Happy National Fruitcake Day

Photo credit: http://www.Odlums.ie

You may know that December 27th is National Fruitcake Day. You may know that fruitcake is traditionally served at British royal weddings. But did you know that the original wedding cake is fruitcake? It’s true, and for two reasons.

Firstly, fruitcake was once viewed as a symbol of wealth and prosperity due to its expensive and sought after ingredients , ie sugar, spices and exotic fruits. Therefore serving it was a show of financial status.

The second reason has to do with the fact that the tradition started in the Middle Ages, when food preservation was a problem. The high content of rum or brandy in fruitcake protects the cake from spoilage. The fruit in a fruitcake is also functional; it serves to attract water molecules that keep the cake moist. Add the fruit and alcohol together and you get a moist cake that just won’t (or can’t) go bad.

The virtual inability of fruitcake to go bad is a huge benefit to royal wedding cake bakers who sometimes require several months to decorate royal wedding cakes.

Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding cake in 1947 photo credit: Getty images

The Persian Sugar Rubbing Ritual

Persian Sugar Rubbing Ceremony
Image subject to copyright laws

There are several beautiful and meaningful rituals that take place during a Persian wedding ceremony, but none is sweeter than the sugar rubbing ritual that involves several well-wishing women spreading sweetness in the couple’s life and marriage.

During the sugar rubbing ritual, the couple will be seated, and women i women hold the opposite sides of the cloth, and at times, four women can hold each corner of the cloth. Other ladies will come up, and take turns rubbing together large cones made of hard sugar, to sprinkle sweetness onto the cloth held overhead. Another interpretation of this custom is that each sugar cone represents the bride and the groom and this act is in the hopes that every contact between them will result in sweetness

There are differing beliefs about who should rub the sugar cones over the couple. Some believe that the ladies who are rubbing the sugar must be “happily married” so that their happiness and success rubs off on the couple. However, with the rise of multi-cultural and interfaith marriages, this ritual has adapted to embrace the varying demographics of the guests.

During many ceremonies, the bridesmaids are the ones to hold the Unity Cloth, which makes for a uniform and color coordinated effect. And as for who does the sugar rubbing, many families are open to having any woman who so wishes, to come up and take part in this beautiful ritual. In my own opinion and as an interfaith wedding officiant this is my personal choice. I also believe that granulated sugar can be sprinkled in lieu of the rubbing of the sugar cones

To incorporate this or another unity ritual into your wedding ceremony, contact Rev. Connie Jones Steward, www.officiantlady.com

Including The Kids in The Nuptials

Many of my wedding couples are older couples or couples who are walking down the aisle for the second (or third) time, so quite often one or both of them has children or grandchildren.

It’s understandable that these children sometimes feel some kind of way about getting a new parent, grandparent or set of siblings to contend with. The couple can start the new family out on a unified footing by including the children in the wedding ceremony. So on this National Sons and Daughters Day, let’s look at how some of my couples have included the kiddos in their wedding ceremonies

  • Vermyttya had seven children, aged late teens to toddlers when she married Douglas at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. Her oldest daughter was her maid of honor, her youngest children were the ring bearer and flower girls and her middle sons were groomsmen. The ceremony also included a nine person family sand blending as one of their unity rituals.
  • When Vilda and Gustavo wed at Friendship Gardens & Japanese Tea Room in Glendale, CA his daughters entered just before Hilda carrying a banner that said “Daddy here comes your bride”. They also had a family sand blending ceremony with sand in each person’s favorite color.
  • Right after Israel put the ring on Minata’s finger during their wedding at The Castaways Restuarant in Burbank, CA, he placed a small gold band on her daughter’s finger and promised to always be her dad.
  • Nelly’s teenaged son stood beside her as her best man when she exchanged her vows with Yamie in Long Beach, CA.
  • Carl and Jackie were grandparents before they rekindled their high school romance and decided to get married. They included their adult children as bridesmaids and groomsmen while their grandchildren took part as flower girls, ring bearers and broom bringers during their wedding at The Newland Barn in Huntington Beach, CA. There were so many tots involved that an adult daughter was appointed the official kid wrangler.
  • Last but not least, when my husband and I jumped the broom 11 years ago, his then 10 year old son was the broom bringer. I didn’t have any children but my three nieces served as bridesmaid, gift table monitor and mini-maid. We each had nephews serve as groomsmen.

