Updated: Dec 31, 2018
The world as we know it is filled with so many different cultures, each having their own ways of celebrating the major events of life: death, birth, love etc. With such a large and diverse population as wide spread as it is, the fact that each region would have their own traditions and rituals to honor the important events in a human’s life is hardly surprising. I am further going to talk about how different cultures across the Globe celebrate a huge moment in one’s life: marriage – the symbolic ceremony of bonding and spending the rest of one’s life with someone significant.
As new times have brought Europe’s evolution and development to grow at such a fast pace, its traditions were bound to suffer some changes. Because of that, it is impressive to see still how rooted into tradition wedding rituals are around Europe, however – of course - with a modern twist to them.
Easter European weddings usually constitute in a continuous party filled with lively music and alcohol beverages, bound to last a few days (in Russia, weddings can be as long as a couple of days to even a week).
There are, of course, some exceptions to this “rule”: in Poland, though wedding celebrations may go on for days in a row, associations such as Human Liberties Crusade or Wedding of the Weddings frown upon alcoholic wedding celebrations.
Read more interesting facts about Polish Wedding Traditions in this in depth article by Culture Poland https://culture.pl/en/article/a-foreigners-guide-to-polish-weddings
In Romanian weddings, the lăutari or the singers are the ” fuel of the party”; they hold a great role in maintaining the spirits high during the ceremony. The wedding ceremony normally begins at the town hall where the couple gets legally married. Afterwards, the wedded pair comes back home to prepare for the wedding – these preparations vary from country to country. Romanian families, for example, call the lăutari to the house to sing specific songs such as “Say goodbye, bride”.
In the meantime, the best man and the best maid put a flower on their chests, arrange the groom's tie and shaves him and put the bride's veil, all in front of a big mirror decorated with pieces of veil and white flowers, mirror that separates the bride from the groom.
The kidnapping of the bride is another common wedding tradition around eastern Europe - the practice of this tradition too slightly varies for each country. Usually, a couple of the groom’s close friends “kidnap” the bride during the party and take her somewhere else (often times to a bar or a club). The groom is later on called and demanded a ransom and must then negotiate the “price” of the bride with the kidnappers.
At Andrei Weddings, we have travelled around the world and encountered many different and unique traditions but some even surprise us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uK3rTPtI_0
Western Europe has managed to keep the essence of it’s rituals over the centuries. As such, most of them have deep religious and spiritual meaning because of whom might seem overly superstitious. The traditions of most countries revolve around the idea of keeping bad spirits away and bringing good luck upon the grooms.
In Austria, the weather is associated with the future flow of the marriage (unpropitious weather means the marriage will be stormy etc.). In Germany, wedding guests bring and then break dishes, leaving the mess to be cleaned by the married pair the next day. Sweeping up the broken dishes as a couple is supposed to teach the grooms that they must work and get past difficult times together throughout the marriage.
Italian customs further prove superstitious beliefs: in Italy, the color green is very important in a wedding as it brings good luck to the couple.
The traditions of the veil and the bridesmaids are rigorously followed at Italian weddings. The traditions go back as far as ancient Rome, when the veil was used to hide the bride from bad spirits.
Also, the bridesmaids were to wear similar outfits as to further confuse the evil spirits. Therefore, ancient Rome was the start of hugely popular wedding traditions such as the wear of the veil and the common outfits of the bridesmaids. However, the “trend” of the white wedding dress has set as late as the Victorian era when queen Victoria decided to wear a white dress when marrying Prince Albert in 1840. Since then, a white wedding dress has become the symbol of innocence in the sense of purity, not chastity. Another Victorian ritual is for the bride to have prepared for the wedding “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” as a “totem” for good luck.
Moving further to the west, we arrive to America. North American wedding traditions are very similar to the British white wedding.
A very popular African-american wedding ritual is the jumping of the broom. This consists of brooms being waved over the heads of the marrying couple to ward off evil spirits. Oftentimes, the couple would jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony. This tradition has gained further significance in the context of slavery in America. As slaves did not have the legal right to marry and as rich as African culture is, it is understandable why Africans held great importance to marriage rituals. Thus, the leaping over the handle of the broom became the known practice of validating their wedding. Another example of an African tradition is knocking on the door (From Ghana) which, in Ghanaian wedding tradition, is similar to asking the bride’s hand in marriage. The groom asks the bride’s family for permission to marry their daughter by "knocking on the door."
In some West African cultures, libation ceremonies are a good way to pay respects and include the couple’s ancestors into the wedding ceremony. Typically, alcohol (as a symbol of the connection of our world and the world of the dead) is poured onto the ground in the north, south, east and west directions.
Another interesting African ritual is the Yoruban tradition of the “tasting of the four elements”: the bride and the groom are supposed to taste four different flavors that symbolize four emotions from their relationship. The tastes represent the good and bad times of the marriage and they usually are sour, spicy and bitter, finishing with something sweet.
Moving down to southern America, however, one meets the rich culture of Brazil. Since the major religion in brazil is Catholicism, the wedding must take place in a church. Before the wedding, the family of the bride would pamper her with facials, massages etc. for her to relax completely before the ceremony the next day.
As far as the attire goes, brazil culture is anything but conventional. In Brazil it is considered bad luck for the bridesmaids to wear the same coloured dresses. The bride would write the names of her single friends on the bottom layers of her wedding dress for good luck in the romance department. The bride would also wear bright, golden coloured heels underneath her dress.
Let us move on to the vast continent of Asia. As opposed to western cultures, where white is the symbol of purity, innocence and elegance, in most eastern countries (such as China, Korea and other Asian countries) it is considered to be the symbolic representation of death, bad luck, mourning and overall unhappiness and misfortune.
Which is why, in western countries white is wore for weddings and in eastern countries for funerals. Red, however, seems to generally be – in the west as well as the east- a positive colour. In Asian countries, specifically, it signifies longevity, happiness and good luck.
Red is a most powerful colour in the Indian culture, where it is associated with fire, wealth, fear, power fertility, beauty and love. Because the colour holds such an important symbolic meaning, brides often wear red at their weddings – from the dress to the henna drawn on their body before the ceremony and the poddu (the red dot) the husband marks on the wife’s forehead which she is not to erase until after the husband’s death.
You can read more here about the Asian Weddings covered by us and even watch a beautiful trailer from Andrei Weddings:
Similarly, the colour red is fundamental at a Chinese wedding. In Chinese culture, the colour represents good luck, fortune and love which is why, at such a ceremony, red can be seen on everything: from the dress and accessories to the invitation.
However, solely the colour is not considered enough to assure peace and happiness at a Chinese wedding, so loud and colorful fireworks are expected to keep away the evil spirits.
We have gone around the Globe and seem just how different a ceremony which is bound to hold great significance in one’s lifetime can occur from country to country. From the white western weddings that consist of days in a row of partying, drinking and traditional wedding games such as “kidnapping the wife”, to the colourful weddings of the far eastern countries, we have seen just how beautifully different cultures and traditions can be around the world.