USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘wedding’
Folk speech

May You Grow Old Sleeping on One Pillow

Item (direct transcription):

May you grow old sleeping on one pillow.

Background Information:

The informant learned this blessing from his grandfather, who told it to him when he got married.

Contextual Information:

This blessing is meant to be given at a wedding. After the informant’s grandfather grew too old to attend weddings and eventually passed away, the informant took it upon himself to perpetuate the blessing by telling it at family members’ weddings.

Analysis:

This blessing has a simple, literal, and obvious meaning. Clearly, its power comes not from its unique insight or wit, but rather from its emotional connection to a beloved and deceased family member.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Breaking a Plate at a Wedding

Item:

After a wedding ceremony, the groom breaks a plate by stomping it with his heel. The number of pieces that it breaks into is supposed to signify the number of happy years that the married couple will have together.

Background Information:

The informant learned this saying from his wife’s family, who insisted that he perform the tradition at his wedding. He suspects that the tradition is originally Russian-Armenian, but he isn’t sure.

He doesn’t believe that the number of pieces the plate breaks into has any meaning, and he doesn’t seem to hold the tradition in very high regard, probably due to the memory of hurting his foot by stomping too hard when he performed it.

Contextual Information:

The tradition is performed at a wedding, after the ceremony. In the informant’s case, the tradition was performed during the wedding reception.

Analysis:

Wedding traditions and accompanying beliefs are very common in all cultures.

Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian Wedding Custom

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well. She has lots of extended family in the area that she grew up in, so her family often has family events that she attends, including bar and bat mitzvahs as well as weddings.

Context: Lauren was telling me about a pre-wedding party that she recently attended for her first cousin. I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below.

“So there’s two names for this wedding tradition. Goleh baleh* or shironim khanom**. Goleh means flower and baleh means yes. Shironim means sweet. It’s a party it’s one of the first parties that happens when a couple gets engaged. It’s thrown by the bride’s family. At this party there’s a table full of sweets, sterling silver, flowers and a crystal that’s called leelac. That chrystal is supposed to be very expensive. It’s basically bringing in the sweetness of course of a marriage and the combining of two families and it’s usually a very big party. It’s the first time the couple is there together. I learned this tradition from  my family because last April my cousin Natalie got exchanged and her parents threw a shironim khanom. I just remember the entire party there was just fresh pastries, crepes, flowers… people send hundreds of flowers. My aunt’s house, everywhere there was flowers it was just beautiful. Everywhere there were silver plates…just gorgeous. Since I’m so close to her I didn’t really get to enjoy the food because I was dancing the whole night. One thing that we do that I really love that we do at most of the parties is we get fresh flowers and there’s a song that is sung and during that song, during the chorus everyone throws the flowers up at the bride and the groom, and the bride and groom are supposed to kiss at that time. It was my first time really seeing all that happen and it was really pretty and magical. I don’t know the song of the song… I know the melody but I’m gonna botch the words. The flowers are normally light colored flowers, typically white roses. Always light colors, never a dark color. White or light pink. At my cousin’s shironim, there was some jewelry given to her like close family came early and jeweled her up I guess? She wore no jewelry at the beginning and before the party started each of the grandmas gave her a piece of jewelry and then her parent, and then the grooms side of the family. They put the jewelry on her and then she wears it for the party and the rest of the night. Usually it’s not during the party, it’s before, just for close family and friends because… I don’t know my dad doesn’t really like it, it’s not very humble. Usually it’s just close family and friends. She wears the jewelry for the rest of the night though. Jewelry is given to the bride and the groom, usually the parents of the bride and groom, the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and if there’s even more jewelry then cousins, first cousins. No specific type of jewelry, usually just anything. Persians have this thing where you give married people emeralds, and older women will wear emeralds to the party if they are close to the bride. My mom wore emeralds to this party and the wedding, like emerald necklaces, earrings, rings. The groom’s mom wore emeralds. Something that has emeralds in it- once you’re married you’re given a lot of emeralds for some reason.”

 

*goleh baleh

How it’s pronounced: goh-leh bah-leh

**shironim khanom

How it’s pronounced: sheer-oo-neem khah-nohm

Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Moroccan Wedding Tradition

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these pre-wedding traditions has predominantly been with her aunt and uncles’ weddings.

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described henna (pronounced “hee-nah”) parties in Israel before weddings.