There are many, many ways to include your children in your wedding ceremony. You could have them render a reading, sing a song or act as a “backup” photographer. Let your imagination along with their talents and interests be your guide.

Edible Wedding Favors: A Sweet Tradition

Today many wedding resource guides and lists will tell you that favors are a waste of money and that they usually get left on the table. That may be true if you go with imprinted napkins or matchbooks but if you stick with the tradition of providing sweet, edible favors you will hardly be presented with “leave behinds”.

The practice of providing sweet wedding favors to wedding guests is a practice with roots in Medieval European Aristocracy. According to Wikipedia, the practice began with the giving of small trinket boxes which were made of precious materials and filled with sugar. During this era sugar was rare and expensive and thus represented the couple’s wishes for the wealth and happiness of the guests. During the 13th century sugar became less expensive and thus declined in status. At this time it was replaced by almonds which represented fertility and the bittersweet nature of marriage.

There are many options for the couple who want to provide edible favors to their guests.  If you have a creative, DIY streak you could make s’mores to give to your guests. Instructions for making these delicious treats can be found here http://tinyurl.com/2dwtpfg

Caramel apples, either plain or decorated with sprinkles or edible glitter, provide a sweet seasonal favor for guests at autumn weddings.  Instructions for making caramel apple favors are located here    http://tinyurl.com/73t44nw

Simpler, ready-made, edible favors include Jordan almonds, M & M’s printed with your wedding date and candy bars packaged with your names and wedding date.

Photo Credit: Connie Jones-Steward

5 African-American Wedding Traditions

February is Black History Month so I thought I’d blog about a few African-American Wedding traditions starting with one of the most popular, jumping the broom:

1)      Jumping The Broom: This wedding tradition is nearly synonymous with African-American weddings. There are several interpretations including that it represents sweeping away the past and the beginning of a fresh future. Another interpretation is that the broom represents the feminine principle and the bride’s willing acceptance to maintain her new household.

2)      The Dolla Dance aka The Money Dance: Versions of this dance are popular at African-American, Hispanic, Pilipino and Polish Weddings. Traditionally, male guests take turns dancing with the bride after presenting her with a dollar bill. In modern weddings it’s becoming more common for female guest to also dance with the groom after presenting him with a dollar.

3)      Honoring the Elders: In many West African cultures, it is considered proper to ask the blessing of the oldest person in attendance before proceeding with any weddings or similar ceremonies. This practice is becoming more prevalent among African-American weddings.

4)      The Electric Slide: You’d have to look far and wide to find an African-American wedding reception that didn’t include the Electric Slide, a dance first made popular in the late 1970s and featured in just about every African-American wedding themed movie made in recent years. If  you haven’t seen this dance you can check it out on YouTube.

5) Tasting the Four Elements: In this mini-ceremony, the bride and groom take turns tasting honey, lemon, cayenne and kola nuts to represent that all marriages will experience times of sweetness, sourness, hotness and bitterness and to demonstrate that the couple has the strength to make it through the good as well as the not-so-good times.

The Custom of Jumping The Broom

Jumping the broom is a tradition typically associated with African-American weddings. There is debate as to whether it dates back to Africa or if it is totally African-American but regardless of its orgins it is a custom used by many African-American couples to honor their ancestors.

As a symbolic rite of passage jumping  the broom represents many things: It is a leap into the unchartered realms of matrimony, it is symbolic for sweeping away past wrongs and clearing away negative energies and it is a symbol of the beginning of a new home.

Though considered by most to be an African-American custom, jumping the broom is practiced by other groups as well. Wiccan, Gypsy and Celtic themed weddings frequently include jumping the broom as a modern day version of the “besom wedding” that was once prevalent in Wales. This practice has been described as a type of legally sanctioned elopement ritual in which a birch broom (besom) was placed at an angle in the open doorway of the house, with its head on the doorstep and the top of its handle on the door-post. First the groom jumped over it, then his bride, in the presence of witnesses. If either touched or knocked it in any way, the marriage was not recognized.

