard (but precious) part of most wedding parties. Some brides choose to have one flower girl, while others may have several. They are an adorable wedding tradition, but have you ever wondered about the history of flower girls? Like many wedding traditions the origins are not 100 percent certain. Some sources say the origin of flower girls goes back centuries to Ancient Rome while others suggest the tradition got its start in Britain.
The tie to ancient Rome goes back to young attendants who carried sheaves of wheat and herbs to ensure blessings of prosperity and fertility to the married couple. By the Medieval times, it was bouquets of garlic which were believed to ward off evil spirits.
It was during the Elizabethan Era that the tradition of scattering flower petals came into practice. At that time, brides followed a path of petals from their house to the church. To create this path, flower girls followed musicians in a wedding procession and carried a gold-plated rosemary branch and a silver cup adorned with ribbons and filled with flower petals and rosemary sprigs. This cup was known as the bride's cup.
In the Victorian era flower girl looked more like the flower girls of today. They were young and innocent and dressed in a simple white dress which was sometimes adorned with a colored sash made of satin or silk. She carried a gorgeously decorated basket filled fresh blooms or wore a floral hoop on her head. The circular shape of the hoop was symbolic of true love which has no end -- the same meaning bestowed on wedding rings.
In Western Europe, the tradition of including children as attendants in weddings also included a ring bearer and often included other attendants in the wedding party, too. Many royal and society weddings still follow this tradition today with two or more flower girls.
Friday, October 9, 2015
If I say wedding cake topper, what do you picture? It might be a miniature bride and groom, wedding bells or some other similar ornamentation with a wedding theme. While the history of wedding cakes dates back to the Roman Empire, it was nothing like wedding cakes as we know them today. Instead they were unsweetened loaves of bread. And wedding cake toppers as we know them haven't been around all that long. They became a growing trend with middle class and affluent American families before the American Civil War. By the 1890s they were quite common.
Those original wedding cake toppers weren't anything extravagant. Cakes were decorated with things like flowers, bells, or other small objects related to the bride and groom. Often these toppings were handmade by a family member or a professional wedding cake baker using frosting, icing, or non-edible materials like plaster of Paris.
Wedding Cake Toppers Popular After World War I
Decorative cake toppers grew more popular after World War I. It was in the Roaring 20s that High Society in the U.S. adopted the custom of using figurines of the bride and groom atop the wedding cake. Popularity of this tradition grew quickly after Emily Post, American etiquette expert, mentioned them in her 1922 best seller that said, "wedding cake is an essential of every wedding reception," and went on to comment on the placement of the bride and groom figurines in the description of a beautifully decorated cake. In the early 1900s wedding cake toppers were made from glass, paper, or wood until they started being commercially made.
First Commercially Made Wedding Cake Toppers
Along with this, American retailers like Sears & Roebuck started to market and sell cake toppers showcasing a bride and groom. By 1924 you could find an assortment of two-inch tall bride and groom toppers made from wax and featuring differences like groom without a hat or wearing a top hat. The bride could be purchased without a veil or wearing a cloth veil. By 1927, the Sears catalog had an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.
With their growing popularity, wedding cake toppers started to be mass produced commercially in the U.S., Europe and Asia. They were available in the usual bride and groom side-by-side pose along with a selection of alternative poses. And during or following the War, the groom was sometimes depicted wearing a military uniform. Along with this, groom figurines could also be purchased a wearing police or fireman uniform, too.
Aside from bride and groom figurines, today we have toppers like cupids, hearts, love birds and sometimes even a framed picture of the couple. The tradition of adding a decorative ornament topper to the wedding cake has been joined with the tradition of removing and saving the memento as well as freezing the top layer of the cake to be eaten by the bride and groom on their first anniversary.
Photo credits: Vintage Wedding Cake Topper, Fancy Flowers, futuremrsbeede
Friday, October 2, 2015
|Best man was chosen because he was "best" with a sword.|
Most wedding traditions stem from unusual origins. For instance, the wedding party of today is nothing like a couple hundred centuries ago. For instance, the original duty of the "Best Man" wasn't to throw a bachelor party, hold on to the ring, or to make the wedding toast.
History of Best Man
Centuries ago, the Best Man served as armed backup for the groom just in case he was forced to kidnap his intended bride from disapproving parents. Even the word "best" didn't mean best friend. It' meant he was best with a sword in case it was needed.
