As the year comes to an end, and I come to the end of the alphabet (I really could not find a good and fitting Z word to go out on), I wanted to reblog the most popular of my Alphabet Posts for 2014: B is for Bedding the Bride.
According to my WordPress statistics, this post received 1,133 hits this year, an average of 3 per day. In fact, yesterday alone, this post received 15 hits. Since it seems so popular, I didn’t think readers would mind my posting it again as a year-end wrap-up for my Alphabet Posts.
Beginning in the New Year, however, I’m moving these posts over to my Sunday slot on Nights of Passion. I’ve renamed them the ABCs of Romance and I’ll post on general terms of romance that readers and writers would be interested in, rather than mostly historical. I hope you join me over at NoP starting January 4, 2015!
And now, B is for Bedding the Bride:
Marriage customs during the Middle Ages were varied and in some cases, exceedingly strange to our modern day sensibilities. One such custom was “bedding the bride.”
The ceremony actually should be called “bedding the couple” because both bride and groom were participants along with their family, friends, and wedding guests.
According to Alison Weir, “One feature of medieval royal weddings that seems shockingly intrusive today was the public bedding ceremony, in which the newly wedded couple were put to bed together by their attendants and toasted by their guests, as the bed was blessed by a bishop or priest. Then they were left alone to attend to their chief duty, the begetting of heirs to ensure the succession. This bawdy custom had died out by the end of the 17t century.”
The custom was not confined to royalty, however. Both nobles and commoners celebrated weddings in this manner as well.
After the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom would retire to separate rooms and their attendants (family or friends) would dress them for bed. At one time, in Scandinavia, the guests would instead strip the couple naked. Then they would be conducted to the bedroom, often followed by shouts of bawdy comments. A priest would bless the bed and the couple would be put into bed and handed a cup of “sweetened and spiced wine, again blessed by the priest, known as the ‘benediction posset,’” according to George Monger.
Afterward, the attendants participated in “the divination custom of throwing the stocking.” The attendants would have secured the stockings of the bride and groom. Two grooms’ men would sit on one side of the bed and two brides’ maids would sit on the other with their backs to the center. Each one took turns throwing the stockings over their shoulders. If a groomsman hit the bride or a bridesmaid hit the groom with one, then it indicated that person would soon marry. A forerunner of tossing the garter and the wedding bouquet.
Once the posset was drunk and the stockings tossed, the curtains would be drawn, the company would retire, and the newlyweds would be left to their own devices.
In rare cases, if the couple were royalty, or if there was a doubt about the “ability” of the groom, attendants stayed in the room while the consummation took place.
The custom of the bedding ceremony died out by the late 1600s. But until then, brides and grooms had lots of company on their wedding night. Apparently no one had heard that two’s company, twenty’s a crowd. 🙂