Ancient Customs and the Sun
The summer solstice falls on Friday, June 20th at 23:59 this year. June has long been a favorite month for weddings, and being married on the summer solstice is especially auspicious. The month of June was named for Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage, and midsummer is also associated with St. John, the protector of lovers. Midsummer rituals have been celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years, and some of those customs are beautiful to include in a wedding that falls on the solstice.
One of the traditional solstice activities is dancing around a maypole decorated with greenery. The custom is especially strong in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, where revelers (especially children) enjoy a folk dance called ring dancing. The origins of the maypole can be traced back to pagan rituals involving trees, and it has been a common part of ceremonies celebrating the arrival of summer in many European countries. No doubt guests at a solstice wedding would really enjoy getting to dance and frolic around a maypole.
The Sun Stands Still
The word solstice is from "sol", the Latin word for sun. It was believed that it was as if the sun stood still on the solstice, the day of the year with the longest daylight hours. The festivals surrounding the summer solstice have their roots in ancient fertility rites. Communities would gather to celebrate the abundance of the earth, and to bring blessings to the fall harvest. Midsummer was considered to be one of the most magical times of the year, as well. One charming custom involved the gathering of seven or nine different types of flowers or herbs to place under the pillow. This was supposed to reveal the face of your future spouse in your dreams that night.
For couples wanting to bring some of the magic of the solstice to their wedding, there are a variety of midsummer themes from which to draw inspiration. Earthy couples can choose to emphasize the pagan and natural aspects of the solstice. For literary types, the fairyworld of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream would be a great source of ideas. Midsummer also has particularly strong associations with Scandinavia, which enjoys some of the longest hours of sunlight on the solstice.
Another part of any solstice gathering is a bonfire. The custom was intended to represent the triumph of the sun overnight on the longest day of the year. Revelers also frequently dance around the bonfire as the night goes on. A bonfire would be a great way to wind down at the end of your wedding (if permitted - check local regulations), and a cozy place for guests to relax after a long evening of celebrating. If you have friends who are likely to want to hang out around the fire into the wee hours of the night, be sure to let them know that there will be a bonfire so they can bring a comfortable change of clothing to wear.
Any solstice wedding should take place outdoors, since it is a fête dedicated to nature. If you are inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream, a clearing in a forest would be an ideal setting. String tiny fairy lights through the trees for a beautiful and ethereal effect. For solstice decorations, use natural elements like stalks of wheat, heather, grapevine, wild flowers, and herbs. Garlands and wreaths will be more at home at a midsummer wedding than formal floral arrangements. The look should be organic and festive.
Food is very important at any celebration. For an earthy solstice wedding, bring out traditional drinks like honey mead, paired with fresh seasonal foods. If you are inspired by Scandinavian traditions, serve Swedish favorites like smoked salmon and lingonberries. Couples who wish to bring the joy of the solstice into their wedding, but prefer a more elegant approach with less emphasis on paganism, might prefer to highlight the best of Scandinavia. To learn more about how midsummer is celebrated in Scandinavia, check out the links below for more information.
Clothing For A Summer Wedding
Clothing sets the mood at any wedding. For the bride and groom having a solstice wedding, relaxed attire made from natural fibers will feel the best. The bride does not have to look like a barefoot hippie if that is not her normal style, but a heavy ballgown bedazzled with rhinestones would be a bit silly looking at an informal outdoor wedding. Instead, look for bridal gowns made from flowing or gauzy cottons or silks. For a fairy-like look, choose beautiful diaphanous fabrics. Accessories should also have a soft and natural feeling, such as drop earrings made with free form keshi pearls. Fresh flowers are lovely in the bride's hair for an outdoor wedding, but they do wilt (and some varieties attract insects). Another option would be to do a loose scattering of hairpins tucked into the bride's hair.
Pick A Different Kind of Bouquet
The bride's bouquet should include some of the same types of natural elements as the reception décor. Wildflowers would work very well for a midsummer wedding bouquet, as would aromatic herbs (a Scandinavian wedding custom). Lavender is one herb that is often included in bridal bouquets because it symbolizes best wishes for the bride and groom. It also has a wonderful calming scent - perfect for easing those pre-wedding jitters. Rosemary is another herb popular for weddings because its' meaning is rememberence. Round out the bouquet with soft, silvery lamb's ear.
- Make A Herbal Wedding Bouquet
How to make an herbal wedding bouquet
- Swarovski crystal bridal jewelry
Handmade Swarovski crystal wedding jewelry is elegance to the max.
- Summer Solstice-Wikipedia
Description of solstices and customs
- Maypole - Dancing
- Freshwater Pearl Earrings
- The Stonehenge Story
Pbs show on Stonehenge
Because the summer solstice symbolizes fertility, as well as the joyful gathering of a community, it is the perfect day for a couple to start their lives together. Since the solstice falls on a weekend in 2008, many couples will be wed on that lucky day this year. If you are one of them, why not include some of the rituals and customs of midsummer in your wedding?
1weddingsource from Georgia on March 03, 2009:
this is really an informative hub, digging up with the history of weddings. This is how other couples come up with their mid summer night's wedding theme. So interesting..
Seabastian (author) from Raleigh on June 05, 2008:
Thank you Donna. Your hubs are real interesting to me. I just wish I could wtite as many as you.
Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on June 03, 2008:
Your hubs are always so interesting.