Informant AM is a graduate student from San Jose California, whose family is originally from Ethiopia. There is a strong Ethiopian diasporic community in San Jose, where much of its traditions live on.
“It’s not necessarily the younger cousins, it’s the ones that they think are next to get married. For example, my cousin got married, she’s 8 years older than me, but they assume I’m the next cousin to get married so I have to be her right hand woman — well it was me and my cousin because we’re around the same age. We call it ‘Protocol,’ but it’s like an assistant to the bride.”
Informant AM witnessed this tradition in primarily Ethiopian Orthodox Christian weddings. Ethiopia is a country with 36 million Orthodox Christians as of 2017, according to the Pew Research Center (Diamant). Ethiopian Orthodox culture, like many others, places heavy emphasis on the marriage. In Orthodox Christinaity, the marriage reflects the original bond of Adam and Eve and subsequent bonds between husband and wife, such as that between the biblical figures Abraham and Sarah. In fact, Ethiopians will often give a new couple a blessing which translates roughly to “May your marriage be like Abraham and Sarah’s.”
This tradition resembles other wedding traditions that intensify the importance of marriage in a community, such as the tradition where the bride throws a bouquet of flowers behind her, and the person who catches the bouquet is likely the person to be married next. Both traditions serve to intensify and perpetuate the importance of marriage in a community by encouraging the next person in line to consider marriage, and reflects the importance of marriage in the American and Ethiopian communities which practice this tradition. This tradition also reflects the syncretism which takes place when traditional Ethiopian weddings mix with their American settings. Informant AM mentioned that the assistants are labeled ‘protocol,’ but the word “protocol” is meant to be used in a sentence spoken in Amharic, a language in Ethiopia. Effectively, this English word has been adopted into the Amharic language as a result of its prolonged exposure. From my own observation, another word that fits this description is the word “program,” which Amharic speakers in the United States and Ethiopia slip effortlessly into their otherwise Amharic sentences.
The informant is a 29-year-old Caucasian female who will be called JH. She is of Irish and English descent and knows of this folklore from her family, more specifically her mother. This folklore piece is told in her words:
My Mom told us that in old British tradition the reason you would have bridesmaids is because women had to travel great distances for arranged marriages, and you would dress like other girls to fool highwaymen and wayward outlaws from snatching the right bride. Which means your bridal party had to be willing to take your place.
In Ancient Roman times weddings seemed to be heavily surrounded by the kidnapping of the bride. The best man also plays a part in protecting the bride from being kidnapped by disapproving family members or vengeful neighbors. This would explain the need for bridesmaids to blend in with the bride, so she can’t be easily spotted. This was also to protect her from evil spirits. Bridesmaids have become a way to share the bride’s wedding with women who are closest to the bride. The events prior to the wedding are a way for the bride to bond with those women and share special moments that she will remember after.
For more on the origin of the Bridal party/ best men/ bridesmaids, check out:
Title: Bridal Punch
Informant: Lisa L. Gabbard
Nationality: American, caucasian
Residence: 5031 Mead Drive/ Doylestown PA, 18902 (Suburban Home)
Date of Collection: 4/8/18
– Pastel Sherbet Ice-cream in Wedding Colors
– Alcohol (Clear Consistency)
– Combine Ginger-ale and alcohol in a large punch bowl or serving container. Add sherbet ice-cream to the combination and then ice.
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.
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.