Origins of the "best man" tradition is thought to be Germanic Goth when the people were expected to take a bride from within the community. With an inadequate supply of local women, eligible bachelors were forced to seek out and capture a bride from a neighboring community. This practice is linked to the reason the bride stands to the left of the groom during the wedding ceremony until this day. You see, the groom had to keep his right hand free for defense.
The best man stood guard beside the groom until wedding vows were exchanged. After the wedding, he stood outside the newlyweds' bed chamber door. He was a guard of sorts. He was there in case anyone decided to attack, and he was also in the event that the bride decided she wanted to run.
|Bridesmaids wore dresses similar to the bride.|
History of Bridesmaids
As for bridesmaids, historically they wore dresses similar to that of the bride, so that as the group approached the church it would be difficult for any evil spirits or former beaus to spot the bride. Evil spirits were also the reason the bride wore a veil, to hide from those spirits waiting to steal away her happiness. But having the bridesmaids dress similarly made it more difficult for possible kidnappers or those planning to throw rocks.
The same held true for the men. They wore matching suits to save the groom from curses, rocks or kidnapping, too.
As for the Maid of Honor, she was responsible for making all the wedding decorations and putting them up herself.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the wedding toast? Before we look at that, it helps to understand the history of toasting. One tradition says it goes back to the 6th century B.C. when people toasted to a friend's health to assure them the wine wasn't poisoned as glasses clinked and wine splashed from one glass to the other. While this bit of history has been verbally handed down, there is no real evidence to support it that I know of.
The origins of toasting can however, be traced back to most ancient societies in the form of raising their cup as a drink offering to their god(s), but there is also evidence that the ancient Greeks drank to each other's health which can be seen in The Odyssey when Ulysses drank to Achilles health.
|Some used toasting as an excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.|
The ancient Romans also practiced toasting to health and it became such an important part of their culture that at one time the Senate passed a decree that everyone was required to drink to the Emperor Augustus at every meal. We see this tradition again in literature in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when it depicts a feast where Attila the Hun practices at least three toasts for every course.
The actual term "toast" originated back in the 16th century, with one of the first written accounts using the word found in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor when the character Falstaff says "Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't." You guessed it. They actually put a piece of toasted bread in the wine, and that is how we came to label this practice a "toast." It was thought the toasted bread would help soak up some of the acidity, and it was also a way to make a piece of stale bread edible. So over the next centuries the term toasting gradually incorporated traditional libations and the honoring of people. The person being honored often received the saturated piece of toast.
By the 17th and 18th centuries the practice was so popular that Toastmasters came on the scene to ensure that the toasting didn't become too excessive and that everyone got their turn, because some people felt the need to toast every person in a room as an excuse to drink large amounts of alcohol! Today's toasting etiquette has changed the toasting practice to sipping rather than guzzling.
This brings us to the origins of the wedding toast and ancient times when neighbors were at war with one another. Many times the wars ended in a truce that brought the leaders' children together in marriage. At the banquet celebration, the bride's father drank from the communal wine pitcher first (again to show it wasn't poisoned). And this is where the tradition of the wedding toast began.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Today we have all kinds of ways to preserve our wedding dress for future generations, but what about those who plan to wear an heirloom wedding dress? They're not always in the best shape so what can you do? Recently, Abigail Kingston,30, planned to wear an heirloom dress that's been in her family for 120 years. It was first worn by the bride's great-great-grandmother, and since has been passed from one family member to another 10 previous times. It holds extra special sentimental value to Kingston because it was also her mother's wedding dress.
Kingston's first task was to track the dress down. Her mother told her, "The mother-of-the-last-bride has always been the keeper of the dress." They tracked it down, and the fourth bride to wear the dress (1960) shipped the gown. But when it arrived, and Kingston lifted it from the box, she worried that it might be a lost cause.
Over the 120 years since the silk/satin dress was first worn in 1895, it had been worn by brides of different sizes and was last worn in 1991. When Kingston retrieved the dress it was in less than ideal condition. According to the Pennsylvania news site Lehigh Valley Live "The sleeves were disintegrating, the dress was filled with holes and the satin had turned an unattractive brown. And when the tall, thin bride tried on the dress, it was so short it was a crop top."
Kingston turned to bridal designer Deborah LoPresti's salon, who after 200 hours of alterations, changing the color, and adding new sleeves were able to fix the dress in time for Kingston's October wedding.
