The Bizarre Origins of 8 Wedding Traditions

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If the throngs of crazed customers clutching registry printouts at Crate & Barrel are any indication, wedding season is once again upon us. Before you head off to the next joyous union on your jam-packed calendar, let's take a moment to reflect on the rich history of marriage celebrations and revel in the realization that weddings are, at their core, incredibly bizarre.

1. THE WHITE WEDDING DRESS

Technically, today's wedding gowns aren't white. They are "Candlelight," "Warm Ivory," "Ecru" or "Frost." But there was a time when a bride's wedding attire was simply the best thing in her closet (talk about "off the rack"), and could be any color, even black. To convince her groom that she came from a wealthy family, brides would also pile on layers of fur, silk and velvet, as apparently grooms didn't care if his wife-to-be reeked of sweaty B.O. as long as she was loaded. It was dear ol' Queen Victoria (whose reign lasted from 1837-1901) who made white fashionable. She wore a pale gown trimmed in orange blossoms for her 1840 wedding to her first cousin, Prince Albert. Hordes of royal-crazed plebeians immediately began to copy her, which is an astonishing feat considering that People Magazine wasn't around to publish the Super Exclusive Wedding Photos, or instruct readers on how to Steal Vicki's Hot Wedding Style.

2. GIVING AWAY THE BRIDE

Remember that women's studies class you considered taking in college? Allow us to summarize what you would have learned: All of our society's gender issues stem from the fact that fathers once used their daughters as currency to a) pay off a debt to a wealthier land owner, b) symbolize a sacrificial, monetary peace offering to an opposing tribe, or c) buy their way into a higher social stratum. So next time you tear up watching a beaming father walk his little girl down the aisle, remember that it's just a tiny, barbaric little holdover from the days when daughters were nothing but dollar signs to daddy dearest. And that veil she's wearing? Yeah, that was so the groom wouldn't know if he was stuck with an uggo until it was time to kiss the bride and too late to back out on the transaction. (There is also some superstitious B.S. about warding off evil spirits, but we think you'll agree that hiding a busted grill from the husband-to-be is a more practical purpose.)

3. THE WEDDING PARTY

Talk about your runaway brides—the original duty of a "Best Man" was to serve as armed backup for the groom in case he had to resort to kidnapping his intended bride away from disapproving parents. The "best" part of that title refers to his skill with a sword, should the need arise. (You wouldn't want to take the "just okay" member of your weapon-wielding posse with you to steal yourself a wife, would you?)

The best man stands guard next to the groom right up through the exchange of vows (and later, outside the newlyweds' bedroom door), just in case anyone should attack or if a non-acquiescent bride should try to make a run for it. It's said that feisty groups like the Huns, Goths and Visigoths took so many brides by force that they kept a cache of weapons stored beneath the floorboards of churches for convenience. Modern-day best men are more likely to store an emergency six-pack at the ceremony for convenience, but the title remains an apt one.

Ladies: Believe it or not, the concept of the bridesmaid's gown was not invented to inflict painful dowdiness upon the bride's friends and female relatives thus making the bride look hotter by comparison. Historically, that dress you'll never wear again was actually selected with the purpose of tricking the eye of evil spirits and jealous ex-lovers (spicy!). Brides' faithful attendants were instructed to wear a dress similar to that of the bride so that during their group stroll to the church it would be hard for any ill-willed spirits or former boy-toys to spot the bride and curse/kidnap/throw rocks at her. (Ditto for the boys in matching penguin suits, saving the groom from a similar fate.) Memo to the Maid of Honor: if you think organizing a themed shower complete with quiche, cupcakes and creative uses of toilet paper as a game is a tough gig, imagine this: a MoH of old used to be responsible for making nearly all of the wedding decorations and putting them up herself.

