A Few Renaissance Wedding Tips
FIRST THINGS FIRST, planning a wedding is a HUGE undertaking and to pull it off without a flaw, organization is an absolute must. It seems that most Renaissance weddings are planned by the bride and groom and typically they do not use a wedding planner. If you are planning your own wedding then I highly recommend you purchase a good wedding planner book. A planner will put everything you need to do in a nice organized
fashion. Most have cost savings tips and well as questions you need to ask people like the photographers,
caterers, etc. You have plenty of stress and this will definitely help eliminate a lot of it.
If you want a nice touch to your wedding then pay particular attention to the music played. Many people use a bagpiper to play during the actual ceremony then hire a band for the reception.
It’s pretty common for people to get really nervous when thinking that they are going to have to give a speech in front of a bunch of people. The groom sometimes give a speech. The bride sometimes gives a speech. Some weddings have the best man give a speech, the maid of honor give a speech, the father of the bride give a speech and the mother of the bride give a speech (plus the bride and groom).
Now I’m not going to tell you how to run your wedding but keep in mind that IF you are going to have anyone give a speech, then it might be a good idea to give them a little help with the preparation of those speeches. If you do some internet searching you can find lots of helpful information on wedding speeches.
If you are considering a Renaissance wedding and would like to give gifts to the groomsmen that carry that theme too, then I would suggest wooden tankards. These are popular for those having Renaissance theme weddings and also for those just looking for something unique to give to those who stood beside them during their ceremony. There are several styles and sizes to choose from and they are pretty darn inexpensive too.
Sorry, I’m a guy and I can’t give you much feedback on what a good gift would be for your Bridemaid. Hey, I drink beer so I think a wooden tankard is a great gift for everyone.
You should know that the white bride’s dress was not worn during the Renaissance. It’s actually a fairly recent trend. Back in the day (as my teenage daughter likes to say), most wedding dresses were dark colors. Today there are a lot of pretty materials you can use for the dress. Popular colors are Hunter Green, burgundy and deep purple (purple was reserved for royalty only and others were actually prohibited from wearing it). The bride’s dress will probably be laced at the sides or front and it will be long and probably be low cut (but not too low). Ribbons and lace can accent the dress. The body of the dress often looked rather like a coat. The term ‘cotehardie’ which in translation means ‘bold coat’,
is used to describe the dress of the era.
Skirts were long and the hair was worn up. (only ‘loose’ womae wore their hair long and down). Look at the artist paintings of the time (there are plenty of images on this site) and you will rarely see any woman with her hair down. Although today this is rarely given a thought with most brides and bridesmaids in Renaissance weddings wearing their hair loose and down. Many put ribbons hanging loose over the back of the head.
You can find quite a few wedding dresses on this site. Try here for some of the best.
If you elect to serve authentic food and/or drink at your reception, keep in mind the needs of ALL of your guests.
There are really no set guidelines on how to set up the seating during the dining after the wedding. Traditionally, the seating arrangements were tables set in a horseshoe fashion, with the bride and groom, the best man, matron or maid of honor (and their guests) seated at the head table with the guests seated on both sides. Musicians were placed against a far wall or in a corner. If this is difficult to imagine the you should look at the painting by Paolo Caliari of Veronese titled “The Wedding at Cana”. This painting gives a pretty good idea of how the weddings of the time were set up (painted around 1562).
LOCATION. Church? Inside? Outside? A castle? A Renaissance festival? Pick your location but be aware of the limits. A small church can’t hold 500 wedding guests. You will need an estimate of how many will be attending before you call.
Flowers? Herb bouquets? Banners? You can always hire a professional to decorate or maybe you have some artistic/creative friends that can assist you with the decorations.
When making the decision on what you are going to wear keep in mind that the look is only one part. You need to be comfortable (sort of) and you need to be able to comfortably walk. Maybe even dance?
Your quests will be more inclined to dress for your chosen theme if they know that the entire wedding party will be dressing that way. Peer pressure even works on adults.
It’s common to have a memento of some sort for the quests to take home
with them. Candles? Pressed flowers?
Keep in mind that some of your guests may not have any idea exactly what they are supposed to wear. You will want to have some places for them to look to get ideas (books?, fairefinery.com? magazine articles. Hey, here’s an idea, How about this web site?).
Let your guests know that any type of “era” dress is appropriate. After all, there were peasants, middle class and nobility during the Renaissance. This will give them more latitude and help open their eyes to the possibilities.
If you are giving your guests the option of wearing theme dress, you may want to personally encourage them to dress in costume. A little encouragement may be all they need to go ahead and do something different, like dress in appropriate attire.
You may, or may not, want activities that are era appropriate. The decision is up to you. Keep in mind that some guests may hesitate simply because they may be a little self conscious about the way they are dressed. It may take a little while before the participation really gets going. My experience is that a liberal amount of alcohol seems to help (but that’s just me).
Men’s dress during the Renaissance was nothing like today. Pants were tight (called breeches). Some men wore tunics. Loose shirts (we call them pirate shirts today) and vests that were laced were common.
Leather boots was the most common footwear.
Men’s hair was long and worn loose.
Flowers, and specifically herbs, played a very large role in Renaissance/Medieval weddings. Some herbs were believed to have mystical powers and could help the couple prosper and stay healthy.
Wheat, of all things, was the symbol of fertility and nearly all ceremonies used wheat. Placed in with the bouquet flowers it was supposed to help the couple have lots of children. "Lots of children"…, I have to stop and think about that. As a father myself I know that God gives you twelve years to learn to love your children, then He turns them into teenagers.
Again I want to emphasize that having a wedding is about what YOU want. Unless you are a real stickler for authenticity (if you are then you are probably already member of the SCA) then don’t worry too much about exactly what to do. Let your instincts guide you.