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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wedding Bells

One of the things we write about a lot in the romance genre is marriage. Sometimes, there's a wedding within the book, either at the end, or for marriage of convenience plots, often earlier in the story. I always think it's fun to plot out fictional weddings. What would your characters wear, what music would be playing? Where would the ceremony be held and who would be invited. And of course, in fiction, everything goes smoothly--unless of course, that's part of the plot.

In real life, in my experience, things tend not to go smoothly at all--either before or during the wedding. As I plan my son's wedding, set for a week from tomorrow, I can't help but remember planning my own, nearly 30 years ago now. So much has changed, and so much has remained the same. Given the choice, though, I think I'll stick to fiction from here on out. No changing careers to wedding planner for me.

One thing I find fascinating is the differences in wedding traditions between countries and time periods. It's very easy for an author to slip up and insert modern elements into a wedding that would have been horribly wrong at the time. The white dress is a favorite, although most historical authors know bettter. I have seen them in Regency weddings, and that's always a tip off that the author needs to do some research. It was Queen Victoria who introduced that particular tradition, well after the non-reign of her grandfather. Medieval brides often wore blue, the traditional color of purity at the time. In fact, today's "something blue" is a remnant of that tradition. Throught history, couples who couldn't afford all the hoopla wore what they had. In the photo above, in 1949 my mother is actually wearing a suit she borrowed from a friend, since she didn't have anything so nice. Their reception was in her parents' back yard.

Here are a few of my other favorite wedding trivia facts, seven of them, for luck:

  • Speaking of white dresses, (and the one here is on me, way back when) for most of history, brides, other than the very wealthy rarely purchased a dress specifically for their wedding day. The bride would typically wear her finest dress whatever the  color. In fact, many brides wore black. For those who could afford a special gown, only a few colors were avoided, such as green, which was considered unlucky.  Dark colors were popular, since  easily hid stains and could be worn again.
  • Before the 1500s, couples in Europe were free to marry themselves. What we now call common-law marriage was perfetly normal, especially among the lower classes. It wasn’t until 1564 when the Council of Trent declared marriage was a sacrament that weddings became the exclusive province of the Church.
  • A lot of wedding traditions involve superstitions, particularly involving keeping demons away. Since demons were scared off by loud sounds, Wedding bells were sound following a wedding ceremony, along with tying noise makers to the couple's cart or carriage.
  • The superstition that the bridegroom must not see his bride before the wedding stems from the days when marriages were arranged and the groom might never have seen the bride. There was always the chance that if he saw her, he might bolt.This also makes veiling the bride at the altar rather handy.
  • Originally, though, knights returning from the Crusades introduced medieval society to the tradition of a bridal veil. The veil was another symbol of purity and was also believed to protect the bride from "the evil eye."
  • In the Renaissance, the bride and groom would sip spiced wine after the wedding. Norman folklore states that around midnight, guests would sometimes go into the couple'sroom with a reinvigorating potion called "Bride's Broth".
  • Gretna Green is still a popular spot for weddings, but why did couples elope there from England?
    In 1754, English law required couples under 21to have their parents' permission to wed, but in Scotland, igirls only had to be 12, and boys14 or older. Moreover, anyone in Scotland could marry a couple by "declaration". It didn't require the blessing of the church. It wasnt until 1977, btw that English couples could finally marry at 18 without parental consent.

    Wedding traditions are one of my favorite bits of historical research as an author. What are some of your favorite wedding tidbits?


anny cook said...

Love all the info! And no...real life rarely works smoothly!

Rose Gorham said...

Enjoyed reading your post Cindy!

Cara Marsi said...

Cindy, how very interesting. Loved reading about wedding traditions. Your parents look so sweet, as do you and your husband. Hope everything goes smoothly at your son's wedding.

Paris said...

What a wonderful post! I especially love your parent's wedding photo. They looked so happy and so did you and your husband. Loved all the wonderful information!

Melissa Keir said...

Such a great post. I had heard of some of the traditions but some were new to me. I love the photo of your parents and of you and your husband.

I hope things go wonderfully smoothly for your son next week. Enjoy the celebration!

Fran Lee said...

I love your posts! You are a font of information and fun!

Marianne Stephens said...

Lots of great wedding information. I've read so many regency romances with Gretna Green as an elopement destination, but never knew the particulars about it.
Thanks for a great post!

jean hart stewart said...

Lots of intereting stuff here, Cindy. Thanks for a good blog

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