The dress is beautifully restored, but because of its fragility, the bride has opted to wear a different gown for the outdoor ceremony, but she will be wearing her grandmother's locket and her great-grandmother's ring. She plans to change into the heirloom dress for cocktail hour.
The bride's mother said, "It is a magical wedding dress because she is the 11th bride to wear it, Who would think anything would last that long?"
Photo credit: Golgol Nokk
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Carry the Bride Over Threshold
In fact, carrying the bride over the threshold is a popular tradition that was thought to bring luck in a way to the new couple's union. But it didn't start out that way. This tradition started in ancient Rome where the bride had to show that she didn't want to leave her father's home, and so she was dragged across the threshold into the groom's home. This combined with the ancient belief that evil spirits hovered at the threshold to the new home waiting to curse the couple, started the practice of carrying the bride over the threshold so the spirits couldn't enter her body through the soles of her feet. It was a way to turn a "curse" into a "blessing" or bad luck into good. (Though it does leave one wondering whey they didn't worry about the spirits entering the groom).
9 More Wedding Traditions for Luck
- Other superstitions thought to bring luck included the bride placing a cube of sugar in her glove on her wedding day to sweeten the union. (I wonder if eating sugar on your wedding day could work? I mean just eat some wedding cake, right?)
- And if you see a spider on your wedding dress, celebrate! That's supposed to mean good luck! (Uh, yeah, good luck with that. If I see a spider it's never good. I'd rather go with the superstition that a lady bug brings good luck).
- According to English tradition and lore, when it comes to luck the best day of the week to get married is Wednesday and the worse day is Saturday. (Maybe that explains the high divorce rate these days! Saturday is now the most popular day to tie the knot).
- And on the gross side of traditions, the ancient Romans studied pig entrails to decide the luckiest time to marry.
- Throwing oats, grains, dried corn, (for Czech newlyweds it was peas), and eventually rice, was meant to shower the couple with good fortune, prosperity, and fertility.
- Egyptian brides are pinched for good luck.
- Middle Eastern brides paint their hands and feet with henna (a beautiful tradition) thought to protect from the evil eye.
- A Swedish wedding tradition includes coins in shoes. The bride slips a silver coin from her father in one shoe and a gold coin from her mother in the other. This is to ensure she will never have to do without.
- In Holland, a pine tree is planted outside the home of the newly married couple as a symbol of luck and fertility.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
The origin of gimmal rings (also known as gimmel or puzzle rings) is not certain, but they began to appear in the 1600s with designs like clasped hands incorporated into interlocking rings. If a third ring was added to the puzzle, it often bore a heart which fit into the clasped hands, very similar to Ireland's claddagh ring. However, gimmal rings were most popular in Germany and England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The lore surrounding the ring is that in ancient times, a Turkish nobleman who loved his wife very much wanted to be sure she remained true to him while he was away. He asked the local jeweler to fashion a puzzle ring that would fall apart if it was removed,. It is said he gave her the ring but wouldn't tell her the solution. For this reason, this puzzle ring is also known as a Turkish wedding band even though the Turkish people don't wear puzzle rings as a wedding ring.
Heart-shaped gemstones were often incorporated in the design and split between two rings so when the two rings were joined they formed a complete heart. Apart, the two rings allowed the bride and groom to each wear a piece of the other's heart, until they were wed. Gemstones were also fashioned in a variety of traditional gemstone cuts, but simpler ring designs were also popular and bore engravings. For instance, Martin Luther wore a gimmal ring in his engagement to Catherine Bora in 1525. It read, "Whom God has joined together, Let no man put asunder."
Gimmal rings created by two interlocking rings provided a ring for bride and one for the groom as a sign that they were betrothed. When they took their vows they fit the two rings together to form a wedding band for the new bride.
Some rings were made up of three interlocking rings. In that case, one was worn by the bride, one by the groom, and the third by a witness – what we'd call a best man today. When a witness was involved, it became more than an engagement. It represented a contract. The witness would be present when the wedding vows were exchanged and then all three rings were joined to form a wedding band for the bride to wear.
Over the last few years, the puzzle ring has resurged in popularity in North America.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress, Osborne, 1885
When you stop and think about all the wedding related trappings, have you ever asked why? Many traditions associated with wedding practice and apparel go back to superstitions, and when it comes to the bridal veil it is no different.
Bridal veil history can be traced back to Rome. This custom of veiling the bride was originally meant to disguise her from evil spirits as she walked down the aisle. Why would evil spirits even care about the bride? It was thought that they would be jealous of her happiness. So the original purpose of the bridal veil was to protect the bride who was thought to be vulnerable to enchantment.
