Getting married and holding a celebration is one of the most universal traditions around the world. Your wedding day is a day of happiness and festivity but not everyone celebrates it the same way.
Tossing a bouquet and leaving the wedding party in a limousine with “Just Married” written on the back isn’t the only way to get married in the world. There are other wedding ceremony traditions and styles that are unique and are heavily influenced by culture, ethnicity and religion.
Weddings Around the World!
Every place has its own traditions ranging from sweet to strange. So, today, we’re going to take a look at seven countries and their wedding traditions.
1. The United States
We all know about the traditional American wedding with white gown, veil and first dance. But there’s probably some tidbits you’ve missed out.
American traditional wedding involves a bride wearing a white or ivory wedding gown that signifies purity. The gown is usually coupled with a veil, which identifies the bride’s virginity. Keep in mind that these are ancient traditions and in the modern world, don’t literally signify what they mean.
Over time, these traditions have evolved and now brides have more options to wear what they want—in whatever color they desire.
American and British traditions are more or less the same with a few differences such as placement of the groom as the bride walks down the aisle. American grooms face their guests and the entryway of the aisle whereas British grooms stand with their back to the aisle. The purpose of this standing placement is so the groom doesn’t see the bride till she’s on the pulpit.
Chinese wedding traditions are all about bonding and coming together of the two families. We’ll focus on the quintessential tea ceremony that’s as old as time.
The ceremony represents love and respect for both families as the bride and groom serve tea to both families together. In a more traditional setting, the groom’s family is served first and in order of superiority—starting from parents to paternal grandparents and then maternal grandparents. The ceremony can be performed in a private room with only the immediate family members present or during the ceremony as guests enjoy the cocktail hour.
The ceremony is usually carried out after the couple has said their vows. However, some prefer to hold it the day after the wedding to avoid the hassle.
Greek wedding traditions are very intimate where the bride’s and groom’s family are heavily involved in the pre-wedding preparation. The Koumbaros or best man is typically responsible for shaving the groom’s face while friends and family help him get dressed and ready for the ceremony.
During the ceremony, both the bride and groom wear delicate crowns. The crown ritual is elaborate and starts off as a priest sets the crowns on the couple’s head. The Koumbaros then proceed to intertwine the crown three times. The intertwining represents harmony and couple’s union, after which, the crowns are tied together with a string or a ribbon.
The traditional wedding colors at a Greek wedding are pink, white or blue. Traditional dances are also performed with ‘Dollar Dance’ being one of the most famous one.
Whether it’s a reform Jewish wedding or strictly traditional, there are some traditions you’ll see in both.
- In Jewish culture the wedding day is a day of forgiveness. The couple can choose to fast on their wedding day just as they would on Yom Kippur.
- To signify his love for both the inner and outer beauty of the bride, the groom approaches the bride for Bedeken. The ceremony involves veiling of the bride after the groom takes a look at her face. The tradition goes back centuries and stems from the Bible and the story of Jacob.
- Ketubah is a prenuptial agreement where the groom agrees to take on certain responsibilities of the bride. It includes her protection, rights and framework to divorce. A common misconception about Ketubah is that it is part of the religious law; however, it actually falls under the Jewish civil law.
- During the ceremony, groom parents walk him down the aisle followed by the bride and her parents. The ritual is called ‘walk to chuppah’. The corners of chuppah represent a new life and a new home that the couple is building together. After the vows under the chuppah, the bride circles the groom either three or seven times to create a wall of protection against negative forces.
- Sheva B’rachot is seven blessings that can be read in both English and Hebrew and can be shared with the family of both the bride and groom. The blessing spreads joy, love and companionship.
- In some Jewish weddings, the bride and groom is asked to step on glass to shatter it. This symbolizes the couple’s commitment to stand by each other in bad times.
- The guests shout Mazel Tov that translates to “congratulations” or “good luck”, once the rituals are over, concluding the ceremony.
Jewish weddings are highly symbolic and almost every ritual holds meaning and a purpose.
Pakistani weddings are famously known for spanning over days, surrounded by multiple rituals and ceremonies. From engagement ceremony to the lunch on the third or fourth day, the wedding includes the following:
- A Mayoun, where the bride has to stay at home for a couple of days before the big day to start prepping for her wedding. Turmeric and oil are applied to her hair, face and hands to get that perfect glow before the Mehndi (henna).
- A Dholki is a musical ceremony where the bride’s friends and family gather around to dance and sing, in celebration.
- At Mehndi, the bride-to-be wears a yellow or orange-colored dress with flower garlands and bracelets. Here, henna is applied to her hands and feet, along with her family members’ and other attendees’.
