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Like Sand Through an Hour Glass
Symbols! Weddings are full of them. Exchanging rings. Exchanging roses. Tying hands with ribbons. Merging coloured sands. Lighting candles. Releasing doves or butterflies. Ringing bells and kissing chimney sweeps. But when it comes to real drama, no symbol can match smashing a glass or two.
Of course, you don't need a wedding if you feel the need to break something. Go to a Greek restaurant when they're having one of their celebratory dinners. At the end of the night you, and the other diners, will be invited by mine host and hostess to pick up a plate and smash it to smithereens. Even though, as I understand it, the china is specifically designed for this, being more fragile and a great deal less expensive than that on which you have your meal, nonetheless it's a highly therapeutic and exhilarating activity.
Films would have you believe that peeved wives are forever tossing their good china at erring husband. Perhaps in a screenwriter's dream they do. In real life a dozen sensible questions would present themselves in defense of the innocent crockery. Is this piece expensive? Is it part of a set? Can it be replaced? Will it make a mess? Who's the dummy who's going to have to clean it up?
By the time you start looking for some less attractive alternative, he's out the door, whistling down the stairs.
So the custom of that toast that a man makes to his bride, followed by smashing the glass in which the toast was made, is an intriguing one. Of course, it would be a tradition started by a man. He didn't have to tidy up afterward. But even why a man could be so wantonly destructive is hard to fathom.
There is an apocryphal story suggesting that it could have started with a Russian Prince entertaining a hundred or so of Englishmen at the betrothal of his son to a minor English Princess.
They had all been poured a cup of tea ? the Russians were almost as famous for their tea-drinking as their vodka-drinking ? when the Prince rose to propose a toast. His cup was almost at his lips when he started and began to roar at an elderly servant standing near by.
'What are you playing at, Katrina?' he howled like a bear in a trap. 'You call this tea?'
'Why are you making a spectacle of yourself, Mihal Mihailovich?' she returned unperturbed. Having known the man when he used to crawl around in his nappy, and sometimes without, she was in no way intimidated.
'Look at this tea, woman,' the cup was shaking in his hand, while his face was a volcano about to erupt. 'It's so full of tea leaves five flies could get bogged down and never be heard of again.'
'One fly, perhaps,' was the infuriating answer. 'Five never.'
'Why, why, you, you,' like a Marat Safin on the losing end of a tennis match he had to let loose with something, and his tea cup being closest at hand he hurled it against the fireplace.
The Englishmen who hadn't understood a word of this interchange, looked at each other in bewilderment and decided when in Rome. Dozens of the finest pieces of china which had managed to survive the Napoleonic wars, went flying at the fireplace. The room looked as if a bomb had gone off. And needless to say, the English Princess and her Russian Prince never did tie the knot.
Since that time men have taken the opportunity of their upcoming nuptial to smash their toasting glasses against any available fireplace.
Some would have you believe that this strange custom was started by a highly romantic Frenchman. However, while a Frenchman makes a romantic lover, he could never be accused of lacking common sense. Tossing glasses at a fireplace could never be attributed to anything but a temporary loss of sanity ? or temper.
Vlady is an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant. She is also an author of "Complete Book of Australian Weddings" and "The Small Organisation Handbook". She is a member of Australian Civil Marriage Celebrants of Queensland and Celebrants Training Association. She is also a member of Australian Authors and Romance Writers of Australia association.
You can visit Vlady at her website http://www.vlady-celebrant.com
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