CULTURAL WEDDING CEREMONY CUSTOMS BY COUNTRY
What is the “perfect wedding”? There are countless wedding planning kits out there complete with a checklist to help guide couples through the process. Though useful as a general guideline, checklists can hinder the imagination and they typically do not account for different cultural/religious traditions that might be important to the couple.
Many brides and grooms would love to marry in the tradition of their ancestors or at least introduce elements of a traditional wedding ceremony or reception from their cultural backgrounds. Incorporating cultural wedding traditions and customs to a wedding is not only a fantastic way to share something personal with the guests but a nice tribute to the families.
A simple way to infuse a little culture is by using traditional wedding supplies and other visual elements. A little more difficult is serving a traditional meal, because in many cases the menu is limited by the venue. If having a customized menu is not possible, try serving signature drinks like sake for a Japanese reception or chai instead of coffee for an Indian wedding. Music and entertainment are easy areas to help set the mood.
Needless to say, the stars of the wedding are the bride and groom. Isn’t it only natural to showcase their lives, and spotlight their love? The most memorable weddings will touch the hearts of those in attendance and make even the most distant relative and that friend of a friend of a friend feel as if they’ve known you all their lives.
The wedding doesn’t have to be small and exclusive to be intimate and personal. Even the smallest attention to detail and thinking outside the box can turn a typical wedding into a unique experience that leaves an impression. The following cultural wedding traditions are examples of some of the ways couples all over the world join in matrimony. Let them be a starting point for you to think about how you can make your wedding truly unforgettable.
African Wedding Traditions and Customs
You may have heard of “jumping the broom.” It is a tradition stemming back to the days of slavery when slaves were forbidden from marrying. They created this ritual to represent the beginning of their new life together. In modern ceremonies, couples jump over a broom, often decorated with ribbon and tulle, after they’re pronounced married.
Cowrie or other seashells represent purity and beauty in African culture. In Morocco, bridesmaids bathe the bride in hammam before the ceremony, then apply henna-stained designs to her hands and feet before dressing her in her wedding gown.The colors of African royalty are purple and gold which make a bold combination for a wedding theme.
A Libation ceremony is held to honor elders. During the ceremony a prayer is said and an elder presents water or liquor as an offering to God and the ancestral spirits for their blessing. The groom may seek permission from the bride’s mother to marry her daughter while presenting gifts to her father to symbolize his ability to care for her.
During the ceremony, there is a tradition that involves tasting the four elements: lemon for sour, vinegar for bitter, cayenne pepper for hot, and honey for sweet. The four tastes represent the different times or moods of married life. In some tribes, the couple’s wrists were bound with plaited grass for the ceremony and the walk down the aisle. Many couples incorporate this tradition by simply holding hands.
African dancers or a drummer for the reception and traditional foods are also ways to incorporate the heritage.
Armenian Wedding Traditions and Customs
The Armenian wedding celebration begins the night before the ceremony when the groom’s family brings beautifully wrapped to the bride’s family. These contain the veil, her shoes, chocolate, Armenian cognac, perfume, and flowers.
The bride’s parents’ house is decorated and food, desserts and family photos fill the tables. Before the ceremony, the bride’s brother will place money in her shoe for good luck and he will place the bride’s shoes on her feet. Another fun shoe tradition is that the bride’s single female friends write their names on the sole of her shoe—as they get married, the bride crosses off their names.
Before the bride’s veil is placed on her head, she circles the veil over the heads of the single women in her dressing room to bring them luck in finding a husband. Then a happily married woman will place the veil on the bride’s head to bring her marriage luck.
“May you grow old on one pillow” is one popular toast that can also be used as the theme of the wedding. Print the phrase on invitations, programs or engrave on a silver keepsake wedding favor for guests.
A traditional Armenian bride will wear a red silk gown and a cardboard headpiece that is shaped like wings and covered with feathers. During the ceremony, the god-parents who must be an exemplary married couple act as witnesses. The godfather must bring the most expensive gift and he takes the bride to the altar. At this point, the godparents must accept responsibility for the couple.
After the ceremony, the bridesmaids and groomsmen line up and hold flowers up in the air forming an arch through which the bride and groom may enter the reception. A pair of doves, which symbolizes love and happiness, is released and the guests throw coins at the newlyweds. During the reception, traditional food such as dolmas, hummus, babaghanoush, bourek or kabobs is served.
Chinese Wedding Traditions and Customs
The wedding date is picked carefully according to astrological signs and birth dates, and the ceremony begins on the half hour to cement the couple’s good fortune. The night before the wedding day, the bride is bathed in citrus-infused water to cleanse her of evil influences.
Many modern brides change into three different outfits throughout the night. The three dresses include a traditional white dress, a traditional Chinese bridal dress for the tea ceremony and a cocktail dress to send off the guests. The bridal headpiece is a phoenix crown made of kingfisher feathers and pearls with a red veil to shield her from the heaves until she reaches her groom’s home. The groom typically wears a blue dragon robe with a black silk coat and a black headpiece with red tassels.