4. GARTER AND BOUQUET TOSS

This pair of rituals has long been the scourge of the modern wedding guest. What could possibly be more humiliating than being forced out to the center of a parquet dance floor while a wedding DJ advertises your lack of a boyfriend and then being expected to further demonstrate your desperation by diving for flying flowers? Wait ...Yup, we can top that. How about grasping in the air for a lacy piece of undergarment that until moments ago resided uncomfortably close to the crotch of your buddy's wife? At any other point in time, that would make you a total perv, so why is it acceptable at a wedding? Well, hold on to your scruples boys and girls, because the history behind these customs is downright dirty.

It used to be that after the bride and groom said, "I do," they were to go immediately into a nearby room and "close the deal" and consummate the marriage. Obviously, to really make it official, there would need to be witnesses, which basically led to hordes of wedding guests crowding around the bed, pushing and shoving to get a good view and hopefully to get their hands on a lucky piece of the bride's dress as it was ripped from her body. Sometimes the greedy guests helped get the process going by grabbing at the bride's dress as she walked by, hoping for a few threads of good fortune. In time, it seems, people realized that this was all a bit, well, creepy, and it was decided that for modesty's sake the bride could toss her bouquet as a diversion as she made her getaway and the groom could simply remove an item of the bride's undergarments and then toss it back outside to the waiting throngs to prove that he was about to, uh, get 'er done.

5. SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE (AND A SIXPENCE IN MY SHOE?)

A common theme that you've no doubt noticed throughout this post: humans used to be a superstitious bunch. This rhyming phrase neatly lists a number of English customs dating back to the Victorian age which, when worn in combination, should bring the bride oodles of fabulous good luck. The something old was meant to tie the bride to her family and her past, while the something new represented her new life as the property of a new family. The item borrowed was supposed to be taken from someone who was already a successfully married wife, so as to pass on a bit of her good fortune to the new bride. The color blue (Virgin Mary-approved!) stood for all sorts of super fun things like faithfulness, loyalty, and purity. The sixpence, of course, was meant to bring the bride and her new groom actual, cold, hard fortune. Just in case that wasn't enough, brides of yore also carried bunches of herbs (which most brides now replace with expensive, out-of-season peonies) to ward off evil spirits.

6. THE WEDDING CAKE

We have to believe that there was a time, somewhere in history, when the whole, "Will they/won't they smash cake in each other's faces!" scenario was actually clever and original (even if we couldn't find any evidence of it). What we did find was the granddaddy predecessor to cake-face-smashing: the breaking of baked goods over the bride's head. Customarily, the groom would gnaw off a bite of barley bread and then the remainder of the loaf was held above the newlywed bride's head and then broken, showering her with crumbs and a soul-crushing message of her husband's male dominance. Guests would then scramble to pick up any wayward crumbs off the floor as they were said to bring good ... wait for it ... luck!

This tradition evolved as cake emerged as the preferred confection for wedding celebrations. Fortunately for the bride, a whole cake doesn't break in two quite as dramatically as a loaf of bread, and so it was sliced on a table instead. Rather than scrounge for lucky crumbs on the floor, guests would stand in line while the bride passed tiny, fortune-blessed morsels of cake through her own wedding ring into the hands of the waiting masses. This act also fell by the wayside, as we can only assume the bride determined that it was a lousy waste of her time. Thus began the tradition of giving out whole slices of cake to each guest, not to be eaten, but to be placed under their pillow at night for (yup, here it is again) good luck and, for the ladies, sweet dreams of their future husbands. 

7. REFUSING TO THROW AWAY THE LEFTOVERS

This leads to another sweet, delicious, buttercream-iced mystery to be solved: Why do couples eat freezer-burned wedding cake on their one-year anniversary? To answer this, we must look to the lyrics of a schoolyard classic: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage! It used to be assumed that when there was a wedding, a christening would follow shortly. So, rather than bake two cakes for the occasions, they'd just bake one big one and save a part of it to be eaten at a later date when the squealing bundle of joy arrived. Eventually folks warmed to the idea of giving the poor kid his own, newly baked cake, but the custom of saving a portion of the wedding cake far longer than it should be saved and then eating it and deluding oneself to believe that it actually tastes good is one that persists to this day.

