Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Bouquet


In the summer of 2010, a naïve young woman caught the bride’s bouquet at her friends’ wedding, thereby symbolizing that she would be the next to marry. Did she believe the tradition? Of course not! It’s just a silly superstition…right? A year later, her sticky fingers struck again when she beat out a dozen other single ladies and caught another bride’s bouquet. Still a silly wedding day custom? Oh no, my pretty little friend - IT’S A SIGN!

Wedding day superstitions have been around for centuries, dating back thousands of years. Although most of these beliefs were forgotten long ago, including having good luck for finding a spider in your wedding dress (ew), many of them are still celebrated in modern weddings. Ever wonder where the traditions of tossing the bouquet, wishing for rain on one’s wedding day, or avoiding seeing the bride came from?

The bride’s bouquet is synonymous with the wedding outfit, and it considered an essential part of the ensemble. Before the tossing of the bouquet, wedding guests would tear off pieces of the bride’s dress at the end of the reception for good luck, often ripping it to shreds. In order to preserve the wedding dress, the tossing of the bouquet and garter began so that unmarried guests could keep pieces of the bride’s ensemble as a beacon of luck in joy, fertility, and love[1].

Although most couples would hope for sunshine on their wedding day, it is actually considered good luck if it rains on the day. Living in Seattle, I tried to see the upside of the chance of rain on the day, and so (without prior research) I advertised this silver lining to my family. The normal response was “Well, of course we’d tell you that! If your wedding day gets rained out, it could at least be good luck.” As it turns out, rain is meant to make the marriage stronger. Since the term ‘tying the knot’ came from the actual act of tying a knot, the rain would make the damp rope more difficult to break[2].

One of the most popular wedding superstitions is that bad luck comes from the groom seeing the bride before the wedding. When fathers arranged the marriages of their daughters, it was common for the bride and groom to meet for the first time after the ceremony had finished and they were husband and wife. The bride would wear an opaque veil covering her face, because if the groom saw the bride before the marriage was made official, he might run away.

Of course, one of the most common wedding traditions comes after the ceremony: carrying the bride across the threshold of her home. This tradition has roots in many different cultures, and many different origins. The first reason is based around the idea of the groom ‘stealing’ the bride from her family (as previously mentioned in “Father of the Bride”). This also has to do with the second reason, which is that the bride being carried in to the house gave her an alibi against appearing too excited to be married off. Other reasons include supernatural beliefs, as the bride is so vulnerable on her wedding day, that she risks being invaded by evil spirits, who lurk in the doorway and enter her body through the soles of her feet (weird!). The Romans believed that it was bad luck for the bride to trip while entering her new home, and so the groom would carry her to keep her from falling[3]. It is surprising how this tradition was implanted in many different societies for a variety of reasons, and it is even more surprising that husbands carry their wives to keep demons from attacking her feet.

Bottom Line: Wedding day superstitions are common and are accommodated during weddings to spread good luck to wedding guests and avoid bad luck for the bride and groom. Not only does sharing a piece of love or finding a silver lining in a weather malfunction benefit the members of the wedding, but it also keeps modern brides in touch with old school wedding traditions.
Venus, you're next...

[1] http://www.favorfavor.com/tossing-bouquet.php
[2] http://www.myplainview.com/news/article_0b7c4c40-8c6f-11df-b128-001cc4c03286.html
[3] http://people.howstuffworks.com/groom-carry-bride1.htm

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