Ok, so lets start from the start. A few months before my brother’s (Ezra) wedding, his future sister-in-law wrote me an email asking me if there were any Canadian traditions we might want included in the wedding. Here is my response:
Canadian Wedding Traditions
There are several Canadian wedding traditions you should consider making time for. We don’t have to do all of them, but I think it’s important to include at least one. I’ll let you decide which one:
1. Feats of Strength (groom): Normally, the groom must complete both feats of strength: (a) In order for the groom to prove his physical strength, and therefore his ability to provide for his new wife, early settlers of Canada began what is now known as the Felling of the Tree Ceremony.
Although, it is now largely ceremonial, it is an important tradition in Canadian weddings. The groom is provided with an ax and must chop down and de-limb a tree that is at least 30 cm in diameter. He must do this in less than 15min. Originally, the wood was used to build the couple’s new home. Now, people just sit on the log.
If you could find a park or nearby forest where we can perform this ceremony, I know it would mean a lot to Ezra and his attending Canadian friends and family.
(b) In the next task known as the Great Leader Canoe Ride, the groom must demonstrate his canoe-handling prowess. The groom gets into his canoe and the bride’s family also get into their own canoes. The canoes of the bride’s family are all tied to the back of the groom’s canoe. The groom must paddle his canoe one mile while pulling the entire family with him.
This act symbolizes his commitment to his new family and that he will not be a burden to them, but instead he will be willing to lead and drag their dead weight behind him.
During the Great Leader Canoe Ride, no one is allowed to help the groom. Also, sometimes for fun, his extended family can paddle in the opposite direction and he is not allowed to complain. This seems tough, but it is meant to prepare him for his new relationship with his bride’s family. His friends and family are encouraged to cheer him on. This is often one of the most exciting events at a Canadian wedding.
2. The Airing of the Grievances: In this ceremony, usually the night before the wedding, the bride and groom go into separate rooms. In the groom’s room are all the male guests and in the bride’s room are all the female guests. Each has about 2 hours to complain about the character and habits their future partner. Each room is usually supplied with several bottles of hard alcohol.
The only song that I’ll insist on is “Tura lura lura.” Apparently, when Ezra and Katharina first met, he would serenade her with this song. He also loves the Macarena.
After a few subsequent emails, we agreed it’d probably be a logistical nightmare to organize all of the feats of strength and we should aim to do just one. After some thought, I suggested a modified version of the Felling of the Tree Ceremony. Here is how it was presented and performed at the wedding:
Feats of Strength Ceremony: The Chopping of the Log
Since the early days of Canada’s settlement, a unique marriage ceremony developed which still continues today in modern Canadian weddings. In the next part of the service, we would like to acknowledge and honour Ezra’s Canadian heritage by engaging in the traditional log-chopping ceremony.
In Canada, when a man acquires a new wife, he must prove to the community and to the woman’s previous owner (her father) that he will be able to supply her with enough wood to build a home. There are several regional variations on how the ceremony is conducted and this wedding will use the West Coast variation.
Ezra must choose one other male family member to compete against 2 males from the bride’s side–usually including at least one family member. The two teams will compete to see which can chop through the log twice. One team member begins with the ax and chops until he has cut through the log. Once he has done so, he passes the ax to his team-mate who begins his cut. The first team to chop through the log twice wins. The losing team buys beer for the winners.
Ezra and I ended up winning but were subsequently challenged to a beer-drinking relay. Chugging beer was never a strength of mine and the Germans beat us handily.