Monday 28 May 2018

Weddings through the ages: from Mediaeval times to today

I will admit I love weddings so I watched the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. A lot of tradition there and yet with touches of 'new' ideas. How had those traditions come about?

The Ceremony

Photo by Enisa Haines of TV image
 courtesy of Channel 7, Sydney

In the early years of Christianity there were no marriage services. Instead, couples made a civil contract of marriage (a betrothal) by the joining of hands tied together with cord or ribbon (i.e, 'tying the knot'). The marriage act of 1754, aimed at outlawing 'clandestine marriages' not performed by priests, instead had couples eloping to Gretna Green.

Clergymen in the Middle Ages preached that marriage was for the procreation of children, was a remedy against sin and a way to avoid fornication. In 1076 it became law that a priest must bless a marriage. The bride and groom stood at the door of the church recited vows and exchanged rings before the priest or bishop. A feast with family and friends followed, where wine flowed and minstrels sang.

Today's brides may have a solemn, traditional ceremony or they may opt for a less formal celebration. The rigid rules of yesteryear are long gone.

Country Wedding
by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820
(sourced from H. Churchyard)

Photo by Enisa Haines of TV image courtesy of Channel 7, 
Wedding Dress

File:Bologna marriage women.jpg
The Marriage by Nicolo de Bologna,
 (sourced from

While men wore their best court clothing, olden day wedding dresses were of fine, brightly-coloured fabrics (often blue for purity) embroidered with gold or silver and enhanced with furs, fancy belts and jewelry.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The white wedding dress worn by brides today was not a popular choice until Queen Victoria chose it as a symbol of purity, youth and maidenhood, and women the world over followed.

Bridal Veil

File:Veils bavaria ncd 2012.jpg
13th Century veiling
from Isabeau of Bavaria,
queen of France,
H.G. Emery and K.G. Brewster
(sourced from The New Century Dictionary)

Veils, used as protection against evil spirits and an indication of respectability and status in ancient Greece, symbolised a bride's virginity and modesty in the 19th century. The bride wore the face veil during the ceremony, then either her father lifted the veil and presented the bride to the groom who then kissed her, or the groom lifted the veil and kissed her, showing he now took possession of his wife as a lover or his property.

Bridal flowers

File:Roman fresco of a woman wearing a garland of olives, from Herculaneum.jpg
Roman fresco of a woman wearing a garland of olives
by Ancient Roman artist,
1st Century AD (sourced from Pinterest)

People in ancient times carried pungent herbs and spices to guard against evil spirits and to attract good health and luck. And in the hope of new life and fertility, brides and grooms of ancient Rome wore floral garlands. In Victorian days the bride wore a garland of rosemary and roses. Gaining popularity in later years, flowers are used for bridal bouquets, to adorn men's jackets and decorate churches.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

(Wikimedia Commons - modified)

Something old  (continuity)
Something new (optimism for the future)
Something borrowed (borrowed happiness)
Something blue (love, purity and fidelity)
and a sixpence for her shoe (prosperity)

The rhyme, with its roots in superstition, first appeared in the 16th century.
Bridesmaids/flower girls/page boys 

Photo by Enisa Haines
 of TV image courtesy of Channel 7, Sydney

From Mediaeval times, English brides have had one bridesmaid in attendance. Now brides all over the world can have as many as they wish. Page boys, once servants or messenger at the service of a nobleman, assist the bridesmaids in holding up the wedding train. Flower girls, carrying sheaves of wheat for fertility and herb bouquets for prosperity in years long past, now sprinkle petals along the aisle as symbols of a happy life together.

File:StateLibQld 1 43355 Bride and bridesmaids, 1900-1910.jpg
Bride and Bridesmaids, 1910
(sourced from John Oxley Library,
State Library of Queensland)

That bridesmaids and flower girls dressed alike arises from superstition. Believing that evil spirits would harm the bride, to bridesmaids and bride dressed alike and the spirits were confused. And if there was intent to kill the bride, a bridesmaid was killed instead. (I was a bridesmaid once. So glad there were no intents to kill then!)

Wedding Rings

File:Gold medieval finger-ring of iconographic type (FindID 179200).jpg
Gold medieval finger ring
(Portable Antiques Scheme/
The Trustees of the British Museum) 

Around 4800 years ago ancient Egyptians viewed the circle of a ring as a symbol of eternity, of never-ending love, and the central hole a door leading to a future both known and unknown.  However, those rings, made of twisted and braided sedges, rushes and reeds, soon eroded and so were substituted for others made of leather, ivory or bone.

The Romans saw the ring as a sign of love, and also ownership, the 'claiming' of a woman. Later, when made of iron and engraved, the ring symbolised strength and endurance.

The Christians first used the ring in marriage ceremonies around 860. The ring then was elaborately decorated with engravings, decorations the Church considered too elaborate, turning people to a simpler appearance symbolising the union of hearts.

Through history wedding rings were worn on different fingers, on the thumb and on the left and right hands. Romans believed a vein, the 'Vein of Love' in the ring finger of the left hand, led directly to the heart, and so the left hand/ring finger tradition was born. In early Christian marriages, the priest took the ring and touched the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger, then, uttering 'Amen', he placed the ring on the ring finger to seal the marriage.

