EXPLORING WEDDINGS ACROSS DIFFERENT CULTURES
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
We are so fortunate to live in a world surrounded by so many different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and diversity. Everyone is unique depending on when they were born, how they grew up, and traditions carried on through family trees. Marriage is interesting because it's practiced across the globe but is celebrated in many different ways. Lets take a look at how weddings can vary across cultures:
One of the main traditions of a Chinese wedding is the tea ceremony. This is the time when both families are formally introduced to one another before the wedding. After the ceremony the couple is usually given a red envelope that contains money or even jewelry. Speaking of the color red; it is customary for the bride to wear a red dress called a qipao for the wedding ceremony. This represents happiness, prosperity, and good luck to the new bride. Many brides now like to wear a traditional white dress for the ceremony and then will change into a red dress for the reception, or banquet. The banquet is a lavish, eight-course affair hosted by the couple’s parents filled with traditional Chinese dishes and sweets. Three days after the ceremony, the newlyweds will visit the bride’s family and the groom is supposed to bring a roast pig as a gift to enjoy a meal with the family.
The first task on the to-do list for a Japanese wedding is to choose the venue. Couples begin the search for a venue up to 2 years before the big day and all other aspects of the wedding are planned around the venue. Brides wear a traditional shiromuku, a white wedding kimono that represents the purity and sacredness of a bride along with a white hat that acts as a veil. The Japanese do not dance so you will not see a first dance or father daughter dance at the reception, it will be a much more quiet and relaxed day than in other cultures. About halfway through the ceremony the bride follows a ritual called oironaoshi where she changes from her wedding dress into a colored kimono called an irouchikake. At the end of the night the couple will present a bouquet to their parents, bride presents a letter to her parents, and they hand out hikidemonos (gifts) to their guests as an expression of their hospitality and gratitude.
Hindu weddings are vibrant, culturally-rich affairs. The day before the nuptials, the bride attends the mehndi ceremony with her close family and friends. During the festivities, the bride’s hands and feet are covered in intricate henna designs. Similar to a Chinese wedding the bride will be wrapped in a red sari during the ceremony, which features beautiful patterns and gold embroidery. The couple is always married under a mandap, or a wedding altar, that is usually on a platform and decorated with greenery. The ceremony is kicked off with a prayer to Ganesha, the god of beginnings and good fortune, and is followed by the exchanging of the jai mala; a floral garland placed around the neck of the newlyweds. To end the ceremony the newlyweds shower each other with rice. This tradition is called talambralu, or ritual of happiness, symbolizing fertility, prosperity, and merriment in the couple’s future together.
Africa is rich in tradition and culture and they tend to go all out to make the day memorable. When the groom wants to ask for his partner’s hand in marriage, he and his parents plan a night to knock on the door of the bride’s home, present gifts, and the groom announces his intentions. This is called the knocking ceremony and allows for the families to meet and begin planning the wedding. Similar to the Hindu wedding, the bride will have a day of pampering a few days before the ceremony where her body will be decorated in henna. During the ceremony the couple follows the tasting of the four elements ritual where the couple gets a taste (literally) of the trials and tribulations of marriage by tasting something sour, bitter, spicy, then finally sweet. A popular tradition especially in West Africa is to throw money at the bride while she dances during the ceremony to show their happiness for the couple. To end the ceremony the bride and groom practice the “jumping the broom” tradition where they literally jump over a broom together to signify their entrance to a new life together.
