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MailTribune.com
  • With this 'rynge'

    Victorian wedding traditions
  • Taking a page from history can add depth and significance to wedding festivities, especially when the bride and groom adapt traditions to suit their own event.
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  • Taking a page from history can add depth and significance to wedding festivities, especially when the bride and groom adapt traditions to suit their own event.
    There's no richer heritage from which to borrow than the 19th century's Victorian era, when lushness and abundance were the hallmarks of the day. Many of these charming rituals can be continued today, says wedding and event coordinator Emily A. P. Cox, owner of p.cox productions in Central Point
    "You can imagine how your great-great-grandparents had something similar that can be carried on," says Cox, recalling a couple who adorned their wedding cake with a topper that had been in every family wedding since time immemorial.
    "It's a thread that really connects the generations."
    Another couple tapped into Victorian tradition to bridge their respective families' cultural differences: She was a freewheeling Pacific Northwesterner, and he came from a very conservative Southern background, where genteel wedding traditions are still observed.
    One such tradition is the groom's cake. In Victorian times, it was de rigueur for a dark, rum cake to be baked just for the groom. To add her own touch, this 21st-century bride had the baker create a groom's cake in the shape of Herbie the Slug Bug, one of the couple's private jokes.
    "There's another cute, Southern tradition called 'pulling the strings,' " says Cox. Based on a Victorian ritual of baking charms into the wedding cake, this couple tied strings to each charm then invited each female cousin to pull a string before the cake was cut.
    "At the end, they each had a little, special charm, and the story goes that the charm you pull is what you'll have in abundance." (Think a ring for future marriage, horseshoe for luck, etc.)
    Don't despair if your family doesn't have a Victorian pedigree. Many traditions are adaptable to any ceremony and reception. Here are a few to ponder.
    Timing. Victorian brides were allotted the responsibility of choosing the date and time for the wedding ceremony. Fridays, the 13th of any month and the entire month of May generally were avoided due to superstitions. Any time between 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. was considered acceptable, but the most fashionable brides chose high noon.
    Trousseau. It was never too early to start collecting a wardrobe for the honeymoon and thereafter — all provided by the bride's parents. Gowns for traveling, shopping, visiting and "at home" were expected; lingerie was delicately labeled with the bride's embroidered initials or first name. Don't forget undergarments, belts, ribbons and sewing notions; at least two dozen handkerchiefs; and a full range of household and bedroom linens and towels.
    Wedding wardrobe. We've all heard the Victorian rhyme about what a bride should wear at her wedding:
    Something old,
    Something new,
    Something borrowed,
    Something blue,
    And a sixpence (or a new dime for Americans) in the shoe.
    The rhyme is more than just a clever guideline for clothing; each line had a deeper meaning. Something "old" belonged to a happily married woman so as to transfer that joy to the bride. "New" referred to the gown, shoes or other apparel that were purchased or made especially for the bride. An object of gold "borrowed" by the bride ensured good fortune while "blue" symbolized true love. The coin — always worn in the heel of the left shoe — was the key to wealth.
    White was the color of choice for formal, Victorian wedding gowns; any color but red or black (believed to conjure witchery and demons) was acceptable at informal weddings. A veil — first introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders who witnessed veiled brides in foreign lands — was worn as a sign of purity and innocence.
    With this "rynge." Christianity was the source for placing the ring on the third finger of the left hand, as the thumb and first two fingers of the hand were said by the church to stand for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, respectively. The fourth finger was reserved for earthly love and the hope of reaching heaven.
    To secure the covenant, the groom would pledge to his bride: "With this rynge I thee wed, and this gold and silver I thee give, and with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly chattels I thee endow."
    Such are some of the lingering vestiges of Victorian wedding traditions. Have fun and adapt a few into your own ceremony.
    Just don't get married in March, when brides were believed to be haughty, indiscreet and argumentative!
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