The original color of bridal veils was flame red. So the veil according to the belief system of that culture, not only hid the bride from the evil spirits, but the color of the veil was thought to actually scare them off.
This explains why traditionally the bride wears her wedding veil over her face. Over time, of course beliefs changed and new meanings were attached to the veil. Today some brides have the groom lift their veil; others have their father lift the veil when he gives away his daughter, and still others go through the entire ceremony with their face covered until the father lifts the veil so the groom can kiss his new wife. In today's wedding tradition brides can feel free to walk the aisle with their veil drawn back, or not to even wear a veil at all.
Some suggest that back in the days of arranged marriages the veil hid the face of the bride from the groom until they were married in case he didn't like how his bride looked. This way everyone would be saved the embarrassment of the groom's disappointment.
Beyond the evil spirit superstitions, veils were also considered a sign of humility and respect for God. However, during Victorian times, it became just the opposite. It became a status symbol, with the weight, length and quality of the veil a sign of the bride's status. Back then, Royal brides had the longest veils. Even in modern times I remember Princess Diana's wedding veil was as long as the train of her dress.
Today, brides walk the aisle without worrying about evil spirits, and grooms already know what their brides look like, so today the bridal veil tradition is more of a finishing touch to the bride's ensemble for those who choose to wear them. However, many cultures never embraced the wedding veil tradition.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
For some brides walking down the aisle with their father on their wedding day is a very special moment. One father I know pulled a picture of his daughter from his pocket and said, "This is how I remember you." The daughter's eyes brimmed with tears as she saw herself as a toddler wearing pigtails. The wedding march played, and the two of them walked the aisle together along an emotional thread only the two of them shared. So amid traditions, sometimes we create new traditions.
Giving the bride away is an ancient tradition that started back when arranged marriages were the norm. Daughters back then in that culture were considered their father's property, meaning the father had the right to "give his daughter" to the groom, usually for a price which had to be paid to the bride's family before he could marry their daughter. In fact, back then daughters were not allowed to get married without their father's permission.
Today, those who choose to "give the bride away" look at it as a practice that symbolizes the transfer of authority from the bride's father to her new husband, and it's not unusual for fathers make a small speech as they relinquish their place of authority. However, dads aren't the only ones to give the bride away. Some brides, today, elect to have both parents, or in some cases, their mother walk them down the aisle.
|Today the bride may choose another family member to "give her away"|
Today, the terminology used in wedding ceremonies may still sound about the same, but the practice of giving away the bride has evolved to become a part of the wedding ceremony that lets parents of the bride and groom take part in the wedding ceremony in a way that signifies the parents' blessing on the marriage.
With all that said, the giving away of the bride tradition is not for every bride. Those who feel the practice is archaic, or who don't have a close relationship with their father or parents, shouldn't feel obligated to include the tradition. However, for those who like the idea, but whose father is deceased or unavailable, it is not uncommon to have another close family member walk the bride down the aisle.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the phrase "to tie the knot" when talking about weddings? It turns out this saying comes from an ancient custom known as handfasting. This tying together of the bride and groom's hands (wrists) was how couples in Great Britain pledged their betrothal in front of witnesses in ages past. Today it is a popular addition to traditional weddings for couples looking to add a strong cultural or historical element to their ceremony. For example, it was included in the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The practice of handfasting was originally practiced by the Greeks and Romans. In the Roman celebration, a garland was fashioned from magnolias, elder and roses which they used to wrap around the couple's wrists. This practice represented love and fidelity.
The handfasting ceremony became especially common in Ireland and Scotland and turned out to be the way couples were "officially" married in the times before the church became involved in performing weddings.
Today, many people consider the handfasting a strictly pagan custom often used in non-traditional marriages, but really it is a wedding ritual that can easily be incorporated into a traditional wedding while exchanging vows. In fact, it's a meaningful ritual that makes a perfect choice for couples looking to do something different to symbolize their love, and for those of Scottish or Irish decent it a nice historical tie to their roots.
Traditionally silk cords are used in handfasting, but today some people a personal touch that is meaningful to them. This might include cloth strips or one large piece of cloth made from something that holds special significance, like a piece of a mother or grandmother's wedding dress. Others choose several ribbons or a number of different colors.
