Why do grooms carry brides over the threshold?


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Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from howstuffworks.com.

Josh Clark

Hey, and welcome to the podcast. Chuck's right there.

Chuck Bryant

I'm to your right or sort of in front of you.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and I'm Josh.

Chuck Bryant

Correct. You are. Still.

Josh Clark

And Chuck's married to Emily. Ah, this is, like, so sweet.

Chuck Bryant

I know. This feels like a game.

Josh Clark

I've got a saccharin taste in my mouth right now.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So, Chuck and I are obviously BFF forever and we do everything together. And it's just one great love in, right, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it's a big happy family.

Josh Clark

Yeah, so, Chuck, do you like being married? We never get any time to speak privately so I'll just ask you now?

Chuck Bryant

Right. We're shuttled actually directly to the sound studio from our homes - from our pods.

Josh Clark

Pretty much.

Chuck Bryant

Right. I love being married. I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Josh Clark

Actually, it's been around a lot longer than sliced bread. Marriage is really old, Chuck, did you know that? It's not a new phenomenon.

Chuck Bryant

No.

Josh Clark

Okay. So, how did you get married and what was your ceremony like?

Chuck Bryant

My ceremony was a very laid back, you know, I got married in my mid-30s so it seemed kind of silly to have some huge, extravagant wedding so our wedding was at a house in my brother's neighborhood and ceremony was maybe five minutes long. It was like a big party. We didn't do many of the customs and rituals. We just kind of shooed that in favor of just getting together and having a good time.

Josh Clark

So, there's these really ancient traditions that still kind of show up in modern weddings.

Chuck Bryant

All over the place.

Josh Clark

No matter how laid back or formal they are, they're fraught with basically these Pagan rituals and beliefs and symbols. It's pretty cool. Like, Easter - did you know that Easter is actually an old Pagan holiday?

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah. It's the celebration of Ostara who was the - I think maybe the Celtic goddess of spring so it's like a spring celebration.

Chuck Bryant

I had no idea.

Josh Clark

Yeah, that's where it has its roots but it's much the same with wedding traditions as well.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I think pretty much every wedding tradition out there is - there's no new ones. They all date way, way back.

Josh Clark

They definitely do.

Chuck Bryant

And I think we should maybe talk about a few of them.

Josh Clark

I think we should, too. So, we mentioned the ring, right? That's actually I think Roman in nature, maybe Greek. I think whichever one it was, because you know they were so very - they were so similar.

Chuck Bryant

Right. It's actually Greek and Roman.

Josh Clark

[Inaudible]. Oh, okay. Good.

Chuck Bryant

So says you.

Josh Clark

So, well, you know that the Romans emulated the Greeks.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Okay. They had the same Gods; they just named them differently, that kind of thing.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Okay. So, I guess it was a Greek tradition that the Romans carried on.

Basically, there was a belief that this - that your ring finger was connected to your heart via a nerve so the wedding ring actually serves as kind of like a caller for the heart, you know, you're saying, you know, you possess my heart and here's the proof. You have it physically locked down.

Chuck Bryant

So, that's where that came from.

Josh Clark

There's the ring.

Chuck Bryant

That's interesting. I got one for you.

Josh Clark

Please, lay it on me.

Chuck Bryant

The bridesmaids wearing similar dresses; they actually used to wear dresses similar to the bride as well and they all kind of dressed alike and apparently that was done to confuse evil spirits as to who the bride was.

Josh Clark

No?

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

Really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That's really cool.

Chuck Bryant

So, that lavender ladies out there who have been bridesmaids, that ugly puffy lavender dress that's in your closet -

Josh Clark

Or seafoam.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, seafoam dress, that confused the heck out of evil spirits so you did a good thing.

Josh Clark

That's good. That's good, although now they're used to standout and contrast with the bride and make her look better.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Although she's also now more conspicuous for spirit intrusion and all that. You know, my favorite culture of your, as far as wedding traditions go, were the Germans. I loved the Germans. Basically, their wedding ceremonies were little more than, like, thinly veiled kidnappings. Seriously! So, you know, the best man, right?

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum.

Josh Clark

So, the best man, he stands to the grooms left I believe. In between the groom and the crowd and there may be some other groomsmen -

Chuck Bryant

Hangers on.

Josh Clark

Yeah. But the reason the best man stands there is because back in - I think the medieval period, these Germanic tribes would commonly go from one village to another, pick out a bride and carry her off. The best man was there, first of all, to help kidnap this woman and then the reason that the best man stands in between the groom and the crowd was to fend off any angry family members during the ceremony.

Chuck Bryant

So, the best man was sort of just like a glorified body guard and henchman.

Josh Clark

Pretty much. Yeah. And I imagine he probably came in handy, time and time again, after - kidnapping after kidnapping.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I bet best men in Germany were typically robust big guys.

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Josh Clark

I would think so. Yeah, I think we both would probably make good best men.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, you know, I don't think I've ever been a best man.

Josh Clark

I have been.

Chuck Bryant

Really? Quite an honor!

Josh Clark

I gave the speech of my life, too. It was a good one.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh. Tears flowing!

Josh Clark

I think more laughter than anything.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. Well, you can go that route too.

