- Get that wet suit ready. In Fiji when a man asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, he must present his future father-in-law with a whale’s tooth. A nice tie would be so much easier!
- One of the essential parts of any wedding party in Fiji is a very popular drink called Kava. It is brewed from the crushed root of the Kava plant (Piper methysticum). Ceremonial drinking of Kava is called Yagona. In the past Kava was prepared by young village girls who would chew the pieces of raw root. The soft pulp they created was then mixed with water. Nowadays the head of the ceremony mixes the powdered root with water in a big wooden bowl known as Tanoa. The root is strained through a cloth. When Kava is ready, the man claps with cupped hands. Guests sit crossed legged on the floor and each guest in turn is offered a bilo, a small bowl made from half of a coconut, containing Kava. The guest must clap before and after drinking. Kava should not be spilled. It should be drunk in one continuous sip. Kava is thought to be an antidepressant, good for fighting migraine headache and cramps and is included in local riddles, chants, jokes etc.
- In Finland, a traditional bride-to-be walks door-to-door with a pillowcase to receive her wedding presents. An older, married man walks with her, holding an umbrella or parasol to cover her. This pre-wedding tradition is a symbol of protection and shelter for the new bride.
- On her wedding day, a Finnish bride might wear a traditional golden crown with her wedding gown. After wedding vows have been exchanged and the celebration has begun at the wedding reception, all of the women blindfold the new bride and dance around her. She places her crown on the head of the girl next to marry in much the way beauty queens pass their crowns following their year of reign.
- It is a Finnish wedding custom for the newlyweds to sit together in designated seats of honor at the wedding reception. The bride holds a sieve, covered by a shawl, into which guests deposit gifts of cash.
- At some weddings, the bride’s mother-in-law or god mother puts a china plate on top of the her head when the newlyweds begin their wedding dance, usually a waltz. After the plate falls, the pieces of broken china foretell the number of children the couple can expect to have.
- The last dance at a Finish wedding reception is called the weaning-waltz. The women start the waltz with the bride and the men with the groom, children included. Each person dances only for a moment with the bride and with the groom. The dance’s origin was a test to see how quickly the bride and groom will ‘forget’ each other.
There are many traditions associated with a typical French wedding, here’s just a few:
- La Mairie – Not so much a tradition more a legal obligation, the marriage ceremony needs to be performed by the mayor at the town hall. It is meant to be a ‘public’ event and the doors of the room have to stay open. This is traditionally to allow somebody who wants to oppose the marriage to do so. There is no other way to be legally married in France. French couples can also choose to have a religious ceremony at their place of worship afterwards, though this will be purely spiritual.
- Le Cortege – The so-called ‘cortege’ stands for two lovely traditions. Firstly the entrance to the ceremony where the groom leads the way with his mother, followed by the rest of the wedding party (mainly close family) in a set order of entrance, and secondly the presence of children, comparable to flower girls and ring bearers. They either walk down the aisle in front of the bride spreading petals or follow holding her train. They are all dressed the same and choosing their outfits is as much of an affair as it is to choose the bridesmaids. Oh and by the way, there is no bridesmaids or best man; the words do not even have a translation in French. They are ‘temoins’ i.e. witnesses, usually one for the groom and one for the bride, although this is changing.
- French weddings often serve a croquembouche, a truly delightfully tower of cream-filled puff pastry as the wedding cake that can be dipped in any number of sweet sauces. A croquembouche can be decorated with fruit, nuts, and glazes, and makes a fantastic centre piece. For the wedding reception, there’s a less charming tradition, La Soupe, in which leftovers are gathered into a toilet (or toilet-like bowl) from which the bride and groom must eat for good luck.
- On the eve of the wedding friends and family may gather for a party called a Polterabend. This normally involves food, drink and the breaking of plates and other tableware (with the exception of glasses and crystal). The bride and groom are expected to clean up the shattered plates together thus showing that they can get along well. It’s also been said that this custom brings good luck to the soon-to-be-married couple.
- As the couple makes their way to their car after the ceremony, the path is laid with fir boughs to symbolize hope, luck, and fertility. The hood of the wedding car is decorated with flowers and as the car procession drives through town, they honk their horns and others honk back to wish the couple good luck.
