Wedding symbolism

All weddings have symbolism. In fact, they’re absolutely drenched in it. But I’m sure none of you ever thought that I would get on the same symbolism train as every other bride, right? So for the interested, a run-down of the various symbolism you’ll find in our wedding come October…

Golden sandals
Peacock feathers

Golden sandals. These will be on my feet, beneath my dress, and you may never see them, but they’ll be there. In Greco-Roman mythology, golden sandals have been worn by a number of goddesses associated with love and marriage. Venus/Aphrodite; Juno/Hera; and Minerva/Athena. Venus, goddess of passionate love; Juno, goddess of marriage and Queen of the Gods; Minerva, the virgin goddess of knowledge and craftiness. They’re the trifecta of goddesses who appeared to the shepherd Paris on a hillside and started that bit about the war over Helen of Sparta (Helen may also have worn golden sandals at some time). The only god thought to have worn golden sandals regularly was Hymen, the Greek minor god presiding over the actual marriage rite, who was also one of Bacchus’s attendants. Now, I have always had a fondness for Juno, despite her occasional shrewishness, which brings me to…

Peacock feathers. We’ll only see these if I can get my mother to agree to them, because she thinks they don’t “go.” Peacocks are considered celestial animals, containing the entire cosmos in their tail (sun, moon, stars, planets, et cetera). In Greece the peacock was the pet of Juno, representing not only her dignity, royalty, and beauty, but also that shriek. To early Christians, the peacock symbolised immortality, resurrection, and the exchanging of the earthly body for a spiritually perfect body in heaven, and is sometimes pictured as being one of the animals in the stable at the Nativity (foreshadowing not only Christ’s resurrection, but also the immortality and transmogrification of the human soul purified by Christ’s bloody sacrifice). It is often associated with the Tree of Life and the Garden of Eden. It has been compared to and was once considered close cousin of the mythical phoenix, which engulfed itself in flames at the end of its lifespan and was immediately reborn from the ashes (think Fawkes in Harry Potter). In heraldry in some countries, the peacock’s appearance can mean triumph over the Saracens in the East; more generally, it means beauty, knowledge, omniscience, and perfection through the pursuit of a godly life. There is a peacock head surmounting my family’s coat of arms, so on top of all the above symbolism, the peacock is the “totem animal” of my family. (No, I will not make Jim wear a dragon, or a boar, on his person. That would be silly.)

I’ve got this funny thing in me, this streak of “anti-bride.” My mum was like, Oh look, roses, and Oh look, lillies, and while roses and lillies are quite lovely flowers, because they are considered so bridal I wanted nothing to do with them. I told her that if she, as the mother of the bride, decides that she wants the mothers/grandmothers to have rose corsages, she is quite welcome to them, but I do not want a rose anywhere near my person.

Magnolias. Nobility, dignity, perseverance, and benevolence. Love of nature.

Peonies. Happy marriage, compassion, the American spirit of ambition and determination.

Blueberries. Okay, so blueberries don’t have a meaning per se. In dream analysis, the appearance of fruit can indicate future abundance, prosperity, new beginnings, passion, and the search for wealth and immortality. They’re also the state berry of Maine, and I’m a Mainer at heart. Most importantly, they were an acceptable shade of blue and they went surprisingly well with the magnolias.

Thistle. Austerity. The national flower of Scotland. Legend has it that in the ninth or tenth century, a Viking/Norwegian/Danish army had parked on the shores of Scotland and was creeping up to a village in order to pillage it. Thinking that being barefoot was more silent and stealthy than wearing shoes, they removed their footgear. One of them immediately trod upon a spiky thistle, howled in pain, and alerted the village to the invaders’ presence. The Scots took arms and took the day. It is considered lucky for a Scottish bride to have this prickly little flower with her on her wedding day. There will be at least one thistle tucked in my bouquet, because my mother bemoaned bringing in “another color,” until we had picked out the blueberries and all of the sudden one lone little thistle didn’t look so out of place. All it takes is one little thistle, as the Scots will testify. I was so thrilled to actually find thistles that I wasn’t going to pass them up. They had white thistles too, but it wasn’t the same. I am sure my mother thinks that the white thistles would have been much more matchy-matchy. And the anti-bride in me says, “No matchy-matchy.”


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