On Weddings

The Wedding Tradition

Weddings are a time of celebration and hopefully happiness.  Around the world there are many traditions and ways of celebrating but all share the same core of making public proclamation that two people have come together attesting their togetherness.

In the past in many cultures, simple ceremonies were all that happened. Perhaps a noisy colourful procession through the streets followed by a feast or as in ancient England a ceremony amongst trees where the bridal couple “ plighted their troth” beneath floral arches and then a village banquet. The quaint phrase means spoke truth or made vows.

The twentieth century saw a more formalised arrangement in England.  Over centuries the Christian Church had acquired the power to solemnise or consecrate marriage even if the registration was a State requirement. Every girls dream then became a white wedding in a church. White was chosen as symbolising virginity but in such ceremonies were are many other symbols of fidelity or wealth  or family status along with other things which could be seen. Times have changed in many ways as we entered the 21st century but the fundamentals remain.

Your wedding day is quite possibly the most important day of your life.  It is a day of commitment and exchange of vows. It’s a day where you both will be the centre of attention. A day when you want to feel, look and smell your best.  Your wedding day should free of stress as much as possible. Essentially the bride and groom present themselves in a ceremony that these days may range from church to the beach, from a supermarket to a temple or government special registration office. State registration is still a requirement and despite being a more secular society a religious ceremony is still common but the practice may well be Hindu, Muslim, Jewish as Christian. England today is a diverse multicultural place.

The English wedding has retained many consistent practices not associated with the actual ceremony. For example the bridegroom will often hold the night before his wedding ,a ‘stag’ night or party. His last night of freedom is spent with his friends who may play tricks on the groom. There is depending upon social standing, a lot of drinking and the bridegrooms friends will often try to get the bridegroom drunk. It is not unknown for the hapless bridegroom to be stranded miles from home without clothes left alone by his prankster friends. All will not be lost as the grooms chosen man, his ‘Best Man’ has a responsibility to get him to the ceremony on time. He will come to the rescue.   The Best man also has the responsibility to make sure the wedding ring is safe and reedy for the moment!

More recently the modern woman has been taking up similar practices calling these adventures ‘Hen Nights’. These boisterous parties originated in the pre wedding night where the brides friends and relatives would spend time  in last minute alterations to dresses and hair. Hence these modern ‘hen parties’ take place a few days before the wedding.

Astute business people have spotted a need in the market and restaurants, bars, clubs and tour operators have all cashed in on this aspect of the modern wedding. It is not uncommon for budget airlines to be seen advertising overnight hops to such places as Prague or Malaga.

The modern English bride has cast aside other traditions. The growth of TV has shown young women American style affluent weddings where the wedding becomes a display of wealth.  Weddings have become very expensive and planned affairs. Whereas the bride’s father used to pay for the wedding and the reception or meal after the wedding, increasingly the modern bride perhaps with her own higher disposable income contributes toward the cost or even pays for it herself. There is a competition amongst women to outshine anothers. One may see this expressed in floral decorations, exceptional bridesmaid dresses, music, and venue, even down to attendants or servers with twirling umbrellas!

A wedding planner maybe employed to deal with the photographer, car hire, clothes hire or purchase, the reception venue and the caterers.  The bride and groom will choose a honeymoon which has to be booked . Guest list and invitations have to be decided upon and a budget devised.

Central to the reception, what we may call the marriage feast after the ceremony is the wedding cake. Traditionally this had to be at least two tiers and was a rich fruitcake type. The bride and groom place both their hand on one silver knife and cut the cake together to much applause and flash photography from relatives and friends. Small portions of the cake maybe taken home and certainly should be distributed to people unable to attend or perhaps work colleagues and others that simply could not be accommodated in the budget.

The cutting of the cake must be a very ancient English tradition.

In Glastonbury where I work and where our Fragrant Earth offices are situated a wonderful cake maker exists that contrives the most fantastic concoctions. Whereas the traditional fruit cake is covered in marzipan and then white icing then decorated with clever icing swirls and trimmings this cake maker explodes into a variety of colours and themes according to the bride’s wishes. It could be covered in say horse motifs if the bride were a rider or be shaped like a computer if the bride or groom were an IT expert.   As for the second or more tiers these were to stored and eaten at a celebration of the naming or christening of the first child.

The brides wedding dress is second only to the bride herself. She will choose her own dress as well as the dresses of her attendants such as brides maids or pages. If the bride is older or this is a second marriage she will choose the dress for her Maid of Honour rather than a bridesmaid.

