Image Courtesy of The Andy Griffith Show Rights Holders
Guest Post by Sherry Michaels Perry, registered Nurse practitioner and Appalachian history buff.
Since my daughter is getting married in eight days, I thought it would be fun to write about some Appalachian wedding traditions. Appalachian women married very young, sometimes younger than 15. Women generally began having a baby a year, so it was not unusual for them to die younger than they should from the exhaustion of yearly pregnancies. Luckily Appalachian women were energetic and hardworking, and that would go in their favor. But it was not unusual for men to outlive 2 or 3 wives and father around 30 to 40 children.
Courtin’ could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Once the man was ready to propose, he would carve a wooden ring in the Welsh tradition and present it to his love. However, not all marriages were for love and were in fact arranged by the parents. If the girl had a brother, he would be sent to fetch the groom, with orders to deliver him to the home of the bride, dead or alive.
Usually, the entire community would come to the wedding. The family would provide food, and since wedding cakes were so expensive, the guests would each bring a layer of dried apple stack cake. The higher the cake, the more popular the bride.
It was often not possible to afford wedding rings, so the tradition of the double wedding ring quilt was born. All the girls in the community would work on it and when it was completed all the single girls would grab a side and toss a cat in the center. They would then shake the quilt and whoever the cat jumped at would be the next to marry.