Ever wonder who started all these wedding traditions that most brides and grooms go through? And for what? What does it mean? It’s good luck. Yeah, if they only knew that it all started in pagan Greece and Rome.
Here’s an excerpt from my novel, Deo Volente! (God Willing) Love in the First Century.
As Julia slowly descended the stairs thinking how beautiful her daughter would look in her wedding dress, she remembered her own wedding to Marcus. She was 14 and Marcus was 21. His father was praefectus urbi and Marcus had just returned from serving in the army. Her mother informed her of the betrothal just one month before.
At first, since Marcus was away, her parents thought of sending her to where he was serving. They would live together and have an adfectus maritalis and the marriage would have been legal. However, being from an aristocratic Roman family, the ceremony was an important social and practical rite. It took place at her family’s domus and was an all-day affair that started in the mid-afternoon and continued with an elaborate banquet that lasted well into the night.
Julia had to consent to the marriage by appearing in public holding hands with her future husband. This they did as they walked down the stairs together to the family shrine. Before ten witnesses, once again, Julia had to agree to the marriage during the wedding ceremony, this time by saying the words of consent. This chant was the same for all brides and grooms. Julia remembered the words clearly, Quando tu Gaius, ego Gaia—“When and where you are Gaius, I then and there am Gaia” or “Where you are my husband, I am your wife.” This chant was used for the lucky meaning of the name—Gaius and Gaia—Mother Earth.
After the words of consent, Julia and Marcus clasped right hands while her father, the oldest male in her family, read the pactio nuptialis. Then he gave Julia to Marcus. Then her mother, acting as pronuba, placed her hands on the couple’s hands and pronounced the marriage.
Julia and Marcus then sat on stools covered with the skin of the morning’s sacrificial lamb, facing the altar, at which time, led by the priest, they made an offering of farrum cake to Jupiter. Once the priest made the offering, Julia and Marcus ate some of the cake. The congratulations of the guests followed. The full wedding party and guests then went to the triclinium for the wedding feast. The banquet ended when they passed pieces of the wedding cake to all the guests.
Afterwards, Marcus took Julia dramatically from the arms of her mother—a reenactment of the legend of the Sabine women. She smiled as she remembered the legend. According to the story, when Romulus founded the city of Rome, there were no women. Romulus asked neighboring tribes to let the Roman men choose wives from their women. They refused so the Romans kidnapped the young women from the Sabine Tribe.
Then it was time for the wedding parade to Marcus’s family’s domus with the entire wedding party following, singing wedding songs. A young boy carried the marriage torch in front of the bride. When they got to her new home, in front of the open door, they again recited the consent chant. Pronubi—men who had only been married to one woman—carried Julia across the threshold so she would not trip over it—which would have been an evil omen. Inside, at the fireplace, wood was ready for a fire. Julia lit this wood with her marriage torch. She then blew out the torch and tossed it among the guests, who scrambled for it.
After the guests left, the groom would then take his bride to the lectus genialis —the marriage bed placed in the atrium — and undo the Nodus Hercules – the gold braided belt tied in the knot of Hercules in anticipation of their first night together.
Today, instead of the torch it’s the bridal bouquet that’s tossed.
Even before the wedding, the engagement ring was placed on the bride’s “ring” finger of the left hand. From that finger a nerve runs to the heart. The ring usually pictured two clasped hands.
The dress was white, the veil was red or “flame-colored” – so were the shoes. The matron of honor (and it had to be a only-once-married lady) pronounced the couple married. Modern Greek marriages still parade the whole wedding party down the street. In America, everyone gets in their cars and follows the happy couple to the reception.
The traditions have varied a little from the original, but it’s interesting to learn that it all started with the Romans.
Don’t trip over that threshold!
Like what you read? Then you’ll love my award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – not matter what format benefits StreetLight USA to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1
Soli Deo Gloria!
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