Every country has its own beautiful wedding traditions that get passed down over time. Some traditions are thousands of years old, while others are a little newer. Regardless, it’s important to know what traditions are out there and what you should specifically be aware of for your big day! In this article, we will explore some of the most common wedding customs and traditions from around the world, with a focus on western wedding culture traditions.
Western Wedding Traditions
In Western cultures, like the United States, Canada, Ireland, and Germany, many weddings often involve a white wedding dress, a bridal party consisting of bridesmaids and groomsmen, exchanging wedding vows, and the exchange of wedding rings. The wedding reception often includes a sit-down meal, music, and dancing. However, the exact customs and traditions can vary depending on the country, region, and religion. For example, in the United States, it is common for the bride to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue on her wedding day.
Another example comes from Germany. One popular wedding tradition there is the “Polterabend,” which is a party held before the wedding day where friends and family gather to break porcelain dishes and other items. The idea behind this is that the noise of the broken dishes will scare away evil spirits and bring good luck to the newlyweds. The bride and groom are also expected to clean up the broken pieces, which is seen as a glimpse of how they will work together to overcome obstacles in their marriage for years to come.
In the emerald isle (i.e., Ireland), one popular wedding tradition is the use of the “Claddagh ring.” You may have heard of this used in the United States, as it is one of the traditions that have traveled across borders. The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring with two hands holding a heart, which is topped with a crown. The hands mean friendship, the heart means love, and the crown means loyalty. During the wedding ceremony, the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart upside down. After the wedding, it is switched to the left hand with the heart facing right-side up to show that the wearer is now married.
Asian Wedding Traditions
Weddings in Asia are often steeped in tradition and are an important event for both families.
In China, one popular wedding tradition is the “tea ceremony,” which is typically held after the official wedding ceremony. During the tea ceremony, the bride and groom serve tea to their parents and other elderly family members as a way of showing respect and gratitude. The tea is typically served in small, intricately decorated cups, and in return, the newlyweds may also receive red envelopes containing money or gifts from family and friends.
In India, a common wedding tradition is the “mehndi ceremony,” which involves putting henna designs on the bride’s hands and feet. This special ceremony is typically done a few days before the wedding and is a way to celebrate and bless the bride before her wedding day. The henna designs can be intricate and elaborate and may include symbols that represent love, good luck, and prosperity. The henna is not only for the bride but also for the bride’s female relatives and friends as a way of including them in the tradition.
In the Philippines, one cool wedding tradition is the “coin ceremony,” which represents the newlywed’s commitment to working together to build a life and a family. During the ceremony, the groom presents the bride with thirteen coins, which represent Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles. The coins are often placed in a special box, which is decorated with flowers, ribbons, etc. The bride accepts the coins as a symbol of her commitment to work with the groom to build a happy marriage and life together.
Middle Eastern Wedding Traditions
In Middle Eastern cultures, weddings are often grand and elaborate affairs, but every culture is so different!
A special wedding tradition stemming from Israel is the “bedeken,” which involves the groom “checking” to make sure he is marrying the correct bride. The bedeken takes place right before the actual wedding ceremony and consists of the groom and his male relatives and friends approaching the bride, who is seated on a throne or chair. The groom then approaches the bride and gently removes her veil to “confirm” her identity, and then gives her a small gift, such as a piece of jewelry (nice!). The bedeken is said to originate from the biblical story of Jacob, who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, the real woman he loved.
In Lebanon, one popular wedding tradition is the “zaffe,” which is a large wedding procession that includes music, dancing, and fireworks. The zaffe is usually led by musicians, who play traditional Lebanese music while the rest of the wedding party dances and sings along. The procession may start at the bride’s house and end at the groom’s house or at the wedding venue. The zaffe is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the newlyweds and is also a fun way to announce the couple’s marriage to the entire world.
African Wedding Traditions
Weddings in Africa can be colorful and festive affairs.
One traditional Nigerian wedding custom is the “igba nkwu” or the “wine-carrying ceremony.” This tradition consists of the groom and his family bringing palm wine, kola nuts, and other traditional gifts to the bride’s family in their home. The bride’s family then offers the groom and his family food and drinks.
The most interesting part of this ceremony? The groom is asked to pick out his bride from a group of women who are all covered in veils. This tradition represents the groom’s commitment to his bride and, of course, his ability to spot her in a room full of other women. Once the groom picks out his bride, the whole group shares in the palm wine that was brought to the bride’s family home. The whole tradition’s overarching theme is the union between two families. How sweet!
Moving to the southern end of the African continent, down in South Africa, a popular wedding tradition is called the “umabo” or “umembeso” ceremony, which is a Zulu traditional wedding. The umabo ceremony is typically held after the lobola negotiations, which is where the groom’s family pays something to the bride’s family as a symbol of respect and gratitude for raising their daughter.
Latin American Wedding Traditions
Weddings in Latin America are also often vibrant and lively events.