On the day of the wedding, the groom is typically placed through a series of tests or stunts by bridesmaids to prove his worth before he is allowed to pick up his future bride. Traditionally, he would carry out the stunts until he would present them with red envelopes of money. When the bride arrives at the groom’s home, she is greeted by firecrackers and gongs and she will have to jump over an iron basin lit with charcoal to represent prosperity and keep evil spirits away.
If the ceremony is held outdoors, consider presenting your guests with paper parasols or silk painted fans. During a traditional tea ceremony, the bride serves tea to her parents and her new in-laws as a symbol of respect. To update the tradition, the groom can serve tea with his new bride. The color red represents celebration and prosperity, and the Chinese character “xi” or double happiness bestows the wish of a happy life for the couple. Incorporate these characters by having double happiness favor bags or double happiness chopsticks for wedding favors.
The bride and groom are required by etiquette to make the rounds and toast each table individually to the loud cheers of the group visited. Sometimes members of the wedding party can be called upon to drink in place of the bride and groom.
Chinese weddings are filled with symbolism and the wedding cake is no exception. It represents a ladder that the couple will climb to success and so it has many layers and is cut from bottom to top. A traditional reception will feature 9-10 courses and will usually include lobster and chicken because they symbolize the dragon and the phoenix respectively.
Czech Wedding Traditions and Customs
Traditionally the bridesmaids make a wreath of rosemary for the bride to wear—it symbolizes the wish for wisdom, love, and loyalty. In the Czech Republic the tradition of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue is strictly followed; however, the borrowed item must belong to a friend who is already married and the something old must be a family heirloom.
After the ceremony, friends of the groom would hang a rope decorated by flowers, ribbons, and empty bottles. The groom needed to pay his friends in order to pass through the rope and pay himself out of the sins of his youth. Throwing rice at the newlyweds was a way to ensure fertility.
To start off the reception, someone in the wedding party would break a plate at the feet of the bride and groom. The newlyweds would then proceed to sweep the chips together to insure happiness and show a willingness to work together. Another tradition to symbolize the couple’s willingness to work together occurs during the dinner when the bride and groom share their soup with one spoon.
Towards the middle of the party, the groomsmen will kidnap the bride and the groom must find her within a specific period of time, otherwise he must buy her back from his friends, to symbolize the fact that he has promised to care for and protect her. At the end of the reception, following the Czech wedding song, the bride’s veil and the groom’s shoes were carried around by the best man and maid of honor so that guests could put in some money for the honeymoon.
Dutch Wedding Traditions and Customs
A wonderful Dutch custom that can be substituted for the guest book is to create a wedding “wish tree.” At the reception a beautiful tree branch is placed next to the bride and groom’s table, and paper leaves attached to pieces of colorful ribbon are placed at each guest’s place setting. Guests write their special wish for the happy couple on their leaves, which the bride and groom can then read and hang on the tree.
The bridal shower tradition actually originated in Holland where if a Dutch bride’s father disapproves of her choice of a husband he would not offer her a dowry. When this occurs, the bride’s friends would “shower” her with gifts of household items typically included in her dowry. If the family approves, the bride would receive a trousseau (dowry) from her parents and her future father-in-law would give her a “chatelaine,” which consists of a chain or rope made of silver or leather that contained various items such as a pair of scissors, a pincushion, a needle case, a small knife, and a mirror.
Before the ceremony, the bridesmaids would fill the bride’s basket with green garlands and flowers as well as decorate the groom’s pipe with garlands and ribbons. The bride’s house was painted green and the families would host a party where the couple would sit on a throne beneath pine trees as their guests came to bless them and wish them happiness.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom walk on a bed of flowers to the altar and flowers are tossed at them as they depart. During the reception traditional items would be served including sweetmeats called bridal sugar and spiced wine which was known as bride’s tears. Instead of tossing her bouquet, the bride would give out her crown, and whoever got it was the next to be married. Finally, after the wedding, the newlyweds planted lilies of the valley around their house to symbolize the return of happiness and with each season their love would be renewed.
Filipino Wedding Traditions and Customs
Traditionally the groom’s family pays for the wedding and the grandparents act as the primary witnesses or sponsors. The bride’s gown is often custom made and both the bride and groom wear white. It is bad luck for the bride to try on her dress before the wedding day and to wear pearl jewelry, which is considered a bad omen. The groom wears a sheer, long-sleeve button-up shirt (barong tagalog) that is worn un-tucked over black pants with a white t-shirt underneath.
As in Spanish weddings, the groom presents his bride with 13 gold pieces as a pledge of his dedication to his wife and the welfare of his children. These are carried in by a coin bearer who walks with the ring bearer. A white cord is draped around the couple’s shoulders as a bond of infinite marriage and veils of white tulle are draped on the bride’s head and groom’s shoulders to symbolize two people clothed as one.
Another tradition that symbolizes the unity of the couple is the lighting of a unity candle by two separate candles held by the bride and groom to represent the joining of the two families and invoke the light of Christ. The bouquet is not tossed and rather offered to a favorite saint, the virgin, or on the grave of a loved one.
Knives and other sharp objects are not considered good gifts because they will lead to a broken marriage. Raindrops are lucky because they bring prosperity and happiness, and when the rice is tossed at the newlyweds it represents the rain. The groom should always arrive before the bride; otherwise it will be bad luck.
