Tag Archives: wedding custom

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something, blue

Background: The informant is married herself, but also worked in a bridal store for years and knows a lot about wedding traditions. She specifies how this tradition ties in with wedding dresses and how the store incorporated them.

LR: I know the whole, something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new as being like good luck for brides, and, so, I think there are several things associated with weddings. I don’t know where the reference came from, um but i think it’s the idea that you have meaningful things with you, or that had been passed down when you get married that sort of, um, bring good luck, good feeling, good energy, or positive vibes. So I think for most people something new is sometimes the wedding dress, sometimes that’s something borrowed, sometimes that’s something old if you wear somebody else’s dress. Ya know, people borrow vails, but usually, and again, I don’t know where the original reference came from for the blue or why blue would be associated or connotate good energy, but, um, people used to wear garters that would have like a blue ribbon in them, that would be taken off. So just like the bouquet would be tossed to the girls, or the single women, the garter would be shot to the single men. So that was something that was more prevalent like when i got married, and we used to sell the garters at the bridal store I worked in. But, we changed it because I think, I don’t know, it sort of became like people didn’t really wear garters, they were at one time I think women wore garters right? To hold up their stockings, and then of course with, I don’t know, more modern times we wore pantyhose or whatever and then you’d put a garter which was an elastic band with lace and a ribbon and you’d wear that up and it was this big thing like that the husband was going up his wife’s leg to get htee garter off and then he would like shoot it like a rubber band. So I always thought that was funny. At least at the store I worked at, I think moree post-2000, fewer and fewer people wore garters or did that with the bride, and so they still did the bouquet toss to indicate, you know, who was likely gonna be the next person to get married, but what we did at the store was to tie the blue ribbon in the bride’s hem, or her wedding dress, as a symbol of good luck that was always there. And then they didn’t have to worry about trying to find a way to wear something blue so to speak?

Me: Why do you think the tradition of shooting garters has decreased?

LR: Honestly, I think most modern brides would be like what the hell is a garter. I don’t know how easy it is to find them anymore.

Me: Do you think garters have the same meaning as bouquets, like do you think it was the next guy to get married? Or what do you think shooting the garter into guys signified?

LR: I mean I think that was sort of supposed to be the equivalent, instead I think for them it was like oh you’re going to be the next lucky schmuck who’s gonna get tied down. You know, you used to have all the bridesmaids or all the single women clamoring for the bouquet, and yet, it was like the opposite for the guys, it was a sign of shame or something to actually come forward to get it. Nobody wanted to get it because it meant they’d be tied down. I don’t think as many guys embraced the idea of looking like they wanted to get married.

Context of performance: This was told to me over a Zoom call.

Thoughts: This is a super popular saying, although I don’t know firsthand how many people follow it. I like the sentimental quality it brings to a period of transition in someone’s life as getting married can be seen as a rite of passage and these are the items that push you through the threshold, or liminal space. It’s interesting that these things bring you good luck moving forward in your life, more so because to me it suggests that it’s its own period separated by the wedding and these items merge the two stages of life, especially with something old and something new.

Two Families, Both Alike in Dignity…

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.

N: When the baraat (wedding procession to bring the groom in, think loud music, think showy) comes to the girl’s house, then, let’s say opposing side relatives, like the bride’s brother and the groom’s brother, will come close to each other and try to lift each other. It’s part of this tradition called milni (meeting), I think, it has a name, it’s called milni. But, it’s more than that, because milni is just the greeting, this is like… something that’s evolved from it. You have to lift the guy, and everybody gathers around and kind of cheers it. So, first the brothers will go, then the mamas (uncles/mother’s brothers) will go, the cousins will go, so equivalent relatives on both sides. It’s like a friendly contest, a sort of thing where the idea is like… to get to know each other, but it is a big thing. A coming together of the families. But people will do all kinds of things, like some guy will sit on the ground so the other can’t lift him up, some guy will… you get it. It’s like a thing with the younger relatives, especially. It started off as just a milni, where you would just greet each other, the fathers would garland each other, but now it’s become this big thing, friendly competition between the younger guys. Women don’t lift each other, or really have milni at all because they don’t all come out to do the greeting, to receive, they will stay in the home. This happens just before you enter the house.

Analysis:

This part of the wedding process in India has to do primarily with an introduction of the families, so some of the bride’s relatives welcome the groom into their house (and thus, their family), and they do so in both a gracious greeting ceremony, and this fun, loud game. Weddings are a joyous occasion, but inherently a very serious thing because they are all about lifelong commitment of not only two people, but the coming-together of two families. Therefore, along the way, there are many such games, jokes, and customs essentially built to just be fun, along with the other basic purpose, in this case allowing the families to meet, get familiar, understand and welcome each other, in a lighthearted way. North Indian weddings are very expansive, long processes, with many steps and many days, each for a different ritual, custom, or meeting, but each has grown into something more fun as time has passed — the mehndi (henna) ceremony is no longer just carrying out the rituals of beautifying and applying mehndi to the bride and wishing her the best, it has become a time for all the women of both families to bond, give each other advice and their own, simpler mehndi patterns, and have fun and make night-before-your-wedding jokes. It’s like a bachelorette party of sorts, except the bride has to stay in the exact same position for a while because her very elaborate mehndi is drying. Essentially, while Indian weddings are big, serious things with many traditions, rituals, and customs, each has grown with time to become more fun, much like this one!

