When we think of weddings, we always tend to think of them as ceremonies teeming with purity and the prospect of everlasting love and happiness. We think oh, weddings are perfect, that veil is perfect, the rings are perfect! But have we ever gone around to thinking how they came to be?
If anything, they weren’t always that pristine…
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in my shoe
We start with the most peasant and arguably the most curious. Come on, were you never curious as to where this little limerick came from and how connects to a wedding? It’s not just because it sounds clever!
Weddings, from long ago and until the present are built on a lot of superstition, and boy aren’t people a superstitious folk (no matter what we say about being in a new millennia)? The little limerick is derived from a set of wedding customs from the Victorian era that, when said to be worn in combination would bring the bride enough good luck to last the entire duration of her marriage (hopefully, forever). “Something old” was meant to be something from her past, to tie her to her past and her family, while the “something new” was supposed to be something that stood for being a member of a new family. The “something borrowed” was supposed to come from someone else, usually an already successfully married wife, so that the good fortune that wife had from her marriage would rub off on the new bride, while “something blue” was a reference to the very Virgin Mary approved qualities of purity and faithfulness and loyalty, and then finally “sixpence in my shoe” which was meant to bring the newlyweds fortune…not just good fortune, but an actual, solid fortune in the form of cold hard cash.
The White Wedding Dress
It wouldn’t be fair to the hundreds of color-specific brides and brides-to-be out there to just say “white wedding dress.” White comes in all shades: Ivory, Ecru, candlelight, Frost…whatever sub-hue that more or less goes under the label “White.” All right, we get the general idea.
But did you know that the tradition of the bride wearing white was a recent comeuppance? It was popularized in the Victorian era, which is quite recent-ish considering that people have been marrying in ceremonies and dresses for as far back into the dawn of humanity. It was Queen Victoria that popularized the white wedding dress, wearing her own pale gown trimmed in orange blossoms as she wed the love of her life (and cousin) Prince Albert. It is also among the earliest instances when people caught on to the trend of copying celebrity fashion styles.
So what did brides wear to their wedding before that? Usually, just their best dress, in any color, even black. Plus their best items of clothing, like furs and wraps and hats and shawls, the objective of this was to show the new family that the bride was loaded, and well off.
The Bridal Veil
One would think that the veil was there merely for an ethereal effect, or as an elaborate headpiece. Its origins were of a far more sordid nature, however: the veil usually was said to have protected the bride from enchantments on her wedding day. It was also a very practical manner, back in the day when marriages were business transactions rather than celebrations of love and togetherness, the veil was meant to hide the bride’s face so that the groom would have no chance to back out once he discovers the bride to have…not so aesthetically pleasing facial features. Through time, however, the symbolism of the veil has evolved from the untimely revealing of unsatisfactory merchandise to a status symbol: in the Victorian era (apparently the golden age for the idyllic modern wedding), the longer and more elaborate the veil, the higher up you are on the social ladder. Notice how royals have unnecessarily long trains and veils? Showoffs.
The Diamond Ring
No line has ever highlighted the significance of this little bit of jewelry more than Samantha of Sex and the City when she said, aghast, to her then boyfriend who had gifted her with a ring: “This is a ring with diamonds, not a diamond ring?” referencing a cultural breakthrough where weddings are concerned. Rings have been used to bind marriages since as early as the Egytians were building their pyramids, but it was only in the 1920s that the idea of a diamond engagement ring spread like wildfire and became the norm. No metaphors to it really, only a De Beers ad that said, “Diamonds are forever” Traditions built on capitalism, oh yes.
The tossing of garters/bridal bouquets
While it seems entertaining and another popular ruse to get single people at weddings to meet new people, the throwing of the garter or bouquet had originally been intended to keep a luck-hungry crowd from tearing the new bride to shreds. Yes you read that right; there had been a time when people were so superstitious and hungry for luck that they would grab pieces of the bride’s dress because it was said to be very lucky, and that weddings are definitely not a bride’s moment most fond. You could only imagine what a luck-starved mob could be capable of doing to a poor little bride. Through the years, one of those terrified brides eventually came to think of tossing away her garter or her bouquet to keep a wild mob at bay.
Joel Chang has had extensive experience in event organizing prior to working at JAF Gifts, an online source of cake stand tiers and candy dishes. Guys would surely appreciate his post on DatingSymbol.com about the “Top Five Gifts to Give Her on Your First Date”, check it out now!