Ancient Romans threw walnuts during weddings.

  • Wedding in ancient Rome
Wedding in ancient Rome
Credit: Florilegius/ Alamy Stock Photo

The most important part of an ancient Roman wedding was the domum deductio, when the bride traveled from her family’s home to the home of her new husband, often after a staged kidnapping. The procession was public and frequently included an entourage — sometimes friends and family, sometimes random people — and, even in high-class weddings, the journey was accompanied by some extremely bawdy songs. During the domum deductio, it was customary to throw nuts, particularly walnuts. Walnuts were considered sacred at weddings, both as a fertility symbol and because the sound they made as they hit the ground was believed to be a good omen. It’s also possible that throwing nuts, which Roman children played with, symbolized the groom giving up childish things — similarly, the bride gave away her dolls the night before the wedding.

According to historians, nuts also may have been thrown by the groom after the bride reached his house, possibly as an offering to the god Jupiter, who was associated with sacred oaths such as weddings. Additionally, the Roman scholar Servius wrote that some people believed the sound of nuts clattering and children scrambling after them could drown out the sound of the marriage being consummated. It’s also possible that the Roman tradition of scattering walnuts grew from an ancient Greek tradition, in which the bride and groom had fruits and nuts poured on their heads during their nuptials.

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