Old-Time BeliefsWhy Brides Wear Orange Blossoms
The Origin of the Bridal Veil
The Meaning of the Wedding Cake
Why Rice and Slippers are Thrown
Honeymoon and Honey-wine
Since her wedding day is one of the most important of all days in a girl's life, it is interesting to read of the old beliefs and customs associated with it.
If the bride-elect is awakened on her wedding morning by the singing of a robin on her window-sill, or near by, she may count herself well blessed, for this is regarded by those who are superstitious as a sure omen of joy. Happy also will she be who sees the swallows come to the eaves for the first time that morning, since they have always been regarded as sure harbingers of good luck.
On the other hand, it is considered unlucky to break anything on one's wedding morn, as this is supposed to show that she will not live in harmony with her husband's relations.
If there is a cat in the house the bride must never omit to feed it herself on that day, otherwise the creature may think itself neglected, and out of spite, bring on the rain. Such were the beliefs dear to the hearts of our ancestors!
Another prohibition was that she must, on no account, read the Marriage Service right through just before her wedding — that is to say, either on the night before, or on the morning of the day.
When the important task of dressing the bride commenced in old days, her maids or attendant friends searched carefully through the wedding gown; if by chance a tiny spider were found in one of its folds, it was supposed to indicate that the bride would never lack for money.
As to the actual color is to be worn, the following lines were supposed to fore tell the fate of the maid who chooses any particular one:
Green symbolises hope, joy, and youth. Red, courage, and deep love: and violet, dignity and faithfulness.
In early days, as, again, at the present time, white was considered the colour for a bride: but from the Middle Ages to the latter part of the seventeenth century, its supremacy was disputed by yellow, crimson, and pink.
Mary Stuart was married in white and blue, in accordance with an old custom which decreed that any girl bearing the name of Mary should wear blue — the colour sacred to the Virgin Mary.
An old superstition forbids a bride to allow the groom to see her in her wedding dress otherwise there will be no wedding. Neither must she look at herself in the glass after the completion of her toilette, but must put on her gloves after she has turned away from the mirror.
In order to ensure good luck she must take care to wear: "Something old, something new. Something borrowed, and something blue".
The first in order that she may still retain the love and affection that was hers in the old life; something new for success in her new life; something borrowed that friends may ever be helpful and faithful when needed; and something blue as the emblem of loyalty and constancy.
Any jewels except pearls may be worn; these should be avoided, as they symbolise tears.
The Meaning of Orange-Blossoms
Authorities are divided upon the origin of the use of orange-blossom. Some think it was introduced by the Crusaders, who obtained it from the Saracens, among whom it was the favourite bridal flower, and regarded as an omen of prosperity, owing to the fact that in the East the orange-tree bears ripe fruit and blossoms simultaneously. The flower, being white, was also regarded as the symbol of innocence and chastity.
The other legend hails from Spain, and is as follows: A certain Spanish maiden, the daughter of one of the gardeners at the Royal Palace, was unable to marry because she could not furnish a sufficient dowry, and her fiance was too poor for them to start in life without some financial assistance. Now, the French Ambassador once visited the Spanish monarch, and very greatly desired to possess a cutting from his famous Orange-tree, so the maiden promised to obtain one for him if he would also help her to obtain her heart's desire. Nothing lost, the visitor paid her a handsome sum for the coveted cutting, and on her wedding day she wore a chaplet of the blossoms to whose agency she owed her happiness. What the owner of the tree said about the transaction, or if he ever knew of it, history does not relate. But most probably the orange-blossom has become so fashionable, and was adopted by French modistes, on account of its beauty, and very likely in ignorance of its meaning.
In Anglo-Saxon times the bridal wreath was often made of corn or wheat-ears (a custom really belonging to the Greeks), in token of prosperity. These sometimes were church property, and used for every wedding, and the bridegroom was crowned with one also. This custom still prevails in Greece, where an interchange of chaplets is made during the ceremony. Not every country, by any means, adopts the orange-blossom; certainly not in the cases of the peasants' weddings, for in Bavaria and Silesia the bride wears a chaplet of pearls, glass, or gold wire; in Italy and France and the French cantons of Switzerland, white roses. In Norway, Sweden, and Servia, the bridal crown is composed of silver, while the German bride would be amazed if in her circlet of red and white roses, myrtle leaves were not entwined.
