The Way of Jewish weddings!The groom and his family gather at their household (married couples tended to remain living with the groom’s parents for as long as the parents survived). The bride and her family and guests gather at her household.
The groom and his family make their way to the bride’s house to collect the bride to escort the bride to his father’s house. The dowry had to be agreed Last minute haggling between the groom and his father-in-law over the dowry was commonplace. Such haggling symbolized the esteemed value of the bride, but many times delayed the wedding.
The wedding party would take the longest route through the village to finally arrive at their home. The more houses they visited, the more well-wishes (and gifts) they received. You didn’t want to leave one home out because no one wanted ill feelings on a wedding day. That could bring bad fortune. This day was an opportunity to reach out to break down some old barriers and to be generous to the poor or forgotten. Along the way there would be much jovial visiting and exuberant hospitality.
As a result no one ever knew when the wedding party would show up at their home (where the final festivities occurred).
At this time, town criers would proclaim the arrival of the groom. Such proclamations alerted those who did not stay at the bride’s house or who waited for the ceremony to begin. Since this was an all-night celebration, napping between events in the wedding was reasonable.
One thing we need to remember about Christ’s era was that there were no street lamps. Therefore, the role of the bridesmaids was more than a cultural display of symbolism. Their lamps lit the path home for the wedding party and all the attendees. It is also important to revisit that God chose to have his Son to be born in an occupied country. The law of that time allowed no one to be on the street after dark without a lamp. To find yourself in that situation was to risk arrest—particularly for these residents of an occupied territory. The great sadness is that it is still that way in many parts of Palestine.
The Bridesmaids would literally provide legitimacy to the homecoming party so they would be safe from the occupying government. They would have to provide their own lamps. Without their lights, the party would look like an insurrection or a mob disguised in wedding attire. Certain religious zealots would have undoubtedly thought of using just such a ploy to attack the Romans.
Having your lamps ready would provide for both the safety and direction of the wedding party. To be ill prepared for the arrival of the wedding party wasn’t just a social faux pas, it meant exposing the entire wedding party to Roman attack.
Because of the political climate and the dangers of the time, once the Host’s gates were shut that is how they would remain. Furthermore, if you truly cared about a family you would not expose them to the risk of a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
Missing a wedding party would be a great loss. There was not a whole lot to celebrate for the masses of impoverished workers in Christ’s day. So a wedding was a grandiose affair generally lasting from the close of one Sabbath to the beginning of the next.
During that week all stops were pulled out and for one short week of their life the bride and groom were called prince & princess. In a life of oppressive drudgery and servitude this was their moment in the sun and everyone shared in their joy.