Strictly speaking just as the Best  Man attends to the Grooms needs before and during the wedding acting in  effect like a master of ceremonies, the Head or chief Bridesmaid  should attend to the needs of the bride. Although the tendency is to dress up young children some competent adult is chosen to make sure any train is kept trailed properly, nothing is caught in any doors,  that money is available should it be needed that the brides hair or makeup is perfect at all times. She will especially hold the brides wreath during the ceremony.

Bridal wreaths have a long and ancient English tradition. Shapes have meaning the waterfall design symbolising love, the circular wreath eternity. Certain flowers have meanings too. Mock orange or real orange blossom should normally be included. The scent of these flowers are calming and relaxing and were said to take away the brides nerves. Today with a more multi coloured bouquet it is easier to keep handy a small bottle of Neroli, true Orange blossom essential oil available from specialists like Fragrant Earth. To sniff and breathe in should wedding day nerves set in.

A quaint tradition that still persists is that on leaving the reception guests for the last time. The bride turns her back on the crowd and throws her bouquet back over her head. Whoever catches it is supposed to be the next to be married. Many young women make the attempt to catch, young men avid doing so!

The dress is of course a main feature of the wedding not only to make the bride look stunning but to be admired by all. The bride has to choose her dress well in advance. Today more and more wedding dresses are mass produced and from manmade materials. Nevertheless most will need some alterations and fitting and visits to the shop will need to be scheduled in. If the dress is to be a creation or made by a individual dressmaker not only will more time be spent on the dress but more time will be spent in fittings! My advice is to recheck sizing at about two weeks before the grand day as nerves can induce sudden weight loss or gain! It can be a stressful time. 

Finding skilled crafts people is increasingly difficult in England so for individual exclusive dresses and with the modest costs of budget air travel some brides now take the trip to Krakow in Poland where in the street of bridal wear a handmade exclusive design can still be found. It is not a question of price but rather available skill. 

Most often the style chosen will be off the shoulder so exposing shoulders and arms. This brings us to another part of wedding planning.

Skincare is one of the most important but forgotten parts of the wedding . Both bride and groom need to prepare for their special day.  Most skincare products can take up to 28 days to give any significant effect on “normal skin” depending on the skin type, lifestyle remember 90% preparation 10% decoration.  In the ancient Bible writings a description is found of a certain queen Esther preparing for her wedding. Implicit in her routine is what we would today call skin care. Not a last minute wedding treat but rather a planned programme of skin or body improvements. The ideal for this ancient Middle Eastern queen was that even her body, her skin became lightly fragrant from her daily massages. 

The modern woman will pay special attention to her makeup and hair and her nails all just days or immediately before the wedding. She wants to look her best. Suddenly too late she realise her upper arms or shoulders are exposed and they often look a little in need of care and attention. Especially if the bride has passed her mid twenties.

Any woman should start to consider her skincare and body care regime at least six months before her wedding day. For example attention may be needed in the unexposed parts of the body, thighs and buttocks for cellulite, arms, shoulders, hands for damaged or rough or discoloured hands. Some may consider breast firming or chest area perhaps tanning or skin lightening.   

Tanned bodies are often dreamt of for the wedding day by the Western girl but she should make sure she waxes two weeks before the day to stop irritation and the big must is to exfoliate on the day of the tan to remove dead skin. Ościem Svelte skin smooth designed to give an ultra smooth feeling combined with natural plants extracts and a gorgeous Monoi massage after waxing and tanning leaves your body feeling smooth like silk.

Those salons, spas, hotels with bridal facilities and other outlets can miss major opportunities in the skincare world at wedding time. There is a marvellous opportunity to offer a combined bridal programme covering skin and body care as well as makeup and relaxation as a package that commences six months before the wedding.  

Let’s take the  bride first. Depending on  her shape, age and size different preparation needs to take place. Everything from silk smooth skin to shapely legs perhaps a well tanned body in the West of a lighter skin in the East. Either way skin should be at its touchable and visual best.

The best way to achieve this is by a programme of body massages at least once a month but preferably every two weeks if affordable. An allover body treatment from Ościem will specifically include a regime of skin maintenance. Aromatherapy from Fragrant Earth can provide a custom massage using special oils designed to suit your individual skin needs. Using Neroli or Orange blossom essential oil a few days before or even on the wedding morning not only makes skin look and feel good but provides a nerve calming scent.

