Ok, so, when you read the word “wedding”, what image pops into your head? Is it the father walking the bride down the aisle? The groom standing there, waiting for her with the best man by his side, lifting the veil or maybe the groom carrying the bride over the threshold? Maybe the garter toss or the toss of the bouquet comes to mind. Would you be shocked if I told you that every single one of the above has a sexist background? Well, probably not. But the stories behind some of these traditions would definitely shock you.
Let’s start with the obvious ones. Giving the bride away, for example. The whole concept of marriage was basically practical and not at all what it seems to stand for today, so when a father walks his daughter down the aisle and ‘gives her away’ it was not a sentimental parting between parent and child, it was basically a gift or an object to be traded by the father to the groom.
Now some may wonder how the best man, lifting the veil or carrying the bride over the threshold might have a sexist background. Let’s start with the veil. The ‘unveiling of the bride’ actually stands for the breaking of her hymen that same night… I’m not going to comment on this one.
Now the best man had a very different ‘use’ than the one he is known for today. While the best man now is the groom's best friend and stands on the altar for support and to ‘share that magical moment,’ best men used to be picked because of their strength and their sole purpose was to prevent the bride from fleeing.
My personal favorite is the story behind carrying the bride over the threshold. While many would assume this tradition is sexist because it is simply a show of the man’s strength it is actually something quite different. Women often didn’t want to get married so they would occasionally have to be dragged into their houses at the end of the day because they wanted to avoid the ‘wedding night festivities’. Not only that but at times women were told to resist so as not to seem too eager since that would ‘diminish their value’.
Now I’m not telling you that these little traditions should stop. They can be fun and it’s these little traditions which make a wedding special. Most of these are Elizebethan and have evolved into something way more personal and sentimental than what they once were. I just couldn’t help but be surprised by some of these and even slightly proud and amused by how we transformed some things which were quite horrific, into traditions which many enjoy today. I hope that next time you go to a wedding you will remember some of these and maybe even laugh.
About the author:
My name is Louisa Vichou and I’m a 14 year old aspiring writer who loves painting, pretty much all sports, singing and piano. However, (like all the greats) I have an arch-enemy... maths!