French Wedding Traditions and Customs
The groom customarily walks his mother down the aisle before arriving at the altar to be married. This is a lovely gesture that can be easily adopted and will surely elicit a collective “aww” from the audience. The trousseau originated in France and it literally referred to a bundle of linens and clothing that the bride would take with her after the wedding, which were stored in a hope chest that was hand-carved by her father.
On the day of the wedding, the bride would take a long bath to wash away any thoughts of previous lives or loves. It is traditional for the groom to pick up his bride at her house and walk to the chapel. Typically in small towns, children block their path with white ribbons, which the bride cuts to symbolize breaking through these obstacles.
A pre-cursor to the modern veil may be a tradition that originated in France where the carre, a square piece of silk fabric, was held over the bride and groom’s heads as they received the priest’s final blessing in the ceremony to ward away descending malice and the bride would also wear a wreath of flowers on her head.
The traditional layered wedding cake originated in France, but another common cake is called the croquembouche, which is essentially a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs covered in a caramel glaze. These cakes probably originated from the Middle Ages when guests would bring small cakes or pastries and stack them in a pile. If the bride and groom could kiss over the cakes without knocking them over, then supposedly they would have a lifetime of prosperity.
Another fun tradition involves La Coupe de Marriage, which is an engraved two-handled cup (usually a family heirloom) from which the newlyweds toast each other. One interesting tradition which might be fun to incorporate is the beheading of a bottle of champagne. Skilled horse-back riders under Napoleon’s command would use special sabers to strike the bottles which ladies would hold up. The practice became a way to celebrate special occasions and even now it’s possible to buy replicas of the original sabers.
Finally, on the newlyweds’ wedding night, a crowd of their friends would interrupt the couple as a prank called chiverie by clanging pots and pans. The bride and groom were expected to then provide treats and drinks for their guests before they would finally leave them alone.
German Wedding Traditions and Customs
Breaking dishes, pots, or anything that will break into pieces and then cleaning it up together is said to bring good luck to the bride and groom just before the wedding. The idea is to prepare the bride and groom for facing life’s trials together.
Another pre-wedding custom occurs when the friends and family of the bride and groom create a wedding newspaper that is filled with pictures, articles, and stories of the engaged couple. The paper is sold at the reception to assist with the honeymoon expenses.
For the invitations, an official inviter who is dressed in fancy clothes with ribbons and flowers goes door to door to extend a personal, rhyming invitation to the guests. Guests accepted by pinning ribbons to his hat and offering him a drink or two. If there were numerous invitations, it usually took the inviter a couple days to get through all the houses.
Instead of wearing a veil, German brides wear tiaras or flowery headbands and they also wear dresses with no trains. After the ceremony, the bride and groom must saw a log in half to symbolize overcoming life’s tough challenges together and the guests throw rice at the couple. It is said that whatever amount stays in the bride’s hair is the number of children the couple will have.
As the couple makes their way to their car after the ceremony, the path is laid with fir boughs to symbolize hope, luck, and fertility. The hood of the wedding car is decorated with flowers and as the car procession drives through town, they honk their horns and others honk back to wish the couple good luck.
The customary toast at the reception in Southern Germany is done with a brautbecher (bridal cup) which is a pewter or crystal cup in the form of a maiden holding a small cup above her. Both ends of the cup (the skirt and cup) are filled with champagne or wine and the bride and groom drink their first toast from this cup at the same time signifying their union.
At some point during the reception, the bride is kidnapped by the groomsmen where they will take her to a pub. Once the groom finds her he is supposed to invite everyone in the pub to a drink and cover the bride’s bill. At midnight the bride’s crown is replaced by a bonnet. It is bad luck to try on someone else’s crown or to take it off before then.
At midnight, the bride is blindfolded and she must catch a bridesmaid who is dancing around her. The bridesmaid she catches will be the next woman to marry. Married women then tie the bridal bonnet on the bridesmaid and she must then dance with the groom’s male relatives around 3 lit candles on the floor. If they stay lit, the marriage will be smooth.
Finally, in order to make the first night as a married couple as difficult as possible, friends of the newlyweds will fill up the rooms with balloons, hide alarm clocks, take apart the bed, etc.
Greek Wedding Traditions and Customs
Even before the betrothal, the mother of the bride usually spends years collecting various household items for her daughter’s dowry. When the dowry has been presented to the couple, local girls volunteer to set up and decorate the newlywed’s home.
When the groom proposes, he is expected to ask the father for the daughter’s hand in marriage before the bride. A betrothal service is held when the engagement becomes official and the rings are blessed by the priest, they are later blessed once more during the marriage ceremony because they are usually the same rings.
During the engagement, the bride and groom wear their rings on the left hand and after they are married, the couple switches their rings to the right. Before the ceremony, musicians accompany the groom and his attendants to the church and then they make their way back to pick up and accompany the bride.
In the Greek tradition, the bride and groom are honored as queen and king for the day, and so during the ceremony they wear crowns made of either gold or orange blossoms that are connected with a ribbon to signify the union.
The best man (Koumbaros) leads the ceremony along with the priest and he is the one who places the crown on the couple’s heads. He also exchanges the rings between the bride and groom 3 times to remind the couple that in married life, the weaknesses of one are compensated by the strengths of the other and vice versa.
