BY CHRISTINE-MARIE LIWAG DIXON
A bride’s wedding day is one of the most important days of her life. A traditional wedding varies from country to country (and often, region to region) but most of them have a few things in common: friends, family, and lots of food! While more and more brides and grooms are abandoning some older traditions in favor of more contemporary styles, culture still has a lot of influence on their big day. Here are some of the most fascinating wedding traditions from around the world.
In a traditional Japanese wedding, the bride will not only wear a white kimono but she will also sometimes be painted white from head to toe to represent her purity. She will also wear a white hood. Modern brides will often switch up their wedding look throughout the reception, changing from the white kimono into a red kimono and later a Western-style white wedding dress.
To symbolize the couple’s union, they will drink sake together. Once the sip has been taken, they are joined together.
Indian weddings vary greatly depending on the part of the country and the religion of the bride and groom. Most Indian weddings will be deeply rooted in age-old rituals which often are spread out over several days.
One of the most notable parts of an Indian wedding is the Mehendi ceremony in which the bride’s hands, arms, legs, and feet are painted with henna. Her female friends and relatives will often participate in this ritual as well.
In China, brides traditionally don red instead of white (the latter of which is associated with funerals), although more and more brides are choosing to incorporate Western-style white gowns into their weddings. Most brides who do this will change from her traditional red dress into the white dress in the midst of the party. The color red represents good luck and helps to keep away evil spirits from the newlywed couple. Bridal dresses are often embellished with images of a golden phoenix and a dragon, symbolizing male and female power.
On the day of the wedding, the groom will pick up his bride from her home where her friends will surround her and tease the groom that they will not let her go. In order for the bride’s friends to release her for the wedding, the groom must convince them, often by giving them envelopes of money.
Chinese women tend to get married fairly young, due to societal pressure. Those approaching the age of 30 who are still unmarried are often referred to as “leftover women.”
In Mauritania, a country in West Africa, full-figured women are thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the marriage. In some parts of the world, brides might go on restrictive diets and intense exercise plans in order to fit into their wedding dresses, but Mauritanian brides make an effort to pack on the pounds before their big days.
This isn’t always a good thing, though. Many Mauritanian women are force-fed to the point of obesity in order to make them more attractive to men.
In Jamaica, weddings tend to be huge events that bring together the entire community. In an old (and now rarely practiced) tradition, villagers would gather around in the street to see the bride who was expected to look her best. If the villagers felt she didn’t look good enough, they would criticize her and she returned home to make herself look more beautiful.
A Jamaican wedding has a lot of cake. Married women wearing white carry these cakes into the ceremony, symbolizing a bride’s happy future.
The German tradition of Polterabend takes place the night before the wedding. The word translates to “eve of making a racket,” and is aptly named as the festivity involves smashing dishes for luck. The event is a sort of combination of a bachelor and bachelorette party to which the friends of the bride and groom are invited.
Games are often played at German weddings, such as Baumstamm sägen (“sawing a tree trunk”) in which the couple test their strength by sawing a log of wood together. Another game is the Brautentführung in which the friends of the bride will kidnap her and bring her barhopping, leaving her new spouse to find them.
A common color for weddings in Afghanistan is green, which in Islamic tradition, represents prosperity and paradise. Afghan brides have their hands and feet decorated with henna before the wedding. Her female relatives will also have henna applied; according to tradition, henna on the pinkie finger will help unmarried girls find a groom.
Weddings are huge events in Afghanistan, taking place over three days. The ceremonies include both a religious ceremony and a celebration in which family and friends partake in a feast.
Mexican weddings are often colorful. While in some regions of the country a bride may wear a simple white cotton dress, she might embellish it with a yellow, blue, and red ribbon to bless her marriage with food, money, and passion. Grooms will typically wear a light-colored, loose fitting shirt.
Religious influence is strong in Mexican weddings. At the wedding, the groom gives his bride 13 gold coins which represent Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles. After the couple exchange their vows, the priest will wrap a cord made from a long rosary, a rope, or a flower chain around their necks to represent that they are now bonded together.
In the Italian region of Tuscany, the traditional color of choice for bridal dresses was black! Brides throughout the country wear white for the most part these days though, along with a veil. One enduring tradition is throwing rose petals or confetti at the happy couple. Guests at the wedding are typically given tasty sugared almonds as a wedding favor. The almonds are covered in white sugar and the number of almonds given cannot be an even number; since the marriage is between two people who have become one, the almonds should not be divisible just as the couple should not be divided.
All you need is love
Weddings are special events, no matter where you live! Whether the wedding follows traditions or defies stereotypes, the most important thing is the celebration of love between the happy couple and commemorating it with their family and friends. Weddings are one of the oldest traditions in the world, a common tradition shared by people all over the map and through time. People in different countries may have their differences, but the celebration of love is one that unites us all.