This timeless tradition symbolizes the union of two people and their willingness to spend the rest of their lives together. And while the practice itself is an ancient tradition, today couples can find many different versions to choose from whether it is for a wedding or a renewal of vows.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
The Claddagh ring (pronounced “klahda”) enjoys a distinctive design. It features two hands (representing friendship) holding a heart (symbolizing love) and usually topped by a crown (loyalty). While the meaning is clear, the history of the Claddagh ring is clouded by a number of legends as to its origins.
One legend surrounds a woman by the name of Margareth Joyce (from the Joyce clan). She is said to have married a Spanish merchant by the name of Domingo de Rona. She left her homeland and went with her husband to Spain, but he died and left her a large amount of money. The legend says she returned to Ireland and, in 1596, married the mayor of Galway (town where the ring originated), Oliver Ogffrench, and used the money she had inherited to build bridges in Connacht. As a reward for her charity, one day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring in her lap.
A second story is about a prince who fell in love with a commoner. In his effort to convince the girl's father that he truly loved the girl, and had no intentions of "using" her, he designed the Claddagh ring with the symbols representing love, friendship, and loyalty. He proposed with the ring, and when the father heard the explanation he gave the couple his blessing.
Another legend that ties the Joyce clan and the Claddagh ring centers around a man by the name of Richard Joyce, a native of Galway. He left home to go work in the West Indies, and planned to marry the girl he loved when he returned to Ireland. However, his ship was seized, and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. As a slave, he learned his master's craft, and then when William III became king, he ordered all British prisoners released. His master held Joyce in high esteem and offered his daughter and half his wealth to the man if he stayed. However, Joyce rejected the offer and returned home to marry the girl he loved. Luckily, she had waited for him, and to her surprise he presented her with a Claddagh ring which he made while a slave.
Traditionally, the Claddagh ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward away from the body. This symbolizes that the person wearing the ring isn't in a serious relationship, and may even be looking for a relationship – that "their heart is open." When worn on the right hand with the heart facing the body, it indicates "someone has captured their heart" and that they aren't available.
When worn on the left hand ring finger with the heart facing outward, it generally means the person is engaged. If the heart faces inward, toward the body, it means the person wearing the ring is married.
The Claddagh ring is traditionally handed down from mother to daughter, a custom that represents our ties with past generations.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
When you think of an engagement ring, the first thing that pops into mind these days is a diamond ring, but the diamond ring is rooted in the culture of European royalty and that's not where the history of the engagement ring beings. In fact, engagement rings can be traced back to wedding traditions all the way back to the ancient Egyptians.
In ancient Egypt the first engagement rings were made out of hemp, leather, bone or ivory, and were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. These rings were thought to symbolize the endless circle of love between a couple.
This tradition was picked up by the Greeks after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC. The betrothal bands they wore, though, were usually made of iron, unless you were wealthy. The rich wore more expensive metals including: copper, silver or gold. At times, these rings were engraved with a message or poem which started the tradition of engraving engagement rings and wedding bands.
Diamond and gold engagement rings were very rare. The most notable was in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria bestowed one to Mary of Burgundy. Then in 1518, the two-year-old Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII, was given a diamond ring as a promise for an arranged marriage with the infant son of King Francis I of France.
For the most part, regular every-day people couldn't afford an expensive ring as a pledge of faithfulness. In the 15th through the 17th century in Eastern Europe, plain posy rings (gold finger rings with a short inscription on their surface) with inscribed messages made popular betrothal rings.
In Ireland, a wedding tradition that began during the Renaissance, included interlocking gimmel rings. One of the rings served as a betrothal ring for the bride, another was worn as a betrothal ring for the groom, and the third ring was held by the best man until the wedding day.
Until the late 19th century, engagement rings among the wealthy were made from colored gemstones. Once African diamond mines made the precious gems more accessible, the Victorians favored a heart-cut solitaire diamond accented with rubies which were a symbol of passionate love, sapphires carried divine favor, or emeralds, which were thought to attract good fortune. Emeralds were historically the sacred stone of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and Venus, the Roman goddess of passion.
Times changed, and with them wedding traditions and customs evolved. Dowries became a tradition of the past, laws changed, and women were able to sue their fiances for breaking engagements. Engagement rings became a source of financial security and were made of rubies, opals, emeralds and turquoise.
|Victorian era diamond engagement ring.|
It was Tiffany & Co. who introduced the single solitaire in the U.S. in 1886. This ring style was drastically different than the customary embedded bezel mount. The new cut showcased the jewel's natural shine and quickly became the most requested ring by American brides. It is still the most popular engagement ring setting in the U.S. today, with an estimated 80 percent of modern brides wearing a diamond engagement ring. This popularity can be traced back to the marketing campaign of DeBeers back in 1947 -- "A Diamond is Forever." It embedded the diamond engagement ring into America's mainstream society as the most coveted of engagement rings.
