Bride and Bridal

The wordbridal’ literally means ‘bride’s ale’ and originates from the Anglo-Saxon word bredale. Before the eleventh century, the word ale signified a feast or festival for the common people. So bride-ale at that time meant ‘bridal feast’.

It was only much later during the fifteenth century that the word ale became synonymous with beer. The word bride-ale was then linked with the ale or beer that was especially made for the occasion and which the bride’s family was permitted to sell to all guests. The bride used whatever contributions she received for the ale from friends and acquaintances gathered for the occasion to defray expenses for the wedding reception and for setting up her future household. 

Sometimes, the bride-ale was also called a ‘bidding’, from the circumstance of the bride and groom bidding or inviting guests. Biddings were popular in Wales where guests were invited by a hired bidder or by a public notice. All strangers were welcome to attend, provided they made a contribution to the happy couple, either in the form of money or household goods. Similar to the bidding was the ‘penny wedding’, the only difference being that the guest list then included any ragtag stranger willing to come as long as a donation was made to the happy couple.


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