8. THROWING RICE

Pelting newlyweds with uncooked starchy vegetables is a time-honored tradition meant to shower the new couple with prosperity, fertility and, of course, good fortune. Oats, grains and dried corn were also used before rice rose to the top as the preferred symbolic sprinkle. Rice lost its popularity when it became widely rumored that if birds ate the rice, it would expand in their stomach and kill them. This is decidedly untrue, as is evidenced by the fact that birds eat dried rice and corn and other dehydrated vegetables and grains from fields all the time and we have yet to see any mention of a national, exploding-bird epidemic running on the CNN news ticker.

Rice can be a hazard to guests, who can lose their footing on rice covered pavement and take a nasty spill. Turns out, even rice alternatives have their drawbacks. Two Texas women were badly injured at a wedding in May 2008 while trying to light celebratory sparklers to send off the bride and groom. The group of sparklers ignited all at once and exploded, burning one woman's face and both of their arms. One guest at a Russian wedding in Chechnya last March decided to buck tradition altogether and threw an armed hand grenade into the unsuspecting crowd, injuring a dozen people. Our advice? Stick with rose petals. They are soft, non-hazardous, non-lethal and biodegradable.

Jenn Thompson is a freelance writer for publications including Charlotte Magazine, Weddings Unveiled, and The Atlantan. For the next few days, she'll be sharing her wedding knowledge with us. Tomorrow: strange wedding laws still on the books.

20 Successful Kickstarter Products You Can Buy on Amazon

Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down
Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down

Kickstarter is a great tool to help new businesses get their products developed. Thanks to the magic of crowdsourcing, the demand is available before there is even a supply. In case you missed the campaigns, here are some successful Kickstarter products you can buy on Amazon. You can find even more on Amazon Launchpad Kickstarter.

1. Cat Pyropet; $34

Carved candles are nice to look at it, but once you use it for its actual purpose—burning—the candle tends to lose its fun shape. Often people will put off burning a candle altogether for fear of being left with a melted lump where a cat- or tree-shaped candle once stood. PyroPet encourages people to actually use their candles because once the candle melts down, a creepy (but cool) metal skeleton is revealed. PyroPet now sells lots of different animals, but the project all started with a cat candle called Kisa. The campaign more than doubled its $40,000 goal in 2013.

2. Illumibowl Toilet Night Light; $11

When getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, some people are hesitant to turn on the lights. The IllumiBowl Toilet Night Light eliminates the need to hit the light switch by illuminating the toilet itself. The clip-on light makes the toilet bowl glow one of eight colors (or rotates through all of them). It's motion-sensored, so it only flips on when a sleepy visitor comes to use the toilet. The product met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and also made an appearance on Shark Tank, where software tycoon Kevin O’Leary offered up a whopping $100,000 for 25 percent of the business.

3. Qwerkywriter S Typewriter; $260

Qwerkywriter S Typewriter

This item has the look, feel, and satisfaction of an original typewriter but with the accessibility and ease of your tablet. The Qwerkywriter Typewriter can connect to your computer with or without wires and provides one of the most delightful typing experiences you could imagine. Qwerkywriter raised nearly $130,000 on Kickstarter in 2014.

4. Exploding Kittens; $20

Fans of the popular web comic The Oatmeal are probably familiar with this card game. The party game is good for two to five players and comes with 56 cards, all illustrated by The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman. The game boasts two Kickstarter records, as both the most-backed Kickstarter project ever and the most-funded game in Kickstarter history. Impressively, it raised over $8 million during the course of its campaign. According to CNN, the game is a lot like UNO, but with more deadly kittens.

5. Back To Roots Water Garden; $97

Everyone loves a good self-sustaining ecosystem. The Back to Roots Water Garden is the perfect aquarium for hungry pet owners who hate to clean. The bottom of this fishbowl holds the betta fish, while the top holds a variety of edible plants. The plants clean the fish bowl and the fish's waste is eaten by the plants. All the owner has to do is feed the fish and they're rewarded with flourishing edible plants to enjoy. The project raised over $200,000 in 2012, back when it was called the Home Aquaponics Kit.

6. Collar Perfect Travel Iron; $35

When running to a business meeting or an important interview, a crisp collar is key. Never settle for out-of-shape lapels again with this portable iron that slides onto collars for on-the-go perfection. Best of all, it transforms into a normal iron for when you have other wrinkles to work out. The innovative gadget met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and has been helping out wrinkled shirts ever since.

7. Good And Cheap Cookbook; $10

Let's be real: When it comes to mealtime, you usually have to decide between eating healthy or eating cheaply. But it's possible to have your avocado toast and eat it, too: Leanne Brown created a recipe book to teach new cooks how to make the most out of their grocery trips. The helpful book includes meals that only cost about $4 to make. You'll never have to settle for McDonald's again! The Good and Cheap book is Kickstarter's most successful cookbook. The PDF is free, but for every hard copy sold, the company donates to someone in need.

8. Sprout Pencils; $19

These helpful pencils have two functions. Besides the obvious role of writing, the pencils can also help you plant a garden. Each writing utensil comes with a little pod on the end filled with seeds. When you're done with the pencil, you can place it into a pot of soil to begin the growing process. The unique pencils got their start after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The company now makes pencils with a variety of different plants, including sage, sunflower, basil, thyme, and more. You can get either regular number two pencils or colored pencils.

9. ZOMBICIDE: BLACK PLAGUE BOARD GAME; $62

Zombicide: Black Plague is a lot like the original Zombicide board game, but set in medieval times. Both games are cooperative board games with customizable characters and game pieces. Players take on the roles of survivors in a zombie apocalypse as they fight their way through hordes of zombies, collecting weapons, learning spells, and gaining experience along the way. The successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $4 million.

10. Jamstik Smart Guitar; $200

A young man playing the Jamstik 7 Smart Guitar

JamStik is a great way to learn guitar, thanks to its lack of necessary tuning—not to mention its portability and the accompanying learning app. Simply connect the product to your iPad, iPhone, or laptop via Bluetooth or USB to get started. The product has real strings that make noise through the connected device. It's just 18 inches long, so you can throw it in a backpack for on-the-go learning. An earlier version of the JamStik met its Kickstarter goal in May 2015.

11. Prime Climb Board Game; $28

This colorful board game is perfect for two to four math-loving players. Players must roll the dice, do some quick calculations, and make their way to the center of the board (bumping off opponents as they go). It's fun for people of all math levels, and helps children just learning multiplication and division get a better grasp of the concept. Math lovers supported this project on Kickstarter in 2014.

12. Ilumi Led Smart Bulb; $50

After getting comfortable on the couch or in bed, the last thing you want to do is get up and turn off the light. Ilumi is the perfect solution to these lazy problems: The smart light bulb can be turned on and off or dimmed right from a smartphone or tablet. Simply screw in the device like any other light bulb and then you can change the dimness or color. The LED light is amazingly efficient and can last up to 20 years. The bulb met its goal in 2015.

13. Soviet Bus Stops Book; $16

This quirky coffee table book is filled with the charming, forgotten bus stops in former soviet countries. Author Christopher Herwig spent 12 years traveling through 13 different countries documenting the weird art of bus stops. From interesting fresco paintings, to lopsided statues, these structures are a lot more unique than what you might find in the United States.

14. Chain Mail Bikini: The Anthology Of Women Gamers; $13

It has always been a bit puzzling to see the strange outfits that some female video game characters wear. From boob-shaped armor to chain mail bikinis, these outfits are just plain dangerous. Hazel Newlevant used this oddity as the title for this special anthology. The book contains comics from more than 40 artists about what it's like to be a female gamer or game character, with over 200 pages that explore all types of games from video games to card games. In 2015, the Kickstarter campaign far exceeded its $13,000 goal, earning nearly $70,000.

