Tag Archives: Wedding Rituals

Persian Sugar Rubbing Ceremony

Informant’s Background:

The informant is my (not-blood-related) aunt, who married my uncle on my Dad’s side. She is from Iran, and moved to Canada a few years before marrying my uncle. They had a traditional Persian wedding.

Context:

My uncle and aunt were visiting us, and so I asked my aunt about a particular tradition I saw practiced at their wedding.

Performance:

AN: “Ah, yes. At the wedding we grind sugar cones together and put it over the white sheet that’s held over the bride and groom’s head as a symbol of them having a sweet life together for the rest of their lives.”

Thoughts:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask many questions as it was a busy day, but the ritual seems in-line with many wedding rituals, in that it is good-spirited, and intended to bring joy and happiness to the newly wedded couple.

The Wedding Band in Jewish Marriage Ceremonies

Main piece: Before my husband and I got married, we went to see the Rabbi that was set to perform the ceremony, and he said that among the objects we had to have for the ceremony was a different wedding band. Because the engagement ring I had on had diamonds, and traditionally, Jews don’t wear diamonds to their own wedding. He also said the ring had to be large enough to fit on the index finger of my right hand, because, according to him, this has the blood supply that is closest to your heart. So I borrowed my mother’s platinum wedding band, which was large enough to fit on my index finger because my mother’s hands are much larger than my hands. And if you watch the video of my wedding, you’ll watch my husband placing my mother’s wedding band on the right index finger. After the ceremony, I gave my mother back her wedding band, and I slipped my own diamond engagement ring back on the fourth finger of my left hand, which is the traditional place people wear wedding rings. 

Background: My informant is a fifty-three year old Jewish woman from Los Angeles, California. She and her husband were married by Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am in Beverly Hills, CA in 1999.

Context: The first my informant heard of this tradition was during the meeting with the Rabbi at their meeting leading up to their wedding. While she honored the Rabbi’s wants, and believes that the maybe the index finger has the blood supply that leads closest to one’s heart, she has been wearing her wedding rings in the Western tradition (fourth finger of her left hand) for as long as she has been married. 

Analysis: Interestingly, the origins of the Western custom of putting a ring finger on the fourth finger of one’s left hand has the same belief as the Rabbi’s custom – that the ring finger has the “vena amoris”, or has a vein that runs directly to the heart. This has been biologically disproven; there is no one vein in one’s that leads to their heart, and the vasculature in one’s hands is all pretty much the same. However, in Jewish tradition, there is no talmudic evidence that a couple even needs wedding rings to sanctify or represent a marriage, and in fact the groom could give the bride anything of value as a representation of their intimacy (books and coins were traditionally used). The only rule was that the object be “whole and unbroken”, which could explain why there are to be no stones set into the metal. Gold is preferred; in Judaism, gold is symbolic of the glory of God, so in a ceremony or ritual as important as marriage, it is a way to represent monogamy and sexual intimacy within the bond of God – that there is a religious or divine promise the wife makes to her husband. As for the right index finger, it seems that Rabbi had the same belief in the “vena amoris” as many Westerners had, but it could also be because the index finger is more frequently used (as it is the pointer finger), and therefore the ring/symbol of their marriage is more prevalent. Additionally, in Jewish and Roman tradition, the right hand is used to perform oaths.

Lamm, Maurice. “The Marriage Ring in Judaism.” Chabad.org. Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/481776/jewish/The-Marriage-Ring-in-Judaism.htm. 

Ukrainian Wedding Tradition

The following is transcribed from an interview between me and interviewee, referred to as MT. 

MT: In my country, when someone wants to get married to a girl, they have to first barter for her with her neighborhood, essentially. Usually the neighborhood people ask for booze and money and then in exchange they’ll let her go and give her to him. 

Me: So do potential grooms actually end up going and meeting the neighborhood people’s demands for their brides?

MT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at this point it’s usually pretend, like, not serious but because it’s tradition we have to do it, you know? So usually the guy will just go and the neighborhood will play pretend like you have to give me stuff and at this point it’s just an excuse to get some booze and get excited for the wedding. Although, I have seen a neighborhood take it seriously one time and the guy had to actually go home and get money because the neighborhood wouldn’t let her go! 

Me: And why do they do the bartering before the wedding?

MT: Well, the neighborhood is losing a person so it’s like they should get something in return, you know? And it’s also a way to test and see how much the groom wants her like what she’s worth to him. 

Me: What if someone wants to marry her from the same neighborhood, though?

