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The Secret Code of Wedding Rituals

By Olga Taylor

 veilfaceBest things in life deserve a ritual.  Think of birthdays, football games, or even waking up and going to bed every day.

Rituals serve as a kind of a gift wrap in space and time.  They signal something special and give us a chance to put the rest of our day behind us and prepare the mind for what’s ahead.

The practice of rituals may be older than humanity itself.  Animals behave ritualistically, even if not consciously so.  But in the human tradition, rituals often have to do with invoking the blessing of the gods.   Every new beginning – a birth, a wedding, a ground breaking, or a change of seasons – historically comes with a corresponding ritual, a secret appeal to the unseen that has the power to protect or to destroy.

The traditional wedding includes many symbolic gestures designed to start things off on the right foot between the bride, the groom, their families – or even their countries – and all the earthy and divine powers involved, as the case may be.

Do these symbols hold true in today’s world?  Or are they a costly throwback to the times gone by?  Each couple will, of course, answer this question for themselves.  But first, let’s take a look at the origins and meaning of the wedding rituals that have survived into the modern age.

The White Dress

In 1406 Philippa of England wore a white tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with grey squirrel and ermine for her wedding to Eric of Pomerania.   She was the first royal bride documented to wear white.

White did not become a popular choice of a wedding gown, however, until 1840, after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg.  The official photograph of the couple was widely published – and elite brides throughout Europe and across the Atlantic followed suit.   In those days, white wedding dresses served primarily to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that she would choose an elaborate dress which could be ruined in the course of a single day.

Later, many people assumed that the color white symbolized virginity, though this was not the original intention. (It was the color blue that was first connected to purity.) The white gown is in fact a symbolic Christening gown, a variation of the white surplice worn in the Western Catholic tradition by members of the clergy, church choirs, and the gowns worn by girls at their first communion and confirmation, and also by women taking religious vows.

Japanese women wear white wedding kimonos called shiro-maku, meaning white and pure. The symbolism is much like the western culture of wearing a white bridal gown.

The Veil

The bridal veil does symbolize youth, modesty, and virginity, according to most sources.  The ancients used brightly colored veils to ward off evil spirits.

The Wedding Bouquet

Flowers were originally incorporated into the wedding ceremony as a symbol of fertility.  The first bouquets consisted of herbs and, later, orange blossoms.  Strong smelling herbs like garlic and thyme were also used to ward off evil spirits.

Something Old”

… represents the bride’s link to her family and the past. The bride may choose to wear a piece of family jewelry or her mother or grandmother’s wedding gown.

Something New”

… represents hope for good fortune and success in the future. The bride often chooses the wedding gown to represent the new item.

Something Borrowed”

… usually comes from a happily married woman and is thought to lend some of her good fortune and joy to the new bride.

Something Blue”

… is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity of the bride.  In ancient Israel, blue was the border color of the Bride’s dress.

“…and a Sixpence in her Shoe”

… is to wish the bride wealth in her future life.

The Rings

The Christian tradition uses the wedding ring as the outward expression of an inner spiritual bond.  This is the source of the phrase: “With this ring, I thee wed.”  The rings symbolize an unbroken circle of love, freely given and freely received, with no beginning or end.  They are a lifelong reminder of the wedding vows and the promises therein.

The Cake

The wedding cake is a tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire.  The groom would eat part of a loaf of wheat or barley bread baked especially for the nuptials and break the rest over his bride’s head. Breaking of the bread symbolized the breaking of the bride’s virginal state and the groom’s dominance over the marriage.

One of the earliest forms of the wedding cake is the French Croquembouche.  Legend has it that a French pastry chef witnessed the medieval English tradition of piling sweet rolls between the bride and the groom.  The pair then would attempt to kiss over the rolls without knocking them down.  Back in France, the pastry chef made a tower of sweet rolls which became the first Croquembouche.

Today, the joint task of the bride and groom cutting the cake is meant to symbolize their first joint task in married life.  The gesture of feeding cake to one another is a symbol of the commitment the bride and groom are making.

What about You…?

Are you ready to say “I do?” If so, say it in every way that feels right to you. Say it with your dress –- royal white, virgin blue, or simply your Sunday’s best. Say it with flowers. Or with a pin borrowed from a happily married cousin. Say it with words –- recited from the Book of Common Prayer, or straight from your own heart. And when the limo has dropped you off at your door and the last wedding guest has left the party, keep saying it with the things you do every day. Then will the wedding wishes come true and the quaint rituals will lend their ancient magic to your marriage.

 

Olga Taylor for Boston Wedding Planner

October 20, 2011

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This article first appeared on MarketingProfs

On any given day, between 20 and 50 pieces of unsolicited mail sail past my spam blocker into my inbox.  When I worked in business development, I purged them indiscriminately.  As I got involved with marketing, I skimmed through them occasionally for ideas and inspired copy.