In this kind of marriage, a woman kept her own home and did not become the property of her husband.  A child of the marriage was considered to be legitimate. If the couple decided to divorce, they simply jumped back over the broomstick again, but this could only be done in the first year of marriage. If a child had come, it was the father’s responsibility. Mischievous boys played with this symbolism by placing a birch broom over a doorstep before an unmarried lady went out of the house. This was supposed to make her pregnant before marriage.

In the Welsh version, the broom was a viewed as a masculine,  phallic symbol that facilitated the fertility of the bride. In contrast, the African version views the broom as a symbol of housekeeping and domesticity, making it a symbol of the feminine.

Photo credit: Artist Annie Lee’s work can be seen at It’s A Black Thing.Com

Candles in The Wind: A Wedding Day Fail

Candle flame

We all love candles. Their soft flickering flames have the power to evoke feelings of love, romance, promise, hope and spirituality. Perhaps that is why unity candles have become such a beloved part of the modern wedding ceremony.

However there is one particular type of wedding where unity candles can quickly spark feelings of frustration and even embarrassment as opposed to the more positive feelings mentioned above; that is the beach wedding.

Beach weddings are very popular in Los Angeles however Southern California beaches tend to be a bit windy and in this case the elements of fire and air are not on friendly terms. It is very hard to predict how windy it will be on the beaches of Los Angeles at any given time and even harder to get or keep your candles lit in even the slightest breeze.

If you want to incorporate a wind resistant unity ceremony into your beach wedding there are many options and alternatives and a creative wedding officiant will even be able to tweak existing traditions to fit your particular ceremony, as I did with the bread and salt ceremony for the couple that I married on New Year’s Day, 2011.

Some other beach friendly unity ceremonies include: jumping the broom, breaking the glass, handfasting or tying the knot, wine tasting and of course the unity sand ceremony.

Renee & Wiliam: They Ate, Prayed and Loved

Renee and WiliamJanuary 01, 2011 was the first day of the new year and the new lives of Mr. and Mrs. Wiliam and Renee Jones-Carvalho who were married in a noon ceremony at Shanghai Red’s Restaurant in Marina Del Rey, CA.

For the past nearly four years their story has unfolded like the making of a Hollywood movie. They met while they were both guest workers in Japan; she was an American born English teacher and he was a Brazilian born welder working in an auto manufacturing plant. Their mutual Japanese friends introduced them because they were both foreigners.

In April 2010, Renee’s contract was up and she decided to return to the U.S. along with Wiliam who was now her fiance.  However Homeland Security had other ideas and Wiliam was stopped at LAX and forced to leave the country and go back to Brazil.

For the next eight months they battled U.S. and Brazilian authorities in order to get Wiliam’s visa approved so that he could return to California and they could marry. After many setbacks, his visa was finally approved in December. He arrived in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve and they were married on New Year’s Day in a ceremony that included a Brazilian style ring exchange and a Bread and Salt Sharing ceremony that involved all of the guests.

They have decided to take advantage of the Name Change Act of 2007. Wiliam Pereira de Carvalho will join his name with that of Renee Jones and their family will carry the surname Jones-Carvalho. They are expecting their first child in April 2011.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Ring Choices

This past June I had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of a couple who truly embraced the ideas of eco-conciousness and simple living. Their ceremony was small, their friends provided most of the food and they exchanged rings made of coconut wood. They explained that their choice was based on their aversion to mining which they felt was a violation of the earth.

I admit that this was the first time I’d ever heard of or seen wooden wedding rings but the thought of eco-friendly rings has stayed with me. So today I did a little web search and realized that there is an entire industry built around eco-friendly jewelry. I’ve listed a few resource sites here.

Brilliant Earth: Rings made of ethically sourced and recycled gems and metals.

Chicago Joinery: One of a kind wooden wedding rings.

Leber Jewelers: Rings made from reclaimed and other earth friendly sources.

Sumiche Jewelrey Company: The only company in the U.S. using certified Green Gold and Platinum.

Touch Wood Rings: Makers of wooden rings for those who embrace eco-consciousness and simple living

Coconut Jewelry: This environmentally conscious company offers jewelry crafted of organic materials and helps tribal cultures to achieve a presence in the global economy.