- After getting married, couples are presented with a large log and a saw. By sawing the log in half, it is believed they are proving their ability to work together in overcoming obstacles. In their first bit of housekeeping together, German brides and grooms clean up piles of porcelain dishes that their guests threw on the ground to ward off any evil spirits. The lesson: working together, the couple can face any challenge thrown their way.
- The customary toast at the reception in Southern Germany is done with a brautbecher (bridal cup) which is a pewter or crystal cup in the form of a maiden holding a small cup above her. Both ends of the cup (the skirt and cup) are filled with champagne or wine and the bride and groom drink their first toast from this cup at the same time signifying their union.
- At some point during the reception, the bride is kidnapped by the groomsmen where they will take her to a pub. Once the groom finds her he is supposed to invite everyone in the pub to a drink and cover the bride’s bill. At midnight the bride’s crown is replaced by a bonnet. It is bad luck to try on someone else’s crown or to take it off before then.
- At midnight, the bride is blindfolded and she must catch a bridesmaid who is dancing around her. The bridesmaid she catches will be the next woman to marry. Married women then tie the bridal bonnet on the bridesmaid and she must then dance with the groom’s male relatives around 3 lit candles on the floor. If they stay lit, the marriage will be smooth.
- Finally, in order to make the first night as a married couple as difficult as possible, friends of the newlyweds will fill up the rooms with balloons, hide alarm clocks, take apart the bed, etc.
- Prior to the wedding ceremony the groom is required to send gifts to the bride which include clothing and wedding jewelry, a mat, a stool and a trunk box. On the day of the actual wedding, the groom will send delegates to the bride’s house to escort her over to his home. A libation is poured out before she leaves her home and her brothers (or male relatives) will demand what is known as a “brother-in-law’s knife”. This is essentially another payment that has to be paid and paid up the bride is permitted to leave her parent’s house.
- In all communities in Ghana, there is the custom of giving gifts to the bride’s family, especially the mother. There is also a presentation of drinks and an amount of money, but the money involved differs from community to community. The gifts to the bride’s family by the bridegroom show his gratitude for allowing their daughter to be part of his (the bridegroom’s) family. The customary drink, the “ti-nsa” (head wine) of the Akan which is presented by the bridegroom seals the marriage. When there is a divorce, an arbitration decides whether a bride-wealth paid by the bridegroom should be returned to him or not.
- On the day of the ceremony, the groom’s friends will gather to help him get ready. His best man, called the ‘koumbaro’ will shave the groom, which shows the trust between them. The koumbaro will also stand by the groom during the ceremony and has other obligations like procuring the wedding crowns. All the other friends present help to dress the groom. One might button the shirt, another might put the jacket on him. That way they all have a symbolic role in getting him ready.
- The bride is similarly prepared by her ‘koumbara’ her maid of honor and dressed by her friends. On the bottom of the bride’s shoes are written the names of all her unmarried friends. The names that get worn away by the end of the night are the names of the women who will be married soon themselves. The bride, once she is dressed, traditionally leaves with her father and is told by her mother to look back at her parents’ house one last time to ensure that the children take after that side of the family.
- The ceremony will traditionally follow the ceremonies and rituals of the Greek Orthodox Church. Specific elements include the crowns, the candles, and the common cup. The ceremony has many steps and can easily last an hour, if not longer. The groom waits for the bride at the front of the church and holds her bouquet, waiting for her. She is walked down the aisle by her father, presented to the groom, and handed the bouquet. Two gold crowns are made and connected by a single strand of ribbon symbolizing the union of the two people into a single married couple. The crown also signifies that they shall rule over their household together. The crowns are called ‘stefana’ in Greek and during the ceremony, the crowns are swapped back and forth three times by the koumbaro. The bride and groom also hold candles during the ceremony, which symbolize the light of Christ and the candles can be left in the church to burn, or brought back home to be used, but should never be thrown out. They should be burned down completely. The priest will pour wine into the ‘common cup’, that is, one single wine glass, and the bride and groom each take three sips from it. The wine symbolizes life, and the sharing of sips of it is symbolic of how the couple will share in life together.