When the ceremony is complete, the bride and groom walk around the altar three times to symbolize the trinity and their first walk as a married couple.
During the reception, traditional Greek food is served and guests dance to Greek music in the traditional style. During one of the newlywed dances, guests pin money onto the bride and after the celebration, dishes are smashed on the floor with choruses of “opa” for good luck.
Hindu Marriage Ceremony
written by Pauline Hill
The Hindu marriage ceremonies vary in different regions and according to family traditions. The major ceremonies are:
- Agni Puja – Evoking the holy fire. Agni is the god of fire and messenger of the gods. He is the acceptor of sacrifice. A fire is lit in the middle of the mandap to symbolize the illumination of mind, knowledge and happiness. The remainder of the ceremony is conducted around this fire.
- Mangalsutra – Tying of holy necklace. The groom blesses his bride by putting kumkum on her forehead and giving her a sacred necklace (Mangal Sutra). The Mangal Sutra represents the couple’s togetherness, love and sacred union.
- Saptapadi – The Seven Holy Steps circling the fire. This is one of the most important parts of the marriage ceremony. The couple circles the sacred fire seven times while reciting vows;
- Round 1 – the couple invokes the Gods for the plentitude of pure and nourishing food and a life that is noble and respectful.
- Round 2 – the couple prays for physical and mental strength and to lead a healthy and peaceful life.
- Round 3 – fulfillment of spiritual obligations. The Gods are invoked for blessing the couple with spiritual strength.
- Round 4 – the attainment of happiness and harmony through mutual love and trust and a long joyous life together.
- Round 5 – to pray for the welfare of all living entities in the entire universe and for begetting noble children.
- Round 6 – to pray for bountiful seasons all over the world and seek that they may go through these seasons together, just as they would share their joys and sorrows.
- Round 7 – they pray for a life of understanding, loyalty, unity and companionship not only for themselves but also for the peace of the Universe.
- Shilarohana – Stepping on the stones. At the end of each round of nuptial fire, both the bride and the groom step on a stone and offer a prayer for their mutual love to be firm and steadfast like the stone.
Indian Wedding Traditions and Customs
Indian weddings are traditionally multi-day affairs, and involve many intricate ceremonies, such as the painting of the hands and feet of the bride called a mehndi. Garlands are presented to guests of honor instead of corsages, and lots of flower or rose petals are thrown for good luck.
The wedding is typically divided into three parts: pre-wedding, main, and post-wedding. The pre-wedding includes all the preparations and a party the night before where each side of the family can meet each other and dance and have fun. A Pandit, who has selected the day of the wedding based on the bride and groom’s horoscopes, conducts a prayer with family members to provide the couple with a happily married life.
The wedding altar (mandapa) is built the day of and the groom is welcomed by his future mother in law where his feet are then washed and he is offered milk and honey. His sister in law will attempt to steal his shoes and if she succeeds, the groom must pay her to get them back. An Indian groom typically wears a turban with a veil of flowers to protect him from evil spirits.
The parents give the bride away, but they do not eat before the wedding to remain pure for the occasion. The bride’s saree is tied to the groom’s scarf to symbolize the union of the souls. During a similar ceremony, a cord is tied around the couple’s necks to protect them from evil and they are typically tied by elders of the bride and groom.
In Indian weddings, the Mangala Sutra is tied around the bride’s neck instead of exchanging rings. The mangala sutra is a cord with two gold pendants and is tied in three knots by the groom to symbolize the bonding of the two souls for 100 years. This necklace lets others know that the bride is married.
One fun ceremony is called mangal pheras. This is when the bride and groom circle the sacred fire four times to represent dharma, artha, kama, and moksha and they run to their seats—whoever gets there first will rule the household.
In Saptapadi, the groom helps the bride touch seven betel nutes with her right toe while they recite seven vows. Finally, seven married women from the bride’s side pass by the couple and whisper blessings in the bride’s right ear. After the wedding, the bride is carried out by her brothers.
The bride then leaves for the groom’s home where her mother-in-law has placed a vessel filled with rice at the entrance of the home. The bride is supposed to spill the rice by touching it with her right foot to signify wealth and that the bride accepts her new responsibilities.
Another fun game for the newlyweds is called Aeki Beki where a tray of water is mixed with milk and sindoor (vermillion) and it is filled with coins and a ring. Whoever finds the ring four out of seven times will rule the household. The day is then concluded with prayers to God requesting happiness and love for the newlyweds.
Traditional Indian Wedding Article:
Being from a very unorthodox Indian family I must say I was surprised when my brother announced that not only was he getting married in the Fiji Islands, but he was also going to have an Indian wedding. Nonetheless, in June of 1997, our family packed up and headed off to Fiji for the joyous event.
There are many different Indian religions each with their own cultures and traditions. My family, being Hindu, consider marriage a sacred institution where the couple becomes one in spirit. It is the 13th of 16 ceremonies in a person’s life. It is a dedication to the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism which date back several thousand years. A Hindu man does not become his complete self unless he is married and has the support of his wife.
Before my brother and his fiancee were allowed to marry they had to receive blessings from the elders of each family. We traveled to their house to meet her parents and siblings. We were offered refreshments while our parents chatted to determine if they made a compatible couple. Once it was agreed that this was going to be an agreeable marriage, the engagement was blessed and rings were exchanged in the “Misri” (ring celebration). My brother and his bride-to-be adorned each other with beautiful garlands and our families exchanged traditional Indian sweets. The evening was completed with a dinner party for all.
Then the multi day celebration truly began. Hindu weddings are rich in color, tradition, culture and the sweet smell of incense. It consists of many Puja’s (Pooja), a religious ritual that Hindus perform on a variety of occasions to pray or show respect to their chosen Gods or Goddesses. The prayers are made to the accompaniment of drum beating, horn-blowing, bell ringing and the chanting of Vedas.
The bride and groom remain separated in their own residences until the day of the wedding, each performing their own set of rituals. My brother’s first ceremony was performed with the bride’s father and other male relatives. They brought with them coconut and clothes as gifts and offerings to perform the Tilak Puja . During this ritual a pundit (priest) puts a mark called a teeka on the groom’s forehead as a symbol of the rising sun. After this event was complete everyone celebrated with dinner and the men drank the traditional Fijian drink called “grog”, which is made by pounding sun-dried kava root into a fine powder and mixing it with cold water.
The second day was filled with religious services. The first was a puja called the Mandap Mahurat . The pundit performs this puja to pray to Lord Ganesh and seek His blessings to dispel all evils and promote a successful, peaceful completion of the wedding ceremony. The second puja was the Grah Shanti (Worship to the Nine Planets). Ancient Indian studies reveal that various celestial bodies influence the destiny of an individual. During this puja, the Gods are asked to instill courage, peace of mind and the inner strength to the bride and groom to help them endure life’s sufferings. After that was the Ghari Puja . This ceremony gives offerings of coconut, wheat grains, oil, betel nuts and turmeric. The mother and close female relatives of the bride planted a small stalk in the garden to celebrate the marriage.
The Shagun Ki Mehndi celebration was performed in the evening of the second day. We (the groom’s family) sent henna to the bride, which was then applied to her hands and feet in a very intricate and beautiful pattern. Henna signifies the strength of love in the marriage, so the bride is supposed to leave it on as long as possible. My brother was pasted with a turmeric powder which is considered a beautification process . Guests at each residence celebrated with food, song and dance and (of course) more grog; it was a very festive occasion.
On the third day (the eve of the wedding), family and friends gathered with us to celebrate the upcoming nuptials (the bride had a separate celebration at her house). In addition to being a time to rejoice, it was a continuation of the Shagun Ki Mehndi celebration. My brother was again pasted with the tumeric powder (this has to be done 5-7 times) while everyone partied. There was an abundance of exotic food and delicious fresh tropical fruits and drinks (yes, more grog). Everyone gave their advice to my brother for a good, long strong marriage. Many toasts were made and party lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
The wedding, typically held at the bride’s residence, is performed under a mandap , a decorated four pillared canopy. The brides outfit consists of a red sari heavily embroidered with gold thread. The red sari is to signify fertility. She accessorizes with traditional ornate gold jewelry. The grooms outfit can be a customary Sherwani (long tunic embroidered with gold thread) worn with Kurta pajamas, or a simpler dhoti and tunic.
The day of the wedding the bride and groom are required to fast. When my brother arrived at the site of the ceremony his future father-in-law washed his feet and performed another very small prayer in front of the Mandap called Dwar Puja . Then the bride’s mother welcomed him with a colorful flower garland and led him to the mandap. After he was settled, his bride made her stunning entrance. She was very beautiful, her head covered with her sari and eyes down, she was led to the mandap by her maternal uncle (Mama), female cousins and friends. In some ceremonies the bride may be carried in a small carriage.
The actual wedding service is fascinating because the parents and close relatives of the couple also participate. The pundit chants mantras form the Vedas that were originally written in Sanskrit and there are many symbolic presences:
Fresh flowers – to signify beauty
Coconut – to signify fertility
Rice and other grains – to signify the food necessary for sustenance of life
Ghee (purified butter) – to feed the sacred fire
Kumkum (vermilion) – red powder used for marking the forehead to signify good luck and to say that your soul (husband) is with you
Parental consent is required for the wedding to proceed. The bride’s parents give their daughter to the groom (Kanyadana puja) by putting her right hand into his while reciting sacred verse. The groom’s older sister (me) performs the Ganthibandhan (tying the knot) by pinning a ribbon to the couple to protect them from evil influences. This also symbolizes the couples bond. The groom holds the brides hand and they both take vows to love, cherish and protect each other throughout life. The Hindu marriage ceremonies can vary depending on different regions and according to family traditions.
Several hours later, after all vows were exchanged my brother and his wife agreed to be companions forever. The priest blessed the newlyweds and flower petals and rice were given to the guests to shower them with blessings. Then everyone gave their individual blessings, the marriage ceremony ended and the reception began. Guests were served an array of amazing curry dishes and once again we enjoyed the fresh tropical fruits and vegetables all prepared with a spicy twist. We were entertained by local men and women playing dholaks and harmoniums, traditional Indian instruments, while they sang “Sohar’s” (wedding songs) of celebration. The event was flawless. can vary depending on different regions and according to family traditions.
