Ok, so – everyone has heard “Something old, something new…” or been aware that the groom seeing the bride’s dress is bad luck or that wedding guests shouldn’t wear white, but how much do you really know about wedding traditions?
Here are just a few of some of the many, varied customs and wedding traditions from around the globe…
It is tradition in Samoa for the bride’s wedding dress to be made solely from the bark of a Mulberry tree!
Chinese couples pick their wedding date on the advice of a stranger – an astrologer who choses a favourable date that is decided upon from their birth dates but there are further traditions to abide by…
In modern China brides pick not just one wedding dress for their special day, but three.
Next, the bride might change into a white poufed ball gown that wouldn’t look out of place at your average wedding.
Finally, the bride nips out of the reception and changes into a third dress, this time a dress in any colour or style of her choosing!
In Scotland it is considered good luck for the bridegroom to wear a button-hole of white heather on his wedding day.
A Portuguese tradition (long abandoned) called for the bride to pretend to be a cow and see if the groom could recognize her in a herd!
Before an Indian bride gets married, she gets together with all the women of her friends and family to decorate their hands and feet with elaborate designs called menhdi. These temporary designs are made from henna and are temporary tattoos as they last just a few weeks. The menhdi designs are incredibly intricate and take hours and hours to apply.
Many brides now host a “mehndi party” before their special day!
In Ireland it is a traditional for the bride to attach lucky items to her wedding bouquet: a lucky horse-shoe that must be turned upwards and an embroidered handkerchief that will be converted into a baby’s christening bonnet. The Irish also believe that a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe brings good fortune.
Another Irish custom- arguably a pretty risky one - is for someone to throw an old shoe over the bride’s head as she is leaving the church; pick someone with a good aim is our advice!
Broom-jumping has been associated with several cultures (including Celtic and Romany) but today is most often found in African-American weddings; the tradition rooted in the days of negro slavery when a marriage between an enslaved man and a enslaved woman wasn’t legal. In the antebellum period, enslaved men and women would declare their union by jumping over a broom together.
The breaking of glass in a Jewish wedding, in which the groom crushes a glass under his foot at the end of the ceremony, is a tradition with relatively murky roots.
Some Jews believe that the breaking glass symbolizes the destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, while others say that the broken glass is a reminder that joy should always be tempered. Either way, the modern tradition is to break the glass in the spirit of happiness, with wedding guests calling out “mazel tov!” (for good luck!) after the glass shatters.
Greek brides believe that tucking a sugar-cube into their glove on the morning of their wedding will guarentee a ‘sweet’ honeymoon.
In Egypt, the women attending the wedding pinch the bride, as hard as they can, to wish her good luck!
Did you know, that the English believe it is exceptionally good luck to find a spider in your wedding dress – eek!
Most people will be familiar with the Western custom of ‘throwing the bouquet’ but in Peru, single female wedding guests take part in a tradition that is perhaps best described as a distant relative to the bouquet toss… Charms attached to ribbons are tucked between the layers of the wedding cake and before the cake is cut, each woman grabs a ribbon and pulls; at the end of one ribbon is a fake wedding ring - the guest who picks that ribbon is said to be the next in line to be married.
The night before a German wedding, the guests bring china (only china, any other dish would be incredibly bad luck) to the reception hall for the bride and groom to smash, this is called the Polterabend!
After every dish is destroyed, the bride and groom sweep up the broken pieces, symbolising how they will work together to bring prosperity to their household. The more they smash, the better: the number of broken pieces of china represent the number of happy years they will spend together.
Traditional Zulu weddings are marked by vibrant colors and dance-offs between the bride and groom’s families.
Like many brides across the world, Zulu brides might start the day in a Western “white wedding” dress, but change into traditional tribal clothing after a church wedding.
In a traditional ceremony, the groom’s family slaughters a cow to welcome the bride. The bride places money inside the stomach of the cow to symbolise that she is now part of the family.
Lebanese weddings kick off in a very different way to UK weddings, with music, dancing and excitable cheering outside the groom’s front door prior to the ceremony! This is called the “zaffe” – the tradition whereby a rowdy escort made up of friends, family, musicians and dancers escort the groom to his bride’s house, and then sends them off to the church in a shower of shouted blessings and flower petals!
