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A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John shares some bizarre wedding traditions!

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Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. This is mental_floss video and did you know that...

1. In Appalachia, ladies use quilts instead of wedding bouquets to determine who'll get married next? Just before a young woman sews the last stitch, she and her friends would throw a cat on the blanket, and whoever the cat jumped on, that's who's gettin' married next.

And that's just the first of many facts about wedding traditions I'm gonna share with you today in this video presented by our friends at Allstate.

(Intro)

2. In Ancient Egypt, weddings weren't religious affairs, so instead of a priest, you hired movers. People got married simply by moving their stuff into another person's house. So essentially, at least according to my grandma, everybody lived in sin. 

3. During the Roman Empire, couples had bread instead of wedding cakes. And the groom would break the loaf over the bride's head to symbolize fertility, in an apparent misunderstanding of how fertility works, 'cause it's kind of a two-way street. Today's tradition of smearing cake on each other's faces is a little bit sweeter, and also less chauvinist.

4. Why do couples eat freezer-burned wedding cake on their 1-year anniversary? You know the second great blessing "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage?" People assumed that when there was a wedding, a baby would follow shortly thereafter so rather than bake two cakes, they'd just bake 1 big one and save part of it to be eaten later. Also if your wedding is anything like mine, you won't actually get to eat the cake at your wedding because you'll be too busy greeting all of your new aunts and uncles. You will not believe how many new aunts and uncles you get.

5. Early bridesmaids were dressed exactly like the bride to confuse evil spirits. It wasn't until the trendsetting Victorian era that bridesmaids began wearing dresses with shorter veils, setting them apart.

6. And speaking of veils, historians posit that some bridal veils had an ulterior purpose, covering the bride's face so that families could keep the groom from knowing what his bride looked like until the vows were already said and it was too late to back out.

7. In the 19th century, Norwegian men would make elaborate ironing boards to give to a woman as a statement of his intentions. If the lady approved of the handiwork she'd say yes. And thus would begin decades of having to "iron out" all of your arguments. Anybody? "Iron out" jokes? Nope? Nope, my bad. I apologize.

8. On the frontier on the US, the Best Man was charged with collecting RSVPs. He would ride out to meet everyone on the guest list and tell them the date and time of the wedding, and if the guest planned to attend they would pin a piece of ribbon to his shirt. When he rode back, the sight of the colored ribbons trailing behind the Best Man was supposed to bring joy to the bride. But I would argue that every ribbon is actually terrible news, because it's just another mouth you're gonna have to feed at your wedding, and you're living on the frontier, you're not made of money!

9. Right, but speaking of the Best Man, the original duty of the best man was to serve as armed back-up for the groom in case he had to resort to kidnapping his bride away from disapproving parents. The "best" part of the title was ostensibly referring to his skill with a sword. You know, a lot of weddings are still pretty weird affairs with highly prescribed gender roles, but we've come a long way.

10. Like, consider the fact that for much history, for women, weddings often were not about choice. It's said that groups like the, Huns, Goths and Visigoths took so many brides by force that they had to keep a cash of weapons stored beneath the floorboards of churches for convenience.

11. Okay, but let's move on to weddings involving free will. No country was as obsessed with Princess Di's televised wedding in 1981 as Japan. People became so swept up in the phenomenon that it launched a tradition of hiring foreign priests for ceremonies. But since there weren't enough to go around, and because the ceremonies weren't really religious ones, couples began hiring any Westerner who was willing to act the part. I would've been great at that job. No one's ever asked me to, uh, be the Master of Ceremoies for a wedding, but I think I would kill it. Here's my basic advice, and feel free to set up a TV and use this at your own wedding.

"Right now at your wedding, you have no idea what you are actually promising. You're making a bunch of vows that you have no way of knowing you will actually be able to keep. But the good news is that you may have heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that's just- that's not true. It's only like 48% of marriages so technically, technically, you are most likely to have one of the marriages that ends in death. Congratulations!"

I actually love being married, I don't know why I took that to such a dark place. I tend to take things to dark places.

12. Alright, let's move on to tossing the bouquet, which has an unusual origin. The tradition started because guests used to tear off pieces of the bride's dress in an attempt to steal some of her luck. The tossed flowers were meant to distract the crowd so the bride could get away, although based on what we've learned so far, was the bride really that lucky?

13. Peruvian wedding cakes have little charms tied to ribbons placed within the layers, and unmarried women get to tug at the ribbons to collect charms and the one who finds the ring is destined to marry next.

14. Meanwhile Bermudan couples top their wedding cakes with cedar saplings and after the reception, they'll take it home and put it in the ground together. We have a cake topper on our wall but she's not as cool as the cedar sapling.

15. And that's not the only tradition involving trees. In India, Hindu women, born under a certain cursed astrological sign, are called mangliks and are thought to bring early deaths to their husbands. But there's a solution. Mangliks can solve their woes by getting married to a tree. Of course when the tree gets chopped down right after, the curse is considered lifted. Plus you've got a brand new tree so it's kind of a double-win.

16. Another more fun Indian custom involves younger cousins stealing a groom's shoes. Traditionally getting back the fancy footwear means that the groom has to pull out his wallet and pay out the little extortionists.
 
17. It's common in southern Bavaria for friends of the bride and groom to quote "kidnap" the bride before a wedding. They steal her and take her from pub to pub while the groom has to chase them around, paying the tabs until he finds them. Of the kinds of kidnapping we've discussed in this video, I suppose that is the one I find least repugnant.

18. In Renaissance Italy, marriages often provoked heckling, particularly if one side or the other felt they hadn't gotten a good dowry or if they thought they paid too much. The ruckus was such a problem that the city of Florence issued a statute in 1415 C.E. declaring it illegal for families to throw garbage at wedding processions.

19. In French Polynesia, the family of the bride lies face down after the ceremony and the couple walks gingerly across this human carpet to their new life.

20. In centuries past, Korean grooms used to gift a pair of Mandarin ducks to their prospective in-laws as a symbol of their fidelity, because the animals mate for life. Today, wooden ducks are presented as favors in traditional ceremonies.

21. And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that in the 17th century, suitors who couldn't get a woman to accept their marriage proposal would often give her ultra-swank gloves on her wedding day to prove she made the wrong choice. But let me submit that in fact, choosing your spouse based on quality of glove-gift...might not be the best metric.


Thanks again for watching mental_floss, which is made with all the help of these lovely people and brought to you by our friends at Allstate. Thanks again for watching, don't forget to be awesome and may your marriages be long and happy and completely devoid of kidnapping.

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