Facial treatments should commence at a minimum of two months before the wedding day. It may be a luxury for some to ‘have a facial’ as a treat before the wedding. Unfortunately for brides with poor education, social background or low incomes the last minute facial treat is the only thing they do. For the more refined bride a programme of facials at two week intervals is the ideal commencing three months before the wedding. Such ‘treatment’ facials should aim to improve the condition of the skin according to its type.

Skin is under stress at wedding time so is either bound to dry up or oil out! A skin specialist using Ościem products will aim to balance and harmonise the skin. Particular attention will be paid to skin cleansing without harsh abrasives or emulsifying creams. The over use of makeup especially on Oriental skin can lead to that sour dull look that heightens colour. Smoking has a similar effect yellowing and dulling skin. Ościem treatments aim at making the skin look radiant which is a difficult quality to define but refers to a healthy energised skin which speaks of youthfulness even if older.

Using eye serums will enhance the fragile area around the eyes and reduce dark circles and puffiness. Again there is a need to stress to clients and consumers the need to make regular application of products or spend time at a spa or salon. There is no miracle to be had in skin care. The makeup artist if good will work together with the skin care specialist. Make up should be aimed at enhancing beauty not disguising or inventing as in theatrical makeup!

For men the situation is different. At least here months before the wedding the refined man should give attention to his body. Men’s body skin can be very dry and not nice to touch. It is fine to be a hard man but that should relate to skin tautness and muscle not hard dry skin!  It would be a good idea to have a body massage perhaps choosing from the Aroma Therapeutics range of active massages. The male customer will be advised on skin products for daily toiletry use such as the About Face range for use after or at the time of shaving. Regular use makes big differences.

Early in the wedding month I would advise that a sensible man have a full facial. This would include a mask to lift out impurities and a non aggressive scrub. This should be repeated on the wedding morning or the day before. Do not overdo the after shave. A discreet masculine Cologne is traditional on the hands and body.

New sweat does not smell so the emphasis in the west on male Body Odour sprays avoids the issue of personal hygiene. Ph balanced cleansing and attention to skin health will alleviate any problem naturally without heavy disguising aromas.

Perfumes for men and women should be discreet and bright with citrus notes on the day. Heavier notes should be reserved for the evening.

The wedding plan would have also concentrated on the venue of the ceremony and the after event programme and site.

Whatever the venue from castle to marquee floral arrangements will feature. Flowers seem always to have been part of tradition.  The bridal couple in Europe will have confetti thrown over them as they leave the wedding ceremony. This is made of colourful light paper pieces which have superseded real flower petals which would have been used in olden times. Amongst the imitation petals will be symbols of good luck like small silver paper horse shoes symbolising the moon goddess or pagan times. Rice or other grains may also be thrown to symbolise fertility and prosperity.

Increasingly mood aromas may be used in the venues. Due t the imitation of nature i.e. confetti the sense of smell is not satisfied. Flower species forced under artificial conditions also lack fragrance the feeling of that certain freshness or life associated with nature. It may therefore be a good idea to introduce space aroma which means a fragrance which can be themed to the event. Special units discreetly fragrance the air and the good news is that natural scents can be used.

After all the excitement of the wedding day the couple  hopefully  maybe be jetting off somewhere gorgeous to kick back and spend some time with their new partner.  Travelling is tiring and stressful take a trick and pack an Aroma Therapeutics Energiser and Sleep Enhancer travel spray both will meet the needs of the day and night!

 It’s an age old dilemma for all travellers; you either pack the giant bottle of moisturiser in your hold luggage or the hand travel size in your hand luggage.  Let’s be real a lot of alcohol is consumed on your special day you both will be feeling tired, excited, and drained from entertaining all your guests. Good moisturisers to use on the plane area must. Refining Radiance essence from Ościem 30ml and the About Face Revitaliser 50ml makes perfect travel packs. 

So now the time is over and everything settled. Success of the day will have depended on planning. But let’s be realistic again and wish the all couples well for their future through the ups and downs of the wedding day as well as the future.

About Jan Kuśmirek

Having brushed with the Security Services in my late teens and early twenties, I went on to become one of the world's leading exponents of aromatic medicine and skin care. I am an accepted authority on the subject and a sought-after lecturer. In the last few years I have turned my hand to literature and am the author of three spy novels that retell the European confilcts of the 20th century from a Polish perspective. The central character in the series - Teddy Labden - has resonated with the Polish media, who have claimed him as their own "James Bond".
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