During the reception, one tradition that I found very amusing was the Baasi-Jawari (taking of the shoes). The bride’s sisters hid my brother’s shoes and demanded money from him before they would return them so he could leave with his new bride. His best man, after some intense negotiation, was able to get them back without having to go into too much debt. It was very funny to watch.
The day after the wedding, the flowers that were part of the puja’s performed by my brother leading up to the wedding, are taken and put in the ocean as a gift to the Ganga Ma , Goddess of Water. She is said to be the only accessible physical entity that flows from heaven and on earth and the offering is a hope for fertility.
I had an amazing time. Keeping with Indo-Fijian tradition, all the food and decorations were made by family members. All the offerings for the pujas were hand picked and all the love, warmth and hospitality we experienced from our new relatives was genuine. Being part of such a wonderful cultural event is definitely an experience that I want to remember for a long
time to come.
Irish Wedding Traditions and Customs
The night before the wedding, the groom would be invited to the bride’s house, where a cooked goose would be served in his honor. A sunny wedding day meant good luck, and one way to insure it would be a fine day was to place a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church before the ceremony.
The traditional wedding ring is called a claddagh, and depicts two hands holding a heart bearing a crown. The hands represent faith, the heart love, and the crown honor.
The brides typically wore wildflower wreaths in their hair and in their bouquets—especially lavender—and they braided their hair to symbolize feminine power and luck. Another accessory for the bride is a lucky horseshoe, which is tied around her bouquet. However, the points must face up so that it can catch and hold all the good luck.
The magic hanky is a tradition where the bride carries a special handkerchief that with a few stitches can be turned into a christening bonnet, which can then be turned back into a hanky for that child’s wedding day.
Bells were thought to keep evil spirits away, so for your exit have your guests ring little wedding bells or use them instead of clinking glasses at the reception. To insure good luck, someone must throw a shoe over the bride’s head as she is leaving the church; just make sure not to hit her.
A popular Celtic design is the love knot. It is a pattern created by using continuous, unending lines that intertwine. The design represents eternity, unity, and fidelity and is an important part of the ceremony. A four leaf clover depicts hope, faith, love, and luck. A fun way to incorporate the lucky clover is to include mini pots of shamrocks for décor.
Bunratty mead is the oldest drink in Ireland and this honey drink is probably where the term honeymoon came from—when the groom would kidnap his bride for a month (moon) and they would drink plenty of the mead—it was thought that after this month the bride would become pregnant and then the family would have to accept the marriage.
In ancient Ireland, the harpists were said to be the best musicians, so walk down the aisle to the ethereal sounds of the harp.
The wedding cake is typically a three-layered whiskey-laced fruit cake with almond paste. The top layer was preserved for consumption at the christening of the first born child.
Finally, in order to get the newlyweds to kiss, a guest would stand up and sing a song, or recite a poem with the word “love” in it.
Italian Wedding Traditions and Customs
During the proposal, a groom will typically serenade her first and then present her with a diamond ring because of the belief that a diamond was created by the flames of love.
Sunday weddings are the luckiest and if a bride wears green the night before the wedding, it will bring luck and abundance to the couple. Conversely, if she wears gold on the day of the wedding or before it, she will receive bad luck.
On the way to the church, the bride and groom will receive several challenges involving a fallen broom, a crying baby, or other household chores to test their skills before marriage. In Northern Italy, the groom brings the bride’s bouquet and he chooses the color and style of the flowers as his gift to her.
To ward off the evil-eye from envious people, a groom should carry a piece of iron (toc ferro). At the reception, all the men at the reception are supposed to kiss the bride for good luck and to make the groom jealous.
Strong drinks are served to start the festivities and to toast the couple with “Per Cent’anni” which means “for 100 years.” Other popular toasts are “Evviva gli sposi” which means “Hurray for the newlyweds” and is shouted whenever there’s a lull in the party or shouts of “kiss for the bride” mean that the newlyweds must kiss to show their affection.
During the reception, the bride carries a satin pouch where guests can place envelopes of money for the chance to dance with her. Of course no reception would be complete without dancing the traditional tarantella, which is the dance of the spider and involves light and quick movements with passionate hand gestures.
The food is almost as important as the ceremony and guests may be served up to 14 different courses and of course the cake is served with espresso. The groom also has his tie cut into little pieces that are then sold off to the guests by the groomsmen to pay for the band. The groom should probably bring a cheap tie for this event.
One of the oldest traditions is the giving of candy-coated Jordan almonds. Meant to represent the bittersweet nature of marriage, these treats are given to guests wrapped in tulle, or pretty pouches, in quantities of 5 or 7, which are lucky numbers.
At the end of the wedding day, a couple would break a vase or glass and the number of pieces was supposed to represent the number of years that they would be happily married.
As in many cultures, during the reception, friends of the groom would sneak away to play tricks on the couple such as walling-in the door of the couple’s new home or putting itching powder on the bed. Finally, after the wedding in Naples, instead of thank you notes, brides are expected to bake cakes or some other baked good to thank her guests for attending the wedding.
