Engagement Customs

Written by wedding-planner  |  01. January 2004

Remember your engagement? Of course you do! You probably remember the clothes you were wearing, the color of the sky, the direction of the breeze... The engagement is certainly one of the most magical parts of the wedding process. As you read the "engagement customs and traditions of the past," you will see why certain engagement practices exist today. Who Was the Matchmaker? In countries where marriages are arranged, "go-betweens" play a time honored and respected role. In China, a matchmaker must determine if astrological signs are compatible. In Uganda, the bride's elder brother and paternal uncle speak to the prospective groom and barter for the best "price" to be paid to the family. (Also see Old World Customs and Traditions". What Were "Love Tokens?" What a charming custom the Welsh and Pennsylvania Dutch couples had of giving one another hand crafted gifts, useful for their future home. Such things as cake molds, butter prints, carved spoon which were covered with symbols and announcements of their love for one another. Today's love tokens could include a song or poem written by the groom to his bride, or a hand embroidered handkerchief for the groom. Whatever your special craft, whether it be painting, crocheting, wood carving, or any number of other ideas, just remember, the idea behind the gift is to give something of yourself, created with loving thoughts to the one you love. What Was a Betrothal Ring? The betrothal ring, has for centuries symbolized the promise of a future together, sealed with the giving and accepting of a ring. The diamond engagement ring as we know it has been around since 1477, but other rings have been used throughout the centuries to mark engagements. Rings featuring gem stones were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Often, the first letter of the stones within the setting spelled out the name of the giver or a word, such as "dearest" (diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, epidote, sapphire, turquoise). There was also a ring known as the "Gimmal Ring". This three part ring had two clasped hands on it. During the engagement, one part was worn by the bride, one by the groom, and the third by a witness. It was reunited as the brides wedding ring, on the day of their marriage. Diamonds are the first choice among brides today for an engagement ring, because of their beauty and durability. What Was Flouncing? Flouncing was a special party held for an engaged couple to meet with friends of both families. This "flouncing" established a formal contract. If either changed his mind about the marriage, the other could lay claim to half of his, or her, property. Following a flouncing, the couple could no longer be seen with, or be found talking to, other suitors. In China, the betrothal was looked upon as a family obligation. If an engaged man died before the wedding, his intended bride was treated as his widow. What was the Custom of Collecting? In Finland, the bride-to-be was considered "snobbish" if she did not go door-to-door to receive her gifts in a pillowcase. Accompanying her, an elderly married man, carrying an umbrella (for shelter), came along and was given a drink at each door. Today, an umbrella is used as a decoration symbolizing "protection". This custom can be included very beautifully in your wedding by having your maids carry "parasols" to match your wedding colors. What is a Dowry? When families arranged marriages, they were trying their best to guarantee their offspring a pleasant and comfortable life. The bride was expected to bring a "dowry" of money, jewels, animals, or something of substantial value to the marriage. This substantial value was provided by the family of the bride and portrayed her perceived worth . On the other hand, the groom paid a "brides price" to her family and promised to faithfully support the bride. Also see, "The Origin of the Dowry, Betrothal Ring and Elopement".

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