In the most ancient civilizations and across every culture, food, beverages, and plants are associated with special powers. Universally viewed as the source of life and pleasure, these gifts are given to newlyweds to bless their special day and their lifetime together. (For more ideas on good luck wedding gifts, check out the Wedding Traditions Pinterest inspiration board on Wedding Gift Superstitions.)
A centuries-old Eastern European proverb notes that bread is given so that a home may never know hunger, salt is presented so that life always has flavor, and wine is poured so that joy and prosperity reign forever.
Fruit is also given as a good luck gift in many areas of Asia. Once part of the bride's dowry, Chinese newlyweds are presented with red-wrapped gift baskets filled with lotus seeds, longans, peanuts, and jujubees. When combined, these four fortunate foods are said to bless the couple with a sweet life and a large family. Other lucky fruit includes oranges for prosperity and pomegranates for fertility, although pears are never given as gifts in China because the word fenili is a homonym for separate.
Revered by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs as the food of the gods, cocoa beans are believed to impart wisdom and contain aphrodisiac properties. Seasoned with spices, South American couples once drank the bitter beverage during the marriage ceremony. These traditions were passed on to Spanish explorers in the 1500s, who later introduced cocoa to the rest of Europe. The first documented wedding gift of chocolate was presented to King Louis XIII of France by his Spanish bride, Anne of Austria.
Around the world, from Japan to Brazil, alcohol is offered to the bride and groom to bless their spiritual union with happiness and good health. From Italian wine and Russian vodka to Belgian beer and Irish Bunratty meade, a premium or vintage spirit from the newlywed couple's cultural community is considered a blessed gift.
Islam and a few conservative Christian faiths such as the Mormon Church prohibit any consumption of alcohol, and social drinking is taboo in Hinduism. A personalized or cultural blend of tea also makes a thoughtful wedding gift, especially for Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, British, and Scottish couples.
Handcrafted from wood, bone, clay, or metal, the paddle spoon was once considered the most important utensil in the kitchen. Thus, it was given to the bride to help bless her new home with a large family to cook for. The Scottish spurtle, traditionally made from maple wood, is a long-handled dowel with an intricately carved handle that whisks lumps out of porridge, stirs soups, and flips oatcakes on the griddle. In Russia, artisans in Khokhloma employ a unique technique that applies a golden coating over the handpainted flower on the scoop of the wooden spoon.
A tradition that predates the 17th century throughout Eastern Europe, including Wales, Germany and Scandinavia, the once-practical lovespoon is now a treasured decorative item that hangs on the walls in kitchens. The marriage is usually commemorated with the couple's names and the wedding date. The intricate carvings on the wooden spoon, which might include a heart for love, a horseshoe for good luck, or a dragon for protection, originally reflected the skills of the groom to demonstrate his ability to provide for his future family.
Seeds and Plants
A universal icon for new beginnings, the hardiness yet flexibility of trees make an especially appropriate metaphor for marriage. The day before a wedding in Czechoslovakia, betrothed couples awaken to find a newly planted tree in their yard, colorfully decorated with painted eggshells and ribbons. Dutch and Swiss couples incorporate a tree planting ceremony into their wedding rituals to invite luck and fertility into their marriage, and a tiny cedar sapling often tops Bermudian bridal cakes to ensure the couple's roots grow deep.
In the Chinese and Taiwanese cultures, lucky bamboo plants are presented to newlyweds as well as given to guests as favors. According to feng shui, bamboo is the perfect combination of all five elements of the ancient art—earth, water, air, wood, and metal. In complete balance, the plant emits a peaceful energy over the home that promotes wisdom, attracts good fortune, and nourishes the body.
Professional growers braid the stalks into a variety of sculptural arrangements, including hearts for newlyweds. Giving a bamboo plant with double braided stalks is a wish for good news to find its way to the recipient. The number of stalks represent specific meanings, including two for marriage, three for happiness, five for health, six for harmony, eight for prosperity, and nine for good fortune.