“I’m not sure if this is Moroccan or Moroccan Jewish. In terms of the significance and all that I am the wrong person to ask. I always thought they were talking about tahini, which to those of you unfamiliar with it, its like sesame seed paste that is consumed by many in the middle east. I always thought that when I was going to my uncles wedding ceremonies, they were talking about “doing a tahini” which to me sounded like “doing a hummus” like making food, which I didn’t understand. It took me a while to understand that they meant henna. It actually makes sense now that I think about it, they come from the same kind of henna paste. But it’s referring to henna. It was interesting when I was little because I did not realize that my family owned all of these moroccan costumes, that was my first time really experiencing true Moroccan culture, because you would dress up the way that they would in Morocco. Mom would always dress me and my sister up in matching, elaborate, flashy costumes. They were pretty cool. For men there are tunics or kaftans and there’s a vest and a hat, called a tarboosh. Theirs are pretty boring to be honest, compared to the women’s costumes. They always looked like they were out of Arabian nights, either like a belly dancer look going on, or kind of like the coins, you know? They always had these really beautiful beaded costumes, I wouldn’t call them tunics I would say they were more like… it wasn’t a kaftan…the bride would always have something more open, which I think is a more modernized, Israeli-Moroccan take on the women’s costume. We didn’t have the most traditional ones I would say. We looked like genies. We looked like Christina Aguilera, “Genie in a Bottle” music video genies. I know my grandma still keeps them, she has a whole closet full of that stuff and the costumes. They’ll pull them out for random occasions, for Passover for example which is a pretty big deal in Moroccan Jewish heritage. Oh, and the henna itself, the tattoos that won’t leave your hand and smell horrible and stain everything. It’s kind of like…have you ever seen a horse take a shit? It looks like that and you rub it into your palm. I don’t remember much else about it because I was so concerned about getting out of the costume, I did not like being in the costume. It stains in a weird way, it’s not like a normal henna that you can get on the beach in Mexico these days. It’s more watery, it leaves a paler residue. I don’t know if it’s the exact same formula or anything like that. That’s all I got.”

Festival
Foodways
Material

Bridal Punch

Title: Bridal Punch

Category: Food/Recipe

Informant: Lisa L. Gabbard

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 58

Occupation: Housewife

Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)

Date of Collection: 4/8/18

Description:

Ingredients:

– Ginger-ale/Seven-Up

– Pastel Sherbet Ice-cream in Wedding Colors

– Alcohol (Clear Consistency)

– Ice

Directions

– Combine Ginger-ale and alcohol in a large punch bowl or serving container. Add sherbet ice-cream to the combination and then ice.

Context/Significance:

Bridal Punch is served during the wedding reception of a couple. The bridal punch is based primarily on the colors of the ceremony, but specifically the color of the bridesmaids dresses. The punch can be served as either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage. Bridal punch is greenly served alongside cake and cocktails. Bridal punch is allowed to all guests in attendance alongside the bridal party specifically.

Personal Thoughts:

Bridal punch reiterates the theme/colors of the wedding and promotes social drinking amongst guests/patrons to the couple. Bridal punch seems to honor the bridesmaids specifically during the wedding reception; As an almost “thank-you” to their involvement in the ceremony.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Polterabend

The following is a conversation between myself and my parents about a German Jewish wedding tradition called a Polterabend. My dad, Arthur, is of German Jewish descent and grew up in a secular household in Cincinnati, while my mother, Margaret, is from a secular Episcopalian background. They are referred to by their first initials in this conversation; “L” is my first initial.

M: This is actually uh, Dad’s but I was gonna say that in Cincinnati they have um–among reform Jews in Cincinnati–they have a custom called the Polterabend. which is a-
A: It’s a German custom.
M: It’s a german custom, but isn’t- I think it was celebrated by the German Jews?
A: Yeah.
M: Um and we had one of them before our wedding and the idea was um, the night before, you have like a- a kind of a wild party of some kind to celebrate. But “polter” is y’know from “poltergeist” so it’s like, y’know, goblins or-
A: And you’re supposed to break something.
L: You always do it before your wedding or…?
M: Yeah, the evening before your wedding um, y’know you uh, you break stuff, you make a lot of noise to sort of celebrate the marrying couple and chase away the bad spirits.
L: And like, did your parents do that, Dad?
A: Yeah.
L: And like, all the reform Jews in Cincinnati?
A: Yeah.
M: And when they had a party for us, the evening before our wedding here [in San Francisco]-
A: They called it a Polterabend.
M: They called it a Polterabend, although it was just a party.

My dad’s family, like most German Jewish families in Cincinnati, were not at all religiously observant; in fact, they had a Christmas tree most years growing up. Still, most reform Jews in Cincinnati, my dad’s family included, participated in cultural practices like the Polterabend in order to connect to their culture. Although neither of my parents are especially religious, traditions like this one connect our family to our cultural-religious background. My parents were married by a Rabbi in a Jewish ceremony, and had a “Polterabend” before their wedding; though my mom is not Jewish, their wedding celebrated Jewish culture’s place in their newly formed family.

