The history of weddings celebrated during the month of June goes all the way back to early Roman times, well over two thousand years ago! The Romans celebrated a festival in honor of the deity Juno, wife of Jupiter and goddess of marriage and childbirth, on June first. June also followed May, the month of the “unhappy dead” for the Romans, so not an auspicious month to marry!
During the 1400 and 1500, June was considered the time when people came outdoors after a long winter and bathed communally. I guess to marry when one is clean seemed to them to be a good beginning… It is quite possible that the use of flowers at weddings was also, initially, a way of masking body odor… June weddings also come from the Celtic calendar. Even the term “honeymoon” has a historical origin, referring to the first moon after the summer solstice – June 21 – which was called the “honey moon.”
Getting married in June, in pre-contraceptives times, meant that children conceived from these unions would be born the following spring, increasing their chances of survival after the long – and often very lean – winter months. Also, spring births would not interfere with the fall harvest, which was the busiest time of the year for most people.
Let’s not forget that, until quite recently, there was nothing romantic about weddings. These were business contracts between the bride’s father and the family of the groom, with bride and groom having very little to say about them! Women were considered their fathers’ property. And, as such, they would be ‘given away’ by their fathers to the groom’s family during the wedding ceremony. In most cultures, the father also had to pay a dowry to the groom’s family. In a minority of cultures, it was the groom who had to pay a ‘bridewealth’ (the male counterpart of the dowry) to the bride’s family in order to be able to marry her.
Weddings could also be dangerous events, as a wealthy bride could be kidnapped, in order to get a handsome dowry, on her way to the ceremony, or during the ceremony itself. Bridesmaids were dressed just like the bride to confuse possible captors, and the groom’s place was on the right of the bride in order to provide him with easy access to his sword, if the situation required it…
All these examples indicate how traditions get established by a mixture of pragmatic reasons and emotional ones. On these, new traditions are superimposed, reflecting specific times and beliefs. So, today, the father often is no longer the only one who walks the bride down the isle. It is more likely that both parents walk with the bride, or the bride walks by herself. The say, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” attests to the human tendency to value continuity and new beginnings, unity and separation.
With marriages becoming more a reflection of romantic love rather than business contracts, these traditions are reinforced in ways more in step with changed times and beliefs. The 1948 movie “June Bride,” starring Bette Davis and Montgomery Clift, reinforced the connection of weddings and the month of June in ways more reflective of these new romantic ideals, and the 1954 musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” continued to reinforce this tradition, with the song “June bride.” The upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at this time of the year is a clear indication that this tradition is alive and well.
We will explore this in the next blog, when we will discuss in details some of transformations and permutations marriage is undergoing in this and other countries. Please stay with us and continue to share your thoughts on this subject.