Since the dawn of time, humans have been pledging their love and their genitals to a lifetime union with their soulmate. And as long as we’ve been vowing to forever fuck one partner, we’ve been celebrating those vows with a wedding. But the culture and the traditions surrounding that celebration have a dark, twisted history. Turns out, we’ve been prolonging a culture of kidnapping and black magic.
Today, we see it as a day to shower the bride-to-be with useless Crate and Barrel kitchen appliances. But 500 years ago, the bridal shower began to accommodate the dowry system. With the dowry system, fathers could sell off their daughters for 2 plump pigs, a lactating goat, and a bale of hay.
But for some poor women, their fathers could not afford to offer an enticing enough dowry to convince a man to marry her. When this problem arose, the woman’s friends would shower her with gifts, providing her with enough of a dowry to afford the husband of her choosing. It’s a bit depressing that the man of your dreams would shoot you down if you didn’t come with 3 free chickens, but love has never been free.
Men have always admired beautiful women from afar, hoping someday to sweep them off their feet. But beginning around the founding of Rome, single men took this desire a little too seriously, and began to literally steal the women they wanted to marry.
As the story goes, a young bachelor would recruit a small army of groomsmen to aid him in kidnapping his beloved. The squad would ride to the bride’s home, burst through the door, and the groomsmen would fight off the bride’s angry relatives as the groom rode away with her.
THE BEST MAN
When kidnapping their future wives, men were sure to take along their most powerful and trusted friends to help fight resistance from the woman's family. The honor of best man was given to the groomsman who proved to be the most valuable asset to the abduction.
During the ceremony, the soldier who was designated best man would accompany the groom up the aisle to help him defend the bride. Just in case the woman’s family tried to reclaim her or a jealous suitor tried to steal the lady for himself, the best man remained close to the couple throughout the ceremony, vigilant and well-armed. The stolen bride stood to the groom’s left, so that his right hand (his sword hand) was free to fight off any challengers.
Today, the best man no longer has to be the most skilled kidnapper to earn his title.
In the age of dark magic and bridal kidnappings, bridesmaids had an invaluable job: they all dressed exactly the same as the bride then stood nearby her during the ceremony. The bridesmaids served to act as decoys, so that any evil spirits or jealous suitors attempting to harm the lady of honor would be confused as to who the true bride was. If a jealous bachelor or a demonic spirit tried to possess the bride, they’d have to go through her 5 identical friends first.
Just in case the bridesmaids fail to bait the evil spirits, the bride’s veil was included to hide her and further protect her from enchantment.
Beyond that, the veil served an essential purpose in arranged marriages, in which grooms typically see their brides for the first time. Acknowledging the threat that the groom may not like what he sees, the veil often hid the bride’s face completely, and only after the couple was married would the groom be allowed to lift the veil.
This tradition was troublesome not only for the newlyweds, but also for the wedding guests, who’d love to watch the groom discover his wife was a hideous troll.
TOSSING THE BOUQUET
The tradition of tossing the bouquet began when women believed that the bride’s bouquet and wedding dress bestowed good luck onto anyone who held a piece. To steal some of this luck, lonely ladies used to swarm the bride, trying to rip off pieces of her dress and flowers. To escape from the mob of desperate women and leave without her gown torn to shreds, the bride would toss her bouquet and run away.
The bride’s garter used to serve as first-hand evidence of a consummated marriage. The age-old custom required witnesses to stand beside the newlyweds’ bed and watch to ensure that they entered the bone-zone. Once the witnesses were convinced that the union had been consummated, they would bring forth the bride’s garter as evidence of the legitimized marriage.
CARRYING OVER THE THRESHOLD
During the days of marriage by capture, the bride never walked peacefully into her captor’s new home. Instead, she was dragged or carried across the threshold. Even when the marriage was voluntary, grooms typically carried the bride into her new home so that she didn’t seem too enthusiastic about losing her virginity.
To harp on the ever-present threat of black magic, it was also believed that evil spirits hovered at the threshold of the couple’s new home in a last-ditch effort to curse them. The bride had to be lifted off the ground to ensure that the demons couldn't enter her body through the soles of her feet.
After a groom successfully captured himself an exceptional bride, the two would go into hiding for one full moon cycle, or a total of 30 days. During each of those days, a friend or family member would bring them a cup of honey wine. The primary purpose of the 30-day honeymoon was to allow the heat to die down with the kidnapped bride’s family. Assuming they gave up on her after a month, the couple could return from their month of drinking honey wine and begin a lifetime of building resentment while building a family.
Most of us never question why we follow the cultural traditions we do. When we dig a little deeper, we find that we’ve been perpetuating the barbaric customs of our ancestors. Just be grateful that today, when a groom is asked, "Do you take this woman?" we no longer mean a literal kidnapping.