Our Traditions
that may not be familiar to you

These are some of the aspects of our wedding ceremony you will see

used today. Some of them you may know, while others may be new to you. We invite you to learn about these traditions here.

The Horseshoe

The Truce Bell

The chuppa

The Binding (Handfasting) Cord
The Shattering of the GlassPebble Tradition
 

Dedication Wreaths

The Receiving Line

Wedding Favours

First to Kiss the Bride

Common Wedding Practices
that you won't see used today, and why.

 

The Bouquet and Garter Toss

The Receiving Lineplease note that the facility manager
The Giving Away of the Bridehas asked us to convey that there is no confetti, rice or bubbles allowed

 

To learn a more about our symbology and
about the history of wedding traditions in general,
please visit our In Depth Traditions page.

 

SYMBOLS TRADITIONS VISIONS


 

Traditions for Our Ceremony
 

The Horseshoe

Wound into Tia's bouquet is a horseshoe that will later be hung in our kitchen, with the ends turned up so the luck doesn't run out. The horseshoe was carried by Celtic and English brides as part of an old tradition that was believed to bring good fortune. The good luck of the horseshoe evolved from many aspects, including the belief that blacksmiths were lucky, that iron was magical and could withstand fire and repel fairies, that horses stood in the barn where Christ was born, and that the seven nails in a horseshoe represented the seven ages of life, the seven colours of the rainbow, the seven planets in the universe (in ancient belief), the seven deadly sins, the seven virtues, the seven days of the week, and the seven days between changes of moon phases, making them very very lucky.

Our horseshoe is of Irish origin, a porcelain collector's piece crafted by Belleek. It's really lovely and we'll be happy to show it off!

The Chuppa

The chuppa is the wedding canopy in ancient Jewish custom. A familiar component of traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, it can be placed inside a hall, on the platform (bimah) of a synagogue or out in the open air. It is understood by many today as a symbolic representation of the house in which the married couple will live, but the origins of the idea of the chuppa are complex and unclear:
The term is an old one that goes back to the Tanach, and there it means a room that belongs to a bridegroom, into which the bride enters as a mark of marriage. The coming of the bride into the special room that had been prepared by the groom for such an occasion was one of the signs that a marriage union had been legally recognised and the bride was acquired. The term “acquired” is to be used with care, because in the Jewish tradition, according to the Halachah, the groom must indeed acquire the bride, as already explained in relation to the Ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract) and later, in the motif of the ring.

However, over time, the word "chuppa" came to signify a number of different aspects of the wedding, such as the covering of the bride with the tallit of the groom. Only in the sixteenth century in Eastern Europe do we seem to find the meaning of chuppa in the modern sense – an open wedding canopy held up by four poles under which the marriage ceremony actually takes place. It is now an essential physical part of the marriage ceremony.
Over the generations, different ideas have developed about the meaning of the chuppa, including that the velvet canopy with which a chuppa is traditionally covered is seen as representing the parochet (or curtain) that covers the ark of the Torah inside a synagogue, and that the poles that hold up the canopy are said to represent the pillars of trust and faith on which the marriage must stand.

Our chuppa incorporates the symbols we hold as important and uses the sacred pillar designs of Egyptian temples. Our chuppa is, for us, a symbol of the home we're building together and the shelter we give each other - both fragile and needing nurturing to make it strong, and open to welcome friends and loved ones with hospitality and care.

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The Truce Bell

The Bell of Truce originates from west Ireland peasant traditions, believed to be derived from St. Patrick's Bell of Will. St. Patrick believed that bells were important to his ministry, and helped him in performing miracles. He is said to have been buried with the iron Bell of Will he carried. Today, it stands on exhibit in Ireland's National Museum.
The Truce Bell, as an echo of the Bell of Will, is a bell that is blessed by the officiant of the ceremony and then presented to the bride and groom. The couple is then asked to give the bell a good hardy ring, while thinking lovely thoughts of each other and, most importantly, of their furture together. After the wedding the bell is kept at home as a reminder of the couple's wedding day. When arguments arise, the bell is put to its intended use. One of the quarreling couple should ring the bell to call a truce in the argument. This signifies the end of the disagreement - all conflict is over! The tinkling sound is meant to remind the couple of their wedding vows and conjure up the happiest memories from their wedding day as an end to strife.

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The Binding (or Handfasting) Cord

The Binding, or Handfasting, Cord is an ancient tradition used in many cultures. In ancient Egypt, the cord was tied around the groom's waist and one end was loosed to tie to the ring of the bride. Through the ages, variants of tying the groom's sash to the bride existed in many Eastern, Near Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures.
The Celtic and British traditions called the practice Handfasting; to make fast the hands together to symbolize the wedding union. This evolved from the handshake - two opposite hands clasped in agreement - into the joining of all four, crossed in the center. The crossed hands create the figure eight, a sign of infinity to represent the everlasting bond of marriage. From these practices comes our concepts of "asking for" and "taking one's" hand in marriage. They also contributed, along with Roman customs, to the concept of "tying the knot", an echo of tying the cord to the couple.
Among the common people, a handfasting in front of the community to witness it was all that was needed to recognize a marriage. This practice ended in England in the 18th century, but continued to be used in Scotland until the late 1930's. Over the past 4 to 5 decades, it has been slowly revived in many less-traditional ceremonies, and especially as a gesture to recall elements of Celtic and British heritage. In the past 20 years, it has become a more main-stream practice, adding a spiritual aspect to the ceremonies outside of specific religious traditions.
Because of the ties to Egyptian and Celtic tradition, we have chosen to incorporate this lovely and deeply spiritual practice into our ceremony. We believe the symbolism of binding the hands together to represent the bonds of matrimony and an unbreakable commitment to your loved one is an elegant and loving statement of our dedication.
Our Binding Cord was made in our chosen colours and embroidered with the personal symbology you see echoed throughout the wedding; the lotus flower, the fleur de lis, the ankh and the claddagh. The Cord is a personal reminder and keepsake of our wedding and the knots tied during the ceremony will remain tied so long as we remain tied to each other.

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The Shattering of the Glass

The breaking of the glass is probably the best known part of the Jewish wedding. It comes right at the end of the ceremony and is followed by festive shouts of "Mazel-Tov" and the couple's first married kiss.
What is the meaning of the breaking of the glass?
The custom of breaking a glass under the chuppa is derived from the Talmud. It is written that a rabbi broke a vase during a wedding feast in order to warn those present against excessive joy. There are more explanations for this time honored tradition than pieces of glass after the average breaking. The tradition has been defined and redefined over the years to represent different aspects of solemnity and endings.Some of the more popular explanations are:

  • Even in times of great joy, reserve a moment to mourn the destruction of the Temple, without which life is incomplete
  • Always remember the fragility of relationships
  • The loud noise frightens away evil spirits that threaten to steal the souls of the joyous couple
  • The breaking of the glass is a warning of the FRAILTY of a marriage. That sometimes a single thoughtless act, breech of trust, or infidelity can damage a marriage in ways that are very difficult to undo - just as it would be so difficult to undo the breaking of this glass.
  • It is the last time the groom gets to put his foot down!

For us, we include this tradition to represent shattering the bonds of our old life, leaving the broken and irreparable behind us, and to symbolize the beginning of our new life together without the ties of a broken past holding us back, as well as having a reminder that all life and relationships are fragile and need care and nourishment to survive.

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Dedication Wreaths

The spirit of those gone is very important to the Irish. The feast days of Garland Sunday and All Soul's Day are both dedicated to the departed. On Garland Sunday, a hoop or wreath of twigs is decorated with flowers and ribbons in honour of the dead. On All Soul's Day, a candle is put in the window for each person departed to light their way back home.

Tia and I share the grief of losing our fathers, and have decided to incorporate these traditional Irish customs for honouring the dead into the ceremony we would have dearly loved them both to attend. The tradition includes memories of the departed spoken over the candle as it is lighted by a family member, and we have both chosed to ask our sisters to participate in this part of the ceremony with us.

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The Pebble Tradition

Water and waterways were places sacred to the Celtic gods. Ancient Celtic weddings were always held near rivers, lakes, holy wells or pools. Wedding guests were given small stones to cast into the water, with each being a wish for the couple's future happiness, health and success.

We have chosen to revive this custom and invite you to celebrate it with us. At the reception, you will find a bowl of stones and coins (yes, this IS where wishing wells came from!) to be dropped into water. A large vase filled with water stands at the table. We invite you to drop a stone or coin into the vase and make a wish. After the ceremony we will be taking the vase home, filled with stones, coins and wishes, to keep as a centerpiece display for our home.

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Wedding Favours

Where did the idea of wedding favors come from? Nobody seems to know for sure. But, we do have records of brides and grooms in England giving away love knots made out of lace and ribbons during the 16th and 17th centuries, and Russians have always been known for the wedding couple not only receiving beautiful gifts, but bestowing one on each guest as well.

Here are some other cultures' takes on the showering-of-gifts-on-your-wedding-guests thing :

* In Malaysian culture, the traditional wedding favor is painted, decorated eggs - a symbol of fertility for the couple.
* Italians give chocolates or candy filled with almonds or almond paste.
* Also very popular among nuptial couples today, Victorian couples gave party "crackers" - decorated tubes filled with goodies. When you break them apart, they make a loud noise, and all the presents fly out.
* Middle Eastern wedding favor tradition is centered around the Jordan almond. A candy-coated nut supposedly representing both the bitter and the sweet of marriage, custom dictates that you give five pieces to each guest, to represent the five wedding wishes: health, wealth, happiness, fertility and longevity.
* Orange blossoms are very popular for Spanish weddings. A perfect favor would be stems of orange blossoms in a bud vase for each guest.
* Turn a Greek wedding tradition around on your guests: the couple used to receive glass charms in the shape of an eye on their wedding day - this was to protect them from bad luck.
* Both the Russians and the Japanese favor the same kinds of favors: both cultures are known for leaving nice gifts like picture frames, bud vases, or sachets as thank-yous.
* Dutch favor tradition includes "Bridal Sugar" - five pieces of Dutch sweet candy wrapped in tulle. Each piece represents the five wedding wishes: love, happiness, loyalty, prosperity, and verility. Very similar to other cultures' wedding wishes.
* In traditional Jewish and Chinese weddings, favors are not usually given at all.

