When did the traditions of bridesmaids,
best man, wedding cake and rings begin?

Prince Rahotep & Bride, 2930 B.C.
Click to Learn More about "The Egyptian Bride"

If we travel in time back to the days of the Ancients, we can find the origins of many superstitions and traditions. For instance, why, you wonder, does a bride need to have bridesmaids? Bridesmaids are very important to the welfare of the Bride! If you were to eliminate bridesmaids, then who would confuse the evil spirits? That’s right, it was thought by the Ancient Egyptians that when a couple were to wed, evil spirits would come to ruin the good mood and atmosphere of the event with trickery and black magic. The bridesmaids main function were to dress as extravagant as the bride to confuse the evil spirits.

"Best man" is of Scottish origin and goes back many centuries to the time when a prospective groom simply kidnaped the woman of his choice and carried her away with him. Such a venture required courage and audacity as well as a good deal of manpower. So the groom selected the bravest of his friends to accompany him. They were known as "groomsmen" — a term still used in some parts of the country to describe ushers at a wedding. The closest and most valiant of the bridegroom's associates became known as the "best man".

The wedding cake first started with Ancient Egyptians as a cake of wheat or barley and was broken over the bride’s head to signify fertility. But early Roman bakers, whose art was held in highest regard, grew offended at the waste of wheat. They began to bake small, hand-sized cakes — to be eaten, not thrown. Festive guests, fond of the tradition of pelting the bride, tossed the cakes anyway. The Roman philosopher Lucretius offered this compromise: crumble the cakes over the bride's head, and to further symbolize fertility, the bride and groom would save a bit of the cake to feed each other. In the Middle Ages, when times were hard in England, people were less willing to throw food. The sweet cakes evolved to simple biscuits, and guests were encouraged to bring their own. After the eating — and yes, still some throwing — the leftovers were collected into a pile, to be distributed amongst the poor. The size of the pile quickly became symbolic of the prosperity of the couple, who exchanged kisses atop the mound. Ironically, it was this frugal practice that gave rise to the multitiered monolith we are familiar with today. The French chef of King Charles II witnessed the cake-piling ceremony and was appalled at the haphazard stack. Inspired to build an organized, tiered work of iced art, it became the rage of all France. The During the reign of King Edward II the cake was first (and since) iced white.

As far as we know, the ancient Egyptians were the first to place a ring on the third finger of the left hand to signify the marriage union. It was placed on that finger because Egyptians believed that the "vein of love" ran from this finger to the heart. They They used a ring because they believed that the circle was the symbol for eternity. It represented perfection because it had no beginning and no end. Rings found in ancient Egyptian tombs were made of pure gold. The name or title of the owner was engraved on the ring in hieroglyphs. The poorer citizens of Egypt wore rings of silver, bronze, amber, ivory, or simply glazed pottery. Because gold was precious to the early Romans, a gold ring symbolized everlasting love and commitment.

King Edward VI of England decreed that the third finger on the left hand was to be the ring finger. In the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, the left hand was designated as the marriage hand. From the earliest times in our history, people have always given advice to newly married couples such as "comfort each other," "respect one another," and "listen to each other." One of my personal favorites is "Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire!"

From ... "FactMaster" & "What Makes Flamingos Pink?" by Bill McLain

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