We’re familiar with many wedding traditions in Western culture, but less familiar with their origins. For example, when did brides begin to wear veils? The practice goes all the way back to ancient Rome. The veil was not white but flame-colored, and known as the flammeum. Its purpose was to hide the bride from evil spirits who would be jealous of her happiness on her wedding day.
The Irish have a concern about evil spirits on wedding days, too. They combat them with bells: the chime of the bells keeps evil spirits away. Bells are also a traditional wedding gift for Irish couples. Once married, the couple is urged to ring their wedding bells if they get into an argument, to remind them of their vows.
The best-known Irish wedding tradition is the Claddagh ring for women. The design depicts two hands clasping a crowned heart. Representing love, friendship and loyalty, it’s usually passed down from mother to daughter, or grandmother to granddaughter.
How it’s worn is symbolic. A single woman wears it on the right hand, with the point of the heart facing the fingertip. If in a relationship, flip it around – when the point of the heart faces the wrist, it means your heart has been captured. When engaged the ring goes on the woman’s left hand. The heart faces the fingertips until the wedding, when it gets flipped around.
Of course, Eastern cultures have rich and varied wedding traditions of their own. In Japan, sake-sharing ceremonies called “san-san-kudo” are very popular. The bride and groom take three sips each from three sake cups – nine sips in total. Then, their parents do the same. Sharing sake creates a formal bond between the families in Japanese culture, and the number 9 (“ku”) is considered lucky.
Cranes, which symbolize longevity and good fortune, are also closely associated with Japanese wedding ceremonies. It is traditional to fold 1,000 paper, or origami, cranes are when making a special wish. Japanese couples are often married under an arch of 1,000 origami cranes.
At Devotion, our favorite wedding tradition, and the focus of our passion, is the diamond engagement ring, a symbol that the wearer’s heart is taken. We encourage creating your own traditions, too – from a special piece of jewelry passed down in the family to a special toast to a special place for the ceremony!