Wedding Traditions: Why Bridesmaids, Veils, and Bells? Evil Spirits.
A happy couple gets pelted with rice as they leave the church after their wedding. Source: (gettyimages.com)
Wedding ceremonies are steeped in tradition, and let's face it, some of them are rather odd. A quick look into the origins of many of today's wedding traditions will show a common thread, and it's not love: These traditions originated as a way to ward off evil spirits who seemed literally hellbent on ruining the wedding day and stirring up bad luck in the newlyweds' marriage. Let's look at some of these wedding traditions to see how the people of the past devised ways to thwart the spirits.
Bridesmaids in Matching Dresses
You may think that the purpose of having bridesmaids at a wedding is for the bride's friends and relatives to stand by her side during her big day and show their support for her, but you'd be wrong. In the past, the purpose of bridesmaids was to have several women all wearing wedding dresses to confuse the evil spirits. If any woman attending a wedding pulled that today, they'd be in for a bridal beatdown, but back then, it was hoped that one of the bridesmaids would get hit with the bad luck whammy, leaving the bride unscathed and ready for a long and happy marriage.
The Wedding Veil
Being cursed by the "evil eye" was a real concern for ancient Greeks and Romans. Jealous and spiteful people, as well as evil spirits, may cast an evil eye towards a bride on her wedding day. To make sure the power of the evil eye didn't touch her, brides wore fabric veils. As an added bonus, they were also useful to brides entering an arranged marriage, particularly young ladies of questionable attractiveness. They could hide their homeliness behind the veil until the wedding was over.
The Bridal Bouquet
Brides of today walk down the aisle carrying beautiful bouquets of fragrant flowers, but that wasn't always the case. Bride in ancient Greece carried bouquets of pungent spices, plants, and herbs. The stinkier, the better. The mixture of strong-smelling herbs, so they thought, kept the evil spirits away so they would not have the opportunity to curse the new couple with their bad luck.
Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold
The romantic, albeit archaic, tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold when the newly married couple arrives at their house has nothing to do with the groom's eagerness to show the bride to the bedroom. It has to do---you guessed it---with evil spirits. The threshold of a house was, according to many ancient cultures, a popular gathering place for evil spirits. These spirits, it seems, hoped to hitch a ride into the house when a person crossed the threshold. They would even cling to the sole of a person's feet in their attempt to gain entry. To make sure that the bride was safe from the evil spirits and that she would not unwittingly carry them into her new home, the groom carried the bride across the threshold.
Ringing the Wedding Bells
Many times, after a church wedding, the church's bells are rung to announce to the world that the happy couple has been wed. Even in non-church weddings, bells are a common wedding motif. In medieval times, people believed that the sound of church bells scared off evil spirits that lurked around churches hoping to spread evil.
The Shower of Rice
Today, when the newly married couple exits the church on their wedding day, they're greeted by a shower of rice (or birdseed, if you are environmentally conscious). The rice has a double significance. First, it is a symbol of fertility, so tossing rice on the newlyweds is a way of encouraging them to go forth and multiply. Second, the rice literally feeds the evil spirits so that they don't have to feed on the good vibes of the happy couple. It was thought that the evil spirits who have crashed the wedding, like mortal wedding crashers, could be diverted from their malevolent mission with free food.
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