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With the pandemic running our lives the past few years, times have been tough for those wanting to marry amid festive ceremony — but a boom is anticipated for 2022, and June should be a busy month at the altar and in the courthouse.

What’s the allure of June? Nice weather, of course, but more to the point: The month’s namesake is Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth. 

As elaborate weddings return, so will the variety of unusual traditions that enliven rites among different religions and cultures.

While wide smiles are everywhere during most weddings, couples in the Congo are discouraged from grinning for the entire day, since to do so would indicate they aren’t taking their vows seriously.

In Greece, they view the term “groomsman” literally. On his wedding day the groom is shaved by his best man – a sign of trust between the two.

The idea of roping a bride is also carried out literally – in Mexico, where a lasso made of rosary beads and flowers is draped around the shoulders of bride and groom, connecting them in a figure eight representing their union.  And since the figure eight is also the symbol for infinity, it signifies the depth of their love. 

Wedding bells assume a different role in Guatemala, where it’s traditional for the bridegroom’s mother to break a ceramic bell filled with rice and flour, in hopes prosperity will bless the couple.

At Orthodox Jewish weddings, the bride circles the groom seven times, indicating that he’s the center of the home but she’s the one who will be its driving force.

As has happened with the Christian custom of a father giving his daughter away – which some view as a sign of ownership – the circling rite can strike a chauvinistic chord. A contemporary version has the bride circling the groom three times, the groom doing likewise to the bride, and then both circling each other in a commitment to equality.

And here’s a different take on bridal bouquets: In Wales, the bouquets contain myrtle, a floral symbol of love. The bride gives a cutting to each of her attendants, and it’s said that if a bridesmaid plants hers and it blossoms, she, too, will soon be wed.

I’m partial to a couple of traditions in Germany that get to the heart of marriage. There, an old custom presents the bridal couple with their first communal obstacle – a log. Using a long saw with a handle at each end, they must labor together to cut through it in a public demonstration of cooperation.  

Similarly, the night before a German wedding, family and friends traditionally show up at the bride’s house with porcelain crockery – which they exuberantly shatter on the ground. Some folks break flower pots, ceramics, and stoneware, making a well-intentioned mess. 

It’s the duty of the bride and groom to clean it all up, symbolically demonstrating their commitment to working together when they confront inevitable challenges.

These latter two rites bring color and laughter to joyful unions, while providing sagacious and needful reminders, amid celebration, that there’s a universe of difference between a wedding and a marriage.

Gerry Goldstein (gerryg76@verizon.net), a frequent contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.

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Gerry Goldstein

Gerry Goldstein, an occasional contributor to What's Up, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist who has been writing for Rhode Island newspapers and magazines for 60 years