Manners & Customs
: Household Festivities
THE WEDDING FEAST
Every guest that attended the feast was required to wear a wedding garment (Matthew 22:12). The wedding banquet was presided over by the ruler of the feast (John 2:8,9). It was his duty to take care of the preparations, and during the feast he would get around among the guests, and see to it that they lacked nothing. He instructed servants in carrying out all the necessary details.
The expression, "children of the bridechamber", (Matthew 9:15), used by JESUS, simply means the guests at the wedding. The governor or ruler of the feast returned thanks at the dinner and pronounced benedictions at appointed times. He also blessed the wine. It was customary to tell riddles at these feasts like Samson did at his wedding (Judges 14:12-18). During the meal mirthfulness prevailed. and the guests were expected to exalt the bride.
There was no religious ceremony at the feast. In place of this were the benedictions of relatives and friends. The benediction of those who witnessed wedding arrangements for Ruth and Boaz is a good example of what would be included in such a benediction (Ruth 4:11). It corresponds to the well wishing of Western wedding guests. After the wedding feast was over the husband was escorted by his friends into the apartment where his wife had previously been conducted. These wedding festivities with relatives and friends lasted for a whole week (cf. Judges 14:17), but the entire number of what was called "the days of the marriage" was thirty. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
THE WEDDING PROCESSION
The bridegroom set out with the bride from the house of her parents, and there followed a grand procession all the way to his house. The streets of Asiatic cities were dark, and it was necessary that anybody venturing forth at night should carry a lamp or torch (cf. Psalm 119:105). Those invited guests, who did not go to the bride's home were allowed to join the procession along the way, and go with the whole group to the marriage feast. Without a torch or lamp they couldn't join the procession, or enter the bridegroom's house.
The Ten Virgins waited for the procession to arrive at the point where they were waiting; and five wise ones were able to proceed because they had a reserve supply of oil for their lamps; but the foolish virgins lacked that oil and so, not being ready, they were barred from the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13).
The lamps carried by these virgins have been described by Dr. Edersheim:
"The lamps consisted of a round receptacle for pitch or oil for the wick. This was placed in a hollow cup or deep saucer, . . . which was fastened by a pointed end into a long wooden pole, on which it was borne aloft.
In going from the bride's house to the groom's house, the bride allowed her hair to be loose and flowing, and she had her face veiled. Some of her own relations preceded her in the procession, and scattered ears of parched grain to the children along the way. There were demonstrations of joy all along the road to the destination. Part of the procession included men who played on drums or other musical instruments. And there was dancing along the way.
One of the punishments Jeremiah predicted for the Jews, because of their sins, was the taking away of wedding joys. "Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride" (Jeremiah 7:34).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]