I was very intrigued to read last night that Bride was the ancient Celtic goddess of the land, said to travel across the landscape on February 1st, visiting people’s homes and bringing them blessings. ‘Gifts were left out for her beside the family hearth and the family would pray for her to visit them and receive their gifts, in exchange for her blessings on their lives.’ (Pamela Woods) She was the Goddess of the Hearth, both at home and in the smithy. She inspires the writing of poetry and is the deity said to assist women in childbirth. The snowdrop is her sacred flower, and she is known as the Snowdrop Queen.
With the advent of Christianity, Bride becomes Mary, and her feast day becomes Candlemas, the Feast of St Brigid. (with thanks to ‘Gardens for the Soul’ by Pamela Woods). St Brigid herself was named after the goddess bride but converted to Christianity. She became a nun – a saint of great compassion, generosity and purity who loved animals. Like the goddess, she is associated with fire. During the age of chivalry, knights start referring to their sweethearts as Brides, because she was considered as the ideal woman. And so it began!
It strikes me that weddings have become a very complex cultural phenomenon that melds both ancient beliefs and the natural impulse of two people to marry. For many it is a religious ceremony. Oh yes, and a chance for a big party and for all the relatives to get together! A big white wedding is not really just a marriage – it is a cultural event that has different meanings to different people and some of those are nothing to do with commitment. Most of the conflicts in families regarding wedding planning stem from the clash of preconceptions as to what a wedding really is.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that brides can feel a little pressurized! Not only are we expecting them to make a life changing step in public, we are also deifying them, asking them to reenact an ancient feminine rite that our culture has no other space for, and expecting them to behave like saints!
Then again, it’s all good fun… I have never forgotten the magic of attending my first wedding, aged 11. The bride had a 16 foot train and when she walked down the aisle, doe-eyed, the white train filled the ancient church. It was dramatic and magical. I loved it. Every bride and groom are fully entitled to get married in the way that they want, and if that means a white wedding then embrace it. It is one of those moments when art meets life. Just make sure it is fun for YOU, assuming that you’re the one paying for it!