As we all know, marriage can be an exciting time in life. It is a time typically filled with anticipation, happiness, and high emotions. But, marriage is not the same all over the world. Not everyone experiences marriage as a new and welcomed luxury. Some people are forced into marriage, and at a young age. Others partake in silly rituals that they do not believe in solely for the purpose of maintaining correct traditions. So, let’s take a look at marriage customs around the world to see how various cultures view the unionizing ceremony.
CHINA: China has a lighthearted idea when it comes to before the wedding rituals. It has some hints of the American college Greek Life. In China, the bridesmaids give the groom (and possibly the groomsman) a hard time by putting them through a series of tests and challenges. The hope is to see if the groom is worthy enough of the bride. Finally, the groom must pay off the bridesmaids with an envelope full of cash. This hazing-esque ritual seems like it could potentially be a fun time, however I can see how it could be taken too far. As long as your bridesmaids don’t take advantage of your fiancé, I think this playful tradition isn’t too bad.
CONGO: While the majority of people are filled with excitement and anticipation of their wedding, Congolese brides and grooms are required to keep theirs in check. They are not allowed to smile during their entire wedding day, from the ceremony to the reception. Personally, I think this would be quite difficult to do. Thinking about the one you will potentially spend the rest of your life with should make you happy and want to smile, however some cultures may not promote love as the number one reason for marriage which would likely make it easier on these people to refrain from showing happiness.
CUBA: Cuba is a country with a tradition that has been spread all over the world, including in the United States. It is a Cuban custom that every man who dances with the bride must pin money to her dress to help the couple pay for the wedding and the honeymoon. With a twist on this custom, the U.S. has the “dollar dance” where everyone, no matter the age or gender, pays the bride a dollar to dance with her. What a great way to get some money, but not a great way to please guests of the wedding.
FRANCE: The French are known for their love of chocolate and champagne. In fact, the bride and groom must consume both the night before their wedding. Sounds great, right? Not when you hear that they must do so out of a toilet to show that they have the strength to endure marriage together. If I lived there, I would probably make a deal with my husband telling everyone we did so, but I do not think I would actually go through with it. After all, there’s a great possibility you could become sick on your wedding day, not to mention it is just plain disgusting.
GERMANY: In Germany couples who clean together, stay together. At least, that is the idea behind their wedding tradition. Guests of the couple smash dishes on the ground so that the couple can work together in cleaning it up. I think it is a great idea to promote cooperation between the couple, however breaking perfectly usable dishes in order to do so just seems silly to me.
GREECE: The groomsmen in Greece take their title quite literally. Before the wedding, one of the groomsmen must become the groom’s barber as he shaves the face of the groom. Even if it does end in a few cuts here and there, the day doesn’t end so poorly for the groom. He is fed honey and almonds by his future mother-in-law as well. As long as you have trust in your groomsmen, I don’t think this would be a bad tradition to partake in.
JAMAICA: The tradition in Jamaica seems more harmful than helpful to me. In any case, the bride is to stand in the street in her wedding attire while the townspeople shout out negative comments about her dress. If the critiques are mostly negative, the bride must return home to make a second try at looking good. Personally, I think this is a demeaning custom because it weakens the bride’s self-esteem on her special day. I realize that she wants her guests to think she looks good, however there is simply no pleasing everyone and no point in trying to do so.
JAPAN: Japanese brides who choose to partake in a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony must dress in white from head to toe. That includes their makeup, kimono, and hood. White is supposed to denote the bride’s maiden status and the hood is to hide the “horns of jealousy” she harbors for her mother-in-law. Seems to me that this was a custom most likely created by a mother-in-law who did not get along well with her son’s bride-to-be.
KENYA: In my eyes, Kenya is another country that has a quite odd tradition. After a wedding ceremony in Kenya, but before a Masai bride leaves with her new groom, the father of the bride spits on her. The purpose of this tradition is to not tempt fate by being too supportive of the newlyweds. I think this is a very strange way to show this idea. If they want to not tempt fate they could do so in other ways such as spitting on the ground in front of the couple. Although I would not approve if my father did that, it still seems like a better idea than being spit on.
MAURITIUS: In this country, the tradition doesn’t seem all that bad in theory. While many American brides are known to starve themselves before their big day so they can “look better” in their dress, brides in Mauritius are forced to put on the pounds. In their culture, a larger bride looks better on the husband because he is seen as wealthy enough to have such a well-fed wife. I do not condone forcing someone to unhealthily change their body for their wedding, but this tradition at least wards off the stigma of people who are overweight.
PHILIPPINES: In the Philippines, a couple releases two white doves at their wedding, one male and one female. They release them into the air to represent a harmonious life together for the newlywed couple. This tradition has been spread all over the world now, and is even used in some American weddings to symbolize the cohesiveness of the couple.
There are numerous wedding traditions that take place all over the world, it would be impossible for me to name them all. But, it is important to note the wide variety of emphasis that is placed on different ideas. Rituals can promote high fertility, a lasting marriage, a faithful spouse, and much more. Others are based more on giving to the family-to-be to show worthiness. While some customs seem quite drastic and unnecessary to most of us, we have to realize that people celebrate with vast differences, and that is okay.
There are many ways to say “I do!”
UNITED STATES: Classically, the U.S. has a tradition of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Also, a bride often tosses her bouquet at the reception to the many single females in the crowd, hoping that whoever catches it will be the next to get married. These things are done out of tradition, just as the other countries mentioned previously do. Although the traditions are not exactly the same in all cultures, what binds the seemingly disparate customs from near and far is one simple thing: love (or the hope of it).
When it comes to weddings, there are no borders.
As for my wedding, I will most likely partake in some of the most typical Americanized wedding traditions. I would probably do so just because it is common, not because I feel like it is absolutely necessary in order for my marriage to last and remain strong. There are so many decisions that come with getting married like which rituals to perform, where it will be located, how many people will be there, and so much more. While I don’t plan on getting married for a few more years, I recently did discover a beautiful place where I would love to have my wedding one day (if I can ever afford it). On my visit, a bridal party was preparing for their own wedding ceremony. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds even held their ceremony at this site!
Boone Hall Plantation: