May Love Be Your Umbrella: Umbrellas & Parasols in Weddings

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant  © (21/02/2020)
Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Rituals |
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Bride and Groom embracing under a red
                        umbrellaWe take umbrellas for granted,  until we don't have one. On a rainy day, the right umbrella can do more than keep you dry, it can add a little colour to your life and lift your spirits. My favourite umbrella (I have a collection) is lined with an image of fluffy white clouds on a blue, blue, sky.

When someone mentions umbrellas in the context of a wedding, our  minds tend to go to an less than adequate Plan B for rain, or a substitute for more extensive shade. And the photographic record of weddings in Australia suggests that on rainy days, posed photos of the couple under a shared umbrella are a must-have, but you will also see photos of guests huddled under umbrellas.

Umbrellas present fabulous grammable opportunities for your wedding

In literature, the theatre, and many movies, umbrellas are used often used both symbolically and metaphorically. Umbrellas are enduring, having not changed apart from minor updates in materials for centuries. They are also fragile.

Umbrellas shelter, but they also break or are blown inside out. These characteristics makes an umbrella a great metaphor for marriage. Tellingly, they are real objects for which there is no virtual substitute, just as there is no virtual substitute for marriage.

Umbrellas as Shelter and Safety Net


A good marriage will be both shelter and safety net for the marrying couple. So using an umbrella or parasol as a ritual object in your ceremony is highly appropriate. NB Generally speaking an umbrella is waterproof, a parasol is not. When used as a ritual object, it is probably not important to make that distinction. Unless it is raining, of course, and you're outside.

Both history and literature support the view of umbrellas as safety nets. It was umbrellas that inspired the development of the parachute. In the Winnie-the-Pooh story "In which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water" Christopher Robin's umbrella was upended and used as a boat to rescue Piglet. Both Queen Victoria and Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, had specially made umbrellas that could be used to deflect bullets, and there are stories of umbrellas being used to frighten off tigers in India.

Umbrellas are powerful symbols that open many possibilities for use as a ritual object

Umbrellas as Symbols of Protection


Umbrellas are a symbol of protection in many cultural and religious traditions.
  • Buddhist belief sees an umbrella or parasol as a symbol of protection from illness, obstacles, suffering, and harmful energies.
  • When a Chinese bride leaves her family home her father holds a red umbrella over her head to protect her from angry birds
  • A  red umbrella (signifying life, but also regarded to be protective), is held over a Japanese bride by a man walking behind her as she walks to her wedding.

In your ceremony, this symbolism could be ritually incorporated by having someone of your choice - bridal party, your celebrant, others - sprinkle petals or herbs or sugar over the top of the umbrella as you sit beneath it with an appropriate narrative to explain

Umbrellas as Emblems of Power and Dignity


From earliest times,umbrellas and parasols were used to project important people and sacred objects from the heat of the sun. Both royalty and religious leaders are often depicted in art with an umbrella above their heads. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian priests used them, and, while Popes no long carry an umbrella personally,  umbrellas are included in several papal ceremonies and an umbrella is featured in the papal coat of arms. Even today, in certain traditions, if an umbrella is held over a person or object, it signifies that that person is the centre of the universe.

Umbrellas as Symbols of Prosperity


While umbrellas were long held to be symbols of prosperity (only the rich could afford them) in Buddhist tradition, the protection and prosperity they symbolise is not material wealth, but that gained through the acquisition of knowledge. Umbrellas are traditional Indian symbols of wealth and status.

Umbrellas as Symbols of Wisdom


In Buddhist art, an umbrella is the equivalent of a halo in Christian art, indicating an enlightened being. The dome represents wisdom, while the tassels represent compassion.

Umbrellas as Symbols of Celebration


You can hardly have a celebration cocktail (or mocktail) at a resort with acquiring a tiny paper umbrella! And the protective symbolism of umbrellas associates them with weddings and other occasions for celebration.

Umbrellas as Bringers of Good Fortune and Longevity


Chinese paper umbrellas are viewed as bringers of good fortune and longevity. no wonder they are used in celebration ceremonies, including weddings.

Umbrellas as Ceremony Decoration/Styling


I've seen umbrellas and parasols of all types used brilliantly in various ways to style both ceremony space and the reception - from large double Bali umbrellas used to delineate the ceremony space in lieu of an arbour, to an ornamental ceiling comprised of multiple open coloured waxed paper umbrellas, suspended by their handles. Umbrellas can also be featured in floral arrangements, and provided as fun props for a DIY photo booth.

Umbrellas in the Processional


In Chinese and Japanese tradition, a bride is protected by a red umbrella held over her head by another person. In other traditions, bride might make her entrance protected by a cloth or canopy held over her head by four or more other people. Basically, you might extrapolate from that that a bride should not hold her own umbrella in the processional! That doesn't hold true for bridesmaids who might carry parasols instead of bouquets. If your bridesmaids are fun people and you want to inject an element of fun into the processional, borrow from festive street parades and have them dance themselves down the aisle using the parasols as an artistic expression.

Umbrellas to enhance the Vows


When making mutual promises of care and support, incorporating the opening and holding of an umbrella over your heads adds a strong visual emphasis.

Using an Umbrella to made a powerful statement


Just think about it.
  • A heterosexual couple, walking back down the aisle under a rainbow umbrella, sends a powerful statement that they are united in their support for LGBTQI+ friends, family, and wider community.
  • Using a red umbrella, or a traditional waxed Chinese paper umbrella, etc sends a message of cultural respect and inclusion
  • Choosing from the infinite variety of umbrellas with images can demonstrate your support for a cause, or your commitment to a mutually shared interest.

Umbrellas at the Signing Table


A large Bali or market umbrella, strategically positioned, can shade the signing table, reducing the glare from all that white paper. Bali umbrellas, beach umbrellas, or regular umbrellas can all provide a pop of colour

An Umbrella in the Recessional


Can you think of any lovelier picture, regardless of the weather, than a couple walking back up the aisle sheltered by one umbrella? Holding hands, or the bride's hand tucked into crook of the groom's elbow, she holding her bouquet, he holding the umbrella, sending a message to the world that they are in this marriage together.

Umbrellas for Guests

ordin out

When your ceremony seating for guests in is full sun, one of the ways to provide some shade is to provide umbrellas. The only problem with this is that, unless you are standing on some sort of raised platform, most guests are going to have their view of your ceremony blocked by open umbrellas in front of them. Opt for large Market Umbrellas, just make sure that where they are positioned they will actually shade the guests!

Choosing your Umbrella(s)


Whether you choose a clear bubble umbrella, such as the Queen always uses in order to maintain maximum visibility, a regular umbrella, an extra-large golfing umbrella, a ceremonial umbrella, or a lace parasol, it is personal choice. As is the colour. Sometimes an umbrella is just an umbrella. Sometimes it is not. It is up to you, but it is well to have a clear idea of how the umbrella will be used, and what, if any, symbolic message or statement your use of it will make, before you make the decision.

And then there is Bing Crosby ...


Although written years earlier, Bing Crosby had great success with Let A Smile be Your Umbrella
Here are some of the lyrics for your information, and to remind you, that, even if the weather is not on your side, on your wedding day your smile is the most important accessory you can have.
Let a smile be your umbrella
On a rainy, rainy day
And if your sweetie cries just tell her
That a smile will always pay.

Whenever skies are gray don't worry or fret.
A smile will bring us sunshine and you'll never get wet.
So let a smile be your umbrella
On a rainy, rainy day.
[Reproduced under licence from The Copyright Agency Ltd]
Thanks for reading!
Questions or
                        comments? Jenny. Click to contact me

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