Something Old, Something New, and a Royal Wedding Prayer or Two
by Susanne Dietze
Today’s the Big Day, Royal watchers! By the time you read this, Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton will be united in marriage—and I bet the ceremony was lovely. I haven’t seen it yet: I promised Kid #1 I wouldn’t watch it on the DVR until she gets home from school.
It’s taking all of my self-control to wait. Seriously! I’m an Anglophile, I’m a romantic, and I loved Princess Diana. As a kid, I used my own money to buy this book of Princess Diana paper dolls.
When Diana married Prince Charles, I was in elementary school and lacked a VCR. My mother, bless her heart, set her alarm clock for 2 AM so we could view the wedding. It was like watching Cinderella get married, but better, because the bride was a real person. The twenty-five foot train of Diana’s meringue-sweet gown swept the aisle of St. Paul’s and stirred my dreams of future romance.
When I planned my own wedding, I no longer desired a poufy gown like Diana’s, but I did want to follow all of the traditions. White gown. Pretty flowers. Bridesmaids dressed in the cheapest matching frocks my friends could stomach.
None of those traditions are Biblical, of course, but I honestly had no idea where they originated. Many of our customs—carrying flowers, bridesmaids wearing matching gowns, throwing rice—derive from acts which once served specific functions or represented something to pagan cultures.
For instance, European brides of centuries past went to great lengths to ensure that their weddings were not hindered by evil spirits. Bridal bouquets were composed of herbs and flowers which were thought to keep evil spirits at bay. Much like the concept behind carving pumpkins on Halloween, bridesmaids also attempted to confuse the spiritual realm by wearing matching clothes or dresses similar to the bride’s. If demons wanted to bother the bride, they’d have a harder time identifying her if she had lookalikes.
Most brides today wear white, a Biblical and modern symbol of purity. But it’s hardly an old custom. Queen Victoria set the fashion in motion, although nineteenth century brides often wore their best dresses, regardless of hue. The Victorian era was also the birth of the "something old, something new" rhyme as well as other good luck/bad luck customs, like not marrying a man whose surname starts with the same letter as your own.
Throwing rice and eating wedding cake are far older traditions. While weddings have long been celebrated with feasts (Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana), wedding cake seems to have been an Ancient Roman fertility custom. Guests supposedly gathered the crumbs as good luck charms.
Another Roman custom? Sealing the wedding ceremony with a kiss, which they believed allowed a couple’s souls to mingle. We hold to other early traditions, too. Ancient Egyptians symbolize the eternity of love with wedding rings. They believed that a “vein of love” ran from the fourth finger directly to the heart, which is why we call that finger a “ring finger.”
During a Christian wedding, it’s customary—and appropriate—to pray for the happy couple. We pray for blessing, for children if it’s God’s will, and for unity. All too often, however, our prayers stop at the end of the service, lasting no longer than the shower of rice (or birdseed) that rains down on them as they hop into the limo.
Our prayers for the couple shouldn’t be a tradition that stops at the end of the ceremony.
The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana reminds me of that. For all of the expense and pomp of their wedding, the marriage did not last. I’m not judging them; I was not in their marriage. Dealing with infidelity and heartbreak under a public microscope cannot have been easy to endure. I do not know what I would have done in Diana's place.
But I can’t help wondering if marriages, unglamorous workhorses, sometimes receive less investment and dreaming than weddings.
My husband is my best friend. He deserves a wife who invests in her relationship with him. Talking. Praying. Respecting. Reading books and attending retreats to help us nurture our relationship. Arguing and then hugging it out, because neither of us is going anywhere.
So today, I wish Will and Kate well. I may even order their paper dolls. And while I snuggle down with my daughter this afternoon to watch the recording of their (sure to be spectacular) wedding, I’ll enjoy the hats and hoopla, but I’ll also say a prayer that they enjoy a fruitful marriage, with God at its center. I don’t know if God was invited to their wedding as their Guest and Lord, but praying for them can’t hurt. And it serves as a reminder to me, too.
Prayer—for our spouse, and for one another—is a marriage tradition worth preserving.
Did you watch the wedding this morning? If so, what was your favorite part--the hats, the people watching, the dresses?
Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the 2010 Genesis Contest, the 2009 Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest, 2008 and 2009. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/.