Around the World in Weddings: How Different Cultures Celebrate Marriage
April 1, 2015
With hundreds of countries around the world, there are a multitude of wedding traditions that have evolved organically based on historical heritage and family customs. This week we take a look a little further afield than the UK, exploring how you can incorporate different practices and cultures into your big day.
For couples celebrating their union in Europe, there are an abundance of customs and traditions that have been adopted to ensure a long and happy marriage. In Germany, brides make their plans very early; the family of a newly born daughter will plant a tree in the garden which will then be sold before the wedding to pay for the bride’s dowry! Then, the family prints a newspaper with pictures and details of the betrothed couple which is also sold to pay for the honeymoon. How financially efficient!
When it comes to the ceremony too, Germans have three separate events including; a civil signing, followed by a party then on the third day a religious ceremony which takes place with the bride having just one person in attendance, her flower girl.
In Czechoslovakia, the happy couple have a baby place in their bed to encourage fertility and the bride is given three dishes meant to help her in motherhood: wheat to help fertility, a bowl of ashes mixed with seeds which she must separate in order to prove her patience, then in a final pot sits a sparrow which flies out once the lid is opened – we’re not sure what that one is supposed to symbolise, perhaps a farewell to freedom?! (Just kidding...)
Norway takes one of our favourite traditions – the wedding cake – and totally flips it on its head. Instead of a fancy tiered creation they have a kransekake, which is bread topped with cheese cream and syrup which is then folded over and cut into squares. While we’re sure it’s not as horrible as it sounds, we would certainly rather have a slice of cake! Norwegian brides traditionally wear either white or silver gowns with a silver crown and bangles, these create a tinkling sound which is said to ward off evil spirits...or evil Mothers in Law!
In China, the bride and groom have fairly little to do with planning the big day, instead the parents of both parties will control all the planning and negotiations. There is an appointed go-between who will ascertain vital information about the bride as well as delivering family gifts. A lot of weight is given to the astrological compatibility of the couple, so an expert will be consulted to ensure they are a good match with a hopefully bright future. On the big day, the bride is carried to the groom’s home where they can exchange vows.
Japanese brides must be able to prove their wifely worth to their parents-in-law by wearing an extravagant headpiece which is said to cover the “horns of jealousy” the bride feels towards her mother-in-law. The couple cement their union by sharing a cup of sake - Japanese rice wine - with the first sip symbolising the beginning of their union.
Malaysian weddings incorporate a lot of Hindu aspects into the ceremony and focus a lot on the children that will hopefully be produced throughout the marriage. The groom will give his bride presents (YES!) representing a hopeful motherhood and guests will often receive an ornately-decorated hard boiled egg to symbolise fertility.
Closer to Home
The United States and the United Kingdom adopt a variety of traditions that have been prevalent throughout history. The traditional white wedding dress that is supposed to represent the virginity of the bride is still used, regardless of whether the bride is traditionally ‘pure’ or not. The idea of not seeing each other dressed up before the ceremony may also hark back to older traditions, such as in the aforementioned Chinese wedding.
U.S weddings often have a toast and speeches as well as a first kiss and first dance, wedding aspects that are still popular to this day, but are really an amalgamation of many different cultures.
In terms of what is right and what is wrong, there really are no rules. Celebrating your union can be done in any way! For those who are not particularly religious, it can be hard to choose how to define your event as a proper wedding, however it might be nice to take certain aspects from other cultures that help to represent the needs and desires you have for your lives together. If you want to have lots of kids, why not adopt a few little fertility traditions? It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it perfectly demonstrates the love you feel for one another – although we suggest keeping the wedding cake idea over the Norwegian cheese bread!