Wedding Cake

Today's tiered wedding cake began in the Middle Ages. Guests brought unsweetened wheat buns and placed them on top of each other. The bride and groom then attempted to kiss over the cakes without knocking them down. Spiced, alcohol-containing fruit cakes, popular to today, appeared in the 17th century.

Photo by Enisa Haines
of image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
Toss the bouquet/Toss the garter

Image result for tossing the bouquet commons wikimedia
Tossing the Bouquet (Wikimedia Commons)

File:Millieicaro Bridal Garters 2048x2048.jpg
Wedding garter - For the 21st Century Bride
(Wikimedia Commons)

Tossing the bouquet and garter began in mediaeval England. Brides were believed to be lucky and to share in their luck guests would rip off pieces of the bride's dress and flowers. Seeking escape, the bride would toss her bouquet and run!

The history of tossing the garter is split into two tales. One says the groomsmen, in an attempt to steal some of the bride's luck would rush up and take the garters as a prize. The other tale reveals that in days long gone the bride and groom had to provide evidence of their wedding consummation. Family and friends would enter their bedroom and the groom would remove the garter--a symbol of the virginal girdle proving the bride's chastity--and by this act have the right to take his bride's virginity.

Today, the bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder to unwed female guests at the reception. The groom also removes the garter at the reception (for reasons of modesty) and tosses it to unmarried male guests.

The Honeymoon

Off for the Honeymoon 
by Frederick Morgan, 1903 
(sourced from Bonhams)

Honeymoon comes from the Old English 'hony moone' warning couples about waning love. Hony points to the long period of pleasure and tenderness newlywed couples experience. Moone indicates the short time the sweetness lasts. Very different to what the word means today.

Carrying the bride over the threshold

File:NMP 1780s House interior Door Sill.JPG
Wooden threshold
(sourced from Infrogmation of New Orleans)

In days long gone thresh (straw and animal bedding) was kept inside the house, a foot-high piece of wood at the door stopping the thresh from falling outside during winter months. The groom, when stepping over the wood (later called the threshold) would have to carry the bride.

Have weddings changed much from Mediaeval times? Not really. We continue to recite vows and exchange rings in celebration of love.

And I'm all for it. Are you?

Love to love: the whole spectacle of Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding

Love to laugh: American preachers sure are passionate when giving a sermon!

Love to learn: weddings last but one day but they sure take time and a lot of effort to prepare!

Monday 21 May 2018

Taking a break from your writing career doesn't mean its broken

I've barely written for the last 3 years, and I haven't blogged in a long time either.  Yet here I am, thinking about what I want to say, carefully choosing my words and remembering how much I enjoy the social media aspect of being a writer.

I was first published way back in 2007, and have been published seven times since.  These days only two of my books are available in e-book form - feel free to check them out!  I'm immensely proud of both of them.

Writing is one of those things that never leaves you.  You can take 3 years off, 10 years... whatever... it doesn't matter it is always there.  The trick is knowing when to stop and when to start, and that question is not nearly as easy as it sounds.

My decision to stop writing was a consciously made one, and the whys-and-wherefores of it would fill a blog post on their own.  Simply put, I burnt out. Big time.  That said, it never occurred to me that I would never write again.  I just knew that for a time writing was not going to be a part of my life.

Then in the middle of last year, the urge to write started to nag.  But I didn't listen, made many excuses, put it off, didn't feel like it, promised myself I'd start tomorrow... this went on for weeks and weeks until a couple of things came together.

First I read The Alchemist - a stunning tale about finding your life's purpose.

Then I had a delightful morning tea with Alyssa Montgomery ... and this led to an invitation to join Breathless in the Bush - putting me right back amongst a group of passionate and knowledgeable writers.

And finally it was the discovery of a woman called Mel Robbins.

Mel's TED talk resonated with me in so many ways, and I immediately grabbed the audio version of her book The Five Second Rule (which I highly recommend, Mel is a talker, not a writer and the audio version of her book works a lot better than the written version).  Well, that book changed EVERYTHING.  Using her techniques I sat down, stopped making excuses, and figured out a plan of what I wanted to do, and how to do it.

Easy huh?

Nope.  Not at all.  I'm still lazy, easily distracted, procrastinating, often napping... but, I'm doing something, every day, towards my writing goals.  I want to write. I want to. I haven't wanted to for the longest time but now the joy is back and I want to.

Taking a break from your writing career, no matter how long or short, doesn't mean its over or broken.  Writing (or music, or quilting, or bog snorkelling... ) is part of who you are, and you can't flick it on and off, it's always there.  But its ok to rest for as long as you need.  It's ok.

Tory x

Monday 14 May 2018

The Crazy Things I Do in the Name of Research

by Kendall Talbot

I'm so excited to have a new series coming out. My Maximum Exposure series is three stand-alone, romantic suspense novels all set in a wonderful remote location that I've visited. The first book, Out of Reach, is set in Mexico's Yucatan jungle. In 2017, I went to Chichen Itza, which is a 1400-year-old complex of Mayan ruins in the middle of the Mexican jungle. I found it hard to believe something so magnificent was abandoned and left to be swamped by the relentless creep of the voracious vegetation. But it was.