- After the ceremony, it is time for a celebration! In the past, it was traditional at Greek weddings to smash and break plates. This was done to signify that it was a momentous occasion. However, the practice has largely fallen out of fashion and if it is done, special plaster plates, which are both cheaper and safer to break, are used instead of the typical crockery. Dancing is a major component of the celebration. There are different Greek dances, from the athletic Tsamiko to the ouzo-soaked Zeibekiko. The Kalamatianos is a traditional dance that originated in Kalamata in antiquity. The dancers come together, dancing to traditional rhythmic music. They move in a circle, holding hands, and rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. The last dance of the night is reserved for the bride and groom to do together. Guests come up to them and pin money to their clothes! (Another way for the couple to make some cash involves cutting up the groom’s tie and selling off the shreds to guests!)
Haitian wedding traditions permeate through geographical and economic boundaries. The customs set out to usher a new couple into their married life are simple, poignant traditions that are quickly being adopted by people outside the Haitian sphere, while being simultaneously forgotten by those within it.
- No one is formally invited to a Haitian wedding, which is perhaps one of the first differences between other wedding traditions. It is also one of the reasons why the customs are currently mostly practiced within the rural areas, where word of mouth gives an individual access to a wedding celebration.
- Wedding goers will sprinkle the streets along which a groom will lead his bride to the church. It is a journey she doesn’t make alone, as her bridesmaids often accompany her for the walk. The church is often brightly decorated with colorful swaths of cloth, and the bride takes a seat facing her groom with their maid of honor and best man, respectively, seated beside them. Behind the groom sits the witnesses, and the entire bridal party signs the marriage certificate as a part of the official ceremony.
- At the reception, the newly married couple, their witnesses, and less often, the bridesmaids, are seated at formal tables. However, food prepared by family members of the husband and wife is shared with all and gifts are given to the couple. A major difference is that the cake is never cut at the reception, but in the marriage home a few days later.
Today many Hungarian weddings are more like those held in the U.S.A. than traditional Hungarian weddings but fortunately, there are still those couples that opt for the more colorful and traditional wedding ceremony:
- Traditionally it was the job of the best man to personally visit each wedding guest and verbally invite them to the wedding ceremony, generally in rhyme, and it was his responsibility to arrange for up to three days of wedding festivities. Even today it is considered good manners for the bride and the groom to go as a couple and to personally invite relatives, neighbors and close friends to their wedding.
- The traditional Hungarian bridal dress was very colorful and elaborately embroidered, very often with a flower motif. Three bright and vibrant colors were usually repeated in the bride’s dress and in her large and elaborate headdress, which also included woven wheat as a symbol of fertility. Under the dress were many layers of underskirts. Today many brides opt for a white wedding dress similar to those worn in the west.
- In the past it was the custom for large numbers of people, sometimes the entire village, to form a wedding procession to escort the bride from her home to the groom’s home or to the church in a colorfully painted and decorated cart. Along the way the bride would be repeatedly toasted and wished well and it was not uncommon for the bride to be kidnapped by a group of cheerful men or women and for the groom to have to rescue his bride before the ceremony. When the bride reached the groom’s home, the groom’s parents would greet her with a glass of wine, which she would traditionally toss over her shoulder, allowing the glass to break. She might also be presented with an egg on the floor, which she would break to insure that her future children would be healthy.
- All Hungarian weddings, to be legal, must be civil and take place in the courthouse. The bride and groom and at least two witnesses sit in chairs while a brief ceremony takes place and then the couple signs their name in a registry book. However, most couples prefer a religious ceremony following the civil ceremony, and very often the wedding procession follows the happy couple straight from the courthouse to the church. During the church ceremony it is customary for the bride and groom to sit on a platform at the front of the church while guests come forward to read poems, or to sing songs, or to remember some story about the bride or the groom and to officially wish them well.
- It is still customary today for the engaged couple to wear their wedding rings on their left hand during their engagement. At the conclusion of the church ceremony, they switch their rings to their right hand. The bride traditionally presents her new husband with a gift of either three or seven handkerchiefs,both 3 and 7 being lucky numbers and the groom traditionally presents his bride with a small bag of coins. Wedding gifts may be presented as the couple leaves the church or they may be presented afterward at the bride and groom’s new home. Care must be taken to keep track of what each guest gives as it is customary for the couple to give a similar gift the next time the gift-giver has a special occasion that calls for gifts.
- At the wedding reception there is an endless supply of food often flavored with paprika, which is felt to have almost magical properties. There is a lot of dancing, music, singing, and drinking. Even today traditional folk dances and gypsy music are popular and the violin is still a favorite musical instrument at wedding receptions. As the evening progresses it is customary for the new bride to dance a money dance, which is where the male guests pay to dance with the bride, either pinning money to her dress or dropping money into her shoes, which are in the middle of the dance floor. Guests are expected to be generous when paying for a dance with the bride, as the money will be used by the couple for their honeymoon and to help set up their new home.
