Weddings are full of beloved tradition, from demure lace veils, to first dances with fathers, to walking through the Gates of Honor. Wait, you don’t know about those? Unless you’re of Scandinavian descent, I’m not surprised. While many things about weddings are very similar across cultures, there are a multitude of ways each group places their own stamp on the bonding ceremony. Learning how different people celebrate these unions is very interesting in and of itself, but it can also be a great way to incorporate the heritage(s) of the couple into their modern ceremony. Here are a few of the more interesting traditions from around the world and some of their meanings:
A land full of mystery and romance in its history, the wedding traditions of Asian cultures to not disappoint. While red is the color of love in much of the Western world, in Japan it is purple and a bride could choose to have purple irises embroidered over her dress or carry a bouquet of the blooms. In the Philippines, young men once threw spears into the front step of their prospective bride’s house, in order to mark the lady as spoken for. While dramatic, thankfully that tradition has now been replaced with traditional engagement rings. Chinese weddings also have a flair for the dramatic, with bold red being the color of choice for everything from the wedding gown to decorations to gift wrapping. China is also where the tradition of being married on the half-hour rather than the hour began, in order to begin their marriage on the upswing of the clock.
A part of the world where marriage is traditionally taken VERY seriously, engagements are meant to last three or four years, to help the couple be absolutely certain they want to be together through thick and thin. In Norway, one tradition is for pine trees to be planted on either side of the couple’s front door to ensure fertility. In Sweden, brides wear not one, not two, but THREE rings; an engagement ring, a wedding ring, and a ‘motherhood’ ring. Other customs vary, but one thing seems to echo throughout Scandinavia; marriage is not just to join two people together, but to create a family.
Couples in Argentina may find an easier time of selecting their wedding party, simply because there traditionally aren’t any. The mother of the groom and father of the bride escort the couple down the aisle, and stand with them as witnesses. A Brazilian friend of mine marveled when she saw matched bridesmaid dresses for the first time, and informed me that in her home country, the ladies chosen to stand with the bride would simply wear their very best dress, regardless of style or color. In Chile and other South American countries, wedding rings are exchanged at the time of engagement and worn on the right hands. The rings are then moved to the left after the vows are given at their wedding. Venezuelan couples who find they cannot make it through the all-night wedding reception party will be glad to find that it is a tradition for the bride and groom to sneak out of their reception without saying goodbye, thought to bring good luck to their marriage.
The Caribbean has a flavor all its own, as a blend of South/Central/North American traditions along with African and European customs. A common Caribbean tradition is for the bride and groom to walk from one of their houses to the church while the bells ring, announcing the wedding to the entire island. This becomes a parade of sorts, as people gather along the streets to watch the couple and their guests walk by. Wedding receptions also usually feature a “Black Cake”, a delicious and deadly rum-soaked concoction that’s a cross between a pound cake and a fruit cake and all around yummy.