Pre-wedding celebration and the marriage of belongings
For the last instalment of traditions and origins, we’re going to look back into how pre-wedding celebrations evolved, and the custom of property exchange between the families of the bride and groom.
THE BRIDAL SHOWER/ KITCHEN TEA:
The bridal shower came about as a result of being too poor to afford a dowry or the father disapproving of his daughter’s marriage, refusing to provide a dowry to the couple. The shower became an alternative means through which to obtain a dowry. Supportive villagers would assemble and provide the bride a variety of household items for her new home. Bridal showers were also meant to strengthen the friendships between the bride and her friends, give her moral support and help her prepare for her marriage. The term “shower” entered during the late Victorian Era. The bride’s friends would place small gifts inside a paper parasol, opening it over the bride’s head so all of the presents would “shower” over her.
The term “kitchen tea” is thought to be the more common term used in Australia and New Zealand, and relates to the nature of the gifts being specifically related to use in the kitchen.
THE BACHELORETTE PARTY/HEN’S NIGHT:
The present-day style of bachelorette parties consisting of drinking games, strippers and phallic gifts has a relatively brief history. Thought to be an evolution from the bridal shower and bachelor party, the bachelorette party was popularised around the “swinging 60s”, when women began to embrace their sexuality, swapping out the bridal shower for a rowdier celebration. However, the term “bachelorette party” didn’t become popular until the 1980s. It was once claimed to be the last celebration of “freedom” for the bride, but now serves as a bonding celebration for the bridal party, and close female friends and family.
The bachelor party dates back as early as the 5th century B.C. It is believed that the ancient Spartan soldiers were the first to hold “stag parties” in order to celebrate the groom’s last night as a single man. The soldiers would hold a dinner in honour of their friend, making toasts on his behalf. There he would say goodbye to the carefree days of bachelorhood and swear continued allegiance to his comrades.
In later years, a bachelor party was commonly a more formal affair involving a black-tie dinner hosted by the groom’s father. Although it is unclear whether this became a common practice. The use of the term “bachelor party” was first documented in 1922.
DOWRY/HOPE CHEST AND TROUSSEAU:
There was a time when marriage would include some exchange of property between the families of the bride and groom. This custom still exists among some cultures. The groom’s family would pay a price to the bride’s family for the bride. The bride’s family would in turn provide the couple with a dowry of various household items for their new home. As a bride planned for her future marriage, she would supplement this dowry with her own items that she collected or made (i.e. embroidered linens). All items would be kept in a special Hope Chest built by the bride’s father for the purpose of holding the dowry.
The trousseau included all of the clothing and property which a bride brought with her to the marriage. Today, the trousseau includes all wedding and shower gifts as well as new purchases.