One of the most popular Mexican wedding traditions is the “Lazo” or “Wedding Lasso” ceremony. During the Lazo ceremony, the bride and groom are joined together by a rosary or a string of flowers in a figure-eight shape to represent their marriage union. The Lazo is placed around the couple’s shoulders, first by the priest, then by the couple’s parents. The Lazo (i.e., the lasso) is typically made of flowers, but it can also be made of beads or a cord, depending on what the couple likes.
More on Western Wedding Customs and Traditions
Let’s talk more about wedding customs in the western world, i.e., the United States, Canada, etc.
We’re talking wedding dresses! The bridal attire in western wedding traditions can vary greatly depending on the culture; however, there are some common elements that are typically found in western bridal outfits.
A commonality among western brides is the white wedding gown, which symbolizes purity and innocence. This custom dates back to the 19th century, when Queen Victoria of England wore a white gown for her wedding, and it has since become a tradition.
How the white wedding dress looks depends on the bride’s personal preferences and the formality of the wedding. Some brides choose a simple and elegant dress, while others opt for a more elaborate and princess-y gown. The dress may don lace, beading, and embroidery and may be made from a variety of fabrics, including silk, satin, and tulle.
In addition to the wedding gown, western brides often wear a veil, which is a piece of fabric that covers the face or hangs from the back of the head. The veil represents modesty and can be made from a variety of materials, including tulle, lace, or silk.
Has anyone seen the movie Bridesmaids? It’s a spot-on rendition of modern bridal parties in the western world. Bridal parties in western cultures, specifically in the United States, typically include the bride, groom, and their closest friends and family members. The bridal party serves as a support system for the couple throughout the wedding planning process and on the wedding day itself. The bridal party is typically split between two sides: the bride has her bridesmaids, and the groom has his groomsmen.
What exactly the bridal party does can depend on the bride and groom’s preferences. In the modern day and age, typically, bridesmaids assist the bride with various aspects of wedding planning, including going to wedding dress fittings, organizing bridal showers/bachelorette parties, and helping with invitations. Groomsmen, on the other hand, often assist the groom with tasks such as selecting tuxedos, playing golf on the wedding day, and maybe arranging transportation for the event (so much less to do for the groomsmen, we know!!).
In western weddings, vows are often exchanged between the couple to publicly declare their love to each other. Usually, both the bride and groom will write their own vows and read them (or memorize them) during the wedding ceremony. The exchange of vows generally includes a promise to love, honor, and cherish one another, as well as a commitment to remain faithful and supportive through good times and bad.
There is the engagement ring for the bride when the groom proposes, then there is the wedding ring, which is an additional ring exchanged during the wedding ceremony. Both the groom and bride typically get a wedding ring, and it represents the couple’s love and commitment to each other. The practice of exchanging wedding rings is a long-standing tradition in Western weddings, and it has its roots in ancient Rome, where the ring was a symbol of ownership and fidelity.
The wedding rings are typically worn on the fourth finger of the left hand (hence the coined term, the “ring” finger). This tradition dates back to ancient times when it was believed that a vein in this fourth finger on the left hand, called the “vena amoris,” ran directly to the heart.
The wedding reception is the fun part of western weddings. It’s the big “party” where the newlyweds and their closest friends and family get together and celebrate their love with food, music, and dancing.
Typically, the wedding receptions are held at a location separate from the wedding ceremony. The reception can range from an intimate gathering of close family and friends to a large celebration with hundreds of guests.
What happens at a reception? One of the most common traditions is the couple’s first dance. This is usually the first dance that the newlyweds share as a married couple. The first dance can be a slow, romantic dance or a lively and upbeat one, depending on the couple’s personalities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wedding traditions
Wondering if you’re missing anything when it comes to wedding traditions? Read some commonly asked questions below.
Q: Is it necessary to wear a white wedding dress?
A: No, it is not necessary to wear a white wedding dress. In many cultures, the bride wears a traditional outfit that is specific to her cultural background. Even in western cultures where white wedding dresses are common, some western brides choose to forgo the white!
Q: Do all cultures exchange wedding rings?
A: No, not all cultures exchange wedding rings. However, in many cultures, the wedding ring is a symbol of the couple’s love and commitment.
Q: How long do weddings typically last?
A: The length of weddings can vary depending on the culture and customs involved. Some weddings can be a one-day event, lasting 6-10 hours, while others can last for several days.
Q: Is it necessary to have a bridal party?
A: No, it is not necessary to have a bridal party. However, in many Western cultures, the bride and groom have a bridal party consisting of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Q: Are there any specific customs associated with the wedding reception?
A: Yes, there are many specific customs associated with the wedding reception, such as the throwing of the bouquet or the cutting of the cake in western culture. However, the specifics of these customs can vary depending on the culture and customs involved.
Whether you are part of the Mexican wedding lasso tradition or an Israeli bedeken ceremony, it’s sure to be a fun day! Understanding the customs and traditions associated with weddings can help to ensure that your wedding day is a success.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]