Jewelry in Wedding Traditions

The Intrepid Wendell has the wonderful opportunity to outfit family and friends with engagement rings and other wedding jewelry. It is a beautiful responsibility. The joy of celebrating love and marriage mirrors the importance of creating jewelry that represents the bond between people who love each other.

Often, clients who were once strangers become our fast friends. For us, it would be nearly impossible to create these intimate pieces of jewelry without coming to know and appreciate the people they are made for. Last year, we created many beautiful engagement rings for new and old clients, friends, and family. Many of them looked forward excitedly to their spring and summer 2020 weddings. Some even playfully bickered in our office over who would have more gemstones in their wedding bands.

Then, COVID-19 happened.

Like most people, we have received the letters, emails, and phone calls that say, in one way or another, “Don’t worry about that ‘Save the Date’ for September — but look forward to receiving one next year!” Others are bucking formalities and just diving in, forgoing the gathering altogether.

Two weeks ago, an old acquaintance had a Zoom wedding. Another friend went to the courthouse with her groom and sealed the deal, promising a large reception for her friends and family in the future. A third friend had a quiet wedding in a church, which was attended only by a priest who stood exactly six feet away from the bride and groom.

When looking at the photos and videos of these unique weddings, a few things stand out: The officiant wears a mask; hand sanitizer is sneaking its way out of the groom’s pocket; the wedding party behind the couple is replaced with an army of people on a screen crying and celebrating over a video call.

Yet some traditions comfortably remain. There is a beautiful bride glowing in a white dress. The newly married couple slips rings onto their partner’s nervous fingers. There is kissing, dancing, passion, lots of laughing, and happy tears.

Our friends’ wedding experiences this year are certainly creating some new traditions. Some traditions stand the test of time and some fade away (although we certainly hope that video call weddings never become normal). Looking at the evolution and history of wedding customs sheds new light on principles that help us understand just how special love and marriage are. Many of these customs are tied to jewelry, and these are some of our favorites.

Ancient Romans believed in the “vena amoris, or “vein of love.” referring to a mythical vein that Romans believed ran from the heart to the ring finger on your left hand. This legend is believed to have inspired rings or cuffs made from hemp, leather, bone, and eventually precious metals.

Indian wedding jewelry also seeps heavily in tradition and belief. Not all modern couples practice these customs, and many of these rituals vary based on region, religion, or culture. There are hundreds of variations to the meaning behind the jewelry worn, or even the type. One could spend a lifetime studying these beautiful celebrations.

The visage of a traditional Hindu bride is awe-inspiring. She wears flowing silks in deep crimsons with shockingly intricate embroidery. Lavish henna drawings called mehndi to encase her hands and wrap up her arms, representing good luck and prosperity for the bride. The maang tikka crowns her head. A beautiful gold forehead piece, designed to rest on the sixth chakra, is said to enhance the third eye. Beautiful chandelier earrings in gold and pearl meant to ward off evil, tug at the bride’s ears. A large and often ornate nose ring, called the bridal nath, is attached to ears by a chain. In some regions, this nath is worn to honor the Hindu goddess Parvati. Jingling anklets of copper or silver are worn to announce the arrival of the bride into the groom’s home. Gold, which is associated with the Hindu gods, is not to be worn below the waist for anyone, not of noble birth. Possibly the most significant piece of jewelry is the mangalsutra, which translates to “holy string”. The groom adorns the bride with this necklace and knots it three times in front of a sacred wedding fire. Traditionally, this necklace was meant to be worn until death or the end of the marriage. The mangalsutra’s main fixture is the thali, a pendant that represents the love and respect that is held in the marriage.

The Irish are not quite as extravagant. The instantly recognizable and beautiful Claddagh ring features hands on the band of the ring, clasping a crowned heart. This ring first appeared in the seventeenth century. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty, and the heart represents love. The way the ring is worn might signify different statuses in terms of the relationship. When the heart is pointed down the finger, the wearer is single. If worn with the heart pointing up the arm, towards the heart (via vena amoris, maybe?) the wearer is taken. The ring is not very old in historical terms, is well-loved by many.

The Indian bride isn’t the only one who wears jewelry on the crown of her head. The Stefana is a Greek wedding crown set worn by both the bride and the groom. Crowning during the ceremony is a mainstay of the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony. A ribbon joins the two crowns to signify unity between the couple. The ribbon is expected to outlive the newlyweds, demonstrating their eternal love and commitment. The crowns themselves show the couple as the king and queen of their new life and home, which they are to rule with wisdom and integrity. During the ceremony, a priest blesses the couple and then places the crown on their heads. The crowns are then switched three times between bride and groom as blessings are said and the union is witnessed.

Wedding traditions are a beautiful part of humanity. The diversity of weddings customs is a testament to the importance of love. Whether you postponed your wedding, or if you chose to say your vows and dance with your family over FaceTime, the important part about wedding traditions is they represent your love and commitment. Whether it’s breaking glass, henna art, money dances, or burying the bourbon, sharing joy and loving one other is what ties every wedding tradition together.

If you had a 2020 wedding planned, The Intrepid Wendell wishes you the best of luck on your new life together. And no matter how you chose to start it, we would love for you to stop by sometime to tell us about your own wedding day and traditions.

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