While modern tradition have us scratching our heads, like smashing cake in your new spouse’s face and mooning the photographer (photo at the link), history shows us that weird traditions overall are nothing new. All over the world, solemn vows were enhanced or even replaced by customs that may be incomprehensible, but they were tradition. Consider this wedding observed in Wales in 1815:
First they got the whole official churchy marriage ceremony quickly and quietly out of the way. Then it was time to cross swords. The bride and groom went back to their separate houses, and the groom’s friends got on their horses and charged like a battalion toward the bride’s house, a piper cheering them on the whole way (somehow).
The bride’s friends, of course, have laid booby traps and obstacles all over the road to her house, like straw ropes tied between trees, and some sort of freestanding face-smacking machine called a gwyntyn (“quintain” in English) that was meant to knock people off their horses. Even if you got past the face-smacker, the bride’s friends would block your way and demand trials of skill (games) that could not be declined. If you won, you were still nowhere near uniting your friend and his wife.
If you managed to get to the bride’s house, you had to recite poetry and sing witty songs through the door to the girls inside. If the girls ran out of poetry and songs to sing back at you, the door had to be opened. Then the men would gently take the bride, and carry her off, her friends in pursuit. Then everyone would have another pretend fight.
Most of the elaborate traditions served to highlight how important and permanent the marriage bond is, in one way or another. Read about wedding customs of the past from Colombia, Russia, Abyssinia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and America at mental_floss.
(Image credit: Flickr user Grace Tari)