Do I hear wedding bells? Well, I hope so; always excited to celebrate couples in the joy of a wedding. How did the ‘wedding bell’ phrase become so ubiquitous, and what are some unique ways in which couples incorporate bells into their wedding days?
As Judy Garland and Gene Kelly sing in the 1942 ‘Me and My Gal’:
‘The bells are ringing for me and my gal
The birds are singing for me and my gal’
The ringing of church bells – to broadcast new marriages and ding away evil forces – dates back centuries in Ireland, Scotland, England.
The timing of the bells was critically important. Fine to ring before, fine to ring after, but ring during the ceremony and we have a problem. And mind your grip, bell-ringer. Or, as we read in Joseph Jacobs, Alfred Trübner Nutt and Arthur Robinson Wright’s 1909 ‘Folklore’:
‘It is an extremely bad omen if a ringer “throws” a bell when ringing a wedding peal, or if a bell rope breaks’.
🔔 As it turns out, bell-ringers had stressors well beyond the wedding day. In Worcestershire: ‘If a bell is rung while the clock is striking you will soon hear of a death’. And in Essex: ‘At half-past five in the morning the church bells are rung, after which the ringers make a tour of the village and place a branch of the oak on every door-step. Later in the day they call for a small contribution’. 🔔
The (mostly) propitious wedding bell idea extends to:
i. Irish wedding guests who gift the couples with their own takeaway bells.
ii. Bells at the top of wedding arches.
iii. Young flower girls or ring-bearers who ring bells as they walk down the aisle.
iv. Ringing the couple out of a chandelier barn ceremony with engraved cowbells.
v. Incorporating the ringing of a generational bell – from grandparents? Great grandparents? – into the ceremony or reception.
vi. Belaced, bebelled wedding cake toppers.
vii. And in Guatemala, mothers of the groom hold the wedding bell high at the reception. This special white porcelain bell is stuffed with flour, rice, and other grains. In breaking the bell open, the innards spill out and, in so doing, summon good fortune for the newlyweds.
Header Art: Petrus Christus. A Goldsmith in his Shop. 1449