Why is it bad luck for the groom to see the bride before a wedding?
Because it was never previously practiced.
The truth is that nobody actually knows the origins of marriage. The practice of it pre-dates recorded history. The most popular of all theories, at least currently, is that men owned large quantities of women as property to be used to breed children and ensure that the resulting offspring was that of the owner and no one else. Men 'married' to claim ownership. This is why Mystery's theory of approach anxiety is so intriguing. There can never be any evidence for his ideas of course, but the perspective that men could not approach women in ancient times because it was not known if she is already owned and thus put his own life at risk seems plausible. If you get on a public bus or train, you'll notice that in almost 100% (yes 100%) of the time, when the bus or train starts to get full, the last seat ever taken is the one next to the attractive woman. Most theories would point to fear of rejection, but how can fear of rejection be so strong that men (women for entirely different reasons) avoid sitting next to a pretty girl when all they want is a seat? Social conditioning is strong, but it can't be that strong, could it? After all, we are exposed to beautiful women every day through the media and we don't seem to shy away from the television. Far from it in fact. Could it not be that there is something deeper than fear of rejection? Could fear of death or injury be a more underlying reason?
Since women were owned as property, they could be handed out as rewards. This would often take the form of a man performing a favour for another man directly in return for a woman that belonged to his tribe or kingdom. Sometimes, if the favour was unexpected, then a woman would be offered in gratitude. As time went on, an arranged marriage was the only form of marriage available to people, often with fathers choosing the groom for their daughters. Freedom of choice was given to men but this depended on their socio-economic status. Marriages were arranged as far as possible so that women could marry into money and class. This would ensure upward mobility of social status for the whole family and it would also allow for the family to boast about its riches and its higher status. Women were taught to marry into money because love, passion and romance were not useful traits for their owners as it would not benefit them practically. This is still maintained in some cultures via the father and is commonly referred to as 'giving'. The woman’s father would ‘give’ her over to her new owner, whilst women performed the simple role of being 'taken'. Women's choices were seen as secondary and their opinions were only considered on things that did not matter to men: How the house is decorated, what type of flowers to put on the table, whether to have a pet, how to raise the child etc. After marriage, once men had acquired their exclusive rights, they would go to work, thinking all that mattered in life had been accomplished. The root of this assumption was made solely on the basis of the marriage contract, not on the romance or passion of the relationship. Women missed the excitement, romance and passion in their marriage and since they were not getting this anywhere, having been restricted as much as possible, they sought to create it. The thrill of seduction was the easiest and most logical of pursuits. Something that was made even more exciting by the fact that it was being done without the knowledge of her husband. History is littered with married women engaging in extra marital affairs resulting in back street abortions. This was a process where women would terminate the pregnancy of unwanted children by having a sharp object inserted into them by a complete stranger, often resulting in death as the procedure was so unsafe. The other option was to raise the child as her own and pass it off as her husband’s. As often as it was practiced, this route proved problematic for those who were not yet married. In spite of this risk, women soon became masters of seduction, cleverly enticing men when required whilst the entire affair remained a secret. Throughout the years, women attained the intelligence of the non-verbal language and spoke it amongst themselves so as to never reveal their secrets in front of men.
Women, stifled in their personal lives needed a way out and in the late 1960’s the oral contraceptive pill was made available for use to women. This was a pill when taken on a daily basis maintained a certain chemical imbalance, ensuring that insemination was not possible. A landmark achievement for women as pregnancy had always traditionally been seen as a woman’s responsibility and now they were able to control it. Sex outside of marriage could now occur with less risk. The birth control pill allowed women to maintain their affairs, pre and post marriage, without risk. This spurred the women’s rights movement as it continued to attain further freedom. Women started finding themselves in a position where getting married was no longer the only destination of life. They could vote, they could have a career, they could choose their long-term partners for the sake of choice. For love. The idea of women being able to choose their partners was a new concept as in the past, women were not allowed this choice. The women’s rights movement slowly and painfully attempted to make their way towards its goal of equality. However, somewhere down the road, Feminism became confused as to what it wanted. It knew it wanted equality, but it had seen the value of the way women had been treated in the past. For all the oppression women faced, they still benefitted greatly from having everything done for them. Women did not have to work as men were considered to be the primary providers. Women did not did not have to put up with the stresses and the strains of politics as men ran it. Women did not have to make any effort in perusing men as it was a man’s job to make the first move and win her over. Women did not have to pay for dates, drinks or household expenses as women did not have a job to speak of. Everything was provided for them - it was only logical to do so. Feminism, aware of these benefits, wanted equality for women whilst still maintaining all the benefits in all the areas where women were treated well. The aim was to give women as much advantage as possible in the playing field of life. It was on the back of this that the world was able to allow for the evolution of society, whilst maintaining the archaic traditions that take place today, up to and including (and especially!) marriage.
