Some wedding customs, like the habit of having a bridal party or carrying the bride over the threshold, have existed for centuries and are still going strong today. But with so many wedding customs throughout history and various cultures, it’s not hard to believe that some have slipped through the cracks over the years. We’ve all heard of things like dowries, and in most cultures, they’re no longer used or frowned upon. These old wedding customs, however, are not only no longer used but often they’re no longer remembered. Some perhaps for good reason.
Here are a few interesting historical wedding traditions that slipped from both general use and memory.
A Hole in Your Cup
Many cultures throughout history have placed immense value on the “virtue” of the bride. Even today, white wedding dresses tend to be the most popular wedding fashions, a style that was originally meant to symbolize the bride’s virginity. In ancient Abyssinian culture, however, a sullied bride could be shamed in front of the whole village if her husband found her wanting. The marriage itself typically happened without object, and then the couple returned to their new home to, well, consummate. The next morning, the whole village gathered together to watch the groom present a wine glass to the father of the bride.
If the marriage was meant to last, the groom and father-in-law shared a drink and the entire party carried on with the happy feasting. However, if when the groom let go of the cup, it started to leak and the wine all seeped out, that was his way of saying that his bride had been “sullied.” The wedding was then promptly annulled and the father took his daughter and dowry back home, hoping for better luck next time…perhaps in a new village.
If You Can Find Her First
Love is certainly something you should be willing to fight for, and the Russian Kamschatkadal tribe knew how to put that to the test. First, the prospective groom had to work as a servant to his future in-laws until they were willing to give their blessing. Then the real test began. The bride’s family would hide her and instruct the groom-to-be to find his bride and strip her naked. The entire village would come together to help hide the bride, and if the groom did ever find her, they then stood in his way by attacking him in attempt to “rescue” the bride.
If finally he succeeded in both finding and stripping his bride, he then had to go away so that the bride could call him back and invite him to stay. Presumably, if you could make it through all of that, you could survive any challenges that marriage might attempt to throw your way later in life.
Keep Your Feet on the Ground
Even today, no Irish person with any sense of self-preservation takes superstitions about the little folk lightly. It was commonly believed in Irish weddings that because the bride was so beautiful, she was at great risk of being stolen away by faeries. How, then, could she protect herself? Well, as the stories went, faeries were unable to steal her away as long as her feet remained on the ground. For this reason, no matter how lively the wedding dances became, the bride’s feet had to stay on the ground. No Patrick Swayze moves allowed for Irish grooms of the past.
Catch the Sash
Who doesn’t love a double…or triple…or quadruple wedding? The Lillooet tribe in what is now British Columbia had a much cuter wedding custom called “the touching dance.” In the touching dance, the entire community gathered together to dance, and the unmarried women wore a sash. If a man saw a woman he wanted for a wife, he would grab her sash. But she had the final say. If she didn’t want to marry him, she took her sash away from him. At the end of the dance, the chief looked out at the couples still attached and deemed them married.
Nowadays, weekends tend to be the most popular days for a wedding. Most of us work during the week and only have so much vacation time, so marrying on Saturday or Sunday ensures that as many guests can accept the invitation as possible. But in the Victorian era, weekend weddings were considered horribly uncouth, and were advised against by popular women’s magazines at the time. There was a popular folk rhyme at the time to tell brides what each weekday would symbolize for their wedding:
“Marry on Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all,
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses,
and Saturday for no luck at all.”
Whether society changed or superstitions died out, most of these traditions fell away, but it’s interesting to look back on the way people married in the past. What are some of your favorite old wedding customs? Are there any you think should be brought back? Let us know in the comments below!