- Indian weddings traditionally last three days, all ceremonies considered. The first of these ceremonies is Misri, which takes place several days before the actual wedding day. In this ceremony, the marrying couple exchanges prayers, flower garlands and gold rings. Traditionally, the groom’s parents present the bride with a basket of gifts and misri (rock sugar), representative of sweetness in the future.
- The Sangeet party can be held separately or combined with the Mehendi ceremony. The celebration consists of the families of the bride and groom (or just the women) getting together for song and dance.
- The Mehendi ceremony takes place just one day before the actual wedding. Only women attend this event in which intricate patterns are drawn on their hands and feet with mehendi (also known as henna). The designs signify a deep bond between the husband and wife and often, the Mehendi ceremony is combined with Sagri, in which the groom’s female family members bring gifts and flowers to the bride.
- On the morning of the wedding, the Haldi ceremony is held. In this tradition, both sides of the family spread a mixture of oil, water and turmeric over the skin and clothes of the bride and groom. The mixture is believed to play a role in blessing the couple and in moisturizing and calming their skin before the wedding. In traditional Indian weddings, the ceremony takes place under a Mandap, which is a four-pillared canopy and it is customary for the Mandap to be decorated with bright colors.
- During the wedding ceremony, the brother of the bride pours rice into her hands, some of which slips into the groom’s hands cupped below hers, and then into the sacred fire (which is lit in traditional ‘Laja Homa’ ceremonies and is referred to as Agni).
- In the Hindu tradition, rather than exchanging wedding rings, the groom ties a mangalsultra around the bride’s neck. The Mangalsultra is a necklace with two gold pendants. The groom ties the necklace with three knots to signify a strong bonding for 100 years.
- Traditionally, the bride will wear a 16-piece attire called Solah Shringar, which includes make up, jewelry, and clothes. Each item is meant to bring out the natural beauty of the bride. One notable piece of the Solah Shringar is the Mangtikka, which is the giant jewel the bride wears on her forehead and through part of her hair. The actual garment the bride wears will vary depending on what region she is from and the type of jewelry may also vary. The groom’s attire is not as elaborate… At a traditional Hindu wedding, the groom will wear a Sherwani and Mojari, which is a type of shoe that is seen often in Mughal art. As for the guests, most women at the wedding will be wearing a Sari or a Lengha. The guests, as well as the bride and groom, generally dress in vibrant colours. Most attendees will wear Bindis and Bangles as part of their custom wedding attire as well and some women also wear payals (anklets).
- In parts of India, there is a wedding tradition called “Joota Chupai” or “hiding the shoes.” While walking to the altar the groom is required to take off his shoes. Once they’re off, everyone from the groom’s side of the family is expected to protect the shoe as the bride’s family tries to steal and hide them. The tradition is said to be a playful bonding experience between the families.
Considering how Indonesia is made up of 17,000 islands, has six official religions and is home to over 300 ethnic groups, the country’s wedding etiquette can be overwhelming.
- Indonesians definitely abide by the saying, “the more the merrier”. Unless specified, it is acceptable to bring friends who were not directly invited to the wedding, or to join friends who have been invited. Although couples do try to give enough lead time before their big day, it’s common to receive an invitation just days before the wedding. It’s also not unusual to get a verbal invitation, or even one via SMS or email.
- For most Indonesians weddings, formal, traditional wear is recommended. Indonesians love a reason to dress up so anticipate some awesomely-attired attendees and an even more opulent-looking bride and groom. Most women will don Indonesian kebayas and sarongs (styles from any region are acceptable), but a formal, Indonesian-inspired outfit or a Western dress will blend right in too. Women are not required to cover their hair.
- Gifts are not required but are recommended. Indonesian couples don’t usually have a bridal registry, so cash is the preferred gift. The amount can vary incredibly depending on the socio-economic status of the couple, but giving around Rp. 300,000 to Rp. 500,000 is a safe bet. You may be asked to submit your cash gift into a numbered envelope and the corresponding number will be written next to your name in the guest book.
