Weddings of today didn’t get to where they are on their own. Much inspiration through the ages has aided in shaping the attire and customs of the modern day ceremony. Among these influences is that of ancient Rome, which has given us many customs that have stuck through the generations.
In examining the attire worn at ancient Roman weddings, the first piece that comes to mind is obviously the wedding dress. Similar to modern times, the bride’s dress was set apart and was only a one-time wear. Also, like wedding wardrobe of today, the dress was pure white and comprised of a flannel or muslin tunic held together with a belt of wool. It was tradition for the bride to put on the dress and attentively wait for her man to come take her away. When the bridegroom came, he swept the bride away from her parents’ arms.
And what would a wedding dress be without a veil? And the one of ancient Rome was of rectangular shape and called a flammeum, which left the bride’s face uncovered. Interestingly enough, speculation surrounds the color of this veil, as the Latin word for flammeum is “flamma”, meaning flame. Due to this fact, some believe the veil to be red. But then other Roman literary sources point to the veil being a deep yellow dye, as likened to a candle flame. Either way, it is safe to say that the flammeum was not the pure white color of the wedding dress.
As for the groom’s apparel, there really isn’t a lot of information on what exactly he wore. So, let’s move on to the wedding ceremony. The big event was typically held at the father of the bride’s place. A priest and witnesses (at least ten) were required to certify the marriage as legal. Resembling weddings of today, the two love birds held hands and stood in front of the priest. The bride and groom would consent to their union by reciting a chant and then an offering was lifted up to the god, Jupiter. This offering was typically a cake which the newlyweds ate, after it had been offered up. Then, a grand dinner with guests followed.
The wedding attendees, no doubt, were also dressed to impress. For the men of ancient Rome, the formal garment was the toga and most likely, a pure white one, as was the custom for special events. For women, the fancy choice was probably the tunic. Both men and women were also known to wear cloaks over their primary garment for celebrations.
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