Josh Clark

Well, no, the sad thing is I was trying to get the tears flowing and they were just laughing.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Mocking you!

Josh Clark

Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, they weren't laughing with me because I wasn't laughing. So, the Germans, that whole kidnapping scenario, they also came up with - that's one of the reason why grooms carry the bride across the threshold! It's basically a throwback to this kidnapping thing. It's really to think of now but just so many weddings must have been really forced. It's really weird.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it is. So -

Josh Clark

Well, go ahead.

Chuck Bryant

Well, you go ahead.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

No, you.

Josh Clark

I know in medieval Europe, speaking of the threshold, they would carry a bride into her new home because they wanted to prevent her - I love this - from seeming too enthusiastic about losing her virginity.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, yeah, the - I think I say in the article that the groom provides an alibi by carrying her into the home against her will, and again, I'm making air quotes here. You can't see them but -

Josh Clark

Sure. Otherwise, she would just skip or do somersaults over the threshold because she just can't wait.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, exactly. And also that's kind of weird because this same culture, at the same period, were also the very ones who witnessed consummation of the marriage.

Josh Clark

Yeah, this is my favorite twisted old tradition.

Chuck Bryant

It is super twisted. Basically, some select members of the family or the wedding party would follow the bride and groom into the wedding chamber and watch as they engaged in coitis to make sure that the wedding - the marriage was consummated. And then they would take the bride's garter and hold it a loft, like, they did it so that the rest of the wedding guests have proof.

Josh Clark

Much like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles presenting Molly Ringwold's undergarments. That's how I picture it.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, except without the fraud. You've got, like, eight p

airs of eyes starring - I don't know if I could do that.

Josh Clark

I can tell you right now that I could not.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, so, apparently not only stout of body but stout of mind and not the least bit ashamed back then as well.

Josh Clark

No, no.

Chuck Bryant

But this is where we get the groom throwing the garter today - in today's wedding ceremonies. This is a simulation of that, the consummation and the proof of the consummation although these days, it's, like, wink, wink, nudge, nudge rather than do it.

Josh Clark

Right, you know what's coming.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark

That kind of thing.

Chuck Bryant

So, one thing when I was researching this that I kept coming across time and time again is that brides apparently were commonly thought of as just these bad luck magnets, like, most wedding customs were designed to prevent the bride just completely screwing up the family somehow.

The carrying of the threshold - there were a couple of different cultures that reasoned that the bride should be carried over the threshold because the threshold apparently, on most houses at the time, was thought of being this place where evil spirits dwelled and apparently also they can easily get through the soles of your feet. So, I guess the groom was immune and he could carry the bride over the threshold, her feet were in the air, she wasn't touching the threshold and hence the spirit intrusion wouldn't take place.

Josh Clark

Right. It's interesting that marriage sort of - it all seems very misogynistic when you think about it.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, yeah, it's definitely - these are all patriarchal societies that we're discussing right now and, yeah, the man is immune to spirit intrusion and these situations the bride has to be kidnapped -

Josh Clark

Big strong man.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, you know, given an alibi for virginity, that kind of thing.

Josh Clark

Right. I think if more women knew about some of these customs they would absolutely say, you are not carrying me across the threshold.

Chuck Bryant

That is true. I can see that but it's such a singular event in the life of a couple, you never do that again, you've got once chance to do it, in my book, it's better safe than sorry.

Josh Clark

Right. Did you do it?

Chuck Bryant

Yes. Actually, I did. Yeah, I think I thought it at the last minute and it was a very clumsy, you know, I have to do this kind of thing.

Josh Clark

Right, you hit her head on the doorway.

Chuck Bryant

Pretty much, yeah. And it wasn't romantic either. It was more like I was trying to cover our bases.

Josh Clark

Right. Well, that's good.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. There's plenty of other wedding traditions we covered on a few of them. Lots and lots.

Josh Clark

But it's pretty interesting, isn't it?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, I think so.

Josh Clark

And, I mean, to think that all these people are engaged in them and having these ceremonies -

Chuck Bryant

Right, after all these years.

Josh Clark

Yeah, they're actually simulating Pagan rituals. So, consider that all you blushing brides and dashing grooms. Yeah, thanks for that, Chuck. Chuck just gave me a nod of approval.

Chuck Bryant

I did.

Josh Clark

And, coming up, Chuck's going to tell us what article reminds him of the funniest joke he knows. And, Chuck, do you want to tell everybody - what's this article that reminds you of the funniest joke you know?

Chuck Bryant

Well, it's maybe not the funniest joke I know but I thought it was fitting considering our subject matter today. Why are divorces so expensive?

Josh Clark

Why?

Chuck Bryant

Because they're worth it.

Josh Clark

Nice.

Chuck Bryant

I know, it's a terrible joke and I'm so happily married but I just - I don't know, it's a really funny joke I think. And the article actually, of course, how divorce works.

Josh Clark

Yeah, there you go. There you go. So, you can read that. You can read all sorts of stuff. All sorts of great stuff! Things that Chuck and I wrote. Things that our colleagues wrote! Things that people we don't even know wrote but it's all good - on howstuffworks.com.

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