Friday, September 18, 2015
In a phone conversation today, a friend asked me why men don't wear engagement rings. She tended to think the one-sided exchange would let people know the woman wasn't available, while the man would be free to mess around. I let her know that while engagement rings for men are fairly new here in the U.S., in many cultures grooms-to-be have proudly worn betrothal rings to let others know they are taken.
For instance, in Ireland, men often propose with a gimmel ring. These triple interlocking rings separate, and one part is worn by the woman, a second part is worn by the man, and the third part of the ring is kept by the best man for safekeeping until the wedding ceremony when the groom slips it on his bride’s finger.
In some South American countries including Brazil and Argentina, both the bride- and groom-to-be wear engagement rings. In Argentina, the man and woman exchange silver engagement bands which they wear on their left hand. Then, during the wedding ceremony, gold rings are placed on their right hands. In Brazil, they wear gold bands on their right hands, and move them to their left hands after exchanging marriage vows. A similar tradition is practiced by some men from Germany Sweden and Finland.
|More ornate designs are gaining in popularity.|
In today's Western culture, engagement rings for men are growing in popularity and are often referred to as a mangagement ring. These mangagement rings traditionally look much like a plain wedding band made from precious metals, however more ornate designs are gaining in popularity. Depending on ring choice, once the couple is married, the man can either wear his mangagement ring as a wedding band, or he can stack it with his new wedding bands, much like a woman wears a marriage set.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Today most couples have a gift registry to help friends and family choose a wedding gift they both need and want, but long ago guests didn't even bring gifts. It is thought that the idea of wedding gifts stemmed from the idea of a dowry which was the price paid to a bride's family.
In medieval times, a dowry usually included things like land, animals, money, and other forms of wealth. This was an ancient custom with the first recorded dowry noted in 3,000 B.C. This practice effectively "bought" the groom, which left girls without dowries with minimal chances of getting married. On the groom's side, his family provided a house for the couple to live in, and the groom himself would give his bride a valuable surprise gift following the wedding night as reimbursement for the loss of her virginity. A third gift was given to the priest who performed the ceremony and blessed the marriage.
|Italian Wedding Chest|
During the Renaissance ornate marriage chests marked the joining of the couple. These large chests were produced in pairs and usually held the bride's dowry. In the mid-fifteenth century, these chests were crafted to complement other furnishings in the couple's bedchamber, and they were sometimes paraded through the streets of Florence, Italy, in wedding processions. Gradually, these chests were used to hold all the bride's future linens and other household goods, which she would take to her groom's house. These marriage chests were the earliest form of what we today call a hope chest.
By the 1850s, especially in the American South, brides were gifted with a leather key basket which represented her new role as mistress of the house. These baskets were embossed with figures, and shapes like hearts and stars and were kept in Colonial homes. The baskets held keys to unlock doors, chests, and cupboards in the bride's new home.
The custom of guests and family giving gifts to the newly married couple is rather recent, and started back around 1890. And with the giving of wedding gifts came folklore that influenced what to buy. For example, according to folklore, giving of knives was a poor gift choice because a knife signified a broken relationship. It was considered bad luck as a wedding gift. If knives were given, you could always pay the giver a penny and that way it became a purchase and not a gift.
As the rituals and customs surrounding marriage slowly evolved, so did wedding gifts. In 1924, Macy's offered the first wedding gift registry and other departments were quick to do the same. Brides picked out their china pattern, with gift registries in these early days including items like crystal, silver, and china as very common bridal gifts.
Today, it's not unusual for guests to buy something more personal rather than purchase something off the registry or to skip presents altogether and just give cash. With so many couples living together before marriage, items needed to set up a household like linens and flatware are no longer popular gifts, and some modern couples have even set up charity donations in lieu of gifts, or they just ask for cash.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Wedding cookies go by many different names around the world. Some call them Russian tea cakes, some Mexican wedding cakes or Polvorones from the Spanish word polvo which means powder or dust. At Italian weddings, Italian wedding cookies can be found at a dessert or sweet table with the cake. Sometimes the cake is even made of Italian cookies piled on top of one another. There's even a cookie dance in which the bride and groom lead guests around the reception area and then to the cookie table where each person takes a cookie. Even those who don't dance get a cookie, and it's not unusual for guests to pocket a cookie or two to bring home.