- The ‘claddagh ring’ is one of the most well-known Irish wedding traditions. Typically passed down from mother to daughter or grandmother to granddaughter, the ring represents love, friendship, and loyalty. Single ladies wear the ring on their right hand with the point of the heart facing the fingertip. When in a relationship the ring is flipped around so that the point faces the wrist symbolizing that her heart has been captured. When the woman becomes engaged, the ring is moved over to her left hand with the point of the heart facing the fingertips. The ring is flipped around at the wedding.
- In ancient times, Irish couples were cautioned against marrying between May and August, the busiest time in Irish life. As the old saying goes:
“Marry when the year is new, always loving, kind, and true. When February birds do mate, you may wed, nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know. Marry in April when you can, joy for maiden and for man.
Marry in the month of May, you will surely rue the day. Marry when June roses blow, over land and sea you’ll go.
They who in July do wed, must labor always for their bread. Whoever wed in August be, many a change are sure to see.
Marry in September’s shine, your living will be rich and fine. If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November, only joy will come, remember. When December’s rain fall fast, marry and true love will last.”
- In the ancient Celtic tradition, the hands of the bride and groom are literally tied together to symbolize the joining of husband and wife in the bond of marriage in the same way that the exchanging of rings does in most ceremonies today. It’s the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.” At the point in the ceremony where the bond between husband and wife is signified, the couple clasp their hands together, and a ribbon, cord, or rope that is often brightly coloured (or matching the rest of the wedding theme) is wound around their joined hands, as a symbol of their agreement to spend their lives together. This is a Celtic tradition that the Scottish also lay claim to, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it was widespread throughout Europe at one point. It was even part of the British royal wedding in 2011 when Prince William married Catherine Middleton.
- In Ireland when the bride and groom are dancing the bride must keep both feet on the floor at all times. Irish folklore states that if they don’t, evil fairies will come and sweep her away. We imagine that this might make dancing slightly difficult.
- In the Irish counties of Leitrim and Mayo there are 9 young men that are collectively designated as “straw boys”. On the eve before the wedding the straw boys go to the house of the bride and dance with her. If there are any other women in the home they dance with them too.
- Italian weddings are intimate gatherings and the bridal party is kept small, usually only consisting of a best man and maid of honor. A ribbon is tied across the doorway of where the nuptials are taking place to let everyone know there is a wedding being held. The bride and groom also do their part to bring as much luck to the union as possible. Most grooms will ward off evil spirits with a small piece of iron kept in their pockets, while the brides will make a small rip in their veils to welcome good luck.
- Strangers on the street may clap and yell “Auguri!” as the happy couple exits the ceremony to wish them the best of luck. Traditionally, Italians will pave the way to a sweet life by decorating the front grills of their vehicles after the wedding instead of roping cans to the cars.
- At the reception party guests will wish the newlyweds good luck through a dizzying dance known as “La Tarantella”. Guests will circle around the couple and move in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction to music that will gradually speed up in tempo. The speed of the music increases and the dancers will reverse directions until the group succumbs to the music.
- The garter is a traditional garment that the bride is expected to wear. Dating all the way back to the 14th century, the garter is thought to bring good luck and the bride would remove it after the ceremony and give pieces of it out to the guests. In some areas of Italy, it is the groom who removes the garter and throws it to the wedding guest. A shoe would be thrown if the bride was found not to have a garter on.
- In a number of Italian regions, it is not just the groom who should not see the bride until she walks down the aisle. The bride herself is often refrained from seeing herself until she removes a glove or a shoe. Seeing the bride is considered bad luck if not followed in this traditional manner.
- Preparing bridal bouquet is considered as the groom’s job to his soon-to-be-wife. In Italian tradition, this is considered to be the last gift he gives his future wife as his girlfriend. The groom will pay and ensure the bouquet is delivered to the bride on time, but the bride may choose the flower arrangement as she likes.
- The day you choose to marry is also highly important in Italian wedding traditions. You would want to reconsider getting married on a Friday, as it is viewed as the day evil spirits were created, which will have bad luck. Tuesday should also be avoided. Martedi, the Italian word for Tuesday, derives from the word “Marte” referring to the God of War. Couples who marry on Tuesday might have a long life of fighting according to Italian tradition. The best day is Sunday, which is thought to be the luckiest day to marry and signifies fertility and prosperity. If a widow is remarrying Saturday is highly recommended.