Once I became a writer, I often edited them in my head – until one day a direct mailer arrived that set-off all the “newbie” alarms, and I had to intervene at once.

This is the response I wrote, followed by the original email with identifiable details withheld for privacy.

Dear X. –

I left Quartesian last year to become a full-time writer of digital marketing content, including direct email like the one I was lucky enough to receive from you.

Before that, I had spent four years in your shoes, trying to do both marketing and sales on a shoestring for a small ambitious B2B service provider.  So, I hope you take this letter in the spirit in which it is written: one professional reaching out to another to share insight and offer support.

Getting Attention

Let me start with the subject line.  When I get an email from a name a don’t recognize at a company I’ve never heard of entitled “Conference Call with Quartesian LLC”, I know right away that it’s spam. If my assistant doesn’t delete it for me, I will do so on my next break between meetings, when I get a minute to glance at my Blackberry.

A better choice would have been something like “WSJ says 40% of B2B providers will include mobile apps into their marketing budgets” – but only if it’s true.  This way the email promises to tell me something new or important, and I will be more likely to put it into a “read later” pile – or forward it to a colleague.

Making the First Impression

Let’s just say I opened your message, in spite of the telltale subject line.  I will delete it after I read the first sentence.  Why?  “I would like to get on your calendar” is the BD equivalent of “What’s your number?”  Try using it as a pick up line and see what happens.

In a live conversation you would first introduce yourself and try to arouse my interest and build some trust.  Emails are no different.  Of course, stating your purpose upfront is important.  In your case, though, everyone knows that the purpose of “personalized” junk mail is to get a meeting.

A better use of the 30 seconds I will spend deciding whether to read the rest of your email is to show me what you know about my business that I don’t.  For example: “Would you like to stay “top of mind” with your best prospects while making their day a little better?  That’s just what Mxx’s clients in the insurance, restaurant, airline, and many other industries are doing — with the help of our customized turn-key mobile app solutions.”

Captivating Your Audience

Does spam really work?  Survey says yes, but only when it correctly addresses the needs of a specific buyer segment.  But even if I laugh off your first sentence & keep reading, I will delete it after I read the first paragraph.

Why? Because my clients are businesses.  While a hit with consumer brands, mobile apps are still a novelty in the B2B world.

By glossing over this important distinction, you make it clear that you don’t understand my business and will waste my time.  A better approach would have been to create a separate version of the letter for the B2B segment (even better if you can make it industry-specific) — showing the value of your solution to my business, or at least citing relevant market data.

Using Common Sense

Are white supremacist groups your core market? Or did you really expect to score points with corporate America by saying “Our developers are best-of-breed, based in Nuremberg Germany. We don’t outsource to India or other third world countries – and never will”?

I am sure you know that most “respected” companies in your target group do outsource to the “third world”, as does my old employer, Quartesian.  Besides, how do you know that I myself am not from there?

Making a Compelling Time-Bound Offer

$5,000 for a purebred German piece of code sounds outrageous.  Even if you can afford to do it that cheaply, first year on-line MBA course says you are not obligated to sell at cost.

The throw-away pricing reeks of desperation and casts a doubt over the existence of  “the most respected” clients you alluded to earlier. Now I don’t believe you have any clients at all.

You tell me that the price goes up next week.  I don’t believe that either.  I think Mxx is made up of amateurs who have no idea how to price, market or sell a product.  And at this point I am not even sure that you have a product to sell.

Since Mxx already includes “a detailed list of competitive or similar apps on the market” with every job, why not use it as an introductory offer instead?  There is a natural urgency to staying abreast competition.  And what better way to showcase your expertise and the value of your product?

Ending on a Personal Note

So, after you’ve spammed my mailbox, obnoxiously requested to “get on my calendar”, ignored my real needs, insulted my company, and made a ridiculous offer followed up by an equally ridiculous sales push, you are ready to show me the fun and caring side of yourself with “I hope you are able to spend some quality time with your friends and family this past Easter weekend. I’ll be in London for the royal wedding, but available all next week.”

I too hope you spend some quality time this weekend. Then come back to work and write a sales letter that has a fighting chance.

While you are at it, think of other ways to spread the word about Mxx.  Wouldn’t it be nice if those most interested in your product were able to find and contact you themselves – through strategically placed content?

If you need help wording your message or telling your story, you can get on my calendar anytime.  The price will be the same next week.  And I promise I won’t outsource your writing project to India

Wishing you success,

Olga Taylor | Blogs . Articles . Case Studies . eBooks . Brochures . Direct Mail

 

April 28, 2011

Olga Taylor

Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Quatesian LLC

1 Greentree Ctr. Marlton, NJ 08053-3105

Subject: Conference call with Quartesian LLC

Dear Olga:

I would like to get on your calendar to speak with you about mobile app development. We develop apps on the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Symbian, Android and Windows Portable Media platforms. Our speciality is developing apps that are multi-platform for the same cost others charge for a single device. We offer a turn-key solution. Simply tell us your goals, give us a list of the apps you like the most, those you like the least, describe the basic functionality you require and we will take it from there.