Polvorones are also a popular holiday cookies in Spain and its former Latin American colonies and the Philippines, and food historians actually trace the history of these cookies to Medieval Arab cuisine. It is thought that these cookies were originally brought to Spain by the Moors, and the recipe spread throughout Europe.
This explains how wedding cookies from so many countries and cultures are so similar – a crumbly shortbread type dough made of sugar, flour, butter, and nuts. It's a sweet tradition that was introduced to the New World by the 16th century.
This is the recipe our family has enjoyed for generations.
Wedding Cookies Recipe
- 1 cup butter (not margarine)
- 2 cups flour
- 4 Tbl. Sugar
- 2 cups finely chopped pecans
- 2 tsp. vanilla
1. Place butter in large bowl, and let soften at room temperature.
2. Cream butter and sugar, and stir in vanilla.
3. Stir in flour and nuts.
4. Roll into little balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 300 for 30-45 minutes.
The size of the balls determines the length of baking time. They are done when they turn a light cream color. Remove from sheet and roll in powdered sugar. Let cool and roll in powdered sugar again.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
|Queen Victoria's white wedding dress inspired today's tradition.|
While most of us in the West like to think of weddings as part of a love story, for most of history marriage was really more like a business deal between two families or countries. But even when wedding weren't based on love, brides wore dresses that highlighted their family's wealth and social status. However, for the most part, brides didn't buy a dress specifically for her wedding day. Instead, a bride usually wore her Sunday best.
These dresses were often dark because dark colors didn't show stains. In fact, many brides wore black because it was popular. Many wedding traditions are linked to superstition, and the color of the wedding dress back then was no different. Brides avoided wearing green because it was considered an unlucky color, while blue was the most popular choice because it was thought to represent purity and godliness.
In 1840, the royal wedding between England's Queen Victoria to her first cousin Prince Albert introduced a bridal gown that changed everything. She wore a white gown dripping with orange blossoms. At that time, white fabric was hard to come by and expensive. So brides who wanted to show off their wealth or status created white gowns made with excessive amounts of fabric. However, the whites of that day were not bright like the eggshell white we have these days. About a decade later, Godey's Lady's Book, declared that white was the most fitting hue for a bride.
When the Great Depression hit, the white wedding dress grew scarce again because people weren't willing to spend money on a gown they would wear one time. Instead, women returned to the tradition of wearing their best outfit. At that time it was usually a dark color. By the middle of the 20 century, the white dress grew in popularity again. Some iconic dresses from this era include Grace Kelly and Princess Diana's wedding gowns.
In other cultures, in countries like China and India, brides often wear red or a white-red combination because red symbolizes good-luck. In Japan, brides often wear colorful dresses. Today, in the West, white and light-colors are the most popular color for wedding dresses, but brides have more choices than ever to choose from. Many people think white represents purity and virtue while it really became popular because it represented dressing like royalty.
Monday, September 14, 2015
In our modern Western culture, the wedding cake is usually tiered, iced, and decorated per the desires of the bride. One wedding I recently attended had to include plenty of bling, which looked like sheets of rhinestones decorating the sides of the bottom tier. The challenge when it comes to wedding cakes is that they have to be crafted in a way that can support the decorations and still be edible. For this reason, many wedding cakes are works of art. Today wedding cakes have become big business and are one more expense couples must figure in to the cost of their wedding. But once upon a time instead of a wedding cake there was bread.
Many wedding traditions are linked with superstitions from long ago, and the wedding cake is no different. Before there was cake as we know it, the wedding cake took on the form of unsweetened bread. In medieval times, this bread was made from wheat flour and water and was thrown at the bride to during the ceremony to encourage fertility.
During Roman times, the bread had evolved into a loaf of barley bread. The groom would take a bite of the loaf and then hold the remainder of the bread over the bride's head and break it showering her with crumbs. Crumbs falling from her head were thought to be good luck, but this practice also carried with it a reminder of the man's dominant role over the woman. This practice also marked the end of her virginal state. Guests in the meantime scrambled to pick up any pieces that fell to the floor to get a bit of that good luck for themselves.
