Continuing the theme of “29-April-bashing” :P, let us look at some of those romanticised traditions of weddings that actually have a dark, dark, history for females.
My enthusiasm for 29-April-bashing was ignited after a comment that Luckynkl made over at Undercover Punk’s. I was like, “ooooh, tell me moar!”, so she did. The (online) sources for her info no longer exist online (the Ms Boards; a wedding ring design place), and I will copy/paste Lucky’s second comment here. I decided to further investigate these ‘romantic’ wedding customs, and the random sites I picked in general, tended to back up the MsB summary (a few minor variations here and there, but go and google history of marriage traditions for yourself).
THE ORIGIN OF THE BEST MAN TRADITION
Among the Germanic Goths of northern Europe in 200 A.D., a man usually married a woman from within his own community. However, when there were fewer women, the prospective bridegroom would capture his bride from a neighboring village. The bridegroom was accompanied by his strongest friend (or best friend), who helped him capture his bride.
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS TO THE GROOMS LEFT
After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left to protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against sudden attack.
THE ORIGIN OF THE “HONEYMOON”
After “kidnapping” his bride, the groom would take her and go into hiding. By the time the bride’s family tracked them down them, the bride would probably already be pregnant! A “bride price” would then be negotiated.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM “WEDDING”
Although some brides were kidnapped, marriage by purchase was the preferred method of obtaining a wife. The “bride price” could be land, social status, political alliances, or cash. The Anglo-Saxon word “wedd” meant that the groom would vow to marry the woman, but it also referred to the bride price (money or barter) to be paid by the groom to the bride’s father. The root of the word “wedding” literally means to gamble or wager!
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM “TO TIE THE KNOT”
The term “tie the knot” also goes back Roman times. the bride would wear a girdle that was tied in many knots which the groom had the “duty” of untying.
THE ORIGIN OF THE BRIDAL PARTY
This term has many origins from different cultures. In Anglo-Saxon times, the groom had the help of “bridesmen” or “brideknights” to help him capture and/or escort his bride. Later they would make sure that the bride got to the church and to the groom’s home afterwards. The women who accompanied and assisted the bride were called “bridesmaids” or “brideswomen.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TRADITIONAL WHITE WEDDING DRESS
In 1499, Ann of Brittany popularized the white wedding gown. Prior to that time, a woman simply wore her best dress or a new dress without regard to the basic color.
(wow, no mention of virginity)
WHY IT BECAME “BAD LUCK” FOR THE GROOM TO SEE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Until relatively recently, brides were considered the property of their father. Their futures and husbands were arranged without their consent. The marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom saw his future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the day of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar. To prevent this from happening, it became “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.
THE ORIGIN OF TYING OLD SHOES TO THE CAR
This tradition originated in England during the Tudor period. At that time, guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom as they left in their carriage. It was considered good luck if their carriage was hit. Today, more often than not, it is beverage cans that are tied to a couples car instead of shoes. It should also be noted that the English consider it good luck if it rains on their wedding day!
It basically gives you the rough idea that ‘marriage’ and the ceremony of the wedding, were little more than a property exchanged between the bride’s father and the groom. Just ewwww, eh? Yep brides-to-be, you are nothing more than an asset exchanged between dudes. Kinda gives you the warm fuzzies doesn’t it? Now you can see why women still routinely do so badly in divorces these days, ‘property’ is not meant to have its own rights!
Anyway, a couple of other things to add to Lucky’s summary. The veil thing always creeped me out, particularly worn over the face (as it did again on 29 April). It was no great leap of logic to put two and two together with the arranged marriages > dude not supposed to see bride before ceremony in case he though he got stuck with a ‘less than attractive’ one > and veil covering bride’s face (presumably until the ceremony was completed, deal sealed dude, she’s yours!). A few other sources like this one backed up my assumption.
Another interesting one I found was the “something blue” tradition, and yes, this one makes sense too. From biblical times, blue was the colour of purity (hello, Virgin Mary anyone?) and it became part of the ceremony for both bride and groom to wear blue at the bottom of their wedding attire. We can blame Anne of Brittany for making the white wedding dress popular in 1499. White did not symbolise purity (or virginity) but (supposedly) joy – I am thinking not much to be joyful about when you are a bit of property being exchanged between one owner and another, but I digress. Some sources (like this religious one) disagree a bit on the white thing, citing the later Empress Eugenie, who wore the white gown at her wedding to Napoleon III (ruled France from 1853-71), and citing white-as-purity back to a Roman thing. The trend probably just took off in different places at different times, you know how the masses love to copy fashion (even happening today, with the off-the-rack dress Kate wore for the engagement being sold out, plus numerous copies). And I am sure that wedding dress makers will nearly all have a close imitation to Kate’s wedding dress, which was an imitation of Grace Kelly’s. Whatev’s, there won’t be one in my wardrobe.
Zeph has a related post on marriage, particularly the folly of trying to find a Nice Nigel, when they are pretty much all Edsels and should all be returned to the manufacturer IMHO. All lemons, and don’t think you can magickly make lemonade out of them either.
So there we have it, kidnap, rape, hostage taking/negotiations, business transactions of bride-as-property, covering up the ‘ugly’ women so the groom doesn’t reneg. on the deal. All this, repackaged as ‘romantic’ and sold back to women as something they want themselves! The real tradition here is the tradition of Reversal, women being told that something bad for them is something they should desire and aspire to. A bit like pole dancing and being a porn star really.
And that is why radfems are anti-marriage.
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A few more semi-related posts:
FCM – the language of consent
Ballbuster – het marriage ≠ prostitution & the word prostitution
FCM – Right Wing Women, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Ballbuster – golddigger Part 1, Part 2.
If anyone has other suggestions, please let me know (my memory sucks)