Wedding Customs Around the World


Africa and Assorted Areas:

Africa: Belly-dancing, sword brandishing, jumping over broom sticks. The broom stick tradition occurs with drums beating in the background, and the couple jumps over a broomstick to symbolize the jump or transition into married life, with the broomstick symbolizing the home. Sometimes the couple is tied together (tying the knot) at the wrists to symbolize their union.  Wine may be poured onto the ground as an offering to the gods.

In South Africa, the groom carries a torch from his fireplace to the brides, and lights a fire there.

Throughout Africa, brides and grooms often have their hair braded. In the more traditional ceremonies, the hair is covered with a clay mixture of ochre (any of various earths containing silica and alumina and ferric oxide; used as a pigment) and animal fat.

American Indian: The bride's dress colors represent the four corners of the earth.  North is black, South is Blue, Yellow is West and White is East.  The Indian Groom and Bride share a cup of mush made from white and yellow corn, symbolizing the union of the sexes, kind of like Yin and Yang coming together.

Cuban: Famous for their festivities, and filled with music and dancing, each man that dances with the bride must put money in her dress. In turn, the bride gives a wedding favor to each wedding guest. Gifts are displayed on a table in the reception area.

Asian:

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China -  Sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers often bestow purses filled with gold on new brides in their family.   The color red is very popular in Chinese weddings, and the bride often wears a red wedding dress unlike the European white wedding dress. Gifts and other wedding paraphernalia are often colored red as well.

Fiji: A young man traditionally presents the father of the bride with a wale's tooth as  a gift: showing his status and financial stature. Before the wedding, the groom hosts a huge wedding feast for the bride's family, and a day before the wedding the bride gets a tattoo. The Kava plant is used to make an alcoholic drink enjoyed at the wedding party.

Philippines: The groom's family pays for the wedding costs, while the bride's family gives a big cash gift to the new couple. During the ceremony, the bride's wedding veil is attached to the groom's clothing, symbolizing unity. Then the bride and groom each light a candle, and together light a 3rd unity wedding candle. Lastly, they are bound together by a white wedding cord.

India: Many elaborate rituals which stretch over the course of days. Flower petals are sprinkled over the newlyweds to ward off evil. Evil spirits are also discouraged by the circling of the couple's heads with a coconut.

Japan: The new couple must drink sake 9 times. After the 1st drink they are considered to be married. The bride must change outfits many times during the ceremony. Guests give money to the couple, from 200: several thousand dollars, depending on the closeness of the relationship. Here the bride traditionally wears white. The bride changes outfits several times during the wedding, starting with a traditional; kimono, and sometimes ending with western attire.

Korea: The bride may wear red and yellow chogori during the wedding ceremony. Men wear the traditional hanbok.  Traditionally southern men are considered the most handsome, and northern women the most attractive mates. Matchmakers are used in many Korean weddings, even in modern times. In Korea, ducks symbolize a happy marriage (perhaps because of their notable fidelity) and cranes represent a long life.

Malaysia: The bride's wedding gifts of origami wrapped money and food arrives via a procession of children. Each guest may receive an elaborately decorated hard boiled egg, which is representative of fertility.

Europe:

Belgium: An embroidered handkerchief with the bride's name is taken into the wedding, then placed on display in the home, repeating with the rest of the bride's sisters (using the same handkerchief).

Czechoslovakia - Instead of rice, the reception line tosses peas at the new couple as they depart the church.

Denmark - The traditional Danish wedding cake is the cornucopia cake (cornucopia  is a horn-shaped container, often shown spilling over with fruits, used in harvest celebrations and to symbolize abundance and harvest). The cake is round and tall, and filled with good things including almonds. Everyone at the wedding must eat a piece that the couple cuts, to avoid bad luck. Also the couple may dress in clothes of the opposite sex to throw of evil spirits.

England - The bride should never be seen by the groom in the wedding dress prior to the wedding. This has spilled over into American wedding lore culture as well. Spiders found in a wedding dress are thought to bring good luck….Love spoons are often given to symbolize the giver's feelings.  The term "honeymoon" originated in Briton from the drinking of honey-sweetened mead for a month after the wedding.  The luckiest time to marry is between fall and Christmas, when food is abundant. But other days weigh in to the English wedding luck formula as well:

Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all. Thursday for losses, Friday for crosses, Saturday for no luck at all.

Many English wedding traditions such as the bride wearing white to symbolize purity, the groom carrying the bride over the threshold, and the cutting of the wedding cake have been carried over into the U.S. wedding culture.

French: Drink from the 2 handed silver cup of marriage, use silk covered canopy to protect from evil. The cup is passed down from one generation to another. Instead of a wedding cake, the French eat "crisp in the mouth" caramel cream puffs.

