Wedding facts: Did you know that…
When was the custom of white dresses for brides introduced? Why is it customary to give dragees as wedding gifts? Where does the expression honeymoon come from? What was the longest wedding in history? In this article, we’ll have some fun discovering some wedding facts.
The colour of the wedding dress
Did you know that wedding dresses were once coloured? In ancient Rome, people wore a tunic adorned with a saffron-coloured cloak. The bride’s hair, styled in six braids, was covered by the flammeum, an orange veil that hid the upper part of the face during the ceremony.
In the Middle Ages the colour of the bride was red, a tradition that continued throughout the Renaissance period. The ladies wore models made of fine fabrics, such as velvet and brocade, further embellished with jewellery, belts and gems set in buttons. The commoners wore simple clothes made of the best fabrics the family could afford. What distinguished them from everyday clothing were the bright colours of the fabrics and the so-called sciugatoio, an ornamental headscarf.
The first noblewoman to wear white was Princess Philippa of England, who married Erik of Denmark in 1406 wearing a white silk cloak with fur trim. More than a century later, the young Mary Stuart, who married Francis II of France in 1558 in an all-white dress, caused a sensation. This choice was much discussed at court, as at the time this colour was used by mourning queens.
In the first half of the 19th century, pastel-coloured gowns in the typical imperial style became popular among young brides. The idea of replacing the traditional silver dress, which was in fashion at royal weddings, with a white dress came from Queen Victoria, who launched a fashion among brides from 1840 onwards.
Fun facts about dragees
The custom of giving dragees to celebrate births and weddings has its origins in ancient Rome. Nowadays, tradition dictates that each celebratory event is accompanied by a different coloured sugared almond: white for weddings, pink or light blue for christenings, red for graduations, silver and gold for wedding anniversaries.
The dragees in wedding favours must be strictly odd-numbered, an indivisible number that underlines the indissolubility of marriage. Five sugared almonds are usually used to wish for health, long life, happiness, wealth and fertility.
Staying on the subject of ‘sweetness’, the expression honeymoon is used in several languages: honeymoon in English, shahr el ‘assal in Arabic, luna de miel in Spanish.
As well as indicating the sweetness of the first period of marriage, it refers to ancient traditions, the purpose of which was to bring prosperity and fertility to the couple. The Babylonians, for example, used to give the couple a honey-based drink after the wedding, which was meant to last for about a month. A similar tradition was widespread in ancient Rome, where newlyweds ate honey for a whole moon as a sign of good fortune.
The longest-lasting wedding anniversaries and marriages in history
In tradition, the most important wedding anniversaries have their own nomenclature: paper wedding (1 year), wooden wedding (5 years), tin wedding (10 years), crystal wedding (15 years), silver wedding (25 years), pearl wedding (30 years), coral wedding (35 years), ruby wedding (40 years), sapphire wedding (45 years), golden wedding (50 years), emerald wedding (55 years), diamond wedding (60 years).
A number of couples have recently entered the Guinness Book of Records, surpassing by far the platinum wedding mark (75 years of marriage). On 22 December 2019, Charlotte and John Henderson celebrated 80 years of marriage in Austin, Texas. The couple, 105 years old, met in 1934 and married five years later. Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher married in their early 20s and were together for 87 years until Herbert’s death in 2011.
New definitions have been coined for these exceptional cases of longevity and marital stability:
Oak wedding (80 years)
Marble wedding (85 years)
Granite wedding (90 years).
Well, yes. The record for the longest marriage in history belongs to the Indian couple Karam and Kartari Chang. They got married in 1925 in a Sikh ceremony organised by their parents, without ever having met before. Their marriage lasted happily for 90 years.