- The main event is called the Baarat, which is hosted by the bride’s family. Friends and family of the groom arrive. Next the Nikkah ceremony is performed. The ceremony legally binds the bride and groom and after they sign the religious document aka the Nikahnama, they’re declared husband and wife. Baarat also involves a huge dinner, exchange of gifts, the performance of rituals and dances, finally ending with the bride and groom leaving for the groom’s house alongside a procession.
- Valima is hosted by the groom’s family on the next day or after a few days.
Pakistani weddings are a huge affair and if you’re ever invited to one, you’re going to have to take a whole week off to enjoy the festivities.
Indian weddings are uniquely creative and share a number of attributes with Pakistani weddings. Just like a Pakistani wedding, Indian ceremonies are spread over three days. Let’s take a look.
- Misri is the first ceremony where the couple exchanges gold rings and flower garlands. The ceremony typically also involves an exchange of gifts between the parents to commemorate the occasion.
- Sangeet is a musical ceremony that can be held separately at both the bride’s and groom’s sides or jointly at one venue. The occasion often involves dance-offs between the cousins and friends from the groom’s and bride’s side. Mehndi is also a part of the sangeet ceremony as the bride is covered in turmeric and henna.
- During the ceremony, the bride’s brother pours rice into her hands as the groom cups the bride’s hands. The rice is thrown into a sacred fire. Another tradition involves the bride throwing the rice back as a symbol of stepping into a new life and embarking on a journey of spiritual prosperity.
- Since wedding rings are too mainstream, Hindu tradition uses Mangalsultra, a necklace with gold pendants that is tied around the bride’s neck with three knots. The necklace and knot symbolize the couple’s strong bond in the upcoming life.
One of the most significant parts of an Indian wedding is the colors and life the wedding attire denote. Apart from the bride, guests also dress up in heavily embellished gowns, lehengas and saaris, which are complemented with traditional South-Asian jewelry.
Did you know that in some parts of Italy, a bride isn’t allowed to view her reflection on her wedding day? It brings bad luck!
Many Italian traditions are regional and vary from one area to the other. However, let’s take a look at some of the old ones that are still being practiced in most parts of the country:
Starting with the bride’s dress, bridal dress tradition of wearing a garter goes back centuries. The bride can take this off after or during the ceremony. The torn pieces of garter are distributed to guests for good luck and prosperity.
Modern brides often avoid wearing a garter, in which case, the groom removes the bride’s right shoe and tosses it. In some Italian regions, wearing any gold jewelry other than the wedding ring is frowned upon as it can bring bad luck.
In some parts, the best man takes off the groom’s tie and cuts it into little pieces, only to sell them to the guests later.
Many rituals and traditions in Italian weddings symbolize joy, love and happiness. Unlike many other cultures, the bride and groom often go from table to table, meet guests and chat. Wedding guests also throw confetti and almonds at the newlyweds in a traditional Italian wedding.
Some Other Unique Customs in a Wedding Ceremony
In Congo, weddings are a serious and thoughtful affair. Couples are not allowed to smile pre, during or post-ceremony pictures. A smiling face means that the couple isn’t serious about the marriage. Here are some more:
- In Armenia, couples have to balance flatbread on their shoulders if they want to keep evil spirits away.
- In France, couples often have to eat treats and chocolates from a toilet bowl. The ritual symbolizes the start of a bond with unmatched strength.
- Who would’ve thought that teeth are part of the wedding ceremony traditions these days? In Fiji, often, a man presents his father-in-law a whale tooth when asking for the woman’s hand in marriage.
- In Germany, guests break porcelain dishes to protect the new couple from evil forces. Later, the bride and groom clean up the mess together. The act symbolizes the importance of working together and shows that newlyweds can overcome any challenge in life, together.
- In Guatemala, guests smash and break things on the wedding day. The groom’s mother breaks a ceramic bell filled with rice on the arrival of the newlyweds.
- In Japan, brides wear white clothing, makeup and kimono. This represents their maiden status on the wedding day.
- Brides in Jamaica often need a backup wedding ensemble. The villagers are allowed to pass comments on the bride’s look and if she doesn’t live up to everyone’s expectations, she has to go back for another attempt.
- Cake and wine in Norway! “Kransekake” is a special Norwegian cake that’s made with iced almond cake rings. The cone shaped cake has a wine bottle placed in the middle of it.
- In some parts of Kenya, the bride’s father spits on her dress to remind the couple of approaching hardships.
- Czechs take their fertility very serious, which is why an infant is placed on the couple’s bed before they tie the knot. The gesture is meant to enhance fertility and blessings in the newlyweds’ lives.
It’s important to remember that these traditions aren’t set in stone.
Several wedding customs have started to blend as destination weddings are becoming more popular. With interracial and interethnic weddings, couples are adopting their partner’s culture to the wedding festivities.
Now that you’re all caught up on the craziest rituals and unique wedding ceremony traditions, it’s time to plan your own party.