Saturday, July 11, 2009

When "for sake of tradition" heaps on costs

"You've got mail." Click, click, click, slumping back in your chair, you realize everything is forwards and junk mail. How often do you find yourself in this position? Political Jokes, a cartoon and warnings about kittens being stuffed in glass jars usually get deleted by me. But once, my dad had me read a particular forward from my grandma that I never forgot and actually changed the way I viewed everything I did. Has that happened to you with a forward?

To make a long story short, this particular forward was about a lady who was making an Easter ham. Before she put it into the pan, she cut the ends off. Her daughter asked her why she cut the ends off and the mom replied, "That's just how my mom did it! Let's ask grandma why she did it." They went into the living room to question the grandma why the ends of the ham get cut off. The grandma replied, "That's just how my mom did it! Let's ask great-grandma why she did it." They turned to the great-grandma and asked her why the ends of the ham were cut off. She replied, "I had to cut the ends off because my pan was too small for the ham!" So basically, two generations later, the ladies were cutting up their ham without knowing why they were doing what they were doing. All it took was one little girl to ask "why," to stop the cycle of blindly following "tradition."

When it comes to weddings, at least here in the U.S., they're full of tradition. Unfortunately, this makes for some very cookie cutter weddings. I don't think there's a bride out there that wants her wedding to be just like everybody else's. She wants to be unique, but stick with tradition. After adding in the bridesmaids, the tiered cake, the bouquets, the garter, something borrowed, something blue, a six pence in your shoe, yada, yada, yada you end up with one very expensive wedding - and it ends up being the same show, with a different cast.

Here's a few very common wedding "pieces" that I'm skipping and the root of tradition behind them.

-Bouquets : Bouquets, used in Medieval times, consisted of herbs and roots to ward off evil spirits. Later, brides added lots of fragrant flowers to cover up body odors since soap and deodorant were non-existent.

- Matching bridesmaids dresses - Bridesmaids wore similar dresses to the bride's gown, while groomsmen dressed similar to the groom. This was to confuse and protect against evil spirits or jealous suitors who attempted to harm the bridal couple, as they would be confused as to which two people were the bride and groom. (I doubt this one worked!)

- Huge Bridal Parties - During Roman times, to make a marriage legal, a wedding required 10 witnesses. During the bride kidnapping era, close friends of the groom-to-be assisted him when he kidnapped the bride from her family. The groomsmen were there to fend off angry family members fighting to keep the bride. (This still happens in parts of Eastern Russia.)

-Throwing rice (now blowing bubbles) - Rice became the popular item in the United States to wish prosperity and luck on newlyweds.

-Tossing the bouquet - Tossing the bouquet is believed to be an outgrowth of an idea, that was popular in the 14th century France - that it was considered lucky to get a fragment of the bride's clothing. Unlike today, where we have bridezillas, the woman was more like property and therefore treated rather terrible. Guests would grab at the bride's dress to tear off lucky infused pieces. Brides, looking to run away unscathed, began the custom of throwing bouquets as a distraction.

-Garter tossing - The garter represented the virginal girdle. When the groom removed the garter, he was demonstrating publicly, that the bride was relinquishing her virginal status. In medieval times, guests accompanied the newlywed couple to their bed chamber after the ceremony. Some guests would way overstep boundaries by trying to get the bride undressed and in bed. In order to keep the other men at bay, the groom would toss the bride's garter to distract them.

-Wedding cake - The wedding cake originated as loaves of wheat bread, broken over the bride's head to symbolize the virginal state of the bride being broken. Guests were encouraged to eat the crumbs that fell for good luck. During the Middle Ages, the bread became sweet buns, and the guests were responsible for bringing a bun to the wedding as a gift. For fun, after the ceremony, the mini sweet cakes were piled up and the bride and groom attempted to kiss over the enormous pile - the taller the pile, the more prosperous the couple. Supposedly, an anonymous French chef working during the reign of King Charles II, in the 16th century, visited London, and was appalled by their gross wedding cake traditions. Eager to make a buck, he came up with the wedding cake.

Frankly I don't feel that any of these traditions are very relevant today and am skipping all of them. Think about all the associated costs with all the above mentioned items. They get really expensive! Personally, I'm carrying a flamenco fan down the aisle, serving Russian tea cakes and we're going to be hitting a pinata. I'll update later more of our alternative wedding choices!

More to come,


  1. Wow...this was such an interesting post as I did not know any of the background tradition! We were married..30 years now (whew!) at the court house by the justice of the peace, dragged two people in from the hallway to witness and went to a romantic dinner afterward. Funny...I remember every detail today..even what we both wore. There was no pomp and circumstance..just the two of us which is pretty much how it has remained. Throwing those traditions out the door is fabulous! You're one smart lady who will have a gorgeous, memorable wedding!

  2. LOL, good for you!!

    Thank you for the history! =D

  3. Oh wow, so many things I learned today! Bouquet to hide body odor? Yikes. Too funny. I liked this post, glad I visited!

    Grace @ Sandier Pastures