Weddings are a celebratory event in all cultures and across centuries. Weddings signify a union and a new beginning and this joyous occasion is marked with traditions and rituals that have managed to remain unchanged throughout time and different cultures. The bestowing of wedding favors is an old and hoary tradition, varying across cultures and time, but the underlying sentiment remains the same. It is given by the bridal couple to show their appreciation towards their guests, as means of thanking their guests and to indicate the fact that the bridal couple is honored by their guest’s presence at their wedding celebrations.
Recorded history shows that that the idea of giving gifts by the bridal couple is as old as weddings are. Cultures and civilizations throughout history have celebrated weddings and the nuptials are considered as a sign of good luck. It was thought that everything the bridal couple touched would be blessed with good luck and by giving gifts they share their good luck with all the guests.
In ancient Rome, the groom distributed gifts to his friends, usually some form of nuts like walnuts. Guests responded by throwing hazelnuts, and walnuts.
Later the wealthy aristocrats in Europe indulged in the giving of extravagant gifts to guests at a wedding. When Victor Emanuel of Savor, was joined in holy union to Elena of Montenegro, the entire assembly of nearly two thousand guests received sterling silver favors. Rich nobles outdid each other in giving extravagant gifts to their guests.
The French aristocrats gave dainty boxes of crystal, porcelain, gold or solid silver and encrusted with precious stones. The boxes contained bonbons or some sugar delicacy, as sugar was quite expensive. These boxes were famously known as bonbonniere.
In the Elizabethan era the royal bride’s gowns were decorated with silver and gold ribbons called as favors. The plebeians tied ribbons of blue and white. These knots of ribbons signified the firmness of marriage.
By the nineteenth century the practice of giving favors had spread to all strata of society, the poor gave according to their ability.
Later sugar was replaced by almonds; a small delicate bag of silk or other fabric was filled with a few almonds and given to the guests. In the Middle East the tradition was to give five almonds, each almond representing a virtue; fertility, wealth, happiness, health and longevity. The practice of giving almonds continued for a long time. Then favors morphed into sugar coated almonds known as confetti. The combination of sugar and almond signified the bitter sweet nature of marriage. Today this idea of favors is represented in the colorful candy coated Jordan almond. Wrapped in tulle or tissue fabric and tied with a delicate ribbon, these five almonds are still a favorite choice for favors.
The tradition of giving gifts to guests at a wedding is found across different cultures depending upon their customs and beliefs, but the thought remains the same, that is to thank the guests.
In England during the reign of the monarchs, a small bouquet of flowers was given. In France, the tradition of sugar coated almond continues, it is known as Dragees, and is a small bag of almonds. In Greece too the tradition of giving almonds continues. In Armenia the wedding favor are small packets of dried fruits and nuts. In Japan wedding favors are either gifts of money or Kohaku, which is a pair of buns filled with a bean paste. The bride also crafts a thousand paper cranes, which are displayed and then distributed as favors.
In Switzerland the tradition is to hand out red kerchiefs. Malaysians give decorated hard boiled eggs as favors, which symbolize fertility and is also a prayer that the couple will be blessed with children.
Italy continues with the tradition of candy coated almonds as favors. In Holland, the Dutch distribute Bridal Sugar which is five pieces of candy wrapped in fabric.
In Russia guests are given picture frames or bud vases as favors.
In Puerto Rico, a doll dressed like a bride occupies place of honor at the wedding table. The doll’s dress is covered with charms which are given to the guests as favors. Copias, which are ornately, decorated cards with the couple’s names and date of marriage,are also given as favors.
In Spain guests carry home a vase filled with orange blossoms.
In modern times, the bridal couple has a variety of choices, from the traditional almonds to photo frames and spice mix, the choice and range of gifts are staggering. Wedding favors also reflect the personality of the couple and if it is a handmade favor, the guests will remember it for a long time.