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How wedding traditions came to be

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13 November, 2015. Drishika Muthanna

But I don’t want to wear a red saree! Don’t rain on my parade! The angry young bride shouts at the Omnipresent Grandma.

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But beta, red on the wedding day is good luck, it is auspicious! Omnipresent Grandma insists.

Ah, wedding season. That time of the year where distant relatives and close friends alike, will insist on telling what you what is good, what is bad, and of course – what is ugly. And if you’re like me and you insist on knowing why things have to be done a certain way, you’ve come to the right place. From deciding to buy wedding cards online, to actually making it through the whole ceremonial affair, wedding traditions can be as wide and varied as the number of cultures in the world, here’s a quick look at how some of them came to be.

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● Ever wondered why the bride always stands to the left of the groom in most wedding ceremonies? Well it was thought that the groom would need his right hand to fight off other potential candidates for the position! Tough luck if you’re a left-handed groom.

● Mehendi ceremony, or henna, has become an integral part of Indian weddings. This wasn’t just a pretty design, it was originally intended to soothe the stressed bride with its properties as a medicinal herb. So sit back and relax, ladies.

● Wedding rings are a symbol of marriage whose roots can be found in ancient Egypt. A circle of reed or hemp was tied around the fourth finger of the left hand which was thought to have a vein connecting directly to the heart. The circle itself represented the symbol of eternity to Egyptians, which was how long they believed a marriage must last!

● In some South Indian weddings, one particular custom is swinging the bride and groom on a swing, known as Oonjal. This is thought to tell the couple to stay together through the ups and downs of life.

● Tiered wedding cakes, once restricted only to Christian weddings, but being increasingly adopted by other cultures, has its roots in an age-old wedding game where the bride and groom would attempt to kiss each other over it. What’s the catch you ask? Don’t tip it over!

● White is a symbol of purity and new beginnings for Christians, hence the white wedding gowns used popularly. However white also symbolizes widow-hood in other religions such as Hinduism, where brides traditionally go for red.

● Weddings are often referred to as “tying the knot”, which has its roots in a very literal sense. The hands of the bride and groom are often tied together as they take their pheras around the sacred fire, as a symbol of their new bond with each other.

One of the biggest and most noticeable changes in a wedding tradition however has to be that of the wedding card format. Invitations and announcements were originally made by the town crier, who would shout out the news all over town. Soon this progressed to hand-made scrolls passed by delivery boys on foot or horse. With the advent of the printing press, after World War II, the Indian marriage invitation saw a sudden rise in number, with more and more families now being able to afford this means of marking their day of celebration.

I suppose red looks pretty good on me, the bride thinks to herself, as Omnipresent Grandma finishes her explanation and smiles. Wedding traditions are much more fun when you know where they came from!