15. Mudwatt; $29

This living battery is fueled by bacteria. The educational project is perfect for kids who are just getting into science. Simply fill the MudWatt with dirt to get started. The micoorganisms in mud release electrons as they consume and break down sugars; these electrons are then harnessed by the MudWatt battery. Different bacteria produce more power than others, so children can experiment with different kinds of dirt and by adding different ingredients from around the house. Parents looking for fun and easy STEM projects loved this idea and the project was backed in 2015.

16. Wuju Hot Sauce; $9

WUJU is a special hot sauce created by Lawrence Wu. The Drexel-educated foodie has a real passion for hot sauces and worked tirelessly to create a special sauce made with habanero peppers, mango, agave nectar, and an array of spices. Heat-seeking gastronomes who backed this Kickstarter in 2015 were thrilled to have a unique hot sauce that tastes great with almost anything.

17. Eyepatch iPhone Case; $25

If you're worried about people potentially hacking into your phone's camera, a piece of tape over the lens might do the trick. For a more permanent solution, try this special phone case with a slider that covers the lens when you're not using it.

18. Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook; $32

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook

Everlast promises “a classic pen and paper experience that’s built for the digital age.” This notebook offers 36 reusable pages that transfer what you write by hand to your computer over Google Drive, Dropbox, and more. All it takes to erase a page for another use is a drop of water. With over 28,000 backers, Everlast raised around $1.8 million for their incredible notebooks in 2017.

19. LIFX Smart LED Lightbulb; $40

LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb

Not only does the LIFX LED Lightbulb come with tons of color options, it also can connect to your Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Home Kit with ease. With simple setup and easier control from your phone, the LIFX Lightbulb is as intuitive as it is useful. LIFX also joined the 1M+ club on Kickstarter back in 2013, making around $1.3 million dollars.

20. Espro Travel Coffee Press; $32

Espro Travel Coffee Press

For those who are on the go and need a little kick, the Espro Travel Coffee Press presents a stylish, affordable answer to your needs. Perfect for camping or commuting, Espro’s new spin on the thermos quickly surpassed their goal, raising almost $60,000 earlier in 2018.

All photos via Amazon.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016.

Ohio State University Has Its Own Bacon Vending Machine

Ohio Pork Council
Ohio Pork Council

As final exams approach, many students at Ohio State University will be fueling their brains with bacon. According to USA Today, a vending machine filled with ready-to-eat bacon strips and bits has been installed in the lobby of the Columbus-based school's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences to help raise funds for the department.

The snacks may not be as cheap as ramen noodles, but they are a close second. The university is able to sell the bacon at a discounted rate of $1 per item because all of the products were donated by Sugardale Foods, Hormel Foods, and Smithfield Foods. Proceeds go to the university's Meat Science Program, which teaches students "the underlying principles of biology, physiology, and nutrition that drive animal growth and the impact they have on meat quality," according to the school's website. Students within the Meat Science Program are tasked with restocking the vending machines until December 13, which is the last day it will remain on campus.

The unusual fundraiser is the result of a partnership between the university and the Ohio Pork Council, which works to promote the pork industry within the state. Because all of the products in the vending machine are shelf-stable, no refrigeration is needed. "Customers can eat the bacon straight out of the vending machine!" Emily Bir, director of communications for the Ohio Pork Council, tells Mental Floss.

Could the bacon vending machine be coming to a city near you? One can only hope, but it's too soon to tell. "The future of the vending machine is still unknown—you may see it appear again after December 13, or maybe not. Time will tell," Bir says.

Oddball vending machines have become more popular in recent years. There's a pecan pie vending machine in Cedar Creek, Texas, and past examples (some more successful than others) have included those that dispense hot pizza, burritos, live crabs, baguettes, and caviar.

[h/t USA Today]

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