‘Joota Chori’: Dipping Your Toes Into a New Phase of Life

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India. ‘Joota Chori’ essentially means stealing shoes.

I: So, we have many wedding rituals and games, and practical jokes are part of that. Could you describe one?

S: Yeah, this is during the wedding ceremony, or you could say through and post it, but somewhere during the wedding ceremony, when the — both the groom and the bride have to remove their footwear to get onto the… the podium for the phere (Seven circumambulations performed by the bride and groom during Indian weddings), the sacred… the holy ritual, the seven rounds we take. So, at that point in time, the girl’s sisters and friends, they get together and hide the groom’s shoes. Basically, to seek ransom in return, at some point, and make some money, some cash. And the boy’s brothers and friends are attempting to manage to make sure they don’t manage that, and if they do manage it, they’re attempting to kind of… look for the shoes and find them to save that money. It becomes a major, a big thing, good fun thing, and mostly the girl’s sisters and friends make money. The guy comes practically prepared for it [she laughs], that x amount will mostly have to be given.

I: So, would you say it’s kind of like a rite of passage, in that sense?

S: Rite of passage, introducing each other to the families, the families and friends, yeah. Testing them and joking around, getting familiar.

Analysis:

Weddings are often known to involve the liminal space, the transition period where one person is moving from a certain identity (the family they were born into), to another one (the family they are marrying into). This liminal space is between the stages of departure from the initial and arrival and acceptance into the latter, and therefore, practical jokes and rituals are part of the experience, even in Indian weddings. Here, the practical joke is, as my informant states, a rite of passage, a welcoming of both parties into their counterpart families and communities, and they also have the auxiliary purpose of acquainting both families and friend-groups with each other in a lighthearted, fun way. This wedding game, a practical joke, signifies the introduction of the two families at the wedding, as well as the initiation of the bride and groom into these families, since the people being ‘pranked’ are not exactly entirely moved away from their previous community, and neither are they fully integrated into the new one.

Bride-price~Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the second step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Bride-price
    • The bride price is a token for raising a wonderful young lady and paid by the parents of the prospective groom. Once the bride price is presented the money is divided to the father and his kingsmen[uncles, cousins…etc], the mother[sisters, cousins..etc], the uncle, and the auntie partake in the money. 
      • Thoughts: I found this step to be very interesting to me. When I was listening to my parents explain this my initial thoughts were that it appeared that I was going to be sold off and married when I was old enough, however, my perceptions changed when they told me why this payment was so significant. A bride-price is not a means for which a man pays to marry a person, instead, it is a symbolic gesture paid by the prospective groom to give thanks to the family of the woman he intends to marry. The bride price is an offering of thanks for raising such a well brought up a young woman who the man now wants to marry. It was really interesting learning about this marriage custom, and I hope to witness this process one day or possibly the day that I or a female member of my family will be approached by someone who wants to marry us.

Idu uno-Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the last step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Idu uno
    • This process is where the father of the bride and his kingsman buy everything that the bride needs in her new household. They will buy her a fridge, stove, furniture, and anything else she will need in her new life as a wife. The father of the bride could also give them land to cultivate or provide them with a home and car to start their lives with. The mother of the bride and her fellow women will also give the bride things for her new life by buying all the things she will need for her kitchen.
    • Young men of the community will then play music and accompany the bride to the husband’s parent’s house. All of the items for the bride will be brought to her new inlaws home. The young men of the community will request compensation from their elders. The parents of the groom must present a specific amount of kola and tobacco before the young men move the items inside their home. The leader of the young men will then break kola for the new bride and will see her into her new home along with other young women of the community.
      • Thoughts: In this final step, family and community are especially highlighted in more elaborate gestures of care. It was really cool listening to this process because it’s not something I have witnessed in American weddings. While in American weddings the bride and groom do receive gifts, it’s not to the extent that a procession is undertaken to not only give the bride everything she needs but also help her move in. When I was in Nigeria last winter, I actually got to see this step of the marriage rights take place. The bride was ushered into the home of her husband’s parents and the men of the community would one by one carry gifts into the house. Gifts ranged from bags of rice to whole fridges and stoves, and even whole plots of land. This was amazing to hear because it highlights how united the family and community are in rallying behind the newlyweds. The community as a whole wants to make sure that the new union is prosperous and wants nothing but the best. I appreciate this gesture because I got to see how happy and warm the newlyweds were. Knowing that the community around them is all in support of them, it is a perfect way to kick off a happy union.