Despite women’s increased freedom, Feminism and the popularity of religion ensured that women were still, consciously or unconsciously, considered to be property owned by men. Today, women are 'given away' by their fathers to be 'taken' by their prospective husbands on their wedding days. Moreover, if a man wants to marry a particular woman, it is still customary practice to ask her father's permission before doing so. In effect, he must ask for permission before even asking the woman herself. It should be noted here that it is the father - and only the father - who's permission is required. Not the mother. Women are still taught to preserve themselves sexually, or risk being labelled by society as a ‘slut’. Since they are still considered to be property, nobody wants property that has already been used. Once a woman is known for sleeping with what is considered to be a significant amount of men, or (in some cases) any amount of men, the she becomes ‘used goods’. No longer newly packaged, but a car that has acquired millage, a DVD with a broken cover, a toothbrush that has entered someone else’s mouth, a razor which has been grazed against another’s body. If a woman has been ‘had’ too many times, she is already been ‘taken’ therefore she cannot be ‘given’ as new on her wedding day. Since its/her worth is lost, it is no longer wanted by men who are ‘decent’. Feminism had shot itself in the foot. It had given women legal rights to exercise sexual freedom whilst restricting those very rights socially. Women had to choose between humiliation and decency. Instead of being free, women were either right or wrong. They were still being criticised for any and all choices made in their love lives and criticised further for all choices made in their sex lives. This is the very reason why these details are kept a close secret and hardly ever revealed truthfully. Since their freedom had been discouraged by morals, women once again resorted to manipulation and secrecy to maintain their status as respectable individuals. They are more advanced at it now more than ever and as they have been taught to sell themselves for as much as possible – by men no less – they have continued this tradition. Money and status is an easy objective for women to sell themselves for. After all, they had been doing it for years. In order to sell something for its greatest worth, it must be advertised in the best way possible and the women’s fashion industry does its best to keep up with the strong expanding desires of women who try to look as different and as unique as possible to stand out from other women. Not to mention sexy and desirable. All for the purposes of being chosen for marriage by the ‘right’ man.
The wedding day is dedicated to the woman. It is often considered the most important day her life as it is the day when her ownership exchanges hands from her father to her husband. She is always last to enter the room with guests awaiting her arrival. She is the most glamorous thing in the room, ensuring that the bridesmaids cannot compare to her beauty. The entire event is traditionally paid for by the bride’s father (since he owns her, it is obviously his duty to arrange the dispatch of his responsibility). The ordeal is a one day event. An entire year’s worth of planning goes into it – just to make sure that everyone knows that the bride is married. The groom is just cake decoration even though he has to have a stable job to support her. This is his qualification material. He also has to provide her with a ring in order to marry her. The hidden purpose of this is two-fold: Firstly to state that he will (and can) provide for her as it is his duty to do so. Secondly to tag her as his property and deter interest from other parties. The groom attends the wedding where he works as the side-show to the bride before getting the customary if-you-do-anything-to-hurt-her- then-I-will-introduce-a-baseball-bat-to-your-face speech from the groom’s father, brother and anyone else who thinks he owns her. He then has the permanent duty to make her happy for the rest of his life, provide for the children and engage with her family - all this in return for sexual stability (and, of course, ownership rights). Astonishingly, for the large quantities of men, such life of easy submission is acceptable for them. They do not think that they can do any better and this is no more prevalent than in the arranged marriages that still go on today.
The most notorious arranged marriages of today are generally found in most Muslim and some Sikh traditions. In these arranged marriages it is a requirement that the daughter's father be present and give consent to the marriage on the day of the wedding before the couple can be married. In the absence of the father, a male representative from the daughter's family must be present give to consent in the father's place. Once the woman is married, she is considered to be owned by the man who has married her. This is never openly stated but very clearly implied and is so common that people do not realise it. This is reflected in one way by the fact that the wife is not allowed to even say her husband’s name at any point, ever, for the rest of her life. The practice is not religious of course, but cultural – it has been passed off as religious by men, who also happened to be the only ones ‘qualified’ to give religious advice. It just so happens that I was invited to one such wedding last week. The bride was a British born Southern Asian. Her best asset is the part of her body which she sells via the rest of her body. The groom was a Southern-Asian born Southern-Asian. His best quality is that he spoke English fluently. The couple had met once before agreeing to marry. The day before the wedding, there was a celebration of the bride by herself where she is glorified in henna and jewellery. At the end of the festivities, some of the male members started dancing in front of the bride. This is very interesting as this was never practiced ten years ago and had anybody done it, the people involved would have been ridiculed, looked down upon and considered ‘unholy’. However, somewhere down the line, dancing became an acceptable practice in the culture at this event. Society it seems, bends and breaks its rules whenever it likes.
The wedding occurred on the following day. This event was by far the most revealing of all the practices. The hall was beautifully designed. Dinner plates were placed across a sea of tables, with a centerpiece at the front of the stage. On it was a large couch shaped in the form of a throne. It was empty but would be occupied by the couple to be. The bride had already arrived, but she was not on the throne. She was in a separate room, seated, looking pretty. The groom arrived mid-afternoon, but despite being the guest of honour, he is not granted automatic access. The family of the bride pile up inside the exit of front of the door, not allowing him access unless he pays up. This is yet another tradition in the wedding and has been carrying on for generations. It is known as ‘gate-holding’. The bride’s family ‘hold the gate’ denying entrance to the venue, while the two families barter for the sale of the bride. Although this is seen as just good fun, there is a genuine exchange of money. The wedding I attended ‘held the gate’ with a piece of red tape across the door. It had stuck on it a notice which read the words ‘£999.99. NO MONEY, NO HONEY’. One other suggestion which was made but did not make the notice were the words ‘NO FEE, NO WIFEY’. As the groom approached the ‘gate’ the two families began their haggling. To ensure their good fun, they started the bidding at £10,000 – higher than the value written across the notice. The groom’s family bit back stating that the notice was ‘cheap’ and wasn’t worth ten pence. The haggling continued. A ten year old boy joined in on the fun, telling the groom’s family that if they didn’t pay up, they won’t get a wife.
The young boy understood that if the guy wants the girl, he needed to pay for her.
Finally, after tiring, both sides drew to a close. The scissors were handed over and the groom was allowed to cut the tape. The groom’s family eventually handed over £100 in cash. The groom came in with a slight smile on his. Of course, his marriage ensures his permanent residency in the UK, but that’s not really what he’s smiling about. He seems to think he has fulfilled himself as a man. This is his final step in proving to his family that ‘he’s made it’, knowing that he has fulfilled his parents wishes. He makes his way to the throne for the beginning of the proceedings. Bride-less, the priest begins the wedding ceremony. Within minutes, the groom is married. The wedding band is placed on his finger by the priest himself. The bride too is married separately, upstairs. The priest places the ring on the groom’s finger and holds his hand up to the camera to signify to any remaining doubters that he has, in fact, been married. The entire procedure is un-witnessed and unbeknownst to the bride. The main part of the wedding is then played out; eating a three-course lunch with a starter, a main course and a minor desert. This is what the people turn up for and start leaving once it is over. The bride still has not joined the groom who has sat in his throne for a good couple of hours after dining with his closest friends and family. The waiters are clearing away the tables and there is still no sign of the bride. Only close and reasonably close friends and family stay behind for the final event. As I sat patiently at my table, families, largely women started to approach my table. At first I hadn’t noticed, but more and more started to appear. By now, a large compendium of women had gathered by my table. Standing. I looked, two, three, four, five times to see what they had gathered for. I saw nothing. All the women were standing there, facing me, looking at each other when I looked towards them. Usually, this would be another day in Scarfland, however at these types of events, it is normal for women to stay as far away from the men as possible. However, they appeared to have found a loophole by gathering around me in large numbers. I looked for a sixth time. Surely there had to be some event or person other than me that was attracting all these women to my table. Again, I saw them, facing my table surrounding me. I couldn’t help but smile.