Origin of the Wedding Veil
Having so far attired the bride, her wreath and veil must have consideration next. The history of the wedding veil is particularly interesting, and, like so many other things, seems to have two sources. First, the Anglo-Saxon custom, which decreed that during the marriage ceremony four tall men should hold a square piece of cloth, called a care-cloth, over the heads of the bridegroom and his bride to conceal the maiden blushes of the latter. But since it may have been difficult sometimes to find the four necessary groomsmen, and people came to realise that, after all, it was the bride only who really required the sheltering cloth, the question arose, why should she not have it to herself, and the wedding veil was a delightfully simple way out of all the difficulties. But as it now enveloped her closely it became essential that it should be of thin material, so that while effectively screening her blushes, it yet might not interfere with her vision.
For the second source some think the idea of the care-cloth itself was borrowed from the Jews, since they use a square vestment called Taleth, adorned with pendants, to place over the heads of the happy pair.
The care-cloth is also the name given to the fine linen that was laid over the newly married in the Catholic Church.
Still, whatever its origin, the present form and signification is extremely beautiful, and fits in well with the custom of throwing back the veil after the ceremony, for then the maid has become a wife, and having her husband's protecting arm, has no longer need to be shy or bashful.
Brides were just as superstitious about days of the week. A popular rhyme goes:
In driving to church it is, perhaps, as well for the bride not to notice what she meets, for pigs are said to denote ill-luck, and if the wedding party encounter a funeral it is said they should turn back and start out again; but in any case it is considered very unfortunate, and indicative of the early death of one of the contracting parties. A dove or a lamb signifies domestic peace, and a spider, or a toad, plenty.
A country bride and her wedding party walked to church on a carpet of blossoms to assure a happy path through life. For the wealthier, a grey horse pulling the wedding carriage was considered good luck. Church bells pealed forth as the couple entered the church, not only to make the populace aware of the ceremony taking place, but also to scare away any evil forces lurking nearby.
Guests in mourning entered the church quietly and hid amongst the crowd, so as not to cast negative aspersions on the couple.
On arrival at the church the bride should be sure to step over the threshold with her right foot first, to ensure good luck in her marriage, and whichever of the bridal pair beholds the other first will be "master."
Superstition forbids the wedding ring to be tried on before the ceremony; if it does not fit, a new one should be bought afterwards, since to cut the circlet is to bring separation or widowhood. But this difficulty may be solved by buying a ring the same size as the engagement ring, when no alteration should be necessary. There were few double ring ceremonies in the Victorian era. It was considered good luck for the ring to drop during the ceremony, thus all evil spirits were shaken out.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom walked out without looking left or right. It was considered bad taste to acknowledge friends and acquaintances.
From a custom dating back to Roman times when nuts were thrown after the departing couple, the practice continued, but in the form of rice, grain or birdseed, a symbol of fertility. The wedding carriage awaiting the bride and groom was drawn by four white horses.
By the time the couple was ready to depart, only family and intimate friends were present. As the couple drove off in a carriage pulled by white horses, the remaining party-goers threw satin slippers and rice after the couple. If a slipper landed in the carriage, it was considered good luck forever. If it was a left slipper, all the better.
The bridal couple usually left for their honeymoon after the wedding breakfast. The honeymoon originated with early man when marriages were by capture, not by choice. The man carried his bride off to a secret place where her parents or relatives couldn't find her. While the moon went through all its phases — about 30 days — they hid from searchers and drank a brew made from mead and honey. Thus, the word, honeymoon. The honeymoon is now considered a time to relax.
"Happy is the Bride that the Sun shines on!" runs the old adage, but we may hope that the lives of all English brides are not as grey as the skies under which they are often married. We can also hope that every bride will have the sunshine of joy in her heart on her wedding-day.