Weddings and Traditions

I attended my first wedding as a bridesmaid to my cousin when I was about seven or eight years old. A recent event started me thinking that was probably the only traditional one which didn’t involve foreign countries in some way, even though that particular cousin now lives in New Zealand and I’m in the UK.

The next was my sister’s who was living at the time in the Turkish part of Northern Cyprus. Although we were brought up as Christians, she actually married in a civil service on Christmas day. Not wanting to miss out on presents, she flew home for a big, white church wedding a few months later which was my second bridesmaid’s stint. It was quite amusing that as she was actually legally married, the priest had to ask ‘Do you Mrs S take Mr S for your husband?’

I’ve always counted Malta as my second home, and after encouraging a close friend to come with me on holiday, she eventually settled there and married another ‘foreigner.’ Although not a bridesmaid this time as legalese would have been too complicated, I did take a holiday to attend a civil ceremony in a Catholic country.

Not many brides offer to take their aunts on their honeymoon, but I was delighted when my niece invited me to accompany her and her fiancé, and stay with them at their villa for their wedding in Cyprus. The idea snowballed and ended up with them booking several other villas to accommodate everyone who wanted to come, ending up with around thirty friends and QPR supporters attending the ceremony. It must be a family trait, but she also had a second wedding in London a few months later for everyone who couldn’t be at the first one.

Apart from the health aspects, the virus has also been responsible for the cancellation of many weddings over the past eighteen months or so. Traditionally a wedding is a time for all friends and family to get together and celebrate the nuptials of the happy couple. It can be traditional for a bride to wear a veil, but face masks and social distancing must have been a nightmare as so many couples delayed and re-arranged their wedding date in the hope of normality resuming. Who would have believed lockdown would last so long, and countries would be stopping travel, so friends and relatives living in other places would be unable to fly over to attend?

What a horrible decision to have to make. Should they keep on cancelling or hold a private ceremony without their loved ones? For once technology held the answer. The groom’s relatives were spread out all over the world, but at the appointed time we all logged on and found ourselves saying Hello to total strangers, which is quite normal at traditional weddings. The only difference being it was via the Internet and whereas here in the UK it was lunchtime, in other time zones it was early morning or late evening. Quite surreal in some ways, but the perfect solution.

If you’re planning a wedding you might be surprised how many traditions are automatically included without giving it conscious thought. In European countries, the bride wore white as a symbol of purity, but also because white clothing was a sign of how rich you were, in that you could afford to keep it clean. Nowadays, bridesmaids and guests do not usually wear white, but at one time the bridesmaids would wear the same dress and veil as the bride to confuse jealous suitors and evil spirits. In most Asian countries Red is traditional as it signifies purity, happiness and prosperity.

It is rumoured June was traditionally the favourite month for weddings as the annual bath would be taken in May, so the couple would still be fragrant. Some strong-smelling flowers in the bride’s bouquet were the back-up plan. Wedding rings are circular and unending to signify eternal union. In Chinese culture the number eight is considered a lucky number symbolizing prosperity and success, and being in the shape of the infinity means an endless bond, so the 8th of August might be a popular date.

The rhyme ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ dates back to the 1800s. The old represents continuity, the new optimism for the future, borrowed is borrowed happiness (which strikes me as rather odd) and blue for purity, love, and fidelity.

What has all this to do with my books? Absolutely nothing. I don’t even think there’s a wedding in any of them, but if you want to check, the link is below. Thanks for listening and see you next week.

© Val Portelli June 2021

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