Japanese Wedding Traditions and Customs
The Japanese ritual of “san-san-kudo”, the three by three exchange is rich with meaning. It is performed by the bride and groom and both sets of parents; each person takes 3 sips of sake from each of 3 cups. The first 3 represent three couples, the bride and groom, and their parents. The second 3 represent three human flaws: hatred, passion, and ignorance. “Ku”, or 9 is a lucky number in Japanese culture. And “do” means deliverance from the three flaws.
Another highlight of this ceremony is a rosary with 21 beads that represent the couple, their families and the Buddha all joined on one string to symbolize the union of the families. Part of the ceremony involves honoring the parents with offers of flowers, a toast, or a letter expressing their love and gratitude.
The crane is a symbol of longevity and prosperity and so 1,001 gold origami cranes are folded to bring luck, good fortune, longevity, fidelity, and peace to the marriage.
The bride traditionally wears two outfits: the shiro, which is a white kimono worn for the ceremony and the uchikake kimono which is a patterned brocade worn at the reception. The hair is worn in a bun with colorful kanzashi accessories and a white wedding hook called the tsuno kakushi is worn to hide the two front golden tsuno horns to symbolize obedience. The bride also carries a tiny purse (hakoseko), a small encased sword (kaiken), and a fan that is worn in the obi belt that represents happiness and a happy future.
Plenty of courses are served, but never in a multiple of four because the number four sounds like the word for death. Additionally, the different foods served all have special meanings, for example lobster might be served because red is a lucky color or clams served with both shells symbolize the couple’s union.
Korean Wedding Traditions and Customs
Before the wedding takes place, a bride must participate in a traditional introduction ceremony where she is accepted into the groom’s family.
Ducks and geese are animals that are known to mate for life and so in the olden days, the groom would give his mother in law a live goose to represent his fidelity, but now the live goose has been replaced by a wooden one. In Korean culture these animals are the perfect symbols of fidelity and are incorporated into weddings.
Cranes also represent a long life and so they are usually incorporated into the bride’s sash. The bride wears two dresses which are said to be from the noble class, a light green wonsam and an elaborate hwarrot or flower robe. Underneath, she wears a traditional robe. On her head, she wears a black gem-studded cap and she wears white socks with embroidered shoes. Her make-up is simple with three red nickel-sized circles to ward off evil spirits. The groom wears the dress of nobility as well, and it is made of dark green damask with embroidered auspicious symbols in gold and a tall black cap headdress made of silk.
The wedding ceremony takes place in front of a table and one important part is the sharing of a special white wine (jung jong) which is poured from cups made from two halves of a gourd made by the bride’s mom. The bride and groom sip from their own cups, mix the wine, and then pour it out and sip again as a wedding vow.
Another ceremony which is only attended by close family members is when the new wife offers the in-laws dried dates and jujubes that represent children. They offer the bride tea and at the end of the ceremony they toss dates and chestnuts at her while she attempts to catch them with her skirt.
Finally, there is a noodle banquet called kook soo sang where Korean sake is taken in shots, while wheat noodle soup is eaten to wish the couple a long, happy life.
Spanish and Latin-American Wedding Traditions and Customs
Spanish culture is filled with rich traditions. Historically, the night before the wedding, hand lanterns were used to light the way from the groom’s home to the bride’s home. The groom’s family would then carry a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride’s family.
The groom is not allowed to see his bride before the wedding and it was the bride’s father’s job to keep her hidden before the wedding and of course give away his daughter. As in France, the groom escorts his mother down the aisle.
The flower girl and the ring bearer traditionally dress as miniature versions of the bride and groom. One important part of the ceremony is the arras (gold coins). These are 13 gold coins that represent Jesus and his 12 apostles, which are blessed by the priest and are given to the bride with the groom’s promise to care for and support his wife.
The wedding is paid for by different “sponsors” or god-parents who are all recognized in different parts of the ceremony. They are the ones who will carry the arras or the rope into the church. The rope or rosary is another tradition where it is placed over the bride and groom to insure protection of the union.
During the ceremony, the bride has someone hold her bouquet while she carries a rosary and a bible. Orange blossoms are the flowers of choice for Spanish brides because they symbolize happiness and fulfillment and can be seen in the bouquet, decorations, and even in the bride’s hair.
The mantilla veil is common and in Spain brides wear black silk dresses to symbolize their devotion until death; however in recent years Spanish brides have worn white dresses as well. In Spanish and Latin American culture the bride and groom wear their rings on their right hand.
After the ceremony, a festive mariachi band, salsa music, or a Spanish guitarist would bring an abundance of fun to the reception. During the first dance, the guests form a heart shape around the newlyweds to cheer them on.
The meal of choice for Spanish ceremonies is paella or some other seafood and of course sangria, while in Mexico it would probably include spicy rice, beans, and steak (carne asada) accompanied by a spicy tomatillo sauce. It is also common to see almond cookies in addition to the cake.
Aside from the bouquet toss, single ladies at the party are expected to wear special pins upside down. If the pin is lost, that woman will be next in line to marry. Wedding favors for the men are typically cigars, other favors include wedding cookies, Spanish hand fans, or some other local good such as pottery.
