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Wedding Traditions in Different Countries around the World
Wedding traditions vary from country to country. Even within a country, there could be variations among regions based on tribal, ethnicity, cultural and religious affiliations. As I went over wedding traditions from all over the world, I got so amazed with how diverse people’s beliefs, cultures and traditions are and yet commonality was very apparent. Despite differences, wedding traditions from all over proved that humans are social beings supporting one another towards the success of society, especially in the formation of its basic unit-- the family, which starts with the union of husband and wife.
In fact in many cultures, wedding is demonstrated as the merging of two families and not just the newlyweds. Regardless of the wedding rituals performed, everybody wishes the newlyweds the best in their new journey…happiness, prosperity and fecundity/fertility. The bride and groom promises continued love, support and fidelity to one another.
Let us travel to the different parts of the world and have a peek at some remarkable wedding rites.
Traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies are usually performed in Shrines or Chapels. Visibly declaring her maiden status, the bride-to-be is painted in pure white from head to toe. She wears a white silk kimono and an ornamented headpiece inviting good luck. A white hood is attached to the kimono which a bride wears like a veil to hide her ‘horns of jealousy’ from the groom’s mother. Japanese groom wears black silk kimono. The wedding ceremony itself is either Shinto or Buddhist.
During a Shinto wedding the earth’s natural spirits are asked to bless the newlyweds after a purification ceremony using a special branch called harai-gushi. In a Buddhist ceremony, the bride and groom walk down the aisle holding a juju, which is a string of 21 beads representing the couple, their families and Buddha. The string of beads also symbolizes the joining of the two families. The couple then bows in front of either a Buddha image or a lama and recite prayers, and light incense and candles. They then make an offering, which can be anything from food to medicine. If lamas are present, they also wear loops of string, and recite blessings for the bride and groom. Finally, red paste is applied to the foreheads of the couple.
For both Shinto and Buddhist weddings, san-san-kudo is performed. While the bride and groom exchange vows, their families face each other. The bride and groom drinks sake, rice wine nine times to signify their promise to be dedicated to each other before they are considered united. Families and friends also drink sake then the father of the bride and groom introduce their respective family members.
During the wedding reception, the bride changes into a red kimono and again later into a western-style gown to participate in games, skits and karaoke with family and friends. Guests are expected to offer the couple goshugi or money in a festive envelope.
On their wedding day, the groom and his friends and relatives meet the bride at her house. Together with the bride’s parents, they travel to the church in a procession of cars, some of which are decorated for the wedding celebration. Honking their horns and yelling out the windows, friends and relatives will be telling everyone about the wedding. The people they will come across will shout their good wishes back, and offer advice and friendly kidding as they parade through the entire town. The entire wedding assembly enters the church together upon arrival.
During their reception, unmarried brothers and sisters of the bride and groom performs a quirky dance wearing elaborately colorful or ugly socks, to the accompaniment of a special tune. Guests will throw money at the dancers as they hop and move around comically. The money is then given to the bride and groom, to help them start their household. It is common to find the words “presentation only” in the invitation. This means that the bride and groom request the guest to bring money for the couple instead of other forms of gifts.
Bridal Henna Design
Egyptian Muslim Wedding
Up to this day, many weddings in Egypt are still arranged, but that is starting to change in the more metropolitan areas. The suitor’s family proposes to the bride and upon agreement of the two families, the groom-to-be pays an amount of money to the bride-to-be’s family. The money is called Mahr which will be used to purchase furniture and jewelry called Shabka. The groom-to-be puts a wedding ring on the right ring finger of his fiancée who is usually wearing a pink or blue gown. The wedding ring traditionally symbolizes the immortality of the old and new world.
Just before the wedding, women get together at the bride’s house for a ‘Henna Party’ where they dance and sing. Mosaic designs in henna mark the hands and feet of the bride. The next day, the marriage contract is signed by the groom at the ceremony along with the family of the bride and other witnesses. The bride waits in another room for the contract to be brought to her for approval. Passages of the Quran and Kitbah (formal betrothal) are read during this ceremony which may take place in a mosque, in a hotel, or at the home of one of the couple’s family.
After sunset, the wedding party starts and the couple wears their best dresses and jewelry. The ring is then shifted from the right to the left hand. Egyptian women pinch the bride on her wedding day for good luck.
Traditionally, the bride’s family does all the cooking for a week after the wedding so the newlyweds can relax.
Traditionally before the wedding day, families of the Dutch bride and groom host a party. They have them sit on a throne, beneath the pines, as their guests come to bless them and wish them happiness. Pine tree is a symbol of fertility and luck for the Dutch. On her wedding day, the bride wears the traditional white dress with veil and gloves, while the groom is clad with an inherited outfit passed on through generations. Contrary to western practice of having the bridegroom wait for the bride in the church, Dutch bride and her party enter the church first and it is only then that the bridegroom and his parents can enter. Two traditional items served at a marriage celebration in Holland are sweetmeats called, "bridal sugar" and spiced wine known as "bride's tears." After a Dutch wedding, newlyweds plant lilies-of-the-valley around their house. This tradition symbolizes "the return of happiness" and the couple can then celebrate and renew their love with each blooming season.
Most Christian marriages in the Philippines are not arranged. The bride wears a white wedding gown with veil and the groom wears a Barong Tagalog, the traditional Filipino dress. As the newlyweds exit the church, they are showered with rice and/or confetti and then they release a pair of white doves to signify a peaceful and harmonious marital relationship. Doves are sometimes released in the reception venue. Prosperity dance or money dance is performed by the couple while relatives and friends pin peso (or dollar) bills on their clothing. Oftentimes, the families of the bride and groom make this a contest as to which family can pin more until the end of the dance but the newlyweds are always the winner for they bring home all the money given to them :D
There are many fascinating ceremonies and symbolisms in Hindu wedding traditions but my three favorites are the following:
Let us start with Mangalphera wherein the bride and groom walk around the fire four times in a clockwise direction representing their four goals in life: Dharma- religious and moral duties; Artha-prosperity; Kama- earthly pleasures and Moksha- spiritual salvation and liberation. The bride leads the Pheras to signify her determination to stand first beside her husband in all happiness and sorrow.
ritual is called Saptapardi wherein
the couple walks seven steps together to signify the beginning of their journey
through life together. Each step
represents a marital vow as follows:
1) To respect and honor each other,
2) share each other's joy and sorrow,
3) trust and be loyal to each other,
4) cultivate appreciation for knowledge, values, sacrifice and service,
5) reconfirm their vow of purity, love family duties and spiritual growth,
6) follow the principles of Dharma (righteousness), and
7) to nurture an eternal bond of friendship and love.
The third one is called Sindhoor. The groom applies a small red dot of vermilion, to his bride’s forehead, between the two eyebrows and welcomes her as his partner for life. The spot where the ornamental mark is placed is considered a major nerve point in human body since ancient times. This red dot or bindi is arguably the most visually fascinating of all forms of body decoration, applied for the first time to a woman during her marriage ceremony by no other than her groom. It is an auspicious sign of marriage and guarantees the social status and sanctity of the institution of marriage.
During the wedding reception, there are two unique traditions done by Polish.
1. The bread and salt blessing is an old and most popular Polish wedding tradition. The parents of the bride and groom greet them with bread slightly sprinkled with salt and a goblet of wine. With the bread, the parents are hoping that their children will never get hungry. Salt reminds the couple life’s difficulty and that they should learn to cope. It is also believed that salt has the power to heal and cleanse, uncover thieves, protect houses against fire, dispel storms and hail, and drive away evil spirits. With the wine, it is hoped that the couple will never go thirsty, and that their life will be filled with health and happiness. After the bride and groom each taste a piece of bread and sip the wine, they break the plate and glass for good luck.
2. The unveiling and capping ceremony, called oczepiny represents the rite of passage from young woman to married woman. The bride’s mother and female relatives unbraid her hair and cover it with czepek or white bonnet. At this moment, the bride is officially considered a married woman.
Modern Korean women would prefer wearing the western white bridal gown for her wedding ceremony, but will change later into a hanbok to participate in Korean wedding customs during reception.
The hanbok for women is made of two basic pieces: the wrap-around skirt or chima and the jacket called jeogori. Together they are often referred to as the chima-jeogori. For ceremonial wedding attire, the bride would wear a lime-green wonsam or hwarrot, also known as the flower robe over the hanbok. On the bride's head is a black cap studded with gems. She wears white socks and embroidered shoes on her feet. Her makeup is simple, except for three red nickel-sized circles on her face called, yonji konji. These circles, traditionally made of red peppers, supposed to ward off evil spirits, are now often drawn on.
The groom wears traditional pants and shirt called paji and cheogori, respectively. The paji had wide legs as
baggier pants so he can comfortably sit on the floor. Two straps of cloth,
called daenim bound the cuffs of the paji around the ankles, which
leave the black cloth boots called mokwha,
exposed. A jacket usually of blue or maroon is tied by a belt called gakdae. Competing the attire is a samo, a stiff cap with wings on the
Highlights of the Korean wedding customs include sharing of a special white wine called jung jong. Traditionally, this wine is poured into cups made from two halves of a gourd grown by the bride's mother. The couple sips from their separate gourd cups and then the wine is mixed together, poured back into the gourd cups and then they sip again. This is kunbere, the wedding vow. The groom offers a goose to his mother-in-law as a symbol of his fidelity to her daughter. Live goose is now replaced with wooden one called kirogi. Goose is said to take only one partner in its life. The bride offers her in-laws dried dates and jujubes that represent children. Towards the ceremony's conclusion, they then toss the dates and chestnuts at the bride, and she tries to catch them in her large skirt. The number that she catches represents the children she will bear as fruit of their union.
An American wedding, like other weddings, is a happy, joyous occasion where people witness the sacred bondage of love and life. Traditional American wedding is about bridal shower, bridal party, the veil, kissing the bride, the groom's cake and the honeymoon, which most people are already familiar with. What I want to share is the wedding entrance dance of an American couple who are admirably courageous to break from the norm and produce this remarkably entertaining video.
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