As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Swept Off Her Feet

Recently while looking for love and valentine themed pieces in my portfolio, I discovered this terra sigillata ceramic mask which  I made in the class of  Margaret Keelan at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I called it “Mask of Love”, but now as I look at it after not seeing it for a long time, I realize that this is not so much a piece about love but of tension and resistance.  Watch the separation of the heads, the motion of the arms and how the feet are off the ground.  I thought it’ll be a perfect image to use as I talk about the love idiom, “sweep someone off their feet” and other wedding traditions related to that.
“The Love Mask”
by paulina constancia

Learn more about terra sigillata

So you are suddenly so in love with this man and you say to your friends, “He’s swept me off my feet.”  Today we will look into the history behind this love idiom, “Sweep someone off their feet”, and the following marriage traditions: the role of the best man, why the bride and groom customarily leave the wedding celebration before everyone elsewhy grooms carry their bride over the threshold and the honeymoon.

I first encountered these topics as an ESL teacher in Canada. We had a new theme to teach every week. Around Valentine’s the topic was “Love, Romance and Marriage” and we would teach about different courtship and marriage customs and traditions.

Excerpts from “Enduring Wedding Traditions”

The tradition of a best man has its origin with the Germanic Goths, when it was customary and preferable for a man to marry a woman from within his own community. When women came into short supply “locally,” eligible bachelors would have to seek out and capture a bride from a neighboring community. As you might guess, this was not a one-person operation, and so the future bridegroom would be accompanied by a male companion who would help. Our custom of the best man is a throwback to that two-man, strong-armed tactic, for, of course the future groom would select only the best man he knew to come along for such an important task.

The role of the best man evolved. By 200 A.D. his task was still more than just safeguarding the ring. There remained a real threat that the bride’s family would attempt to forcibly obtain her return, so the best man remained at the groom’s side throughout the marriage ceremony, alert and well-armed. He continued his duties after the ceremony by standing guard as sentry outside the newlywed’s home. Much of this is German folklore, but is not without written documentation and physical artifacts. We have records that indicate that beneath the altars of many churches of early peoples (the Huns, Goths, Visigoths, and Vandals) there lay an arsenal of clubs, knives, and spears. The indication is that these were there to protect the groom from possible attack by the bride’s family in an attempt to recapture her. 

Excerpts from “The History of Wedding Traditions

Traditionally, the bride stands to the left side of the groom. This was much more than meaningless etiquette. Among the Northern European barbarians (a name given to them by the Romans), a groom placed his captured bride to his left to protect her, as he kept his right hand free to use for defense. Also originating from this practice of abduction, which literally swept a bride off her feet, sprang the later symbolic act of carrying the bride across the threshold of her new home. It may well be that even the honeymoon had its origin with this capture scenario. It may well have served as a cooling-off period for the bride’s family. It was the groom’s hope that when the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon that all would be forgiven.
Read more on the origins of the honeymoon tradition

Excerpts from How Stuff Works

As it turns out, weddings in the days of yore sometimes followed kidnappings. This explains not only the role of the best man but also why the bride and groom customarily leave the wedding celebration before everyone else. It’s symbolic of the groom stealing away with his bride, whisking her from her family and into a new life with him. 


So next time you hear a friend raving about how a man has swept her off her feet, tell her she should be thankful she lives in this day and age.(PC)

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2012 by in Create, Explore, Imagine, Teach and tagged .
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