I’m finishing up my developmental edits of The Seeds of Exile, also known as Daire’s novella. There’s a small, impromptu wedding in the book (not Daire’s). In addition to the bride and groom there are a scattering of witnesses, one matron of honor and one groomsman.
The story takes place in a historical fantasy world a little like northern England or the Scottish border country. The time period would be vaguely late Middle Ages or early Tudor. With lots of otherworldly antics and fantasy tweaks.
There are gods and monsters, but no dominant theology. The marriage in question is a legal and political occasion (as well as a romantic one), but not religious. My edit notes quite correctly suggest that I should find terms for the official supporter of the husband-to-be and wife-to-be that suit my imaginary world and the story.
I was chatting to Eight Lady Jeanne about this on Friday, and she came up with the excellent suggestion of investigating the history of both roles.
As far as I can tell, the role of a matron of honor, maid of honor and bridesmaids over the ages and continents has been to protect the bride by providing her with a degree of camouflage, thereby confusing and confounding jealous suitors, evil spirits and potential kidnappers.
The role of the groomsman/men has been either to help the groom protect the bride against jealous rivals and potential kidnappers, or to assist him in kidnapping his intended (ew).
Those roles don’t really suit Caldermor. It’s a place of power and intrigue, similar to the political reality of the time in that women wield a great deal of soft power but don’t enjoy economic independence and have to fight tooth and nail for the freedoms they are determined to achieve.
The groomsman/matron of honor roles in Caldermor would originally have offered the bride economic protection and shelter in dangerous and uncertain times, not defense against abduction.
I think the female supporter would be a married woman. Traditionally her responsibility would be to promise the bride (and her children) support, protection and even a home in the event that the groom or his family became unwilling or unable to do so. Alternatively she could be a sister of the bride, signifying that their father would be willing to take the bride back under his protection if necessary.
I think the male supporter would be a male relative of the groom. The historic purpose of a wedding in Caldermor would be to transfer a woman from her father’s protection to her husband’s (yikes), so the presence of the groomsman is symbolic confirmation that the groom’s family accept the bride into their house and would continue to offer her (and her children) protection if her husband became unwilling or unable to do so.
The roles have become largely symbolic, but that’s how they evolved. So what do I call them? Is the man just a second, or a supporter? A stead? A champion? And what about the woman? Also a supporter? Aegis would be perfect, but there’s no Greek or Roman mythology in my world. I think matron/maid of honor describes it really well, but it does have contemporary associations.
Argh. I’ll probably spend a few hours today with my notebook, listing out possibilities until I find something I like. Any or all suggestions would be most welcome 😉