Contributed by Donna Turner
Did you know that the bride’s shoes were once symbolic of possession and authority?
A wedding car pulling away with bumper-tied shoes dancing in its wake is the iconic image of a bride and groom’s getaway from the wedding. Spirited, bouncing shoes seems like such an innocent, whimsical fun. But are they?
The Bride’s shoes were once symbolic of the possession of authority; not the Bride’s, but of her father’s. The shoe ritual may have begun in the ancient Egypt as a sign of the transfer of power. The father of the bride removed the bride’s wedding sandals and gave them to the groom. The groom would complete the “power” ritual by using one of the shoes to tap his new bride on the head, signifying his acquired position as her new master. (I am certain that the Groom and her father would be deceased if this happened today!) Bruise or no bruise, the father then had no more authority to “guide” and “discipline” his daughter. Those task became the responsibility of the bride’s new husband, the wielder of the shoe.
In later Tudor cultures, shoes were thrown at the bride and groom as a gesture of good luck as the couple departed the wedding. Symbolically, one can hope that shoes tied to the backsides of modern wedding cars are an evolution of the shoe throwing good wishes and not descended from the shoe to head power tap!
These origins of modern wedding customs make us think, but when it comes to traditions, pin pointing origins is often difficult. Much of the information has been informally handed down from story teller to story teller. There are no photographs from those ancient period to confirm or deny the exact birth of a particular wedding tradition.
The bottom line is that the Bride should simply be thankful she doesn’t have to consider her burial when choosing her veil, or worry about a concussion from being thumped on the head with her own shoe in front of her friends and family!
All in all, the modern age is a fabulous time to make new wedding traditions, or at least bend old ones to your personal taste. Customize traditions to make your very own living wedding legend even if you create new traditions of your own.