• Doc Mele

Something Old, Something New


I was watching an episode of The Waltons the other night. A show set in depression era 1930’s Virginia. This certain episode featured Cora Beth getting married to Isaac Godsey. What impressed me about the episode was not its grandeur, but its simplicity. Cora Beth wore her finest Sunday dress, not an elaborate white gown. Her bridesmaids did not wear matching ensembles. Just their Sunday best also. John Walton, Sr. walked her down the aisle and when the couple said their vows, both bride and groom showed concerned that they would live up to the solemn promise they were taking before God and their witnesses.

There was no pomp and circumstance. Cora Beth did stop to see if any other woman upstaged her in dress. No one cared if a ring bearer wore a sign around his neck that said something like, ‘Get ready, Mr. Godsey, here comes your woman!’ Their focus was more on the profound aspect of marriage, not the production to wow everyone in attendance. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that wedding receptions in a venue other than the bride or groom’s home became the current norm.

Today is another time, and wedding season is fast approaching, and many people want the Pinterest production that permeates our culture, making weddings a $300 billion dollar a year industry. But is there history to the traditions we have today with regard to wedding customs? Of course there is, and here are some of them:

White wasn’t always the shade of choice for a woman’s wedding gown. In days gone by, women wore their finest dress or gown. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria married in 1840 that white became the iconic color for wedding gowns. She chose white to stand out in a crowd. I suppose a contemporary marketing guru of Queen Victoria’s came up with the tag line that white denotes purity and virginity, and it became embedded into our cultural psyche. However, during the Roman Empire, white denoted the color for celebrations and parties. Hence, they wore white togas to their elaborate soirees. Today, most women prefer white for their wedding attire (I really don’t believe it has to do with purity and virginity anymore, but more to do with what is conventional), but brides (even first time brides) who chose to forge their own unique path, now chose other colors for their wedding attire, which are also as magnificent as traditional white gowns.

In certain cultures of long ago, it was prohibited for men see their betrothed before the marriage ceremony. Therefore, the brides hid their faces behind a veil. Today, we incorporate the tradition of a bride wearing a veil over her face until the officiant pronounces the couple man and wife. A veil adds mystery.

There were also ancient societies that guarded the bride and groom from potential harm or kidnappers. To do this, the bride’s ladies-in-waiting and groomsmen dressed similarly to to the bride and groom, to confuse evil spirits or those with ill intent. Today, this custom translates into the bride’s and groom's attendants dressing in a similar style as the betrothed, and often times, in a different color than the bride.

Ancient pagan religions believed all things of the earth had energy and were endowed with certain powers. They believed that certain flowers and herbs had the ability to produce certain effects. For example, roses were thought to have the power of producing feelings of love, and red roses had the ability to incite passion. Dahlias carried the power of commitment for another person, while sweet peas brought about bliss and simple pleasures. To help generate these positive feelings for her wedding day, a groom would give his beloved a bouquet filled with flowers that carried certain energies for love and good luck. A flower girl was also chosen to line the path with petals from flowers that carried powers of love.

The customs go on and on, but we find the best weddings are the ones where the bride and groom make their special day about their love and the message they send about the commitment they have entered into with one another, not the the fairytale and not the production.

It is a time to feel like a thousand angels are dancing around you and God is present, blessing you and your beloved with their divine sanction. For love is not born of superficial whims, it is a very profound feeling that cannot be defined, but only felt by the beloved. And whether you celebrate your marriage in grand fashion, or with the pure, reverent, yet charming simplicity of Cora Beth and Mr. Godsey on Walton’s mountain, remember that after the wedding comes reality where true love is tested, and in the words of Daphne Kingma, “If love is not honored, it will go find it’s true home.

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Credits: Photography - Miki; Maya; Tony Florez; Kristie Carrier; Schweiz

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