The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

AUGUST  2004

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







19 Years and Still Counting!

by JC Bowman

I am forty years old, and I have now survived 19 years of marital bliss. Yet, I am unsure why I have survived this long or why I am alive to contemplate this significant portion of my life. If there is someone out there waiting for me to write a book before getting married so I can pass on some body of knowledge that will enable you to be successful, bad news folks….I don't know how I did it.  I suppose the words of Euripedes Antigone comments are true "Man's best possession is a sympathetic wife. "

It was King Vidor who said "Marriage is not a word; it is a sentence."  The good king certainly provided deep reflection to an institution which is held in much esteem and in recent days has been in great debate.  Another, yet, deeper thought for one to ponder from Jeff Foxworthy, the king of rednecks is "Getting married for sex is like buying a 747 for the free peanuts."  The only man I ever heard of making money getting married was John Kerry----and he did it twice!

Do you ever reflect on your relationship? Can you recall when you first met and fell in love? When did you know it was something more than infatuation? What is the best thing about your partner? When someone says the word "marriage" today, do you think about two people who are in love and who want to spend the rest of their lives with each other?  Marriage is a union between two people who love each other.  It is a serious commitment, one that should not be taken lightly.

But you know, most of us uncultured types (men) learn about weddings and marriage from our spouse--or future spouse. I mean, we just show up and do what we are told at the wedding.  After all it is the day considered the most important day in most people's lives. If you mess that up, there is no sanctuary for you.  For this reason alone, numerous customs, traditions, and superstitions have developed around the wedding event, in hopes of creating that perfect day!  I suppose we should behave the same in the marriage as we do in the courtship. 

Different cultures have different symbolism and traditions such as the tossing of the bouquet, the garter toss, the bride wearing white dress and veil, the lighting of the unity candle, the exchange of wedding rings, etc. Just how far back do these traditions really go? I know the idea to give gifts originated in the 1890's. When you first get married, it sounds like a great idea. Years later, one must ask why?   

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator.  He is Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University. Prior to this, he served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.


For much of Western history, marriage was an exchange of property and the woman was being given by her father to her husband. The union of property and money, not to mention lineage, were what was being celebrated --- not so much the union of two "red-hot" lovers. Consequently, marriages were simple legal unions, sanctioned by the Church, and done with as many people as possible to observe it. Guns were not utilized until virtue was placed in question.  Speaking of virtue, the white wedding dress was made popular by Anne of Brittany in 1499.  Previously, a woman simply wore her best dress. 

The old saying "tie the knot" comes from the Romans when the bride wore a girdle that was tied in knots which the groom had the privilege of untying. "Jumping the broom" is from the African tradition which recognizes a transition in your life. As you jump you leave your old lives behind and begin a new life, together. Tradition says the higher you jump, the more fertile or prosperous your lives will be together.  

The tradition of weddings in June began because our medieval ancestors took their yearly bath in May.  To hide the growing smell the bride began carrying a bouquet of flowers.  Fertility symbols permeate weddings. Look no further than the wedding cake. The concept of piling several small cakes on top of the other is supposed to increase fertility.  Instead of seeing fertility doctors, perhaps an investment at Town House Bake Shop would be sufficient? Another global symbol of fertility is throwing rice at weddings. Why? It shows that the guests wish fertility, prosperity, and long lasting happiness for the newly married couple.

An outward symbol is the wedding ring. It is unknown when wedding rings were first worn, or when radar detectors were added. But we know the ancient Romans believed that the vein in the third finger ran directly to the heart.  So wearing the ring on that finger joined the couples hearts and destiny. Roman descendants, the Italians, gave us diamond engagement rings because of their belief that the diamond was created from the flames of love. 

The Bridal shower was designed to strengthen friendships between the bride and her friends. Not to be undone, men built on the Ancient Spartan custom of stag parties. The groom would feast on the night before the wedding with his male friends. There he would say goodbye to the carefree days of bachelorhood and swear continued allegiance to his friends. Yeah, right. Trust me gentlemen, the carefree days are over. Our Anglo-Saxon custom gives us "brides-men" or "brideknights" from the tradition of when the groom needed to capture his bride, and he needed the help of his friends. These colleagues would make sure the bride got to the church on time and subsequently to the groom's house afterwards.  

To assist the bride, she had "bridesmaids" or "brideswomen."  This tradition also gives us the veil.  Bridesmaids were there to help confuse evil spirits that were believed to be lurking about on this holy day. The veil, by hiding the face, particularly the eyes, confused the evil spirits. Bridesmaids would surround the bride, thus confusing the evil spirits as to who was the actual bride. In a similar belief, the best man is supposed to protect the groom.  

One of the oldest surviving wedding traditions is the garter toss. It is derived from medieval days, when wedding guests would follow the couple back to their room.  Some guests were simply too raucous and eager to help the bride out of her wedding clothes. To forestall such impropriety, the garters were quickly removed and thrown to the mob as a distraction and means of self preservation. But tossing underwear fell out of favor, so the bouquet was substituted. Throwing the bride's bouquet is good luck for the bride, and foretells the next of her friends to be married. However, the garter toss regained popularity and was added back.  It has evolved into the tradition we now know.   

We are still a nation of customs and superstitions, particularly in regards to marriage. Other examples include borrowing a coffeepot for the first three months of marriage, before purchasing one together. A new broom and frying pan is needed to start the couple off on a road to happiness. Tradition reminds us to never start off marriage with these items old or used.  The first meal should not be eaten at a restaurant or in-laws house. The bride should cook her new husband and herself their first meal.  Never sell the wedding dress. It can be borrowed out, or even given away, but never let money be received for the dress or the marriage will come to a quick end. How many can you add? 
One of my favorite poems is "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats who wrote "one man loved the pilgrim soul in you."  Everyone should find a soul mate who will love their pilgrim soul. Everyone should discover the purpose of why they exist, as well as their ultimate destiny. Nineteen years ago I was fortunate to discover a woman who believed in me.  Now I understand why the words "Till death do us apart…" are in marriage vows. When we stumble as humans and tremble as we question God, we remind ourselves that in sharing part of ourselves with another on this journey of life we have committed to responsibility and obligation, and most importantly, unconditional love of another.  And though, at times, we may regret our self-imposed battle-scars of our journeys, we restore our faith every time we look and see where we have gone together, joined by common destiny. Marriage completes us and it makes us whole.  We need to remind ourselves of this from time to time. 

JC Bowman can be reached at: