Every culture around the world has a history and set of values that guide society in the present. Traditions are the foundation in which a culture celebrates its life. The symbolism of these traditions may vary across cultures, but the thoughts and feelings behind them are much the same.
Weddings are one of the ways that a culture can manifest and represent within history. By participating in ceremonies, rituals, and dances, couples are bound together in spirit and law. Celebrating the union of a couple, and cheering them on as they begin their new way of life is a fulfilling and enriching experience.
United States of America
In the United States, the bride wears a garter on her leg that the groom removes in front of everyone. He uses his mouth and no hands. He then tosses the garter into the crowd of unmarried men.
The man who catches the garter is the next in line to get married. For the females, the bride tosses her bouquet into the crowd of unmarried females. The female who catches the flowers is the next woman to marry.
Baumstamm sӓgen is the German tradition for newlyweds. This tradition involves a two-person saw and a log, decorated to incorporate the theme from the wedding.
The couple must saw through the wood together, symbolically proving to each other how hard they’re both willing to work for a happy life.
Canadians remember their popular tradition in the form of a rhyme. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Brides have gifted these items in the form of jewelry or shoes, from her family and close friends. She wears these items during the ceremony as they have individual symbolic meanings.
Something old brings the blessing of continuity; something new represents the new experiences the couple will endure; something borrowed symbolizes the happiness of those around them, and something blue represents purity and fidelity.
Brides in India spend hours with their female relatives getting decorated with mehndi. Mehndi is a form of body art created with henna. The bride’s relatives apply the mehndi, and the time spent together is valuable for bonding before the bride goes to live with her husband.
Henna has medicinal uses and is mixed with essential oils, which can provide calming properties to the bride during the stressful time of wedding planning.
In Bermuda, it’s common for weddings to have two cakes. The cakes are decorated in either silver or gold leaf and topped with sprigs or saplings of cedar.
After the ceremony and reception, the couple retreats to their marital property and plants the tree in the yard. The tree is a material representation of watching their love for each other grow as the year’s pass.
Many traditions around the world involve asking the father of the bride-to-be for permission to marry his daughter. In Fiji, it’s traditional for the potential groom to present her father with a whale tooth. It represents payment for “taking” the bride from her family.
The whale tooth is called a Tabua, which translates to ‘sacred’ in Fijian, as whale teeth are hard to come by in the wild.
Before the wedding takes place in Romania, brides are ‘kidnapped’ by friends or family. They are held at a tourist spot, or a club until the groom finds her. The groom must then negotiate with the ‘kidnappers’ for his bride’s release.
The ransom can include anything from bottles of liquor to a public decoration of his love for the bride. After the groom has earned her back, they all return to the party and celebrate the upcoming nuptials.
It’s a tradition in Guatemala, for the man and his family to cook dinner for his girlfriend’s family when he proposes. Traditionally gifted to the bride from the groom’s family is a long white veil. The longer the brides’ veil, the happier they will be.
After completing the ceremony, a silver and gold rope is draped over their shoulders. The rope symbolizes the union and connection as they walk out of the church and towards their new life.
In China, before the wedding occurs, it’s a tradition for the families to sit down together and have tea. After finishing the light meal, the couple receives a red envelope from the families. The envelope contains money to start their new life.
The bride usually wears a red dress, because red is associated with luck and prosperity. Red is a common theme for the ceremony and reception.
In Sri Lanka, weddings are a lavish affair, celebrated by two days of the ceremony. The brides’ parents host the families on the first day. The Poruwa ceremony is where the couple and their parents perform rituals.
These rituals symbolize the unity, strength, and fortune of the couple. On the second day, the groom’s family serves the bride’s family a lavish meal and provide entertainment for the day.
In Cuba, there’s a grand parade of family and friends from the ceremony to the reception. Wedding receptions are lavish, grand affairs, and brightly lit. Loud music plays for guests that dance all night. There’s a dance called the Money Dance, where men dance with the bride and pin money to her dress.
