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A wedding arrhae (pronunciation: arrahheh[1]), wedding tokens,[2] or the unity coins, also known as arras[1] or monedas,[3] is a paraphernalia used in Christian wedding ceremonies in Hispanic and Latin American countries and the Philippines. Traditionally, it is made up of thirteen coins in gold or silver.[1] After being blessed by a priest, it is given or presented by the groom to the bride.[4] During the nuptial—before the actual offering and transfer of the arrhae—it is customarily held first, while being kept on a wedding cushion or wedding pillow,[1] by a male child wedding participant known as the coin bearer.[5] Usually, this wedding item becomes a familial heirloom after the wedding[4] that can be handed down to the next generation, to be used again for another future wedding ceremony along the family lineage.[1] In the Philippines the arrhae are given just before the exchange of rings.[6]

Contents

Origins

The word arras is a Spanish word meaning "earnest money", "bride price", or "bride wealth". The custom of using the arrhae in weddings can be traced from a number of places including Spain and Rome.[2][3][4][5] The book An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies claims that origin of arras was from gold rings or coins in Visigothic Law.[7] Whereas the Sex and Society claims the practice emerged from Frankish marriage ceremonies. [8] The ancient Roman custom includes the act of breaking gold or silver equally in to two pieces. This signifies the promise to marry by two individuals. The Spanish tradition includes treating the set of coins as a representation of the bridal dowry or a way of hastening prosperity, and is placed inside decorated boxes or trays.[4] Perhaps making sense of it all Reynolds & Witte write in their book that the Franks during their wedding gave 13 pennies while the Spanish gave coins or some sort of marriage gift then these two practices merged in the 11th century.[9]

Representation

The thirteen wedding unity coins symbolize Jesus and the twelve apostles. Further on, this set of coins, which can be composed of real currency or custom made coins,[1] also represents the groom’s trustworthiness and self-assurance. The handing over of the arrhae to the bride means that the groom is symbolically giving his material possessions or earthly wealth to the care of his would-be spouse. Accepting it means unconditional assurance and commitment on the part of the bride.[4] It further confirms the groom's role as the breadwinner for his spouse and future offspring.[5] It also serves as a reminder to the couple being wed that they are individually dedicating themselves to each other, meaning they have to support one another and their future children, a support that is extended to the "world around them".[1]

The traditional thirteen number of coins is a reminder that this symbol of wealth cannot be cleanly divided into two equal parts, which means it is a wish of their never ending union as a married couple. However, apart from the traditionally 13 coins, any number of coins can actually be used, with the exception of the number 30, because thirty is the number of coins taken by Judas Iscariot when he betrayed Jesus, as stated in the New Testament of the Bible, in Matthew 26:15. In bi-cultural nuptials, an even-number is used: bringing in half number of coins from each country to complete the chosen total number of wedding coins.[1]

Inclusion in wedding rites

The ritual of passing the arrhae by the bridesgroom to the bride has become a part of wedding ceremonies in the Southeast Asian country of the Philippines and in Hispanic and Latin American countries, particularly in Mexico, as handed down to them by the Spaniards.[2][3][5]

At times, instead of the coinbearer, a relative, a friend, an attendant, or another designated participant such as the madrina de arras[2][3], is the one responsible in carrying and presenting the arrhae to the priest who will bless the coins. Passing of the arrhae occurs after the exchange of wedding rings.[10]

In some wedding ceremonies, the priest gives the arrhae or coins to the bride after the blessing has been done. Then, the bride puts them on the cupped hands of her groom[2][3], which symbolizes an offering made by the bride as a form of a "dowry".[1] Afterwards, the arrhae are placed on a tray or in a box (or back onto the wedding pillow), and then temporarily given to an assistant[2][3] or the maid of honor[10] for safekeeping. Sometime before the completion of nuptial, the box or tray or wedding cushion with the arrhae are handed back to priest who will then hand them over to the groom. The groom then pours the wedding coins onto the cupped hands of his bride. After this part of the wedding ceremony, the couple's hands are tied with the wedding ribbon or wedding cord.[2][3]

Dialogue during the exchange of coins

This is an example of the common dialogue in English used during the blessing and exchanging of the arrhae:

The officiating priest, pastor, celebrant or any other authorized officiant, will first say these words, when the arrhae is offered on a wedding cushion pillow by coin bearer or any designated wedding participant:

Lord, bless these coins. Grant [groom’s first/given name] and [bride’s first/given name] not only material possessions, but abundant spiritual strength, which these coins symbolize, so that they may bless others. Hold the coins in your hands as a sign that your blessings will no longer be held separately, but together. And may you always show that whatever gift you may have in this life is not ultimately yours but the Lord's.

While the bride and groom are performing the exchange of the arrhae, the bride will speak first by saying:

[Groom’s given name], take these coins as a pledge of our commitment to share God's gifts.

Then the bridegroom responds by saying:

[Bride’s given name], I accept and treasure your gift. Let us together always share God's blessings.

Then the officiating priest, pastor, celebrant, or officiant, will ask God's blessing by saying:

May God bless these arras as a sign of mutual support and responsibility.

Then the groom will speak the words:

I give you (addressing his bride) these coins as a pledge of my dedication to you, the care of our home, and the welfare of our children.

The bride responds by saying:

I accept them and in the same way pledge my dedication to you, the care of our home, and the welfare of our children.

At this moment, the bridegroom will allow the set of coins to fall into the hands of the bride, and then say:

[Bride’s given name], accept these coins as a pledge of my total dedication and constant concern for your welfare. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.[1]

Other usage

The arrhae are also used in "sweet 16" female birthday celebrations, 15th birthday celebrations of young women known as quinceañeras, debutante balls for young ladies, and at Bat Mitzvahs.[2][3]

Other definitions

In legal terminology an "arrhae" is a civil law contract. Legally, it could also mean money or items with value given by a buyer to a vendor. The purpose of giving such an arrhae is to provide an evidence of "contract earnest". There are two types of arrhae within this legal context: one that is given once a contract was proposed; while the other once a sale already took place.[11]

Bibliography

Notes
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Weddings in the Philippines, seiyaku.com
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Arras Coins/Arras Tokens/Arras Wedding Tokens, weddinglasso.com
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Wedding Unity Coins/Arras Coins/Arras Wedding Unity Coins, weddingunitycoins.com
  4. ^ a b c d e Arrhae Ceremony, Church, Reading Room, kasal.com
  5. ^ a b c d The Unity Coins, weddingsatwork.com
  6. ^ Wainwright & Tucker 2006, p. 672
  7. ^ Espín & Nickoloff 2007, p. 126
  8. ^ Kerber 2007, p. 181
  9. ^ Reynolds & Witte 2007, p. 23
  10. ^ a b Sugarbaker, Dave (2010). "The coins, veil and lasso (cord) and the wedding ceremony". partydirectory.com. http://www.partydirectory.com/guide/sb19.htm. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  11. ^ Arrhae, The Free Dictionary by Farlex, thefreedictionary.com
References
  • Espín, Orlando O.; Nickoloff, James B. (2007). An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies (2007 ed.). Liturgical Press. ISBN 0814658563.  - Total pages: 1521
  • Kerber, K.L. (2007). Sex and Society (2007 ed.). Global Vision Publishing Ho. ISBN 8182200873.  - Total pages: 336
  • Reynolds, Lyndon; Witte, John (2007). To have and to hold: marrying and its documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600 (2007 ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521867363.  - Total pages: 519
  • Wainwright, Geoffrey; Tucker, Karen Beth Westerfield (2006). The Oxford history of Christian worship (2006 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195138864.  - Total pages: 916

External links

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