My visit to the temple was just one of approximately 1.4 million people who visit the ancient site each year. And whilst the bucket-list experience was truly incredible, it had me pondering how wonderful it would be to discover an ancient temple. That thought inspired Out of Reach.

Many scenes in my action-packed books are inspired by personal experiences. For example, a few years ago I was thrown from a rubber raft while white water rafting in Bali. I was sucked under, and in the few seconds I was trapped in the swirling torrent, I was completely at the mercy of the water. I clawed for the surface yet it was impossible to know which way was up or down. It was terrifying. In Out of Reach, I drew on those terrifying moments to bring life to my character's peril.

When I did a four-day mountain hike over Milford Track, New Zealand, my 18-kilo pack contained my food, water, clothes, bedding and, of course, blister Band-aids. It was a brutally challenging, yet utterly rewarding experience. This came in handy while writing about my character's battle through the Mexican jungle.

In the late 1980s, I visited Pompeii and it's still one of the most fascinating places I've ever been to. Back then we could get close enough to touch the artifacts and I always knew that those memories would feature in a book one day. Out of Reach is that book.

For my first book, my characters were lost in the Australian wilderness, so they had to eat some god-awful things to survive. One day, whilst digging in my garden, I found some witchetty grubs. I decided that the only way I could describe their taste was to actually eat these nasty-looking creatures. So that's what I did. Much to the disgust of my children, I ate the grubs both raw and cooked, just like my characters did. FYI cooked was much better.

So, whilst I've never experienced a plane crash, helicopter crash, snake bite, nor some of the other hell I put my characters through, I do try to experience as much as I can to give authenticity to my books.

eating snails

If you want, you can follow my travel experiences in my blog:

Out of Reach: When an ancient lost Mayan temple is discovered by a team of archaeologists deep in the Mexican jungle, Liliana Bennett is thrown a lifeline to a family mystery that's taunted her since her father's sudden death. Out now:

I Love to Love: good food and great wine. Bring it on.

I Love to Laugh: always. Especially at myself. I don't like to take life too seriously.

I love to Learn: anything. Learning doesn't necessarily mean something that has a certificate at the end, it can be something as simple as a new recipe, or a new word.

Monday 7 May 2018

How Easy is it to Add to Your 'To Be Read' Pile?

Miranda's May Musings

Hello beautiful readers, welcome! I have a very serious question to ask this month: how big is your To Be Read pile? Ha, stop laughing... Is it like mine? Enormous? Even if I live to be eleventy billion years old I'll never finish. Such a thrilling dilemma.

Today fellow BITB blogger Alyssa J Montgomery and I went to a wonderful High Tea run by the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA), and it was divine. Held in a beautiful boutique hotel in Sydney, there were three tables, each hosted by an author: Kandy ShepherdShannon Curtis, and my table's lovely hostess Avril Tremayne.

You know where this is going, don't you? Yes, more books! I don't care that I've got a trillion books at home (slight exaggeration only). I staggered home full of tea, scones, sandwiches and cake, with a bag of free books and divine swag (unicorn pen! tiara! chocolates!) from Avril. So now, deliciously, these books are on my TBR:

Photo credits:

Here Comes the Bridesmaid is a beautiful hardback (isn't the cover sumptuously bridesmaid-y pink? I adore it!), and of course both books are signed by Avril. Swoon. Thankyou, Avril, thankyou.

...But wait, there's more. Our recent guest blogger Melanie Milburne was also at my table (read her recent column here). Congratulations Melanie on your 75th book (wow!). These are now on my TBR:

                      Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Somehow or other I missed getting a book from Kandy Shepherd. I love her sweet romances, they are gorgeous to read, and Kandy is the nicest person to meet and chat to. So I've pre-ordered her latest, which sounds right up my alley and has a divine wedding pic on the cover. I love it already.

Photo credit:

I did get this book from Shannon Curtis, quite outside my normal genre picks, which will be interesting to read. Shannon suggested I read Lycan Unleashed first, to get the gist of the world building. Alrighty then.

Photo credit:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand there was more: some books by Penny Reid in the Knitting in the City series. And so many others to choose from - I honestly couldn't carry them all home, such a tragedy. Everyone staggered out from that High Tea with happy tummies and books spilling out of their arms, adding to their TBRs with gay abandon. Alyssa's bag was just as heavy as mine.

It is so, so, SO easy to add to the TBR, isn't it? Life is sweet! ...I'm off to read.

Until next time, my friends,

Love from Miranda xxx

Love to Love:

Free books! High teas! Meeting new authors and old friends! Thankyou ARRA.

Love to Laugh: how dead easy it is to add to one's mountainous TBR. Awesome.

Love to Learn:

Has something fabulously wonderful like this happened to you? Free signed books poured your way? Or are you disciplined (unlike moi) and finish your TBR before you add more? (But seriously, does such a person even exist?!)