Halfling Wedding Ceremonies
Halflings as a whole are people of heart; their family is everything to them. It is no wonder that many of their ceremonies are deep-seated with long-lasting traditions that involve all members of the family. One such ceremony is the traditional halfling wedding.
Marriages between halfling couples traditionally take place during the Trine. However, not all halflings choose to wed in the traditional manner outlined below, and if a halfling chooses to wed outside their race, a traditional wedding would not be an option. Special tents known as gers are prepared specifically for this purpose throughout of the year and brought to the Fraelshire. These gers are often very elaborate, as described below, but some families, either by personal preference or financial restrictions, have less elaborate, but no less important, gers.
Three gers are used for a traditional wedding, the wedding ger, the bride's ger, and the groom's ger. The groom's family supplies his ger, and the bride's family brings her ger as well as the wedding ger. Each ger has a specific, ritualized purpose during the multi-day ceremony.
The Wedding Ger
Most halfling families have a wedding ger that has been passed down from generation to generation, typically through the oldest daughter. The outside of the ger is a uniform white, its bands and supports crafted of black willow and its entry beaded with bright red jasper beads. The white cloth represents the purity of love, red jasper their commitment to Oleani, and black willow displays the strong yet flexible nature that all should adopt when entering into a marriage. The interior of the ger is adorned with beadwork added by each previous owner, giving it the potential to be touched by several generations of family.
The Bride's Ger
The bride's ger is expected to entertain all of the females of both wedding parties during the first day of the wedding celebration. With that in mind, fresh flowers are brought to the bride starting at dawn by numerous well-wishers. Bright red rugs are spread across the floor of the ger, and dozens of pillows lay scattered about as well. Delicate screens, each painted with various depictions of the Lady Oleani, occupy the back half of the ger to create a crescent shape along the wall, and a small fountain of spring water is near the entry.
The Groom's Ger
The groom's ger is expected to entertain all of the males of both wedding parties during the first day of the wedding celebration. With that in mind, the ger is divided in half by an air-tight wall of elk hides that are painted with images of the Lord Phoen as he attempts to court Oleani. At first light, well-wishers begin bringing heated rocks into the groom's tent, creating a steam chamber near the front section. Hot water is kept in constant supply so that the room is unbearably hot and filled with a ridiculous amount of steam. In the back section of the ger, benches are arranged in a loose circle around a roasting pit. The steam from the front half is mostly blocked by the elk hide separator, and extra ventilation is cleverly worked into the outer, back walls of the ger as well, keeping this section a reasonable temperature.
The Wedding Ceremony
Day One – Claiming the Right Two hours after dawn, the wedding parties rise, are divided by gender, and take up their positions before the bride's ger or the groom's ger.
The Bride's Rite
The groom's female relatives create a single file line arranged to the left of the door, and the bride's relatives do the same on the right. The lines each start with the oldest family member, followed by the youngest, then the next oldest, and so on. Taking one member from each line, the bride admits family members to her ger. It is her duty to see to the comfort of each member as they pass through the ger's entry, and she is aided by her younger siblings or friends. As each guest enters, the bride or helper removes the guest's shoes and "bathes" her feet, namely a quick brush of a wet cloth dipped in a traditional bowl. She then escorts the family members to the cushions and provides them with a beverage. Within ten minutes of arrival, a relative of the groom begins a traditional song about how wonderful the groom is and how unworthy the bride is. When the groom's relative finishes, a relative of the bride counters with a song of her own, celebrating the worth of the bride and how the groom is unworthy of such a fine young woman. The alternating singing continues until all family members have entered and sung their song. Great fun is had, especially helping the children with their songs.
Once all members have entered, and this can take up to six hours, young children in attendance serve delicate treats and sweet creams to the guests as a show of respect for the elders. As part of the tradition of elder respect, the bride is expected to strictly see to the eldest of the relatives, who will playfully vie for her attention during the process. Throughout the remainder of the day, the bride serves various treats, delicacies, and miniature meals with the help of her younger siblings and friends.
At some point, amid the eating, drinking, and talking, singing starts again. Now, each family boasts not just of their relative's worth, but of their entire family's worth and accomplishments, often dating back to the first halflings.
Though many of the songs are fabricated, it is great fun for all. Some of the songs that are sung are steeped in tradition, while others are new songs that the singer hopes catch on to become part of the family tradition. Each song grows more and more boastful, the mock arguing growing at times heated, until finally at the Hour of Ronan, the bride proclaims that all is over. She informs both parties that neither the groom nor she is more worthy of the other; they are equally as lucky and fortunate to have one another. She then sings her own song proclaiming her love of the groom. As her song finishes, all family members agree that she is right and that they will ensure that the couple is properly married in the morning.
Arranged in two lines from youngest to oldest, the men of the bride's family and the men of the groom's family wait outside the ger two hours after dawn. At the groom's allowance, the men filter in one by one and sit upon the floors and benches of the ger. In the heat of the steams, the youngest relative of the groom bespeaks of one thing that the groom has done for him. The bride's relative counters with something that the bride has done for him. Turning to song as the older men enter, the list of deeds continues until the eldest of each family takes his seat within the ger. The groom seals the ger and continues to sit in the stifling heat of the ger.
