In Palestine, young couples wouldn't go away for a week-long honeymoon, instead, they would stay at their home and would have a sort of "open house" for their friends. Everyone treated the couple as royalty, the week following their wedding ceremony was undoubtedly the best week of their lives. Before the wedding, the maidens kept the bride company outside of the groom's house as she waited for him to arrive. They'd bring lamps to use while they waited because they were not allowed in the streets at night without light. Because the groom could come at any time, even at night, they had to stay and wait. No one knew exactly when he'd arrive. They didn't print invitations and invite people to come at a precise time for the wedding, it happened whenever the bridegroom came. It could be today, it could be tomorrow or it could be next week. When the bridegroom approached, a messenger would go out into the streets and declare, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming" then the maidens would accompany the bride into the house for the wedding ceremony and the week-long celebration to follow. (Barclay 354) There was a small window of opportunity to walk through the door into the house. Once the wedding began, no one else was admitted. In other words, it wasn't possible to be too early, but it was possible to be too late, you couldn't just walk in and find a seat in the back, when the door was shut, it was shut and it wouldn't be opened again. So when Jesus told this parable, His listeners had a cultural point of reference that made it come alive to them. They immediately got his point about the importance of preparation.
Back in the days when only young men prepared for pastoral ministry, a certain Dr. Eislen, president of Garrett Seminary, preached on this parable in chapel. When he reached the climax of his message, he yelled at his seminarians, "Young men, tell me, would you rather be in the light with the wise virgins, or out in the dark with the foolish virgins?" Such laughter arose that chapel was dismissed early that day!