Swivel cups, wine, and white dresses

A reader who shall remained unnamed wrote me a long, long time ago to ask two questions. In her first query, she asked me if I knew anything about the tradition of the ‘engagement cup.’ In her second query, she asked if it was wrong of her to lie and say she liked a relative’s gown when the gown in question was actually “a bit over the top as far as the princess-y category goes.”

The latter question is a no-brainer in almost any situation. To my patient reader, I say, “Honey, lie until your nose is a foot long.” If you just can’t bring yourself to compliment the dress as a whole, focus your praise on some aspect of it that isn’t entirely puke-worthy, even if that means waxing poetic about the beadwork or the neckline. No one will wonder why your compliments are so specific. But if you do bare your soul, they may just wonder if you were raised in a barn.

Criticizing a bride’s choice of gown, whether she chooses a potato sack or a 60-pound monstrosity of a gown — no matter how close you and the bride-to-be are — can be a dicey proposition. If you simply can’t bring yourself to say anything nice about the gown in question, you can do the least harm by saying, “It isn’t my style, but it looks lovely on you.”

That was easy enough. My patient reader’s second question, however, gave me a bit of trouble. Look up “engagement cup” using Google and you’ll find yourself inundated with results from Lenox, which happens to have an Engagement pattern. As does cup and saucer maker Royal Doulton. Such things do tend to skew results a bit so after looking through a number of commerce sites, I threw in the towel…

…and looked up wedding cups instead, in the hope that I might find something useful there. I did, too, if you allow for the fact that I found nothing at all pertaining to engagements. During Medieval wedding feasts, the bride and groom drank spiced wine from a fine chalice commonly called the Wedding Cup. In the present, we find the Jewish wedding cup, from which couples drink twice during the ceremony, as well as the French wedding cup or “coupe de marriage,” a silver cup traditionally passed from generation to generation. In Ireland, the new couple drinks from one cup, which is then sometimes refilled by the bride and shared among the guests. Wedding cups can also be found in Chinese ceremonies. The list really does go on and on…

Don\'t spill it!

And then there is this fanciful thing, defined here:

The tradition of the Jungfrauenbecher, meaning “maiden’s cup” originated in Germany during the 16th century. The legend goes that a goldsmith was challenged by the father of the girl he loved to build a cup that two people could drink from at the same time in order to marry his daughter. He came up with a chalice with a split in the handle which suspended a cup on a swivel.

The contraption is now often referred to as the wedding cup for the role it plays in nuptial feasts. The bridegroom drinks a toast out of the larger cup and then rights the figure, without spilling the wine in the smaller pivoted bowl, which is then to be drunk by the bride. The Jungfrauenbecher has also been known as the “wager cup” – the challenge is having the couple drink from both cups at the same time without spilling the contents of either.

Here it is in action:

Swivel cups, wine, and white dresses?

Swivel cups, wine, and white dresses? Seems perilous to me.

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