Q: I hope and pray that this email finds you well. I have a friend who received the following question from a parishioner:
“I have a photograph of a cousin on the day he was ordained. It includes him with his court. The court is made up of his nieces and nephews all dressed in very formal, medieval type clothes, except for the niece who is the bride. The bride is in a bride’s dress. The nieces and nephews are all children between 5 and 10 years old.
The photograph was taken 85 years ago.”
I have never heard of this custom. I’m wondering if you have. I’ve tried to Google and look through my resources and could not find any information about it. If you know of it, please enlighten me. If not and you can give me some direction as to where to look, please do. If not, it will remain a “mystery.”
A: I had to go deep into the bullpen on this. I contacted one colleague, who conferred with another, who responds:
“I know the custom of the Primizbraut (bride of the first mass) from some rural parishes in Catholic regions. It is sometimes used still today. The meaning behind it (not well known) is that the bride symbolizes the Church and the newly ordained priest Christ. Normally other girls accompany the “bride.” Often this tradition simply is an embellishment of the entry procession on the day of ordination or/and of the first mass.
One can see a similar custom for marriages when young boys and girls up to 6 years (more or less) and dressed like adults accompany the couple to the church/altar, sometimes carrying the rings and/or the candle.
In both occasions, the children are often nieces and nephews etc.
Perhaps you can find more in: Winfried Haunerland, Die Primiz: Studien zu ihrer Feier in der lateinischen Kirche Europas, Regensburg 1997.”