A wedding is celebrated with some kind of ceremony almost everywhere in the world. The ceremony vary greatly among different nations and different religions. But whatever the form of a marriage ceremony, it serves the important purpose of announcing to the community that a man and a woman have been joined in marriage.

The wedding ceremony in the west may be a religious one performed by a clergyman, or a civil ceremony performed by a civil official, such as a mayor or a judge, or only a couple’s declaration before witnesses of their intention to marry. Some young people nowadays choose their own marriage ceremony.

Many of the customs associated with wedding ceremonies developed from wedding customs of earliest times and come from many lands. The wearing of a bridal veil may have come from a superstition dating back to early Greek and Roman times. The veil is also believed to have been worn as an indication of the bride’s innocence and purity.

The wedding ring is the most widely used symbol of marriage today, as it has been for centuries. The word “wedding” comes from the old English word wed, which means “promise.” During Anglo-Saxon times a promise to marry was made certain when the bridegroom-to-be gave his sweetheart a ring. The ring, a circle with no beginning or end, was considered a symbol of eternity. The fourth finger of the left hand was chosen as the ring finger because of mistaken beliefs that a vein or nerve runs from that finger to the heart.

In most Western countries the bride was attended by maid of honor, and groom by best man. The best man and the groomsmen have been explained as a survival of the ancient practice of wife capture, in which the bridegroom’s friends helped him in his struggle to carry off a wife. The bride’s attendants were supposed to protect her from being captured.

The honeymoon, or holiday spent by the couple after marriage, may have had its beginnings in the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest. It is also believed that it was an ancient custom for a newly married couple to drink a liquid mixture containing honey on each of the first 30 days of the marriage.

Good Luck to the Bride and Groom. Many ancient practices that were supposed to prevent bad luck and bring blessings to the bridal pair have come down through the years. In many Western countries people shower the bridal pair with confetti to express the hope that the couple will be blessed with children. Tin cans or old shoes are sometimes tied to the automobile that carries the bride and groom away. This practice may have come out of the ancient belief that loud noises frighten bad spirits away. To assure good luck, brides often heed the old saying and wear for the wedding “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The bride’s good fortune in getting a husband may be handed on to the unmarried girl who catches the bride’s bouquet after the marriage. According to an old belief the groom carries his bride over the threshold of their new home to protect her from being caught by any mischievous spirits hiding nearby.

Legal Procedures. Every state and nation has its own laws and requirements governing marriage. There may be regulations concerning the ages at which a couple may marry, the procedures for a license to marry, the recording of the marriage, or the type of ceremony. The minimum age at which a couple may marry may vary in different countries, but it is true to many Western countries that young people may marry at a younger age with parental consent.

A marriage license is required in many Western countries. Most countries require a medical examination and blood test before the license is issued.

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