Canadian Lifestyles: Weddings
By Karen Bridson-Boyczuk
A True-Canadian Mix of Traditions
Some Canadians get married the same way they would if they still lived in the country their families first came from. But most people who were born in Canada get married in typical Western weddings.
Many people think that the things done in Western weddings came from England and other Anglo-Saxon countries, but they really come from all around the world.
After a man and a woman get engaged in Canada, the man usually puts an ‘engagement ring’ on the woman’s third finger. This came from Greece, where people believed this finger was connected to the heart by a ‘vein of love.’
Once they have announced their plans to wed to their families and friends, the couple then go shopping for wedding rings. These rings will be placed on the third finger also. This idea came from the Middle East, where people thought rings would protect the couple from evil spirits.
On the night before the wedding, the groom has a ‘stag party’ where he goes out for a night of fun with his friends. This idea came from Greece, where people thought it was important for the man to say goodbye to his friends before he got married.
The woman also has a party with her friends, called a ‘bridal shower,’ where friends and family bring the bride gifts she can use after being married. Women today also have a female version of a stag, called a ‘stagette.’
Aside from the traditional white dress, many Canadian women also like to have ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’ on them when they get married. This idea started in England, where people thought these things would bring the bride a long life, hope, happiness and the ability to be good.
Some brides today still wear a ‘veil’ of cloth over their faces as they walk down the isle to be married, but many no longer do. This idea came from a time when the bride’s father ‘gave her’, like a piece of property, to her new husband and ‘unwrapped’ her for the groom.
The wedding vows happen in a church or sometimes outside on a beach or in a garden. All of the couple’s family and friends dress up for the day and sit in seats behind the couple. The bride stands on the left side, with her family and friends behind her, and the groom stands on the right, with his family and friends behind him.
The bride stands to the left of the groom because in the old days in Europe, the groom needed to be able to pull out his sword if someone tried to steal his bride (often the groom stole his wife from a neighbouring village if there weren’t enough women).
Before the wedding, the groom also picks a close friend or male family member to be his ‘best man.’ This man holds the ring and helps the groom throughout the day. The bride picks a ‘maid of honour’ to help her throughout the wedding day. Other men and women are also picked to be a part of the ‘wedding party’ to help out with other chores during the day.
Hundreds of years ago in Europe, the males in the wedding party helped to steal the bride and the women in the wedding party helped to get the bride back to the groom’s home after the wedding. After the vows are read, the groom is told he can kiss the bride. This tradition goes back to a time in the Middle East when kisses sealed contracts.
After the kiss, the bride and groom stand at the exit of the church or place where they got married and shake hands with the people who came. These people line up in what is called a ‘receiving line.’ This idea goes back to times when it was considered good luck to touch people who had just been married.
After that, people throw bird seed or confetti at the newly married couple as a symbol of fertility (a tradition from North Africa).
After the wedding, everyone goes to a place where a dinner is held. This can happen at a reception hall, in a hotel, at a restaurant or anywhere else there is food. After the dinner, the bride and groom cut the wedding cake.
The wedding cake tradition came from Rome, where they would throw the cake at the bride to help her be fertile (a symbol).
During the dinner, the best man stands up, holds up his glass and says nice things about the couple in a ‘toast.’ Wedding toasts started in the 16th century where a goblet was passed around with a small piece of bread and everyone would take a sip until it got to the person being honoured, who would then sip and eat the bread. During this party, the groom takes a ‘garter’ off of the bride’s leg (this is a piece of cloth tied to her thigh) and throws it behind his back while all the single men at the party try to catch it. The bride does the same thing with the single women at the party with the bouquet of flowers she holds on her wedding day. These ideas go back to a time in Europe when having a piece of the bride’s clothing was considered good luck. They did this to stop people from tearing off the bride’s clothing while she was still wearing it.
Normal wedding gifts are things for the new house including dishes, bowls, drinking glasses, small appliances, linens and decorating items. You can usually
plan to spend $30 to $75 on a wedding gift.
Once the couple gets back to their home or hotel for the night, the groom carries the bride into the doorway. This goes back to a time when it was considered bad luck for the bride to trip on her way inside.
Usually the next day, the couple goes away on a holiday called a honeymoon, which is actually a Jewish tradition.