Our process is truly unique. We write the technical specification documents for you. We provide a detailed list of competitive or similar apps on the market today. We design the interface for the app, provide a working prototype, detailed wireframes and documention PRIOR to writing the first line of code. Our creative team ensures the look and feel of your app matches your brand. We can create apps for less than half the cost of other developers because we leverage existing code for basic functionality. Our developers are best-of-breed, based in Nuremberg Germany. We don’t outsource to India or other third world countries – and never will.

Our development efforts are used by many of the most respected banks, insurance companies, airlines, casinos, cruiseliners, restaurants, retailers, rental car companies, law firms, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, telephone and utility companies. Our introductory program is limited to one per company and this provides all of the aforementioned functions for only $5,000 until May 1st. ($10k thereafter)

I’ve asked my executive assistant S. H. to call your office to arrange a time for us to speak. I’ll provide a web-ex style presentation that will focus on how we can best meet your mobile needs. I only need to know a) desired devices, b) overview of functionality, c) your favorite app with similar functionality d) name of project, e) min and max budget and f) timeline for delivery of product. I hope you are able to spend some quality time with your friends and family this past Easter weekend. I’ll be in London for the royal wedding, but available all next week.

Sincerely,

X. Y.

Executive Vice President  Business Development, Mxx, Inc.

xxx.xxx.xxxx

http://www.<domainname>.com

— scientific, expensive, and largely futile — when we target the symptoms rather than the cause of demand for our services.  Site visits, click-throughs, free downloads?  The only thing that matters is the unmet need for what you have to sell.

Why is it so hard to figure out who really needs our stuff?  Two reasons: (1) wishful thinking and (2) confusing yourself with a broader provider category, like your industry or your profession.

Things get fuzzy when we deal in global demand and growth averages.  But they quickly come into focus when we look at who recently asked us for help.  If a business idea came strictly from your own imagination, most likely that’s where the big opportunity is too.

So, should we abandon all initiative and wait to be asked to act on our ideas or practice our best skills?  By no means.  But do expect your self-expression to be its own reward — until someone else asks for it.

Names, Logos and Taglines

Do you know a hugely successful company whose name is a cute play on words?  What about a popular tagline? I can’t think of either.  So what’s the appeal?

Let’s talk about names and taglines that do work.  A few general categories come to mind:

1. (My Favorite!) Brief and to the Point.  Examples: Whole Foods, Volkswagen  (car for the people), DateMyPet.com

These are, not surprisingly, the most difficult, as there is much more to them than tasteful copy.  These company names are true insights into enduring market trends and buyer attitudes.

2. (Simple) Proper Names. Examples: Harvard, Toyota, Max Mara

3. (Risky) Symbolic.  Examples: Apple Computer, Trader Joe, Amazon.com

These companies took the risk of going outside of their industries’ typical imagery to choose a name that inspires curiosity rather than directly describes what they do.

4. (Sheer Genius) Unique. Examples: Ikea, Google, Groupon, Daily Grommet

These names seem to work because of the sheer linguistic genius of their inventors.  (For those who don’t know, Ikea is not a Swedish word at all.  It is a completely invented, Chinese-inspired combination of sounds.)  They make use of our intuitive interpretation of certain sounds and have the magical ability to instantly work themselves into our daily speech.

Ok, I lied about covering logos and taglines in the same post.  Let’s take those on another time!

I love weddings the way other people love Christmas — or the football season.  Passionately and without reserve.  The reason?  A chance for an unforgettable party.

Living in Boston adds a historical and architectural dimension to the formidable structure of wedding planning.  What do I mean by that?  Check these astonishing Boston public buildings that host weddings, and see for yourself:

http://bostonweddingplanner.com/blog/?p=106

Does a wedding merit all the pomp and expense some of us put into it?  I am going to find out next month when, on behalf of Boston Wedding Planner, I search history and tradition for the meaning of wedding rituals

Random

A genius was he who invented the letter – a visual representation of sound, forging a hitherto nonexistent link between the senses.

His invention enthroned and immortalized the Word which could now reach over distances and through the ages.

His mixed blessings are with us today as we toil to condense the world into a precious few sounds that we trust to encode our meaning.

In the visual and instant world of streaming video, what good is our ancient art of stringing together sense and sound?

Maybe it is now – as it was then – to show that which cannot be seen to that part of us which demands a deeper understanding.  To bring the spirit of things to the souls of people…