We have chosen to share something meaningful and lasting with our guests. We have created CD's full of the music we feel speaks to our celebration, our wedding, and our relationship, and have decorated each with a ribbon bow to echo the old tradition of handing out bows in the Receiving Line (see receiving line traditions for more on this). We hope you will find them as enjoyable to listen to as we found them to create.

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First To Kiss The Bride

Irish peasant tradition holds it is appropriate that a man should always be the first to offer congratulations to the bride once the ceremony is complete. Should a woman offer the first wish, it results in years of bad luck. We've decided to ask a close male friend of Tia's family to help us uphold this tradition.

and ... one more thing ...

Something old, something new...

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in your shoe ... unlike more traditional custom, we will both have each of these things - and the "silver sixpence" we have for our shoes are old Irish coins minted in the year the other was born.

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Traditions you WON'T see Today
 

Bouquet and Garter Toss

The Garter Toss is a holdover from some rather barbaric medieval customs. It originally had two aspects. In one incarnation, the belief that a piece of the bridge's garment would bring luck led to her garters being stripped from her legs as trophies. In less genteel society, this was done rather forcibly. This resulted in larger bridal parties aimed at protecting the bride's dignity (amoung other things) and keeping her from being literally thrown to the ground while rejected suitors rummaged under her skirts.
Another use of the practice was to hasten the consummation, and therefore legitimacy, of the marriage by stripping the bridge for her marriage bed, starting with her garters to bare her legs.
In it's modern incarnation as a 'reception party game', while the format of the practice has been somewhat diluted, it really hasn't lost much of the original undertones or 'charms'. In either case, we don't find the custom either necessary or attractive.

Likewise, the bouquet toss originated to bestow the blessing of luck and fertility thought to belong to a bride upon the next maid who was fortunate enough to catch the bride's flowers. While less offensive, it is still a somewhat tiresome and embarassing practice.

Old Celtic traditions tell of the bride's bouquet becoming the first centerpiece put on the central or dining table in her new home. Thereafter, the bridal flowers of the bouquet would become her own 'signature' flowers, always featured on her table. This is a lovely custom we prefer to revive and will have the bouquet preserved to display in our home.

The Receiving Line

Suprisingly, the practice of a Receiving Line grew out of response to the Garter Toss, which is why it's listed here, even though we ARE using this custom. In more genteel society, it became a practice for the bride to sew dozens of tiny ribbon bows to her gown. The groom's parents would often present her with a set of wedding scissors on the night before the ceremony, to be used to snip the bows from the gown. In the receiving line, guests would actually RECEIVE something - a bow from the gown - for good luck. This replaced the need to strip her of her garters to gain a talisman in higher society. Much later the meaning changed to the couple receiving the greetings and good wishes of their guests.

We have decided to renew the traditional purpose of the receiving line by handing out our wedding favours at that time.

Please join us in the Receiving Line to receive our thanks for your attendance and allow us to present you with a small token of our appreciation for sharing our special day with us.

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Giving Away the Bride

The practice of the father giving away the bride originates in ancient times when bride prices were paid and the groom was required to ask the bride's father for permission to marry his daughter. Because neither of our father's can be present in more than spirit for the ceremony, we have decided we do not want to replace them, nor do we feel there is an acceptable substitute for this tradition, so we have chosen to omit it.

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Throwing Rice and Confetti

Throwing confetti over newly weds originated from the ancient Pagan rite of showering the happy couple with grain to wish upon them a 'fruitful' union. Pagans believed that the fertility of the seeds would be transferred to the couple on whom they fell. The throwing of rice has the same symbolic meaning.

The word confetti has the same root as the word confectionery in Italian and was used to describe 'sweetmeats' that is, grain and nuts coated in sugar that were thrown over newly weds for the same Pagan reason. In recent years, small pieces of colored paper have replaced sweetmeats, grain and nuts as an inexpensive substitute but the use of the word confetti has remained. Grains or nuts were traditionally thrown because they are 'life-giving' seeds. In some European countries, eggs are thrown instead.

In Ireland, superstition dictated it was unlucky not to give to the poor on your wedding day, so the groom would hand out coins to the poor gathered along the road as the couple left the church. By the turn of the 20th century in Limerick, children would gather outside the church to "scramble for the coins" thrown at the wedding party along with the rice, grains or sweets.

Unfortunately, Stonehurst is a historic property that doesn't allow the throwing of any sort of rice or confetti, nor the blowing of bubbles as they may cause damage to the walls or floors of the property, so we have eliminated this tradition from the ceremony. Not to mention, we're not terribly worried about not using a fertility charm...

However, giving to the poor is a wonderful tradition, and anyone who would like to continue this tradition is encouraged to make a donation in the name of the wedding celebration to a charitable organization that benefits the welfare of the needy, preferably a reputable shelter for women and children. You can call SafeLink at 1-877-785-2020 or find a list of domestic violence shelters at http://www.mahomeless.org/shelter/domshelter.html.

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