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The Bizarre Reason Brides Stand on the Left at Weddings

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 4/25/2018 Brandon Specktor

© istock/maximkabb Question for all the men out there: Don’t you just hate it when you’ve kidnapped a woman to be your bride, and her family comes charging out the portcullis after you with their swords and lances waving? Isn’t that just the worst?

“Marriage by capture,” as the practice is known historically, is no easy feat. (It’s also incredibly misogynistic, which is probably why it isn’t the default mode of tying the knot anymore.) The idea of a man abducting a woman to make her his bride has nevertheless been practiced for thousands of years, addressed in Greek mythology (think Paris abducting Helen of Troy), in the Bible, and in endless historical accounts. Here are more unique (and less violent) wedding traditions from around the world.

While bridal abduction still exists among some cultures in Africa, Central Asia, and elsewhere, its legacy has stuck around the Western world in an unexpected way—where the bride and groom stand at our weddings.

Related: 10 Royal Wedding Etiquette Rules Every Member of the Royal Family Follows [Provided by Reader's Digest] Get the Queen's permission: Asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage seems a bit archaic, but the Wall Street Journal reported that a 2015 Internet poll by The Knot reveals 77 percent of suitors still get a parent's permission. However, when it comes to following wedding etiquette for the royal family, pops isn't the only one that needs to be asked. According to Brides.com, The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 requires that all royal family members must ask the sovereign's approval in order to get hitched. Looks like Prince Harry must have done just that as Clarence House announced in November 2017, 'His Royal Highness and Ms. Markle became engaged in London earlier this month Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty the Queen and other close members of his family. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms. Markle's parents.' Find out the wedding etiquette rules you absolutely cannot break. 10 Royal Wedding Etiquette Rules Every Member of the Royal Family Follows

Traditionally, the bride stands on the left at the altar and the groom stands on the right. According to The Knot and Compton’s Encyclopedia, this is not a coincidence: In historic, swashbuckling times, a man needed to keep his right arm free to draw his sword. Like the mythological Paris battling his way to the sea with Helen captured in his left arm, a prospective groom had to expect some resistance from the bride’s family or rival suitors well into the middle ages. As a majority of men are right-handed, it made sense to keep one’s bride on the left and leave one’s sword-arm free.

Incidentally, the tradition of marriage by capture is also where we get our habit of electing a 'best man' at weddings. When a young groom intended to whisk his bride from her family home, he had to bring backup to the brawl. Many of them formed a raiding party of groomsmen, often fellow bachelors spoiling for some action, and among them was the 'best man,' who was literally the best man at handling a sword.

Today, of course, the wedding party is picked as a ceremonial honor to beloved friends or family, and many grooms take the right without really thinking about it. Modern bachelors will hopefully have secured the approved of their bride’s family—but just to be safe, it doesn’t hurt to keep that plastic cocktail skewer handy. When it comes to modern marriages, also make sure you know these wedding etiquette rules that you cannot break—period.

The post The Bizarre Reason Brides Stand on the Left at Weddings appeared first on Reader's Digest.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Etiquette [Provided by Southern Living]

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