May
14

HERE COMES THE BRIDE! Not In These Religions

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Before her wedding, a young bride got more and more nervous about the wedding ceremony so she went to see the minister. He reassured her by pointing out that the ceremony was quite simple.  “You enter the church and walk up the aisle.  The groom will be waiting for you at the altar.  Everyone will then sing a hymn to start the ceremony,” said the reverend.  “Just remember the order and everything will be fine.”  On their wedding day, the bride remembered the order and arrived alongside the groom muttering to herself – aisle, altar, hymn … aisle, altar, hymn – or as the groom heard it, “I’ll alter him!”

No song is more associated with a woman coming down the church aisle in her wedding gown than that of Here Comes The Bride!  It has undoubtedly been played millions of times since the song first came  to the world’s attention over in England back in 1858 when Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Victoria, became the  first  to use it as such for her marriage to Prince William of Prussia.  But what many people do not realize is that this famous anthem is only played at Protestant weddings and not at similar Catholic and Jewish gatherings; where it is officially banned for rabbis in synagogues and priests in cathedrals to have.  And more than one surprised bride has been told “no” to the tune and asked to choose another or given a list of acceptable alternatives for her entrance.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a famous 1800s German composer and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (of which, unlike many of his contemporaries, he penned both the  music and words).  One of his most famous operettas is the five-hour, three-act Lohengrin (German for legend).  Here is the synopsis:

Act One – In the 10th century, King Heinrich of Antwerp goes to visit the Grand Duke of Brabant.  However, when he arrives at the estate, he learns that the Duke has passed away.  Count Telramund then informs the King that Elsa, the Duke’s daughter, has taken her younger brother, Gottfried, into the forest, where he is said to have met a mysterious death.  The Count says he believes Elsa killed him there so she can inherit her father’s title.  Therefore, due to this foul play, he, the Count, should instead become the successor.  However, because Elsa is too grief-stricken to provide a legal defense, the King rules that the Duke’s next-in-line will  be decided by a single combat duel between Elsa and the Count.  Having no champion to defend her, Elsa prays for a saviour and a real knight, Lohengrin, appears by magic, arriving at the manor in a swan-drawn boat.  The mysterious knight then pledges both his sword and his heart to Elsa, on the condition that she never asks him his real name.  Elsa accepts the terms and her rescuer, who asks to be known as “the Protector of Brabant” easily defeats Count Telramund.  After he spares Telramund’s life, the latter is banished from Brabant, along with his wife, Ortrud.

Act Two – But convincing her husband that they’ll yet become  Duke/Duchess of Brabant, the couple return for the wedding of Lohengrin/Elsa in disguise with plans to tempt Elsa to break her promise to this “knight in shining armour” and ask for his real name. New bride Elsa at first resists their urging to unravel the mystery of Lohengrin, but desiring to know everything about her new husband, she finally gives in and inquires of him.  Lohengrin now recognizes it is Telramund and Ortud who are behind this request.  Telramund attacks Lohengrin and the knight slays him.  Lohengrin then takes Elsa to the King where he reveals that he is a member of an ancient order of knights dedicated to keeping the rule of law in kingdoms, so long as their name and origin is never questioned.

Act Three – As Lohengrin prepares to leave, Ortrud reveals that she is actually a witch and that the swan who brought Lohengrin in a boat to Brabant is really Gottfried, Elsa’s brother and the missing child-duke.  Lohengrin’s prayer undoes the witch’s curse and the swan is turned back into Gottfried.  At the same time, because her magic is broken, Ortrud drops dead.  In the final scene, Elsa, distraught over losing both her husband and the duke-ship, is so grieved, she passes away from a broken heart.

Here Comes The Bride! is actually sung after the wedding by the bridesmaids as the bride makes her way past them to spend her first night with her husband.  The song is banned from weddings in Israel because of Wagner’s anti-semitism and the song is banned from weddings by the Vatican because of the pagan story.

The bottom line?  Protestants have no problem with the wedding song.  So I guess it’s – When  in Rome, do as the Catholics do.  When in Jerusalem, do as the Jews do.  And when In Wingham?  Do as you think to do.