The wedding is one of the most important and joyful ritualistic celebrations that we share as human beings and members of our communities. It has been around for a long time; and has recently expanded its subscription, with the legalisation of same sex marriage in Australia. Wedding customs vary per culture and in our multicultural nation we see a wonderful array of different types on display. It is always a privilege to cater for a wedding and we have seen quite a few along the way. I have always been interested in the provenance of many of the wedding customs and, so, here is my – Wedding Feasts: A brief history.
Spartan Stag Parties
Taking ancient Greece as a starting point, in the city state of Sparta, we find the origin of the stag party. The Spartans were, like much of the ancient world, very male dominated; and famous for the prowess of their military. The stag party was a celebration, held on the eve of his impending marriage, to farewell a soldier’s bachelorhood. For those with an understanding of Spartan culture, you will know what a poignant moment between comrades this was and what they probably were getting up to.
Ceremonies Would Last Three Days
Marriages in the ancient and medieval worlds were invariably about property and status. They were arranged marriages to further the interests of the families of both bride and groom. A bride would bring with her a dowry, which was given by the bride’s father to the groom. In the ancient world this would often be livestock, like cattle. These marriages were, usually, celebrated with abundant and generous wedding feasts. Unlike our own time poor times, these ceremonies would last three days. It would begin for the ancient Greek bride with a nuptial bath – a clean union is a good union, after all. The bath symbolised her purification and her fertility. The wedding feast would seat men and women at different tables. The removal of the bride’s veil would complete her transfer from her family to her husband and his family.
Marjoram to Encourage a Happy Union
The ancient Romans were another agrarian based culture, who honed their military skills to conquer much of the known world. Brides were symbolically sold to the potential husband in the ‘Coemptio’ form of marriage. However, for the upper classes the ‘Confarreati’ marriage union would see the bride legally subsumed by the groom’s family in all ways. Marriages were forbidden on certain dates, which had been devoted to festivals for the dead in February and May. The basic bridal outfit has its origins with the Romans, with the bride wearing a white ‘tunica recta’ overlaid by a white ‘stola’. Wool was the fabric of choice, as it was considered lucky. Also, flowers would be worn in her hair, with the inclusion of some marjoram to encourage a happy union. There would be a wedding procession to symbolise her journey from a state of ‘no man’s land’ to her new husband’s household. A rowdy crowd of well wishers would follow telling bawdy jokes and throwing nuts to ensure fertility. The wedding feast would follow once she had crossed the threshold and anointed the doorway of hubby’s home with some pig fat or olive oil. The bride would offer a coin to her husband and get the keys to the house in exchange.
Honey Moon History
The Anglo-Saxons, those German tribes who were the forerunners to the Normans, and ancestors of many of us, loved a good wedding feast. Early marriages were done via capture, with the groom and his warrior mates swooping into another tribe’s camp and kidnapping the woman of his choice. The couple were quickly married and then hidden, so, that the bride’s family could not catch up with them. During this time, they only drank honey mead and stayed holed up together for a full lunar cycle – twenty-eight days and nights. Intoxicated, doing something naughty, and going at it like rabbits – thus, the honey moon was born. Modern life seems so tame by comparison, don’t you think? The bride would, usually, be pregnant by this time and the transfer from her previous tribal family complete.
Kissing Over a Tower of Baby Wedding Cakes
The wedding cake has been around from ancient times, through medieval times, right up until now. The cakes were smaller and many, rather than one big one. In ancient times, grain cakes were crumbled over the bride’s head to symbolise her fertility. During the Middle Ages, bride and groom would attempt to kiss over a tower of baby cakes, this symbolised potential prosperity for their union ahead. The wedding cake as we know it today was launched during the Renaissance. Large sculptured extravagant cakes became de riguour from the 1700s onwards for those that could afford it.
Much More to Come Next Time
In some forms of traditional Hindu weddings, bride and groom may symbolically step on a small pile of rice or throw grains into a fire. Wedding guests throwing rice over the bridal couple, probably, originated here. The Indian wedding may take many forms, as there are Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Zoroastrians, all with their own wedding customs. I am keen to explore these and the many other cultures and civilisations, as they pertain to wedding feasts and customs in my follow up post on this topic. I hope that you enjoyed the brief glance into the history of some of our wedding customs and wedding feasts.
Hatrick Catering are wedding catering specialists, creating fine food for all sorts of occasions. We make your wedding feast, party or reception, simply sublime with our delicious dishes and impeccable service. Our exceptional catering will enhance your special day.