There’s a lot of history, myth, and superstition involved in Italian culture. To begin, the wedding is rarely held on any day other than a Sunday. It’s viewed as the luckiest day to marry as it signifies prosperity and fertility as opposed to a Friday which is viewed as a day the evil spirits are created. Italians want to bring as much good luck to the ceremony as possible so the groom might carry a small piece of iron in his pocket to ward off evil spirits and the bride will make a small rip in her veil to welcome positive vibes. The color white is reserved specifically for the bride, even if she decides not to wear a white gown guests are still not allowed to wear white as it is seen as disrespectful. The night before the ceremony the groom serenades his bride-to-be from outside her window and if she accepts she will lower a basket of bread, cheese, and prosciutto to him. The groom is responsible for the bridal bouquet and will leave it at the church entrance for the bride to pick up before she walks down the aisle with her father. At the end of the ceremony guests will shower the newlyweds with rice and well wishes and a pair of doves are also released to symbolize peace, love, and harmony.
Irish weddings are some of the most soulful events to attend. The bride’s dress will be embellished with celtic symbols like crosses and shamrocks and in a traditional Irish wedding the groom will wear a full formal kilt outfit for the groom. Tiny horseshoes or shamrocks may make subtle appearances throughout the day to welcome good fortune to the new couple. Guests might ring a bell as the bride and groom walk down the aisle as another way to ward off evil spirits. Presenting the newlyweds with a bell is a traditional Irish wedding gift to represent luck. Irish dancers will usually perform at the reception accompanied by a Uilleann pipe player or an Irish band. The evening will end with a round of toasts and blessings beginning with the family, wedding party, and friends. Remember to keep your glass full!
Jewish weddings are very flexible and leave room to personalize the ceremony, but there are a few customs you’ll see at almost every event. To begin, the couple must meet with the Torah to get their blessing. During the ceremony both the groom’s parents walk him down the chuppah, or alter, and then the bride and her parents follow. Both sets of parents remain under the chuppah with the newlyweds and the rabbi during the entire ceremony. After the vows, the bride will circle around the groom about 7 times to create a wall of protection against any negativity. The ceremony ends with the breaking of the glass where the groom (and sometimes the bride too!) will step on glass inside of a cloth bag to shatter it. Once the glass is broken, guests will cheer “Mazel tov!” as the couple shares their first kiss as newlyweds.
Korean weddings are more than the union of the bride and the groom, but of the families too! This represents the two families becoming one. During the ceremony the bride will wear a traditional hanbok usually in the color red and the groom will wear a samogwandae or a suit in the color blue. These two colors represent yin and yang, balancing the healing and relaxation energies with enthusiasm and active energies. At the beginning of the ceremony, the bride and groom wash their hands as an act of purification for the rest of the marriage ritual ahead. Traditionally a wild, live goose is given to the new mother-in-law from the groom as a symbol of his good intentions to fulfill the duties of being a husband. After the official wedding ceremony, the newlyweds and their families are a part of a smaller ceremony called Pyebaek. Both sets of parents sit behind a table full of food from the ceremony to be photographed. Then the couple enters, pours tea, and receives blessings and gifts. To end the ceremony, the couple will catch chestnuts and dates in the skirt of her hanbok and the number they catch signifies the number of children they’ll be blessed with.
The Spanish culture is full of romance and it’s very much reflected in the wedding ceremony. One tradition is that the engagement ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand but then the wedding band is worn on the ring finger of the right hand, they aren’t stacked like in American culture. Traditional catholic brides in Spain wear a black dress to symbolize commitment and devotion to their groom, but now many brides tend to go with a white wedding dress. Regardless of the color of the gown, brides always wear a mantilla, a headdress made of intricate lace and is usually hand-woven by the mother of the bride. There are no bridesmaids or groomsmen so the head table during the reception is usually occupied by the newlyweds and their parents. Sometimes friends will cut up the groom's tie and sell the pieces to raise more money for the couple, this can be done with the bride’s garter as well. As the couple leaves the ceremony, guests will throw rice or rose petals in the air to wish them good luck.
You can incorporate as many or as little of these traditions into your wedding day as you and your partner would like, just make sure it's the wedding you want! If you aren't a part of a specific culture but want to incorporate certain traditions into your wedding, make sure to do your research or even consult an expert to make sure you do it justice. Life is all about learning each other's backgrounds and gaining a appreciation every day!