Russian grooms really have to work for their brides - before the wedding, the groom must go to the bride’s home and asks for his wife-to-be; in jest, her friends and family refuse him until he pays up in gifts, money, jewellery or when they deem him suitably humiliated! Grooms are forced to do silly dances, answer riddles, and perform goofy tests of worthiness; once the groom has impressed the friends and family with this bridal ransom, or “vykup nevesty”, he’s allowed see his bride and he puts her over his shoulder and whisks her off!
In Nigeria, it is customary to have two wedding days: a traditional ceremony and a second “white wedding.”
In the traditional ceremony, the bride wears an Aso oke (a traditional outfit made of beautiful handwoven fabric) and at the white wedding ceremony, the bride wears a Western-style white dress, and the guests also wear formal Western clothing; the wedding party, however, wears aso-ebi garments of the same colour.
It also customary that if the bride puts on weight before the wedding, the groom retains the right to return her to her parents!
While Russian men have to cough up to keep their brides, Pakistani men have to pay up if they want to keep their shoes!
After a Pakistani wedding, the couple returns home for a ceremony called the “showing of the face.” This traditional ceremony consists of the family and friends holding a green shawl and a mirror over the couple’s heads, the bride takes off the veil she wears throughout the wedding ceremony and whilst the newlyweds are busy gazing at one another, the bride’s female relatives run off with the groom’s shoes and demand money for their safe return.
A long held tradition in Spain is for the man to give his future bride 13 coins or “las arras”.
The coins are a symbol of the groom being financially able to support his wife. This tradition also can be found in the Philippines, Mexico and other Hispanic countries but, as the tradition spread during of the Spanish conquest, it evolved differently in each country that took it on.
During a Dutch wedding the guests receive strips of paper to write well-wishes for the bride and groom; the wishes are then hung on a beautifully ornate tree that the bride and groom take home.
In Bali, after the wedding ceremony has finished there is a wedding feast but the feast is only attended by women. Why? Because all the men are resting, because it is the men who have slaved away to prepare the food.
Regional Italian folklore weighs a great importance on marital luck; tradition suggests that couples should never marry (or leave for their honeymoon) on a Friday or a Tuesday, or they’d be sure to be riddled with bad luck, while Saturdays were reserved for widows getting married! It was also deemed auspicious if a groom carried a small piece of iron in his pocket, to ward off evil demons and spirits.
The bride and groom traditionally lead their guests in a jaunty circular jig called the tarantella; legend has it that this lively dance could save victims from poisonous tarantula bites.
Italian tradition preaches the shared cost of a wedding and so to help with the expense of the wedding, guests would place large amounts of a money in a satin bag called la borsa carried by the bride.
Did you know that it’s considered lucky for a chimney sweep to come to the wedding and kiss the bride?
The tradition stems from the reigh of King George III when King’s horses ran out of control and a chimney sweep stepped in to save him. The King proclaimed, by Royal Decree, that all sweeps were bearers of good luck and should be treated with respect.
Traditional Swedish weddings ditacte that a crown of myrtle leaves is laid on the bride’s head to represent her virginity, while a gold coin from her father is placed in her right shoe and a silver one from her mother in her left – this is said to guarentee stability and security.
In some regions, brides and bridesmaids carry bouquets of stinking weeds in order to ward off trolls. It is also traditional that the couple to enter the church together and not seperately as so many cultures do. This egalitarian tradition is also echoed in that whoever is the first to step foot over the threshold of their new home is said to be the trouser-wearer in the relationship!
In Kenya, it is traditional that, for a whole month after the wedding has taken place, the groom must wear his wife’s clothes to better understand how hard it is being a woman.
While the Western custom of exchanging rings has become increasingly popular over the years, one custom you will almost always find in Japan is called san kudo, a ceremony in which the couple takes three sips of sake from three separate cups: a small cup, medium cup and larger cup, in that order.
As for ceremonial garb, Japanese brides often wear a headpiece called a Tsunokakushi, or “horn cover,” which is a veil that hides the bride’s “horns of jealousy,” and the groom wears a long kimono-like overgarment.
In Indonesia, as in most countries prior to the registration of marriage. it is a requirement of the law that the couple pay for their marriage license; however, they do not pay in money, but in twenty-five rat tails.
If you’re having a wedding that involves embracing a specific tradition, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you!