46 Fascinating Wedding Traditions From Around the World
From the bride tossing her bouquet to wearing something old, new, borrowed, and blue, American wedding customs are still so popular today that even the most non-traditional brides happily take part. (Why tempt fate and start off your new marriage with anything other than good luck vibes?) But Americans don't have a monopoly on such rituals—pretty much every other country and culture also has its own beloved wedding customs.
Some are sweet, like how wedding guests in Sweden kiss the bride or groom anytime their new spouse leaves the room. Some are perplexing: Couples in the Congo, for example, are forbidden to smile on their wedding day. And some are seemingly strange, such as the way engaged pairs in Mongolia must kill and butcher a chicken to find a healthy liver before being allowed to wed. But what binds these seemingly disparate customs from near and far is one simple thing: love.
If you follow these traditions, the theory goes, you will find eternal joy with your soul mate. So, even if some Hindu brides must first marry a tree or some South Korean grooms have to tolerate getting their feet whipped by family and friends, hopefully, it's all worth it in the end. When love and happiness ever after are the outcomes, it's usually a win-win for brides and grooms.
Keep reading to learn about 47 of the most awe-inspiring rituals from around the globe to give you an idea of the many traditions that go far beyond the bouquet toss.
Want to keep evil spirits far away from your marriage? Balance lavash flatbread on your shoulders. That's what newly married Armenian men and women do. According to the custom, when the bride and groom enter their wedding reception—typically at the groom's house—they break a plate for good luck, then are given lavash and honey by the groom's mother. They balance the bread on their shoulders to ward off evil and eat spoonfuls of honey to symbolize happiness, and then the party really starts.Must see: Catering Jakarta
While most about-to-be marrieds brim with excitement and anticipation, Congolese brides and grooms must keep their happiness in check. During their entire wedding day, from ceremony to reception, the two are not allowed to smile. If they do, it would mean they aren't serious about marriage.While most about-to-be marrieds brim with excitement and anticipation, Congolese brides and grooms must keep their happiness in check. During their entire wedding day, from ceremony to reception, the two are not allowed to smile. If they do, it would mean they aren't serious about marriage.
Bad news: They must consume these treats from a toilet bowl. The point is to give the twosome strength before their wedding night; unfortunately, it might give them something else.
Another Norwegian tradition states that the bride will wear an ornate silver and gold crown that has small charms dangling all around it. When she moves, the tinkling sound is supposed to deflect evil spirits.
Spending the first three days confined to their home together sounds kind of sweet for Indonesian brides and grooms in Borneo—except for the fact that the point of this practice is to keep the newlyweds from using the bathroom in order to strengthen their bond (and their bladders!). See m ore: Paket Pernikahan Lengkap
Being a big mouth can pay off. Newly married Russian couples share a wedding sweetbread called "karavay," decorated with wheat for prosperity and interlocking rings for faithfulness. Whoever takes the biggest bite—husband or wife—without using their hands is considered the head of the family.
On the day of the wedding, in a ritual called "Joota Chupai," an Indian bride's mischievous sisters and female cousins make off with the groom's shoes and demand ransom money for their safe return. That's one way to kick things up a notch!
In this lighthearted tradition, Chinese bridesmaids give the groom a hard time on the morning the wedding day by putting him (and sometimes his groomsmen) through a series of tests and challenges, called "wedding door games," to prove that he's worthy of the bride. Then, he must pay off the girls with envelopes full of money. That's what friends are for!
After tying the knot, happy brides and grooms in the Philippines release a pair of white doves—one male, one female—into the air. The birds are said to represent a harmonious life together for the newly married couple.
It's a Cuban custom that every man who dances with the bride must pin money to her dress to help the couple pay for their wedding and honeymoon. Bank on it!
In a gesture of respect, couples in Moscow often take wedding photos at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin, then lay down flowers afterward.
Friends of the groom plant the Turkish flag, which features a red crescent and star, in the ground at his home on the day he is to wed. Depending on the area, objects like fruit, vegetables, and even mirrors are placed on top, signifying that the wedding ceremony has begun.
Don't wait until the reception's over to chat up a Venezuelan bride and groom—they could be long gone. It's good luck for the newlyweds to sneak away before the party's over without getting caught; it's also good luck for whichever guest catches on that they're gone.
