Old customs give way to new

  • 2007-04-25
  • By Karina Juodelyte-Moliboga
VILNIUS - The traditional wedding week (or even two), when an entire village celebrated a marriage, has now been relegated to history. With the speed of life seeming to increase every year, even a two-day wedding is a luxury in today's world. Decreasing the length of the wedding is not, however, the only Lithuanian wedding custom giving way to new ones.

In the days when a wedding was one of the most important events in the village, matchmaking traditions were strong in Lithuania. A matchmaker would communicate with the families of both the bride and groom long before the wedding. On the festive day itself, the matchmaker was the center of attention, entertaining guests as well as ruling out any potential problems for the new couple. The matchmaker encouraged guests to test the newlyweds with various games. In short: the matchmaker was held responsible for the wedding as well as the future happiness of the couple.

Although the importance of the matchmaker's role began withering many years ago, the symbolic 'hanging of the matchmaker' remained a key event in Lithuanian wedding ceremonies for many years (yes, there were times when the hanging ended disastrously, but that's another story). Today, hired entertainers, evening hosts, and wedding planners have replaced matchmakers. "The newlyweds today want all the guests to enjoy the ceremony. They don't want to be bothered with problems and they don't want their parents to be serving guests. That's why they need a wedding planner," says wedding planner Rima Povilaitiene.

Perhaps because of the disastrous hanging epi-sodes 's but more likely because of incoming Western wedding trends 's today's matchmakers (aka wedding planners) can attend weddings without any fear of a noose.
Povilaitiene says she is noticing that, along with the diminishing of the matchmaking tradition, customs such as ritual wedding games and the testing of newlyweds are also passing. "I've had only one couple ask me for a traditional wedding, with the old games and rituals, in all my work experience," she says.
According to the wedding planner, people in the countryside and villages continue observing the old customs. City people, however, simply want their special day to be romantic and beautiful.
It appears that changing lifestyles are causing the old wedding traditions in Lithuania to change with the times. But as we lose these old traditions, new ones are being created.

Although Povilaitiene says couples probably don't consciously follow these newly conceived fashions, on their wedding day, some trends are becoming so popular that we can call them 'new customs.' For example: after the church ceremony many couples release a pair of doves as a sign of their pure love. Another example: the custom of simply carrying the bride over the bridge has now been updated. Today, after carrying the bride across the bridge, the newlyweds put a lock with their name, wedding date and sometimes with personal vows of love, on the bridge; then they throw the key into the river. This new custom symbolizes everlasting love. Each year the rails of Lithuanian bridges become heavier with the increased load of these romantic locks.

As traditions change, it leaves me to wonder: will these new customs, traditions and rituals become so common that we will one day forget our ancient ones? After all, a century ago Lithuanian brides wore a black dress and a white veil to their wedding, and I'm fairly certain we couldn't find a bride willing to go to the alter in black today. At least I hope not!