A Zeeland Marriage - Procession of the Bride and Bridegroom the Chief Feature - Petticoats and
Ceremony - The Sardinian Wedding and Its Prefatory Procession with the Bride's Belongings
Zeeland is a country where nationality, in the form of settled customs, dating centuries back, is preserved as in a shrine. Proceedings begin early on the morning of the wedding-day, when a quaint procession, consisting of couples in small, two-wheeled, covered cars, brightly decorated with flowers and tinsel, leaves the home of the bride, where her friends and acquaintances have previously assembled.
Their destination is an inn, where the horses are taken out and stabled, while the carriages are drawn up in a line, perhaps half a hundred of them, making a very gay show for the villagers or townsfolk, and attracting an interested crowd. The women wear straw hats over their picturesque caps, with gilt ornaments at the ears.
In Holland a woman's wealth is betokened by the number of petticoats she wears. This gives to the figure an extremely bulky appearance, and on such occasions as a wedding it need hardly be said that the number of skirts is even larger than usual. The men, in their tight jackets and baggy trousers, wear as many silver buttons as they can afford; therefore, the bridegroom is particularly anxious to exhibit as many of these tokens of worldly welfare as possible.
After some light refreshment at the inn, the procession starts for the town hall, where the burgomaster, sitting at a long table, awaits them. Chairs are placed opposite to him for bride and bridegroom, the parents sitting on either side of the couple, while other relatives are placed according to precedence.
The burgomaster unites the couple in holy matrimony, and makes a long and fatherly oration, afterwards producing the registers for the signatures of the bride and bridegroom. After much handshaking, the newly wedded pair start off, child bridesmaids strewing the ground with confetti. On their arrival at the inn, the landlord offers a glass of wine to the bridegroom, then to the bride, and also to each of the parents. This is supposed to symbolise the happy union of the families. The procession then returns to the house of the bride's parents, where festivities take place.
In Zeeland couples are often married at the age of sixteen or seventeen years, and live for a time with the bridegroom's parents.
Marriage in church according to the Greek Church service has already been described in Vol. 2, p. 862, but in Greece itself almost all weddings of social importance are solemnised in the house of the bride's parents. In many ways the ceremony is very picturesque. The guests include not only relatives, but many friends of the two families. A table, arranged as an altar, is placed towards the middle of the largest room - probably a ball-room - and several priests are in attendance. The bridegroom wears evening dress; the bride white satin and a floating veil. For the last fifteen years or more the national bridal dress has given place, in high society, to our own conventional wedding raiment.
When all is ready, and the guests seated round the room, the bride and bridegroom advance to the table. Two large candles, about five feet high, tied with white ribbons and orange-blossom, are lighted and held by the bride's brother and a lady, one standing at each end of the table, on which a copy of the Gospels has a prominent position. Then one of the priests, taking two rings, makes the sign of the Cross with them on the Book, and then thrice touches the forehead of bride and groom with them, saying at the same time : "Johannes, the servant of God, is betrothed"; "Aspasia, the servant of God, is betrothed." Then he places the rings on their hands. The bride's best friend and the bridegroom's best-man now change the rings three times. This rite concludes the betrothal, which is the first part of the ceremony.
The second part begins with prayers and psalms, one of the priests holding a triple candle on one side, while another holds a double candle on the other. Then the chief minister takes two crowns, which are always loosely tied together with white ribbons, and places them, thus united, on the heads of the bride and bridegroom. This ancient custom signifies the honour due to the state of matrimony. The crowns are then changed by the chief bridesmaid and the best-man.
A Dutch bridal procession. The social importance and affluence of a peasant woman is betokened by the number of petticoats she wears. The Dutch peasantry are jealous conservators of all old customs and ceremonies Photo, L. N. A.
A priest then brings wine in a cup, and gives three spoonfuls to each of the contracting parties, and one spoonful to the best-man. When the ceremony takes place in a house, the wine is not consecrated.
Then follows a prayer on behalf of the newly-made man and wife, and the ceremony concludes with a procession round the table, the bride and bridegroom walking thrice round it, under a shower of rose-leaves thrown by the guests, and followed by the best-man and the chief bridesmaid.
The usual wedding reception follows, each guest receiving a little tray of sweets.
A Corsican Marriage
In Corsica, conventions in the form of ancient customs are almost as unvarying as the laws of the Medes and Persians. Though this is more particularly true of the uneducated classes, yet it applies, to a considerable extent, to those of high social position. In proof of this, a bride, whatever her rank may be, walks to church through the streets, in her bridal array.