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SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: ETHNIC WEDDINGS IN GREATER LOWELL
 
contract.  The bride also came with a small bundle or truse from which the word trousseau is derived.  The trousseau, or dowry, was a replacement for the declining tradition of marriage by purchase.  Even today, one occasionally hears the term trousseau, or hope chest. 

     Exchanging and wearing a wedding band, still a public symbol of matrimony, is a custom dating back to Biblical times.  Exchanging rings confirms the importance of the union.  The wedding ring's circular shape suggests that the couple are linked together for eternity.  The tradition of placing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand (as is still done today in the United States) arose from the belief that a major artery ran from this finger directly to the heart.  The honeymoon, which continues to be a time for newlyweds to sequester themselves following the wedding, is actually derived from the word honey.  In medieval England, the couple was expected to drink mead, a wine made from honey, in celebration for a month (or moon). 

     While there seem to be more customs related to the bride, there are traditions related to a groom as well. For example, today as in the past, the groom is certain to select his own best man.  Back in the days when brides were being abducted, the best man served as the groom's assistant.  This role symbolically continues today as the best man is called upon to assist with the wedding ceremony and is expected to make the traditional toast at the wedding feast. 

     One important component of the wedding tradition involves events prior to the wedding.  Out of the courtship period when the couples get to know one another there evolves a personal story: the family courtship story.  Through many retellings this story is shaped into a finely honed tale where "reality is often transformed into verbal art."  As folklorist Steven Zeitlin, notes:

     Courtship stories, and, in particular, stories of a
     couple's first encounter effect a romantic 
     transmutation of reality.  Two persons meet as 
     a result of some meaningless combination of 
     circumstances... if they find themselves 
     compatible and get married, an "alchemy of
     mind" transforms the incident into a rendezvous 
     with destiny and the deepest sort of romance. 1

Couples who have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary needed little prompting to retell the

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