A wedding ritual tour in 7 movements that was enacted on my dear wife the day after we were married at the Clerk's office. She wanted some kind of formal sealing of the deal, and I came up with this. Watch the video here:
An outline and transcript of the event:
Movement 0, The night before the ritual, Catherine was given a bag of coins and I read:
In Spain, the groom gives his bride thirteen coins to symbolize his ability to look after her and she carries the coins throughout her First day of marriage in a little purse. I want you to take this sac and keep it with you today to remember that I am always going to have you on my mind and be looking out for you.
Movement 1, The kidnapping
It is true that many countries around the world have odd and fascinating rituals when it comes to the union of two people. Croatians, Yemenis and Iraqis among many others fire guns before, during or after the ceremonies, sometimes with unfortunate consequences. Another custom, during Greek wedding ceremonies, has the bride nabbing a pre-pubescent boy and setting him on her lap, where she will place an edible biscuit ring around his neck and slowly nibble it off. Only when the ring has been broken can the youngster return to the kid’s table and act like nothing weird just happened. If you’re a couple from Northern Borneo you are supposed to abstain from going to the bathroom for 72 hours during your honeymoon. Yes, for three days they’ve got to hold it in. There are even “hall monitors” standing by to make sure they don’t cheat. This is supposed to insure a long union with plenty of kids. Plus, if the couple can make it through these three days they can get through pretty much anything. So then. Today we are visiting one of the more exotic and dramatic rituals, that brings us to a custom from Germany. Now that your heart has been stolen, your body must be as well. Stemming from the tradition upheld by groomsmen of past and present, abduction of the bride-to-be is an important step in the sealing of a marriage. Once in the possession of the kidnappers, the prospective spouse A is taken to a local tavern to drink with her guards while waiting for her heroic suitor to come “rescue her” from the villainous scum. Upon his arrival he liberates her from her captors after he is forced to pay the bill, buying all the drinks in the bar that were consumed while they were waiting. This, my dear is your most recent fate. Will your beloved come to your rescue? Will the bar's drinks prove gentile on your delicate system? Will your captors give up so easily if a rescue is attempted? All of this and more shall be revealed in due time, but for now you must be silent if you wish to leave this van with your life!
2>>In Ukraine, a couple will burn an effigy of their matchmaker as preemptive revenge for all the pain and misery they are destined to experience as a married couple. It seems a harsh relic of a time when perhaps the union was not a chosen one, but one forced upon them by a matchmaker that had nothing more besides the social standing of the union in mind. In our version of the ritual, lets call upon the burning of this effigy as a cleansing ritual that flames away any existing bad juju or future turmoil. I would like to acknowledge this fire as a reminder of our current fluidity, agility and love that has thus far made most every situation virtually devoid of misery. As burning the Man in the middle of the desert is a reminder of how fragile our lives, homes, cities and planets are, so does the burning of our dear friend Jennifer remind us of how delicate a union between two people can be; and how a strong bond like ours is a thing to behold. It will keep us solid, and provide a shield, insuring that the flames of life will never burn us.
3>> In Scotland, they hold on to an interesting age-old custom known as ‘blackening the bride’. Prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride-to-be is pummeled with curdled milk, fish guts, rotten vegetables, and other types of refuse. Blackening has been practiced for centuries there, and is supposed to be a way of preparing the bride for the routine shame, humiliation and bombardment of new and presumably terrible things that one encounters during a marriage. In recent years the act of blackening has come under scrutiny, but, hey, it's tradition, right? The solution is that many men, now taking equal responsibility for the hardships that may come with marriage, have begun trowing themselves into the fray with their ladies to accept the burden of the blackening ritual alongside their Prospective Spouse. I would like to take this opportunity to also add our own modification to the ancient ritual by replacing the items that we get pummeled with from being disgusting to something more appropriate. Uncooked vegetables, in their unmodified from can prove intimidating to the unskilled chef. As can unexpected and raw challenges that get thrown at a couple throughout their lives. Today's Blackening will be less a metaphor for shame and humiliation, and more one of dealing with and overcoming the raw vegetables that life throws at us, waiting to be diced and cooked into Ratatouille.
4>>As we move further east, wedding traditions seem to focus more on the sanitary and pure. Water, of course is one symbol of cleanliness, and in many cultures including Iran, Morrocco and Mylasia, Eggs are an important symbol of the purity of life and welcoming things anew. In some parts of Indonesia, the bride and groom will face each other in front of all of their friends and family. The groom then stomps on an egg with his right foot. Using the kendi, a decorative ceramic jug that plays a significant role in cultural rituals and daily life, the bride cleans her husband's foot with the water and then shatters the vessel. The number of shards represents the happy years the couple will have together. In our version of this ritual I would like us to step on an egg together, wash each other's feet with a Tea Vessel (as it is more appropriate to what we culturally share together more often than a kendi); and instead of shattering the teapot, crete our own fate by decreeing that the number of years we will be happy together will be infinite.
Read #5 after the ritual.
5>>In another eastern tradition that takes a similar but different foot twist, friends and family of the groom tie a rope around his ankles and slap the soles of his feet with a raw fish. This is supposed to make sure the groom doesn’t disappoint sexually, and seals the deal that the marriage is now complete. Because I know that neither of us is into gender specifics when it comes to ritual, YOU have become the recipient of this act...and, lets be honest, no level of sushi soles will do anything to make our sex life more exciting--I'm not sure that that is even possible. So then, as your beautiful feet get pummeled I will take this opportunity to ask you something that we spoke about perhaps talking about some day. With these slippery slaps, Catherine, I am asking if you will marry me!
6>>If you think blackening was filthy, the French tradition of Le Soupe puts it to shame. Once the bride and groom have retired, the bridesmaids collect all of the leftover food and drink from the reception and dump it into a large chamber pot (which we can only hope has been washed). They will then barge into the couple’s bed chambers and force both man and wife to consume the entire concoction. Keeping with LeSoupe, but creating a slightly more sanitary version of the ritual we will now collect all of the veggies and bring them upstairs to prepare the french dish Ratatouille! The fish will also get fried to complete our dinner. Come all, and feast!