The traditional church wedding features two bridal marches, by two different classical composers. The bride walks down the aisle to the majestic, moderately paced music of the “Bridal Chorus” from Richard Wagner’s 1848 opera “Lohengrin. The newlyweds exit to the more jubilant, upbeat strains of the “Wedding March” >From Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The custom dates back to the royal marriage, in 1858, of Victoria, princess of Great Britain, and Empress of Germany, to Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Victoria, eldest daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, selected the music herself. A patron of the arts, she valued the works of Mendelssohn and practically venerated those of Wagner. Given the British penchant for copying the monarchy, soon brides throughout the Isles, nobility and commoners alike, were marching to Victoria’s drummer, establishing a Western wedding tradition.
BRIDESMAIDS AND GROOMSMEN:
The bridal party has many origins, one of which comes from the Anglo Saxon days. When the groom was about to capture his bride, he needed the help of his friends, the “bridesmen” or “brideknights”. They would make sure the bride got to the church and to the groom’s house afterwards. The bride also had women to help her, the “bridesmaids”, or “brideswomen”.
Children were originally included in the ceremony to add innocence.
THE BEST MAN:
During ancient times when women were in short supply, the groom captured his bride-to-be from a neighbouring village. The future bridegroom, accompanied by a male companion, seized any young girl who had strayed from the safety of her parental home. Our custom of a “best man” is a relic of that two-man, strong-armed tactic; for such an important task, only the best man would do.
A best man around AD 200 carried more than a ring. Since there remained the real threat of the bride’s family attempting to forcibly gain her return, the best man stayed by the groom’s side throughout the marriage ceremony, alert and armed. He also might serve as a sentry outside the newlyweds’ home. Of course, much of this is German folklore, but it is not without written documentation and physical artefacts. For instance, the threat of recapture by the bride’s family was perceived as so genuine that beneath the church altars of many early peoples – including the Huns, the Goths, the Visigoths, and the Vandals – lay an arsenal of clubs, knives, and spears.
FATHER GIVING THE BRIDE AWAY:
This custom originally had it’s roots in arranged marriages where the bride was considered property. Later, this custom persisted as a symbol with two meanings:
An endorsement by the father to all witnessing the ceremony that the groom is the best choice for his daughter. An offering to the groom: “I am presenting to you my daughter.”
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS ON THE LEFT:
During the marriage ceremony, the bride stands on the left and the groom on the right. The origin of this goes back to the days when a groom would capture his bride by kidnapping her. If the groom had to fight off other men who also wanted her as their bride, he would hold his bride-to-be with his left hand allowing his right hand to be free to use his sword.
WHITE AISLE RUNNER:
The white aisle runner symbolised God’s holiness and walking on holy ground. It is believed that marriage is not just between two individuals but includes the presence of God who is actively involved in the marriage ceremony.
TAKING OF EACH OTHER’S RIGHT HAND:
The open right hand is a symbol of strength, resource, and purpose. The coming together of both right hands is a symbol that both the bride and the groom can depend on each other and the resources that each brings to the marriage. It also represents the merger of their lives together into one.
GROOM GIVES FIRST VOWS:
Because he is the initiator, he is the first to state his vow for marriage. As the initiator of the covenant, the groom is to assume the greatest responsibility in the marriage.
In the Jewish religion, the ceremony takes place as the couple stands under an ornamental canopy. This canopy symbolised nomadic tents of Israel and the new home that the couple would soon share.
THIRD FINGER, LEFT HAND:
A bride’s engagement ring and wedding ring are traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand (the finger next to your little finger). Although there is no precise evidence to explain the origin of this tradition, there are two strongly held beliefs. The first, dating back to the 17th century, is that during a Christian wedding the priest arrived at the forth finger (counting the thumb) after touching the three fingers on the left hand ‘…in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost’. The second belief refers to an Egyptian belief that the ring finger follows the vena amoris, that is, the vein of love that runs directly to the heart.
The marriage ring represents a promise for eternal and everlasting love. It is a representation of the promises joining both the bride and groom together. The wedding ring is placed on the fourth finger of the right hand because it was traditionally believed that this finger was a direct connection to the heart—the perfect place to place a symbol, representing eternal love and commitment.
No ceremony is complete without the kiss. In fact, there was a time when an engagement would be null and void without one. Dating back from early Roman times, the kiss represented a legal bond that sealed all contracts.
PRONOUNCED “MAN AND WIFE”:
This is the point of time when the marriage becomes official. It is also at this point that the bride officially changes her name.
BREAKING OF GLASS:
This is a Jewish tradition that represents the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Many times couples save the pieces of glass from the ceremony in a symbolic box.
The unity candle is a symbol of family unity. Usually a single candle (representing the newly married couple) is lit with two individual candles, each representing the bride and groom’s families.
ARCH OF SWORDS FOLLOWING CEREMONY:
Walking through the arc of swords following the ceremony was done to ensure the couple’s safe passage into their new life together.
This is a chance for the guests to congratulate and greet the newly married couple and their parents.