Welsh brides think not only of themselves on their wedding day, but also of their bridal party. The bridal bouquet includes myrtle, an herb that symbolizes love, and the bride gives a cutting to each of her bridesmaids. (Kate Middleton even included myrtle in her bouquet!) The theory goes that if a bridesmaid plants the myrtle cutting and it blooms, she'll be the next bride.
A Mongolian couple hoping to set a wedding date must first kill a baby chicken and cut it apart, holding the knife together, to find a healthy liver. They keep at it until they're successful.
In China, brides typically walk down the aisle in a slim-fitting, embroidered dress, called a traditional qipao or cheongsam. For the reception, they typically change into a more decked-out gown with Western flair. But the bridal fashion show doesn't end there! To cap the night, Chinese brides often make a final change into a cocktail dress. Triple the dresses, triple the fun!
In Ireland, when the bride and groom are dancing, the bride must keep at least one foot on the floor at all times. Irish folklore states that if she doesn't, evil fairies will come and sweep her away. This might make dancing slightly difficult...
Right before the wedding, it's common for Indian women to gather their closest girlfriends and sit for hours at a time to have their skin intricately painted, in tattoo fashion, with mehndi, a type of paint made from henna. The elaborate and beautiful skin art lasts about two weeks.
Brides of the Tujia people in China take tears of joy to a whole different level. Starting one month in advance, the bride starts to cry for one hour every day. Ten days into the waterworks, her mother joins the picture, and 10 days after that, her grandma does the same. By the end of the month, every female in the family is crying alongside the bride. The tradition is believed to be an expression of joy, as the women weep in different tones, reminiscent of a song.
In Peruvian weddings, the cake is typically assembled with ribbons attached to charms, one of which is a fake wedding ring. During the reception, all the single women in attendance participate in the "cake pull," each grabbing a ribbon. The single lady who pulls out the fake wedding ring, per tradition, will be the next to get married.
In Romania, before the wedding, guests work together to playfully "abduct" the bride, whisking her away to an undisclosed location and demanding a "ransom" from the groom. Typical requests? A few bottles of alcohol, or—for those looking to really make the groom sweat—singing a love song in front of the entire party.
Scottish brides and grooms are captured by their friends the day before their ceremony and covered in everything from molasses and ash to flour and feathers before being paraded around town. The goal may seem to be ultimate humiliation, but the ritual stems from the practice of trying to ward off evil spirits.
In Sweden, whenever the bride leaves the table, all the ladies at the reception are free to steal a kiss from the groom. And those equality-minded Swedes keep the tradition gender-neutral, so whenever the groom leaves the room, all surrounding gentleman are free to plant a peck on the bride, too.
Back in the day, when a Welshman fell in love and was ready to commit, he carved spoons from wood, called "lovespoons," and gave them to his beloved. Decorations included keys, signifying the key to his heart, and beads, symbolizing the number of children he was hoping for.
If you're a Hindu woman born during the astrological period when Mars and Saturn are both under the seventh house, you're cursed; according to custom, if you marry, be prepared for early widowhood. Fortunately, there's a remedy: Marry a tree first, then have it cut down to break the evil spell.
As part of the "Falaka" ceremony in South Korea, the groom's friends and family hold him down as they beat the bottoms of his feet with a stick or dried fish. In between beatings, he's asked trivia questions, so the custom is said to help strengthen his memory and his feet.
At French-Canadian ceremonies, the bride and grooms' older, unmarried siblings perform a dance, all wearing wacky, brightly colored socks. As they dance, guests throw money at them that's then collected and presented to the newlyweds.
DANIELE VENTURELLI/GETTY IMAGES
The night before the wedding, an Italian groom throws a surprise party outside his bride-to-be's window. "La serenata" begins with the groom, backed by musicians, serenading his fiancée, then turns into a full-blown bash, complete with a lavish buffet and all the couple's friends and family.
At some Spanish weddings, the groom's friends will take scissors and chop up his tie, then sell the pieces to guests to raise more money for the newlyweds. The same practice is sometimes applied to bride's garter, as well. Anything for a few extra bucks!