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The Month of Marriage Brings Wedding Factoids

With June right around the corner, I thought this might be an apropos time to share a variety of factoids I have collected through the years concerning marriage and weddings. So without further ado, here is a bunch of mildly interesting, though largely unimportant, information most of you would call trivia.

• So the logical starting point is…why is June the most popular month for weddings (at least historically)? Well, one line of thought argues that hygiene wasn’t traditionally as important (or as practical) as it is today. Thus, after a long, long winter, the weather finally warmed enough by the time May arrived for everyone to take a bath. Since it could be late in May before the weather was actually warm, June became the preferred month for marriage.

While this sounds good, and the portion about the May baths is true, this is not the reason why so many people get married in June. The actual reason is that the Roman goddess Juno is the god of marriage and in order to honor her, Romans preferred to get married in June…a pagan tradition that carried through the centuries.

• The origin of the word “wedding” is rather interesting. In the past, while brides were sometimes kidnapped, the preferred method of marriage was by purchasing a bride. A “bride-price” could be land, political alliances, livestock, cash, etc. While the Anglo-Saxon word “wedd” meant that the groom would vow to marry the woman, it also meant the “bride-price” to be paid by the groom to the bride’s father. The original meaning of the root word in wedding was literally to gamble or wager. Some might say that this is quite apropos.

• The phrase “to tie the knot” or “tying the knot” originated in Roman times when brides wore a girdle of rope tied with numerous knots. It was the groom’s duty to untie these knots, though when this untying took place remains unclear.

• The term “honeymoon” can be traced back almost 4,000 years to ancient Babylon, where it was common practice for the bride’s father to supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink for a full month following the wedding. The Babylonians used a lunar calendar (i.e. a month equaled a full phase of the moon) and mead, of course, is powerful liquor made from fermented honey. Put them both together and you get…“honeymoon.”

• The tradition of carrying a bride across the threshold stems from the belief that a bride had to enter her new home through the front door and that if she tripped bad luck would befall (pardon the pun) the couple. In order to avoid the bride tripping the groom began to simply carry his bride into their new home. I’m sure this is accurate, but I wonder if the real reason is that the bride’s flowing dress makes it impossible for her to clearly see her feet in relation to doorways that actually have thresholds, thus the likelihood of her tripping, if left to her own ambulation, is very high.

• In ancient times, wedding rings, primarily made of iron, were thought to protect the bride from evil spirits. Early Roman rings, made of gold to symbolize everlasting love and commitment, were often carved with two clasped hands. Other rings had a key carved with which a woman was thought to be able to open her husband’s heart.

The tradition of a diamond engagement ring began with King Maximillian in 1477 when he gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring to signify his enduring love.

• When standing at the altar, the bride always stands to the groom’s left. This tradition originated when brides were still kidnapped: the man would place the woman he chose on his left in order to keep his right hand free to wield his sword.

• Ah, those wacky Europeans! During the 14th century having a piece of the bride’s clothing was thought to bring good luck. The result of this belief was many a scantily clad bride. In order to offset this practice, the bride began tossing portions of her clothing to the guests. One of these portions was her garter, which was to go to the men, but since the men would frequently get drunk and try to take the garter away before it was officially tossed, it became tradition for the groom to remove the garter and toss it to the men. With the advent of this change, the bride began tossing her bouquet to the unwed female guests.

• And, finally, the clinking glass story. There are really two stories here, each plausible in there own right. The first story involves the origin of toasts. During less enlightened times, one of the chief methods for disposing of an enemy was poisoning. Thus, at social events (more often than not political in nature), it became commonplace for the host to accept a portion of his guests drink to be poured into his own glass. The host would then drink from his glass to show the guest that the drink contained no poison. If, however, the guest trusted his host, rather than pour some liquid into his host’s glass he would simply clink glasses and they would both drink from their respective vessels. Hence, clinking of glasses came to signify both a bond and a trust.

The second story is that the Devil is thought to frequent festive occasions, and since a wedding is one of the most festive of occasions the Devil was thought to be lurking, waiting to spoil the wedding and the marriage. The Devil, however, has a weakness in this tradition: he can’t stand to be around ringing bells. Thus, whenever possible, bells were rung periodically throughout the celebration and (you guessed it!) in the absence of bells the clinking of glass was thought to chase away that bad old Devil!