The money is to help with wedding costs. The receptions are large and bright, with plants and bold colors. Guests receive cigars, hand fans, and small pottery as bonbonnieres.
Nigerian weddings usually have two days of celebrations, and they don’t often happen back to back. There could be days or even weeks between the two ceremonies. The groom and his family pay a dowry.
The bride’s family provides food for the feast and often prepares for hundreds as the open invitation can lead to hundreds of people at the event. It’s a great celebration for everyone. Even people who don’t know the couple, come to the party with good wishes for the couple.
In a traditional Australian wedding, both the mother and the father of the bride walk her down the aisle. If the couple is religious, they might receive a bible from an older relative to keep. Some families have bibles, passed down from many generations. It’s common to hear music from a didgeridoo during the reception, as that’s an instrument associated with the indigenous culture.
Another tradition associated with the indigenous in Australia is a smoking ceremony. This ceremony features a hearth of plants, burned to cleanse the couple, and bring luck to their union.
In a traditional Japanese Shinto-style wedding, the bride wears a white kimono to symbolize that she will take her husband’s family colors. The ceremony is serious and low key, with only family present. The couple performs a ritual called San san ku do, which means three three nine.
They take three sips of sake from three cups, and their parents follow suit. The first three sips represent the three couples in the ceremony, the second three sips symbolize the flaws of hatred, passion, and ignorance, and the final three sips are representing the freedom of those flaws.
In Scotland, a bride would keep a sixpence in her shoe throughout her wedding day. This hidden coin brings fortune to the couple. After the reception is over, the couple and their guests participate in the Lang Reel, which is a parade.
They parade through the city, and as they pass their houses, the guests retire for the night. By the end of the Reel, the couple has walked their guests home, and they celebrate with a final dance before ending their night.
Irish wedding tradition dictates that a bride keeps a linen handkerchief with her throughout the day. That linen is saved for the christening outfit of the couple’s first child. In similar fashion to their Scottish neighbors, Irish brides also carry money in their shoes to bring fortune and good luck to the couple.
There’s also a handfasting ceremony, in which the hands of the couple are bound together with colorful ropes. This knot symbolizes the bond the couple shares.
In Afghanistan, weddings are traditionally arranged between the males of both families. It was not uncommon in the past for the bride and groom to have never met. Marriages were seen as financial transactions, either for money or business dealings.
In modern times, there are still some arranged marriages, but there are also marriages made from love. Parties are filled with hundreds of guests, a lot of food, and loud music. Guests dance until the early hours of the morning.
Brazilian couples often incorporate the elements into their weddings. Earth symbolizes fertility and plentiful crops, fire represents passion and love, air represents clarity and communication, and water signifies the cleansing of the past.
A traditional Brazilian wedding follows a lot of catholic elements during the ceremony and takes around an hour. After that, the couple and their guests dance, drink, and have fun at a grand reception.
In Ghana, a man would ask permission from his intended bride’s family by bringing gifts and flowers. Before the ceremony, the two families would sit together and negotiate terms. The groom’s family would give the bride her dowry in an ornate box, which usually contains necessary objects for running a home, like cutlery and linens.
The tradition has been modified for modern times, and while the negotiations still occur, they are much more lighthearted and teasing.
Greek wedding tradition dictates that the priest officiating the wedding bless a crown and place it on the heads of the bride and groom. After the ceremony is complete, the couple and their guests have an elaborate reception. The reception heavily features dancing, and there are separate dances for the bride and her female friends, as well as the groom and his male friends.
There’s also a third dance in which the couple dances together, and their guests throw dollar bills at them. Jordan almonds are typically given as the bonbonniere, or guest appreciation gift.
In Mexico, grooms give their brides a gift in the form of matrimonial coins. These 13 coins represent Jesus and His disciples and are usually incorporated into the wedding mass by having the priests bless the box or plate the coins are on. This gift shows the bride that the groom trusts her with his money.
It also symbolizes that his wealth is hers as well. During the mass, a string of flowers and rosary beads are draped around the shoulders of the couple in figure eight, which represents new beginnings.