Wedding traditions are a family thing: they're handed down from one generation to the next. But traditions also evolve over time, mainly through the borrowing of various elements from other social classes, cultural origins and ethnic groups.
With their uniqueness and authenticity, hand-made clothes bring a touch of originality and respect for tradition that distinguishes them from store-bought items. This is why we treasure and give great importance to the beauty of all items in the bride's trousseau. The trousseau, or marriage outfit, represents the bride’s material contribution to the family heritage.
The hope chest is made by the men in the family to store all of the clothing and linen in the trousseau. This chest plays a major part in the life of the future bride: it is the keeper of her treasures. Over the years, hope chests came to be replaced by large trunks, sometimes lined with cedar. Today, "cedar chests" are still used to store seasonal clothing or clothes reserved for special occasions such as weddings and christenings.
Games and superstitious beliefs are often used to "inform" young girls of what the future holds for them: who they will marry, how many children they will have, and whether or not they will "live happily ever after." Playing "he loves me, he loves me not" with a daisy, "turning an apple's stem" or "counting stars" are just a few examples of such practices.
From the moment the suitor enters the scene, the young lady must discretely indicate that she welcomes the attention. Courtship is conducted at home and on specific evenings, under the watchful eye of a chaperone. After the family home, public places such as dance halls and movie theaters become favorite dating spots for young people eager to get to know one another.
Soon, the young couple begins talking about marriage, each wanting to share everything with the other, to have children - and to escape from parental authority. The young man asks the father of his betrothed for his daughter's hand in marriage. The custom of the betrothal or engagement has spread to all layers of society.
The engagement ring is a pledge of honor and loyalty that the young man offers his betrothed. It symbolizes the tie that solemnly binds the future bride and groom and serves as a tangible symbol, for the community, of the wedding plans between the two lovebirds. The ring is worn on the aptly named ring finger of the left hand. Sometimes a bride will also offer an engagement present to the groom.
If, unfortunately, the engagement is called off, the young lady is expected to return the ring to the rejected groom. The bride is then said to have "returned his wages."
The wedding date is usually announced on the day of the engagement. Marriage is a way for a young lady to change her social standing. Such a passage is underlined by various receptions, including the wedding shower. This custom is an opportunity for the bride's friends, close family members and work mates to gather, to express female solidarity and to honor the bride. During this celebration, strictly reserved for women, the bride's friends come to bid farewell and to promise their undying loyalty and friendship. Each guest also brings a small present to complete the trousseau. The bride-to-be arrives last at this reception.
The bridal shower is a celebration that is often compared to the groom's bachelor party. The goal of this evening is the same, but the method is entirely different. A number of bachelor parties have been known to get out of hand and to degenerate into vulgarity and impropriety. Sometimes, both events are combined into a single reception in the couple's honor.
Guests invited to attend a wedding traditionally offer gifts to the couple. Each guest sends his or her present to the home of the bride's parents. Wedding gifts are usually housewares. Once opened, the presents are displayed in full view on a large and prettily dressed table. Wedding gifts are displayed as a show of the bride and groom's pride, and to thank the gift-givers publicly for their generosity.
The wedding dress, which the bride will wear only once, is the concrete realization of her greatest dream and of the image she has created in her imaginary world. Through her choice of model, style, material and accessories, she expresses her own ideal of beauty as well as her personal tastes and preferences. On her wedding day, every woman wants to be the most beautiful of all. The community adheres to this perception since, through the wedding ritual, the young girl accepts her new status as a woman and her role as a wife and future mother.
The white wedding dress symbolizes purity and virginity. The accompanying veil usually has the same meaning, although wedding veils are a bit of an older custom. Another custom concerns the remarrying of a widow. This event must take place after a sufficient mourning period has elapsed, and it is generally agreed that a widow should not wear white for her second wedding. How to Select the Best Wedding Accessories Vendor?
There is also a widely held belief that it is bad luck for the groom to see the wedding dress before the ceremony.
The bride's parents usually send the wedding invitations to guests of both families. Guests then return their answer to the sender's address.
The formal wear of members of the wedding party are prepared, the photographer, the videographer, the musicians, the Dj, the transportation, the flowers, the cake and the decor are reserved, the ceremony practiced and the reception planned to make sure everything will go smoothly. Some families even hang a rosary on the clothesline to ask for balmy weather and a beautiful day.
All religious formalities and legal requirements must also be duly executed. The wedding banns, or "intent to marry" notices, are made public through the church to ensure the social and civil legitimacy of the union. It was once customary to read the intent to marry notices from the pulpit at high mass, three Sundays in a row. Sometimes, a notice is also published in the social pages of the local newspaper.
The bride's bouquet is generally a gift from the groom. It symbolizes fertility.
The groom wears a flower in the buttonhole of his suit lapel. This "boutonniere" is made to match the flowers in the bride's bouquet. The parents of the bride and groom also wear assorted corsages and boutonnieres. The church is usually decorated with flowers, as is the top table in the reception hall.
In some families, the bride's bouquet is saved to make a rosary out of the flower petals. Some religious orders specialize in this art form. Others leave the bouquet behind in the church, as an offering to the Virgin Mary, to ensure happiness and fertility.
The honeymoon gives the newlyweds a little time off from their daily tasks before beginning their new life together. First known as an upper-class custom, the honeymoon is now an integral part of the rites of marriage.
The wedding album is a recent addition that became part of wedding customs around World War II. It is used to show future generations how the love story began.
Taken from "Un amour de collection" at the Museum of Civilization.