With marriage equality currently being discussed in the Supreme Court, and popular opinion and the majority of Americans in favor of the legalization of same-sex, many opponents are waving the Bible more than ever before to support their arguments for opposing it. The religious right is often quoting, and in many cases inaccurately, the select few passages that seem to justify their beliefs that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Their belief is very simple: Marriage is a pure and religious tradition that is founded on Christian values and therefore shouldn't be tainted by extending it to same-sex couples. However, what the religious right doesn't seem to know is that many of their pure marriage traditions are not so pure and, in fact, have some very barbaric and non-religious origins.
Long before courting, seducing or even meeting potential soul mates on dating websites; common practice for finding a bride was far more Neanderthal than romantic or religious. To put it simply: Men would find, capture and kidnap their prospective bride (or brides) and, in nearly every case, drag her away against her will or without the permission of her father. I have no doubt that the practice of forced "proposal" would be embraced by many today; who would immediately head to their favorite female celebrities house to claim their prize, but I digress. This method of finding your partner will help you understand some of the origins of what at first are believed to be pure, romantic and even religious tradition... but are actually far from it.
"The Best Man"
Nowadays a groom chooses a best man solely based on their friendship or how long they have known each other, however, it wasn't always the case. In the past, the best man meant literally the best man at fighting and show of strength. He would accompany his friend as an escort, and back up, and assist him in capturing the potential bride. Yes, that's right. I said "capturing the bride." I will elaborate on that pure tradition in a later explanation. In time, when capturing your bride was no longer practiced, the best man still served useful in case a rival suitor decided to come and claim the bride for himself. In the present, the best man merely plans the bachelor party and helps convince the groom that he is making the right decision if he is having doubt... most of the time.
"The Bride Standing at the Left Side of the Groom"
Again, this may seem merely coincidental or just standard procedure adopted over time, but there is a necessary, and even logical, reason for the bride to stand at the left side of the groom. Brides were placed at the left side of the groom so he could protect her by keeping his right hand (which was his sword and dominant hand) free in case any rivals crash the ceremony. Apparently, it was quite common to take brides even if they were already in the midst of a wedding ceremony. This also helps explain the first example a little further; that the best man would be at the side of the groom until the bride and groom reach their secret honeymoon location.
There are many opinions of the true origins of the "honeymoon," but one of the most commonly accepted dates back centuries to a Scandinavian practice of drinking honeyed wine, which was believed to act as an aphrodisiac, and therefore help them consummate the marriage. But, as far as the destination, there is a reason why it has been a long-held tradition of keeping the honeymoon location secret to nearly all parties. Yet again, this tradition dates back to the time when men captured their brides, and the location was kept secret so that her family, or rivals, could not track them down and take her away before they were able to share in an intimate, and probably forced, romantic moment.
So, before you begin to preach about the sanctimonious nature of marriage, and how it is such a beautiful tradition that should not be tarnished by extending it to same-sex couples -- remember that it was not always that pure, religious or even civilized. In fact, it has more cavemen-like traditions than romantic and, in all cases, if the bride-to-be couldn't run fast or have a very loving father who would stop at nothing to get her back, she would have been forced to spend the rest of her life, not with the man who loves her, but the man who is best at capturing and fighting.
R., Dr., & Brasch, L. (2006) How Did It Begin: The Origins of Our Curious Customs and Superstitions. New York, NY: MJF Books.