German: The tradition of exchanging gold wedding bands worn on the left had started here.  A train of cars, often adorned with flowers arrives at the German wedding, where the tradition dance is a waltz.  In some places, the bride is kidnapped by her friends and the groom must find her. The tradition of throwing rice (representing children) may have started here.

Greek: At a Greek wedding, the koumbaros is the best man, and often the groom's Godfather. He crowns the couple during the ceremony with a crown made of flowers and silver and white paper, symbolizing unity. These crowns are worn or attached during the ceremony.

Holland: The couple sits beneath and evergreen canopy, and is greeted by the guests as they come to offer their congratulations and wishes of happiness. There are two famous foods at Dutch weddings: sweetmeats called bridal sugar, and a spice wine called bride's tears. The newlyweds often plant lilies of the valley plants in their home, which portend happiness and whose blooms allow the couple to renew their commitment each season.

Italian: For good luck, the bride's veil is torn, and the groom may carry a metal item (iron) for good luck. Italian weddings often feature an elaborate multi course wedding meal.

Irish: New Years day is the lucky day for Irish to wed.  Also used are horseshoes, lace from the wedding gown used for the baby's bonnet, and special "claddagh" rings, all used for good luck. The fruitcake is the wedding cake of choice in Irish weddings. It is steeped with an alcoholic beverage.  A lucky horseshoe is presented to the couple for luck.

Norway: The Norwegian wedding cake is called Brudlaupskling and is made of bread and date, covered in cream, cheeses and sweet syrup. Norwegians also plant fir trees outside the house near the door to hasten the arrival of a child.

Polish: Involves many special foods: Macaroons. Pierogi, beet soup. A bride may have money pinned to her in exchange for a dance.  The polish toast "Sto Lat" is a wish for 100 years of good health. The mother of the bride may place the wedding veil on the bride before the ceremony, symbolizing her last task for the girl before she becomes a married woman.

Russia: In Russian weddings, the bride and groom must give a gift to each of the wedding guests. There are also no best man, bridesmaids, or flower girls. Russian wedding last for two days. The bride and groom arrive in separate cars and are kept separated until the ceremony. Usually an official reads the vows, the couple exchanges rings and are married. The long absence of the Church during communist rule served to change the wedding tradition in Russia. After the wedding, the couple often makes a tour of local famous sites. Then they return for the wedding party, which is the main event. One tradition in Russian marriage feats is that champagne glasses are thrown on the floor after a toast and drinking. If the glasses break it is considered to bring good fortune. Because of the fall of communism in Russia, church weddings are on the rebound. After fasting, Church weddings are usually held in the morning hours.

Scotland: In some respects Scottish weddings are similar to American weddings. Traditionally however, on the night before the wedding, traditionally the bride and groom are (separately) covered in soot, grease and ashes. The bride may be paraded though the streets with cans and pot banging, to raise money for the wedding. A double level brandy fruitcake is baked when the couple is engaged. The 1st level is eaten during the wedding celebration, and the 2nd level is kept until the 1st child is borne, presumably preserved in brandy… Scottish brides wear a white satin or lace wedding  dress. Grooms wear Highland dress  (a kilt and tweed jacket). After the wedding ceremony, the page gives the bride a lucky horse shoe as she leaves the Church.

Spain: As with the Philippines, 13 coins are presented to the bride by the groom as a token of his support for her. (Not too surprising, considering the History of the two countries). The bride may carry the coins during the wedding, or they may be help by one of the bridesmaids. The Spanish bride often favors orange flowers which represent happiness and a full life. She may also wear a black silk wedding dress, as opposed to the white wedding dress in other cultures.  The traditional dance at Spanish weddings is the Sequidillas manchegas, where each guest who dances with the bride gives her a gift.

Switzerland: Young girls sell colored handkerchiefs to raise money for the newlyweds. The bride wears a crown that symbolizes her virginity. After the wedding the crown is burned, and if it is consumed by the flames quickly it is thought to bring good luck. The tradition of planting a pine tree is also present in Swiss weddings, and represents the fertility of the couple.

Bermuda  - Locals in Bermuda often have a little sapling tree on top of their wedding cake. After the cake is eaten, the sapling is planted and the newlywed's new home, where it grows and matured along with the couple's marriage.

Latino: Very focused on religion; blessings involving the rosary.  Honeymoon money is raised with a "dollar dance."  The future husband gives the bride "arras" which is  a gift of 13 gold coins.

Mexican -  Here again we see the Spanish tradition of the groom giving the bride 13 gold coins. During the wedding, the patrons (or Godparents) of the couple may give the couple a rosary and Bible. The couple is joined by a white cord that symbolizes their union. Instead of rice, red beads are often thrown at the couple as they leave the Church. The familiar Pinata, filled with toys and candy is present at the wedding reception, and the couples 1st dance is started by the guests surrounding them forming the shape of a heart.

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