By the 17th century, the barley loaf was replaced with what was called the "Brides Pie." It was a mince or mutton pie made with sweetbreads. Just to be clear, sweetbreads are not sweet. It's a name given to organ meat that comes from the thymus gland and pancreas. Each pie contained a glass ring and it. The lady who found the ring in her piece of pie was believed to be the next to marry.
Finally in the 19th century, sweet cakes emerged as the confection for wedding celebrations. They weren't anything elaborate like what we see today but were normally just a flat one tier plum cake. It was thought that if the bridesmaid slept with a piece of cake under her pillow she would dream of her future husband. (Don't ask me how they slept with plum cake under their pillow. What a mess!)
Cake became the preferred confection for wedding celebrations. It didn't break in half like the bread, and so the tradition changed. The cake was sliced on a table. Guests no longer scrounged about on the floor for a lucky crumb, but could now stand in line and be served a tiny morsel of luck which the bride passed through her wedding ring into their hands.
It was in Victorian times that wedding cake as we know it today started to be popular. It was at this time that the first white wedding cakes covered in white icing appeared. By this time, white had become the color that represented purity. However, they weren't called wedding cakes yet. Instead, they were known as the "bride's cake" and the bride elevated as the focal figure at the wedding.
Today's couples have endless choices when it comes to wedding cakes. Instead of the traditional white cake, today's wedding cakes can be any flavor or flavors and can even be color-coordinated with the theme of the wedding.
The cutting of the cake is also a tradition and is something the bride and groom do together (at least the first slice), and this said to represent a promise to each other to always be there to help one another. Then traditionally, they each feed one another from that first slice which represents their willingness to provide for one another throughout life. Then there's the practice of smashing that cake all over each other's faces, but that's a story for another time.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
|Byzantine Signet Ring|
The history of the wedding ring isn't clear cut. No one is certain of the origin of the "finger ring" but it is speculated that they originated in ancient Egypt as the signet or seal evolved into a signet ring, a portable seal and display of authority. Later history shows that wealthy Egyptian women wore ornamental finger rings including the famous scarab design. Rings grew more common and complex during the middle kingdom. Over time Egyptian styles were supplanted by Greek and Roman rings during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
In the ancient writings of Pliny the Elder (23/4-79 CE) he said, "It was the custom at first to wear rings on a single finger only – the one next to the little finger, and this we see to be the case in the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius. Later it became usual to put rings on the finger next to the thumb, even with statues of the gods; and more recently still it has been the fashion to wear them upon the little finger too. Among the Gauls and Britons the middle finger – it is said – is used for the purpose. At the present day, however, with us, this is the only finger that is excepted, for all the others are loaded with rings, smaller rings even being separately adapted for the smaller joints of the fingers."
In Rome, laws were passed to govern the wearing of finger rings. Pliny goes on to say that the Emperor Tiberius required that people who were not of free descent be required to own a large amount of property before they could have the right to wear gold finger rings. Later the Emperor Severus gave soldiers the right to wear gold rings, and then extended the right to all free citizens. Silver rings were worn by freed slaves, and in Imperial Rome, gold, silver, and iron finger rings were worn in accordance with social class.
|Ancient Roman iron betrothal ring|
Along with rings tying a person to their social class, the Romans were also the first to wear rings that tied them to their spouse. However, unlike today, the ring was not slipped onto the ring finger at the wedding ceremony, but more an engagement ceremony called a Sponsalia. The groom slipped the iron ring (annulus pronubis) on the bride's finger as a pledge of fidelity. Rings were originally placed on the fourth finger because the ancient Greeks believed a vein in that finger led directly to the heart – the "vena amoris." Today we call this finger the ring finger.
With the ring in place, the bride would say, "Nubo," meaning "I veil myself," which signified she was promised to a man. The ring was also a symbol to the bride's family of his commitment and his ability to support his bride financially. Much later, the ring became part of the marriage ceremony.
Some suggest that the binding aspect of the ring for betrothal ceremonies came about from an older superstitious practice in which the man bound the woman he loved with cords around her waist, wrists, and ankles to be sure her spirit would be held under his control. This pagan superstition did not deter early Christians from adopting the use of the betrothal ring, though some Christians today question whether or not a Christian should wear a wedding ring for that reason and others. In the book Christian Dress and Adornment by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., he suggests that even a plain wedding band could "fall in the category of the inappropriate ornaments of gold and pearls mentioned by Paul and Peter" (1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:3), and for these reasons question whether or not a Christian should wear a wedding (or any) ring.