The origin of the wedding veil is unclear but it is thought that it
predates the wedding dress by centuries.
One explanation is that it is a relic of the days when a groom would
throw a blanket over the head of the woman of his choice when he captured
her and carted her off. Another explanation is that during the times
of arranged marriages, the bride's face was covered until the groom
was committed to her at the ceremony - so it would be too late for him
to run off if he didn't like the look of her!
The Romans believed that jealous demon spirits would try to cast spells
on brides on their wedding days. Brides' faces were covered with veils
to ward off the devil and other evil spirits. Over the years, the meaning
of the veil has changed. Today it reflects modesty, obedience, chastity,
youth and virginity.
THE BRIDAL SHOWER
This custom came about when a father disapproved of his daughter's marriage
and refused to provide a dowry to the couple. The shower became the
alternative to the dowry. Supportive villagers would assemble and provide
the bride a variety of household items for her new home.
The engagement ring is a promise for marriage. During the Roman era,
the man had to barter for his future bride. The engagement ring was
security for the betrothed. As time went on, men presented diamond rings
to future brides because a ring containing a diamond was considered
more valuable than a plain gold band -- thus, it is a stronger promise
and offers more security.
THIRD FINGER, LEFT
A bride's engagement ring and wedding ring are traditionally worn on
the third finger of the left hand. There is no precise evidence to explain
the origin of this tradition, but there are two strongly held beliefs.
The first, dating back to the 17th century, is that during a Christian
wedding the Priest arrived at the forth finger (counting the thumb)
after touching the three fingers on the left hand '...in the name of
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost'.
The second belief refers to an Egyptian belief that the ring finger
follows the venaamoris, that is, the vein of love that runs directly
to the heart.
The early Egyptians are thought to have exchanged the first wedding
bands, with the circle as a symbol of eternity. Throughout the ages
wedding bands have been fashioned from grass, leather, stone, iron and,
finally, silver and gold. They were placed on the third finger of the
left hand, because the ancients believe that the vein there led straight
to the heart.
It was believed that if the newly married couple were to drink mead
each evening for the duration of one moon following the wedding, they
were assured a male heir within one year. And, if that did occur, lavish
gifts and accolades were bestowed upon the meadmaker (artisans that
were highly revered at the time).
In other words, the couple drank mead (honey wine) for one month (moon)
... thus the word honeymoon. The mead was drunk from a Mazer (sp) cup
which was passed down throughout the generations. The cup was usually
an ornate chalice, but for some it was rather simple.
THROWING THE BOUQUET
All in all, the bride and groom have been considered pretty lucky by
envious guests throughout the centuries. Overzealous guests used to
scramble for bits and pieces of the bride's clothing, including her
garter, as tokens of luck. This probably evolved into the modern-day
tradition of throwing the garter and bouquet to determine the next lucky
bride and groom.
In the 14th century, Europeans would gather around the bride and try
to remove her garter for good luck. The bride would also throw her stocking
for good luck. This eventually evolved into the bride throwing a bouquet
to unmarried guests at the wedding. If luck was tight, the girl who
caught the bouquet would be the next to marry. Today, the groom has
the honor of removing the bride's garter and tossing it to single men.
The man who catches the garter has the privilege of putting it on the
girl who caught the bouquet
Tossing of the bridal bouquet is a custom which has it's roots in England.
It was believed that the bride could pass along good fortune to others.
In order to obtain this fortune, spectators would try to tear away pieces
of the bride's clothing and flowers. In an attempt to get away, the
bride would toss her bouquet into the crowd. Tradition says that the
single women who catches the bouquet is the one who receives the bride's
fortune and will marry next.
No ceremony is complete without the kiss. In fact, there was a time
when an engagement would be null and void without one. Dating back from
early Roman times, the kiss represented a legal bond that sealed all
contracts. In the Middle Ages, newlyweds kissed over a stack of sweetened
buns. When a French pastry chef later iced one such stack, the modern
wedding cake was born.
According to tradition, yellow rose petals are thrown before the bride
and groom while they are walking down the aisle. This is to ensure faithfulness
in their marriage. When rose pedals are thrown before the bride as she
walks down the aisle, it is to ward-off evil spirits below the ground
and grant fertility.
It was believed that if all of a bride's maids dressed alike, evil spirits
would not be able to tell exactly who was being married and could not
put an evil curse on the couple.
TOASTING THE NEW
It is said that the wedding toast begins the nuptial celebration. In
China, for example, two goblets of honey and wine are joined with a
red ribbon - the centuries old color of love and joy - and the couple
enjoy a drink of unity.
Lithuanian parents serve the wedding couple symbols of married life:
wine for joy, salt for tears and bread for work.
Today, the French bridal couple drinks a reception toast from an engraved
silver two-handled cup, called a "coupe de mariage." which
is passed from generation to generation.
In Italy, couples still follow ancient Roman wedding tradition -they
walk through their village passing out cakes and sweets.
Even the word "bridal" comes from a British toasting tradition
where newlyweds-to-be drank a marriage mead known as "bride-ale"
for thirty days prior to their wedding day as part of the festivities.
Wine has always been central to the celebration.
And literally, the toast, involved scorched bread. Back in the days
when wine had to be decanted because of heavy sediments in the bottom
of the bottle, the French cleverly "toasted." A piece of toast
was placed on the bottom of the wine glass to absorb the residue. Naturally,
everyone was encouraged to drink.
BAD LUCK TO SEE
The wedding ceremony was considered a definitive line between old and
new; therefore, the bride would not be pure and new if her groom saw
her ahead of time. Worse yet, she would leave part of herself behind
if she saw her own reflection. It once was also considered an ill omen
for the bride to see herself in the mirror in her wedding dress.