MT: Oh, no matter what they’ll make the guys barter for her. So even if they’re from the same neighborhood, they’ll then separate it by streets and he’ll barter with the people on her street. If they’re on the same street, he’ll have to barter with the family type of stuff. It’s just tradition. 

Background:

Interviewee, MT, is from LViv, Ukraine. His family is from a village called Rodatichi in Ukraine. He immigrated to America at age 13, but returns home for occasions. He has lived in Sherman Oaks, CA for the rest of his life thus far and has been happily married to my mom for 11 years. He has been to numerous weddings and seen this wedding tradition happen all growing up.

Context: 

This interview was conducted over lunch at our family home, so it was very casual. He has many stories about the customs of his country that he usually shares with me so it was just like any number of our usual conversations. 

Thoughts:

There are many versions of these wedding customs, but what I found interesting is that this specific tradition of bartering for the wife is unique to his region in Ukraine. Even in the Eastern part of the country, there are wildly different traditions but they all seem to center around the idea of testing the man of his dedication to the wife. I think this is interesting because in
America, we don’t have many of these traditions where a man has to truly win and earn his bride. It is also very interesting how much variation there is within this custom as far as what the neighborhood people ask for, whether or not the groom actually has to give it to them, and whether he is bartering with the whole neighborhood or just her family. 

Spitting at Greek Weddings

MAIN PIECE

“That common stereotype that Greeks spit at brides down the wedding aisle you see in [My] Big Fat Greek Wedding, although exageratted, is based in truth.  More in Greek-Greek culture than in Greek-American culture, you will see people spit on the bride, not walking down the aisle, but while she gets ready.  Also this “spitting” is not accompanied by saliva, but instead is like a mock spit. What it’s supposed to do is ward away evil spirits and the “evil eye”,  which a lot of us characterize with a redness on the face.  This can be acne or just simple irritation of the skin, but we have done it at weddings moreso to wish the bride luck and hope her husband doesn’t run away.  Yeah, it can be a little condescending at times because people could do it to say, “Just so your man doesn’t leave you at the altar”.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this not from her church in America, but her church back in Thessaloniki where there is more of a belief in bad spirits surrounding big occasions.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

When you watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s easy to write off a lot of the stuff in it and other culture-specific movies as overblown stereotypes, however, in asking someone with firsthand experience, it’s very interesting to see a piece of folklore interpreted into a joke or comedic form.  As well, I find it interesting that this has such a dual meaning.  It can be seen as helpful or insulting and that really opens up a conversation about how one bigger folk group could be divided into  sub-divisions based on how they interpret the same piece of folklore.

Wedding Traditions

Context:

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 grandparents. This folklore piece is told in her words:

Main Piece:

My Paternal Grandparents used to tell us that it was tradition on our wedding day for proper young ladies to have a few things:

– Something Old: Usually a piece of jewelry from a mother/grandmother/future mother-in-law. You were connected via sentiment and would carry that into your new marriage.

– Something New: Usually a gift of some sort from the groom or his family to show that the wife was considered precious to them.

– Something Borrowed: Sometimes a veil from a family member, or a trinket they wore or used in their wedding.

– Something Blue: Usually we learned it was forget-me-nots, sweet blue flowers to never forget your family, or the new love and joy you would receive from your wedding day. We also learned it could be a blue handkerchief, to hide the blue of tears (sad or happy).

And a sixpence in your shoe: By walking into your new life with wealth in your foot, you would always have money when you needed it for a prosperous life.

 

Background:

JH learned about this folklore when she was younger and had attended a wedding with her family. JH is not currently married but when she does get married, she will continue this tradition.

Notes:

This tradition derives from an Old English rhyme, which goes, “Something olde, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe.” The meaning of something old is meant to ward off the “evil eye” and protect the newly weds and their future children. It can also represent continuity. Something new expresses optimism for the future so that the new couple can have good luck for their future life together. Something borrowed is a way for the couple to share in the luck given to them from the item that it borrowed and from that person/persons. The contemporary belief is to have something that honors a loved one that the item came from.  Something blue is also another way to ward of evil or mean spirits. And the sixpence is for future prosperity and good fortune in the couple’s life together. This tradition wasn’t something my family did however, for my wedding, my mother-in-law gave me trinkets that fulfilled every part of the tradition. I may continue this tradition with my children as I appreciated the gesture made by my mother-in-law.

 

For more information on this tradition, check out:

https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-traditions-the-meaning-of-something-old