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Jill Churchill's A Groom with a View
A Jane Jeffry Wedding Mystery
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Something Old, Something New: Wedding Tradition Throughout the Ages
by Karen Ahn


Jane Jeffery and her friend Shelly run into more than their usual share of wedding-plan mishaps in "A Groom With a View" when a member of the wedding party turns up dead!
While hardly anyone's wedding ever has quite that large a problem, there are centuries of folklore, superstition, and tradition surrounding the wedding day to ensure the smoothest ceremony-- and marriage-- possible.
The tradition of the wedding ring started during the Roman empire, with a bride and groom wearing iron bands (symbolizing an unbreakable bond, since iron was the strongest known element at the time) on the fourth finger of their left hands. Romans believed that there was a vein that went directly from that finger to the heart.
Almost all modern Western wedding traditions have direct links to Roman and Medieval European mythology and customs. For instance, June is still the traditional wedding to have months, because it is named for Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage. Centuries ago, brides still had bridesmaids and wore veils-- but for the purpose of thwarting evil spirits who might wish to harm or kidnap the bride on the wedding day rather than for fashion purposes! Likewise, the custom of throwing rice has its roots in Roman times. Guests used to throw raisins, nuts, seeds or rice to ensure that the couple would be fertile.
Most of the "good luck superstitions" are also deeply embedded in past beliefs. Shoes and can are still tied to the back of the car the newlyweds drive off in after the wedding. This custom comes from the Tudor period in England, where guests hurled shoes at a couple. It was "lucky" if the couple or their carriage were struck. As the custom evolved, people figured that evil spirits and bad luck would be frightened away by the noise of the shoes dragging on the ground behind the carriage. From the same time period comes the custom of tossing the bouquet-- with one small difference. When most brides toss the bouquet to see who will be the next married, few know that the bouquet was originally a shoe in ancient custom.
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Two of the most beloved-- and commonplace-- wedding traditions have roots in a turbulent past. The "honeymoon" period originates from the ancient Anglo-Saxon practice of kidnapping and carrying off a bride (with or without her consent.) Immediately afterwards, the couple would hide from the bride's parents and drink honey wine to consolidate their union. Likewise, the tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold of their new home symbolizes a more brutal time when grooms would "carry" their brides off. It also ensures that the bride doesn't trip on her first step into the house-- which would mean a rocky marriage!  

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