Around noon, the youngest of the bride's relative moves to the oldest of the bride's relatives and asks him in a traditional manner if he would like to retire to a more comfortable place away from the horrible heat and take refreshment. A playful, childish insult is sent in the groom's direction, and the two depart for the cool, second half of the tent. The groom's relative follows suit, and in the same traditional manner, praises the groom for his fortitude and endurance. He offers him blessings of patience and escorts the eldest to the cooler section. This continues until the groom is the last left within the heat of the tent. He is expected to remain until all have left to prove his endurance and strength.
Once all have left the first half of the tent, the groom cools the rocks and opens the flaps of the ger to let the steam out and begin the cooling process.
As the groom enters the other half of the tent, he begins to carve the goats that have been left roasting in the pit. He offers the most tender morsels to the eldest of the bride's family and is immediately accosted by his own family elder for not having been served first. Much as the bride is vied over, the groom goes through the same process. A new series of songs is launched into, initiated by the elders, of how unworthy the groom is for their bride, while the groom's family launches into the same.
Once again, the songs continue until the Hour of Ronan, when the groom sings his own song proclaim his worth, and in traditional manner, both parties agree that the groom is worthy and that the couple will be married on the dawn.
It should be noted that the worth of the bride or groom is never in question, but that it is a proving ground for each member. Should, for any reason, a teasing insult be taken to heart and either the Bride or Groom react negatively to the traditional songs, then a matriarch of the families will be assigned to the young couple to ease them into married life for the first year. This is both families' way of ensuring peace, harmony, and understanding between the newlyweds, as divorce is not recognized by traditional halfling society.
Day Two – The Hand Fasting Ceremony
Starting at dawn, the males of the bride's family meet with the females of the groom's family and set up the wedding ger. The men are responsible for the construction and gathering of the various traditional foods, while the women are responsible for the interior decorations and the delicacies for the ceremony.
While this is taking place, the bride is taken care of by the women of her family. She is bathed with scented waters, groomed, pampered, and prepared for her wedding ceremony.
At the same time, the groom is taken care of by the men of his family. He too is bathed with scented waters, groomed, pampered, and prepared for his wedding ceremony.
Around noon, all parties break for a meal. The groom's family all adjourns to the family ger of the groom, while the bride does the same with her family. This meal lasts for several hours as the Ceremony of Remembrance takes place. Songs are sung of the family, of the bride/groom's place in it, and how they have grown. This meal is very important as this is the last meal that each member will have as a single person.
After the meal, which can last for several hours, the various parties return to their preparations.
At dusk, the males of the bride's family form a circle around the bride's ger, while the women of the groom's family form a circle around the wedding ger.
The groom and his male relatives form a small group and head to the bride's ger. There, challenges and insults are issued amongst the men – all mockingly done and in fair play. It is the groom's task to prove his worth to both sets of men. This can be done in many ways. The groom can display his diplomacy and separate the arguers, show his strength and "fend" off the arguers physically, or display his cunning by sneaking past all family members into the bride's ger.
The end of the mock battle results in the women of the bride's family presenting three women to the groom. Each woman is dressed identical in every way and hidden beneath a thick red veil edged in gold that drapes to their feet – even enshrouding them.
It is the groom's task to discern which of these women is his bride. Typically, the bride and groom will create a small signal that allows him to know who she is, and sometimes the groom is allowed to ask specific questions. Much entertainment is gained by the families as this part of the ceremony is played out. Once the groom has found his bride, they are escorted in a large procession to the wedding ger.
Upon arriving at the wedding ger, the bride is stopped from entering by the women of the groom's family. It is at this time that the bride must display her worth to them. The women challenge her in many ways, ranging from her skill at beading to her skill in cooking. The bride offers gifts to appease the women of the groom's family, but she does not have to be the creator of the work. The fact that she is able to obtain the best possible items for these women is as important as the creation. Only the bride and her maids ever know the truth of their origins, and typically the bridesmaids never tell because the favor will be returned at their wedding.
Once the women of the groom's family are satisfied, the procession is allowed into the wedding ger.
All sit upon the many cushions there, and the bride and groom occupy a space at the very center of the ger before a priest and priestess.
The couple is united under the blessings of Oleani, and their hands are bound together with a handfasting cord. The actual handfasting ceremony varies greatly depending upon the personalities of the couple, but the end result is that their hands are bound together with the cord. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the father of the bride and the mother of the groom approach the couple, bearing a decorated box and a beaded cushion respectively. These are the bride and groom's first gifts as a couple. With movements dictated by tradition, the mother of the bride lays the cushion in the box, and the father of the groom holds it open to the couple. As one, the couple slips the handfasting cord from their wrists, careful to keep the ties from coming undone, and the father seals the box. This is where the cord will be kept until the couple passes from life into death's final embrace.
As the ceremony closes, an enormous banquet is presented to the couple by all family members.
Day Three – Sharing of Gifts
Around noon on the family day, the bride and groom open the wedding ger once more to guests. It is their duty to present a feast to all family members. This displays their ability to provide as a couple and sustain themselves.
It is also the time of gifts. Every guest brings something for the new couple to use in their new home. Traditionally, parents will present furniture, while friends will present dishes, towels, linens, and the like. It is in this way that the houses separate from the couple and allow them to start their life anew.