Finally the bride makes her appearance. She takes her place on the throne next to her future owner. As they take pictures with the family, I cannot not help but feel an underlying nastiness in the entire event. It is as if society has played a joke on all of humankind and everyone has either brought it or sold it. A mass consciousness designed to put you to sleep, ensuring that both men and women die as unfulfilled as they have lived.
Oh, but we are not done yet.
The bride and groom stand up for the ceremonial ‘putting-a-flower-necklace-around-each-other’s-neck’ procedure. The bride’s turn is first. She attempts to put the necklace on the groom, whereby, jokingly, he backs away, not allowing her the satisfaction of ‘getting’ him so easy. Astounding! After marrying the girl he has met once, it is now that he plays hard to get. Of course, this is customary. It is customary for the groom to refuse the flower necklace from the bride, two sometimes three times and of course nobody knows where the tradition came from. This last insult to humanity is followed by the most revelatory element of the whole brightly coloured toxic ordeal. As the bride and groom stand up to leave, they walk down the aisle taking baby steps to reach the door, I take a look at the bride. She looks at the exit. Finally it dawns on her. Her face crumples up having now realised that she has sold her body, not for love, not for money, but to please her parents. She will never have love, just passionless sex. She will never have money, just whatever he will earn in his career. She will never have a career, she will raise a family instead. She will never express herself freely, just do whatever is universally expected of her. She will never have a life, just a marriage. Her face is a carnage of horror as this realisation comes across her. Too late. Like most women, she only realises the consequences of her actions after she has taken them, if at all. Her sister, walking beside her, who went through the whole ordeal five years ago herself, accompanies her, smiling.
Now that the wedding is over, nobody could care less about the bride or groom or the wedding. The focus is now on who is ‘next’ to be cherry picked from their lives and thrown to the lions to be devoured. All society ever seems to do is marry and breed. We are apparently no good for anything else – and anything else we might be good at is geared towards one thing and that is to find the biggest prize of all: A wife. Your life experience not matter how successful is supposed to lead one way. Questioning this would lead you to become an outcast by being seen as weird, gay or impotent by the wider society. Any measure will be used against you to ensure that you follow the system. Escape from the system is made by a few, but increasing, number of people. Somewhere in the consciousness of man, people can feel that a joke is upon them when they brush against the thick but flimsy curtain of societies ideals. Most people touch it, feel its softness and are seduced by the promise of its comfort. Others tear through it out of a strong desire for the truth. The scent was wonderful where I stood. As people piled out of the exit, women looked at me with envy, at my freedom and ease of life and also, just to look at me. To take one last glance at what true happiness looks like. A piece of meat they wished to ravenously devour but can’t because they have to go home to their fake husbands and live their lives in mediocrity.
With the tedious but educational event having come to a close, I jump on a coach for my city to city trip back to London. I take up two seats on next to the window and sit cross legged taking up as much room as I can. I am dressed in black and white, with a beautiful blood red scarf draped across my neck. I am, by far, the most immaculate looking thing aboard the vehicle. Behind me, beside me and in front of me, people are shuffling into seats and even requesting others to move. And do you know what? Not a single person dared to sit next to me.
With an increase in divorce rates, a higher percentage of people marrying later, a higher percentage of people having children later, the statistics are only looking one way. The rules regarding divorce today have changed dramatically. Separation for as little as a year can be cited as the sole grounds for divorce in many countries. Lawyers are better equipped and better versed than ever to ensure that the process of divorce can be handled as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Society can ignore the facts for as long as it can, but sooner or later the numbers cannot be ignored and people will wonder if marriage is worth all the trouble in the first place.
Sparkling All Over