Did you know that wedding cakes got their origins from ancient Rome, where a groom would eat a piece of a loaf of barley cake, and then break the rest over the bride’s head, symbolizing dominance over the bride, and the “breaking” of the bride’s virginity, to put it lightly?
I first learned this when I was 16 years old, when I was doing extensive reading for my Honors World Civilizations Class. From that moment on I said, “I am NEVER having a wedding cake at my wedding..if I ever get married!” From then on I have stuck to my guns with that belief. Many people roll their eyes at me, or say “Whatever, that was back then, it’s not like that anymore!”
I have a serious problem with….tradition.
To me, traditions are the sort of catch-all basin of homogenous, conformist corporate-mongering brainwashing. I am sorry, I said it! I know, I sound like an elitist hipster, I get it. But hear me out.
I think the IDEA of traditions are quite beautiful. Traditions are a “handing down” of beliefs and customs through family and culture over generations. Sure, customs and traditions change, and I think with good reason. But, did you ever stop to think that maybe your ancestors had traditions in place for a REASON? I bet you have.
Okay, I want you to sit back and think about why you do certain things you do. Holidays, celebrations, etc. I have heard of many unique family traditions, which I think is very cool, especially when people have stories to go with them.
But why..WHY, I ask you…do people do things because it’s “tradition” without stopping to think about why they are doing them?
For me, reading about wedding cakes when I was a teenager was a sort of light bulb moment for me. What other sorts of sexist, polarized, or factional sorts of traditions had I been taking a part of my whole life without realizing it?!
Think about it. African Americans now are socially allowed to call each other the N word I refuse to write out. But think about where that was based out of!? Why would you want to call each other something that was originally meant to put you down as a second class citizen? Now it’s supposed to be liberating or something?! I call BS. Same with women who call each other “whores” and “sluts” and “bitches.” These were all slurs created by men to exercise verbal dominance and emotional abuse over women. Now it’s “okay because everyone uses it” I call BS AGAIN!
Okay, back to traditions. I have always had a problem with weddings in general. Many people thought I was being bitter and cynical, which may have been I would say half true. But the other half of my cynicism is based in the idea that I don’t want to just DO something because society dictates I do. NOT to say that many traditions of weddings aren’t beautiful (for instance, vows, readings, etc). Many people go through aspects of weddings that they can’t stand because they think they are supposed to! Why not just make your wedding the way you want it, and only go through the motions that YOU believe in?
If you understand the tradition and its roots and still want to go through with it, COOL! That’s awesome! It’s the blind “doing” that I can’t stand!
The man asks the woman to marry him. HA! This used to irritate me most of all. There is a stigma in society (not as much as there used to be, I agree) that if a woman pushes the idea of marriage on a man it will drive him away. Women are supposed to “patiently wait” for the man to ask them to marry them. Gotta wait for the man. I’m SORRY. But if the man and woman really love each other, who the hell cares who brings up marriage?!
This leads me to share with you the fact that I recently proposed to my boyfriend. 2012 is a leap year, and back in the 5th century, legend has it that St. Brigid approached St. Patrick (another clown but that’s a whole another story all together) to ask why women weren’t allowed to ask men to marry them. They discussed and bantered back and forth.
ST. Brigid: How about women ask men to marry them?
St. Patrick: While I find that to be radical, how about let’s cool it and say..sure every seven years.
St. Brigid: Not only is that lame, but why every 7?
St. Patrick: Hmm good call. how about once every four years? The leap day of the leap year? Normal rules and religious laws don’t apply on that day anyway since we don’t really know what to do with that extra day.
St. Brigid: I see this isn’t going much further, so I’ll say yes to that and hope that some day my sex will once again be equal to yours.
St. Patrick: Yeah, I need to go see about some goats now, ttyl.
Fast forward to 1288, when Queen Margaret of Scotland (who was actually just a child, so she must have had some really awesome administrative royal staff) was like F that. Our ladies get the WHOLE leap year to ask for their hand in marriage. Oh and one other thing. If the man weasels out and says no, they have to pay her. In nice dresses. Or chocolate . Or money. Or all of the above.
So actually grasping where the tradition came from, and loving the fact that it was kickstarted by strong women in history, I planned out my proposal to my boyfriend on the leap year. YEP. I did. On our one year anniversary.
Was he freaked out that I asked? No. Was he amused? Yes. Did he say yes? uh YEAH.
And I love telling this story because many people I come across first looks down at my ring (I wear a claddagh ring in replacement of an engagement ring) and then, disappointed, ask how he proposed. And I smile and say that I proposed. “Oh but what about a ring?” Well, he got a claddagh ring from me, why would I get an engagement ring? Most people are surprised, but everyone has really just accepted it as a good idea because..well..it was. If I do say so myself! Because who cares?! We love each other and that’s all that matters.
So what will I have at my wedding? A croquembouche. This is a french wedding style cake that originated in the 1500s when a tower of sweet cakes and rolls were piled on top of each other and the bride and groom tried to kiss over the tower of goodies without knocking it over, bringing good luck if they were able to.
Now that is a tradition I can gladly sink my teeth into.