Scottish Wedding Traditions and Customs
During the engagement, Scottish brooches (Luckenbooth) are given as tokens of love and they are usually made of silver and engraved with two intertwined hearts. If the couple pins it to the blanket of their first born it will bring the family luck.
After the bridal shower, the bride is made up and dressed in long trains made of old curtains or whatever party material is around or some garish costumes. The bride then has to carry a small plastic potty with salt in the bottom, and she is taken around town where the women proceed to make a lot of noise banging pots and pans to herald the bride’s status. The bride then exchanges kisses for money that are dropped into the potty, and this is said to bring good luck, prosperity, and fertility.
Like the Bride’s “Taking Out,” the groom gets a stag night where he is dressed up and taken around town in order to completely ridicule him. Sometimes the groom is dressed up in a padded outfit to resemble a pregnant woman, and he is often the butt of practical jokes from his groomsmen who also help him celebrate by drinking in excess. At the end of the night, the groom is dropped off on the street in front of his house stripped of his clothes and tied up.
Another pre-wedding tradition involves the ceremonial feet washing, where the bride’s female friends would wash her feet in a tub. A wedding ring from a happily married woman was previously placed in the tub and whoever found it would be the next to marry.
On the day of the wedding, the bridal party would make their way to the church strewing flower petals on the way, but if they encountered a funeral or a pig it was considered bad luck and they would have to turn around and start over. The clergyman would then meet them and during the mass he would bless the food brought by the guests and kiss the bride.
The bag pipes or traditional Gaelic hymns are typically played or sang in the ceremony. Traditionally, the groom wears a kilt, a kilt jacket, and a sporran in his clan colors and the couple participates in a hand fasting ceremony where their wrists are bound together by a cloth or string.
At the end of the ceremony, he adorns his bride with a sash in the same colors to welcome her to his family (clan), he presents his bride with an engraved teaspoon to ensure that his bride will never go without food, and he may also present the bride with a family sword to be given to their first born son or the bride’s family might present the groom with their sword as an act of acceptance into the family.
As the bride walks out of the church, a toddler would hand a horseshoe to the bride for good luck, and the bride and groom would then scatter coins for the assembled children to collect, so that their kindness would be returned to them throughout their marriage.
Finally, all the guests accompanied the newlyweds to their home where before the bride entered her new home, a piece of oatcake was broken over her head and a piece of cake was passed around to everyone, then the groom must carry his new bride over the threshold to protect her from bad spirits.
With the minister’s blessing over the house, the newlyweds, and their marriage bed, the ceremony was finished.
Swedish Wedding Traditions and Customs
An old and adorable Swedish custom is for the bride to carry coins in her shoes. One silver coin in her left shoe from her father, and one gold coin in her right from her mother are used to ensure that she will never go without.
Traditionally a Swedish bride will wear three bands, one for her engagement, one for marriage, and one for motherhood, she will also wear a tiara to symbolize her virgin status, although in the past these tiaras were actually crowns made of myrtle leaves.
The bride’s bouquet was typically made of the strongest smelling flowers to ward off trolls and other evil creatures.
During the wedding, the bride and groom typically entered the church together and the head of the household was determined by whoever stepped over the threshold first or said “I do” the loudest.
During the reception, if the groom leaves the room for any reason, other men are allowed to kiss the bride, and vice versa. Also during the reception any guest that wants to give a speech is allowed to at any time, but traditionally both the father of the bride and the father of the groom were expected to make a speech first.
The meal consisted of a smorgasbord, which was essentially a mix of several foods with fish served before the meat and hot foods served before cold foods and drinking songs would be sung.
In the Skane region, dinner was followed by the cake called a spettekaka (a spit cake). The cake is made by drizzling batter over a spit to create a lacey two to three feet confection.
Vietnamese Wedding Traditions and Customs
It is customary for the mother-in-law to bestow upon the bride pink chalk, which symbolizes a rosy future for the couple. The date and time of the ceremony is usually determined by a Buddhist monk or fortune teller.
The wedding consists of several ceremonies including asking permission to receive the bride, the procession to receive the bride, the procession to the groom’s house, the second ancestor ceremony, and the banquet party.
In the morning, the groom’s mother and a few close relatives would walk to the bride’s house with a gift of betel to ask permission to receive the bride at her house. This ceremony was often done in the times of arranged marriages to insure that the bride had not fled from the home and that the wedding was still taking place.
In the procession to receive the bride, the groom and his family often carry decorated lacquer boxes covered in red cloth to represent his wealth and which include various gifts for the bride’s family. There are either 6 or 8 boxes, but never 7 because it is bad luck.
After paying their respects to their ancestors, the bride and groom will serve tea to their parents who will then give them advice regarding marriage and family. During the candle ceremony, the bride and groom’s families union is celebrated and the mother in law of the bride will open the boxes filled with jewelry and dress her new daughter in law in the jewelry.
Finally, the groom officially asks for permission to take his new bride home and they make their way back to his house. During the banquet there is usually a 7-10 course meal and the bride and groom make their rounds to each table to express their gratitude and collect their gifts.
During this time, the bride usually wears three outfits, one modern western wedding gown, another western dress, and finally a traditional ao dai.