Adulthood
Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ethiopian Wedding Traditions

Context & Analysis

The subject and I exchanged stories of our family’s traditions while sitting in a class discussion. She mentioned that she and her family were from Ethiopia, so I asked her if she knew of any unique Ethiopian traditions that westerners might not be familiar with. She provided me with an overview of traditional Ethiopian weddings gathered from the ones she and her family attend on a (mostly) yearly basis. She emphasized how many of the ritualistic parts of the wedding preparation are altered or substituted depending on each family’s preferences or personal ties to the country. The transcription is a little disjointed at times because the subject attempted to recount a variety of wedding traditions encapsulated in the ceremony. It was quite interesting to hear a younger woman’s take on these traditional ceremonies.

Main Piece

“So…for Ethiopian weddings…it’s like a, um, a couple days long process—actually it can take up to a month usually. I have 8 aunts on my mom’s side so—and I’ve been alive and I’ve missed three weddings—so every single summer someone is getting married. So like the whole summer we go back to Ethiopia or we travel back to where they are and so actually…there’s a process you do when you have your weddings. So first there’s the, uh, bride’s family celebration and they wash the bride’s feet in honey and milk and, um, they do all her makeup and beauty and stuff and they’ll like play this game there where the groom tries to break in [to the room the bride is in] and they’ll be like “No you can’t be in there!” [laughs], and that’s pretty cool. And these things are mostly ritualistic, like you’re not actually pouring milk on the bride’s feet but some people do. I’ve been to a couple of weddings where people have, um, and that is traditionally the night before the wedding. And the day of the wedding it’s—with my family it’s a lot of pictures and posing. I know with traditions they have the husband—the groom—has to kill a bull, or like a goat, and they cook it for dinner, like the wedding dinner. Like in most American ideas of [a traditional Ethiopian] wedding this happens but it’s like miming, which is like kind of a new tradition, um, but yea. There’s a huge selection of Ethiopian foods and a huge section of raw meat, that’s a thing that people eat a lot, and afterward you have a big dinner the day after which is the bride and groom’s first big party together, hosting like their friends and family. And it’s basically everyone goes over during the day—it’s not like a nighttime celebration—um, and then after that (I cannot remember the name of it). It’s just the bride and groom’s parents and they serve them dinner for the first time, like as a couple, um, in their own house. There’s a lot of ritual of, like, respecting your elders and stuff.”

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Wedding – India

My informant is half Indian and Caucasian. She shared with me some of the rituals and customs that were practiced at her cousin’s wedding:

“For my cousin’s wedding, me and my sister were bridesmaids. It was at the beach last year in April. I wore a hot pink saree (traditional Indian clothing). It’s like a crop top that is all gold embroidery and jewels on it. Honestly I’m obsessed with all the outfits. Like that’s the one thing about Indian culture I’m so obsessed with. Everyone at the wedding wears Indian outfits, so seeing all the colors against the ocean was absolutely beautiful.

 

When my cousin had the wedding she had this thing called a mandap. And what that is, is they have them all decorated and it’s basically just the alter. Like the Indian alter where people get married is always decorated with a bunch of flowers.”

 

Isn’t there something that you guys do with henna tattoos too?

 

“Yes—there’s a ceremony. Everyone does it. Like the most people is all the women in the bride’s side of the family and like also her bridesmaid, so I did it and my mom did it. It’s also a really long ceremony.

 

The Indian ceremonies are really long— when they’re getting married can go on for 2 hours. It’s cause the Indian wedding is very ‘ritualistic’. You know how in Western ceremonies they’re like ok say you’re vows, blah, blah, blah, then you’re done? For Indians, they’ll do things like each of you touch a flower and that symbolizes one thing. Then they’ll put a little dot on them and that symbolizes…it’s just everything the priest does has an underlying meaning. They also bring up people, like my mom will go up there and bless them. Everyone is incorporated in it. It’s crazy because I swear I’ve known these people since I was born, but I don’t know their names because it’s a big extended family. So sometimes we’ll go to weddings and I don’t even know some of these people’s name”

 

Do you think you’ll have an Indian style wedding?

 

“For Indian weddings, a lot goes into it. So for me and my sister, first of all, we don’t even practice any Indian religion. We’re only half—not even full Indian. So to spend all that time and money into something that I’m not really 100% invested in, doesn’t make sense to me. Cause I was raised Christian, I would have a more Western style ceremony. But I still love the culture so it would be fun to still incorporate some Indian aspects into my wedding reception like the outfits.”

 

Weddings are a very sacred ceremony that unites two individuals as one. Because it is such a unique and monumental experience, it is understandable for people to feel pressured into spending an absurd amount of time and money for the occasion. However, there is absolutely no comparison when it comes to Indian weddings. They are by far the most lavish and extravagant events I have ever heard of. It is clear that marriage holds a great deal of importance in Indian culture. It is not just a critical life milestone, but an essential religious practice in Hindu religion. This explains why weddings do not stray, but strongly adhere to ancient customs and traditions. In addition, Indian weddings are not just about bonding the couple. Everyone in the family is incorporated into the ceremony to signify that a bond has also been created between the two families.

Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Breaking of the Glass

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (Skype)

 

Alan is a 62 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. When I asked you about Jewish Wedding Traditions, you told me about your personal experiences with that of Breaking of the Glass. Can you explain further.

 

Informant: I would be very happy to do this. I remember when I was eight years old at my Uncle Jerrys wedding that I was the ring boy.  It was a traditional Jewish Wedding and Uncle Jerry and his bride stood under a tent called a Chuppah. I later learned about what the meaning was. I am not going to get into ah here…you can read all about it online.  It is well documented. So anyway, getting back to the breaking of the glass.  So when my job as ring boy was over, the ceremony was ending and then um, Uncle Jerry stomped on this white cloth on the floor and then I heard this sound which sounded, um like glass breaking. Then all the crowd of people at the wedding shouted. At the time I didn’t know what they shouted, however I would latter learn it was Mazel Tov, um which, I mean is a Jewish word for good luck.  At that moment I was so taken by how happy the people were and I thought the glass breaking caused everyone to become so happy.  I remember when everyone left where the wedding ceremony took place I went and very carefully to pick the white cloth up containing the glass. I remember carrying this cloth with the glass like it was the most valuable thing I ever held.  Anyway after everyone ate, I found Uncle Jerry and his new bride Audrey, who later divorced, and I presented the glass in the cloth.  They asked me what this was and as typical eight year said don’t you remember it is the glass you broke and then everyone cheered.  I um then told them that I thought you might want to keep the glass to remind you of the happy times. They looked puzzled and then laughed and took the glass and went on talking to other guests. Upon later learning of their divorce many years later and um speaking to Uncle Jerry I mentioned that the glass didn’t bring them any happy memories. He looked at me like he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

 

As I got older I learned and understood more about Judaism I learned about the meaning of the glass breaking was all about.  There are a lot of interpretations about this, but one fact which is agreed that it commemorates uh the destruction and, sorry, destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of course all the sorrows that brought but also remember for the wedding aspect of this tradition that you know that there will be good and happy times. Other sects of Judaism have other beliefs as well and it is open to many different um shall we say schools of thoughts. Such as the couple comes together by the smashing of the separate bonds or another is the reuniting of the two souls as ah lifelong mates.  I always felt that it was a beautiful thing in that it announces to the world the couple’s union as husband and wife and announces the journey in life as one united. I am very sorry I am going on and on.

 

Interviewer:  No that’s OK. This is a great story, please.

 

Informant: OK then. Glad you are still interested. So oh where, oh let me see, yes, so I liked this tradition so much that at every Jewish Wedding that I attended that I would collect the glass, this time being smarted about things and carry a plastic zip lock bag, so to keep everything intact. Then I would present it to the couple afterwards and explain what I told you before and all the time the couple was thrilled to have it.  I vowed that when I got married that I would save my glass and if I could turn it into something which could be displayed.

 

Interviewer: What does this piece mean to you?

 

Informant: While this meaning of the tradition of the glass breaking has multiple other meanings other than the one everyone agrees about the destruction of the temple, the meaning for me always holds great optimism about a couple coming together to hopefully live a joyous and loving life together.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

A surprising number of manufacturers create vessels for this ceremony of destruction, similar to inexpensive plates sold to be broken at Greek weddings. Another Jewish fable about remembrance; two souls reunited as one, at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/542288/jewish/Why-Break-a-Glass-at-a-Wedding.htm?gclid=CJyfvcSzpNMCFUSBswody4QOww

Some other Jewish wedding day traditions at: https://www.theknot.com/content/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals

 

 

 

Adulthood
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Circassian Wedding Tradition

From the old days to now, the Circassian community has had no strict segregation rules between the sexes, therefore both sides have the freedom to choose their spouses. Usually, the young man, with a group of trusted friends, abducts his wife-to-be from her parents house on a set date and time. The bride needs to be taken to a trusted family where the groom can’t see her until the elders contact her family and get their approval to the marriage. This custom is acceptable between the Circassians because it’s based on the agreement between the young couple. The wife-to-be consents to this arrangement.

Background information: This is a tradition in the informant’s culture (Circassian culture).

Context: The informant told me about this tradition in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This personally struck me as quite strange at first. I was confused about the “abduction” part of this tradition, since I thought that the woman in the scenario has no idea what’s going to happen. But upon being told that she has a role in this arrangement, and that she has consented to the process, I felt better about it. This seems to be a way of asking permission from her parents; it is merely a ritual to be performed before the wedding, and it is apparently a very common process among Circassian people.

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