Wedding customs by country
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2011)|
- 1 African customs
- 2 Middle Eastern customs
- 3 European customs
- 4 South Asian customs
- 5 East Asian customs
- 6 Southeast Asian customs
- 7 North American customs
- 8 South American customs
- 9 References
The Wedding procedure starts with the groom's side sending a representative who requests the marriage between the parties. Then an appointment is given and a verdict on the marriage is given. Before the wedding the Dowry (ጧሎሽ) is given as agreed. On the wedding day the groom and three or four "bestmen" (ሚዜ) go to the wife's house. At the house the wife's family and friends ceremonially block the entrance to the house. The associates must sing strongly and force their way into the house. The first bestman holds perfume and sprays everywhere inside the house.
Customarily, marriage proceedings often begin with the man proposing to the woman. Upon her acceptance the man then calls for a meeting with his clan elders who largely consist of extended elderly family members. A delegation carrying small gifts is then sent to the woman's home to meet with her clan elders. Deliberations on bride price actually begin on a later date and these are strictly conducted by the older men only. Upon completion of these negotiations, a wedding date is set, with the elders having provided an acceptable percentage of the full dowry. The rest of the dowry is expected later. No request is made for it, but the young man is expected to remember to finish his payment and failure to do so spells dishonor for that family.
The wedding day begins with a convoy from the grooms family that heads to the girl's home to collect her. However, the convoy is not immediately let into the girl's homestead. Rather the bride's gate is locked and song and dance begins as a cover for negotiations. Various goods may be asked of the groom and he willingly obliges to the demands after which he is let into the compound.
Generally, there are three types of weddings in Nigeria. The civil marriage takes place at a registry, and then the religious ceremony follows. Finally it’s the traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony. Many couples choose to do all three, depending on their financial situation. Nigerian wedding images are normally characterised by lots of colours, dancing and music.
With the traditional weddings, customs vary slightly from one part of Nigeria to the other. In the Western parts it is called the engagement ceremony. Officials and elders sip wine while they invite the couple in for introductions and negotiations, and presentation of the bride price which consists mainly of gifts of shoes, textiles, jewelry and bags. This entire event is followed by a lot of festivity and fun.
In the Eastern parts of the country it is very much the same. Elders from both families retreat into an inner room to negotiate on the bride price. When concluded, the gifts are then presented to the bride's family. After this, the bride, along with her entourage of girls is presented to the husband, family and guests. Merry making follows after. Learn about the hausa wedding rites and tradition and Oron tribe rights and tradition by using the links.
Note that while a lot of these negotiation and dowry paying activities are taken somewhat seriously, they are simply customs passed down for generations. Abstaining from this process will not stop any couple from being legally married.
Pygmy wedding traditions
Pygmy engagements were not long and usually formalized by an exchange of visits between the families concerned. The groom to be would bring a gift of game or maybe a few arrows to his new in-laws, take his bride home to live in his band and with his new parents. His only obligation is to find among his relatives a girl willing to marry a brother or male cousin of his wife. If he feels he can feed more than one wife, he may have additional wives.
Somali wedding traditions
Middle Eastern customs
Although Christian weddings in the Arab World bear similarities to Western weddings, Muslim weddings in the Arab countries are influenced by Muslim traditions. Muslim weddings start with a Sheikh and Al-kitaab (book) for the bride and groom. A wedding is not Islamically valid unless both bride and groom are willing, and the groom is often encouraged to visit her before the wedding (as advised in many aḥadīth of the Islamic prophet Muhammad). However, these visits must be chaperoned to ensure purity of action between the two.
Persian wedding tradition, despite its local and regional variations, like many other rituals in Persia goes back to the ancient Zoroastrian tradition. Though the concepts and theory of the marriage have changed drastically by Islamic traditions, the actual ceremonies have remained more or less the same as they were originally in the ancient Zoroastrian culture.
The Western custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress came to symbolize purity, not virginity, in the Victorian era. Within the "white wedding" tradition, a white dress and veil is not considered appropriate in the second or subsequent wedding of a widow or divorcee. The specific conventions of Western weddings, largely from a Protestant and Catholic viewpoint, are discussed at "white wedding".
A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception, which in some areas may be known as the 'Wedding Breakfast', at which an elaborate wedding cake is served. Western traditions include toasting the couple, the newlyweds having the first dance, and cutting the cake. A bride may throw her bouquet to the assembled group of all unmarried women in attendance, with folklore suggesting the person who catches it will be the next to wed. A fairly recent equivalent has the groom throwing the bride's garter to the assembled unmarried men; the man who catches it is supposedly the next to wed.
The Wedding Breakfast is one occasion where every member of the family who has had at least some role in the wedding is present. It is also important as the first time the newly married bride and groom share their first meal together as a lawfully wedded couple. The word Breakfast comes from a more ancient tradition of fasting before the wedding ceremony, the Wedding Breakfast is therefore 'breaking that fast'. The modern Wedding Breakfast includes the service of food to guests that can range from traditional roasts, buffets, or regional treats such as in the case of a London Wedding in the 'East End'.
Another Victorian tradition is for brides to wear or carry "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" during the service. It is considered good luck to do so. Often the bride attempts to have one item that meets all of these qualifications, such as a borrowed blue handkerchief which is "new to her" but loaned by her grandmother (thus making it old). Another addition to this custom is to wear a coin in one's shoe to bring prosperity.
The full text of the verse is:
- Something old, something new,
- Something borrowed, something blue,
- And silver sixpence in your shoe.
Scotland is a popular place for young English couples to get married since, in Scotland, parents' permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England it was the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith's at Gretna Green, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland's third most popular tourist attraction.
- The bride's family sends invitations on behalf of the couple to the wedding guests, addressed by hand. The couple may send the invitations themselves, especially if they are more middle-aged. The invites will specify if the invitation is for ceremony and/or reception and/or evening following the meal at the reception.
- Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day. Alternatively, the couple may register at department store and have a list of gifts there. The shop then organizes delivery, usually to the bride's parents' house or to the reception venue.
- A wedding ceremony takes place at a church, register office or possibly another favorite location, such as a hilltop. In this regard Scotland differs significantly from England where only pre-approved public locations may be used for the wedding ceremony. Most ceremonies take place mid afternoon and last about half an hour during which the marriage schedule is signed by the couple and two witnesses, usually the best man and chief bridesmaid.
- The newly wed couple may leave the ceremony to the sound of bagpipes.
- There is a wedding reception following the ceremony, usually at a different venue.
- The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
- Usually a beverage is served while the guests and bridal party mingle. In some cases the drink may be whisky or wine with a non alcoholic alternative.
- The best man and bride's father toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes, usually humorous. The groom then follows with a response on behalf of his bride. Champagne is usually provided for the toast.
- There is nearly always dancing following the meal. Often in Scotland this takes the form of a céilidh, a night of informal traditional Scottish dancing in couples and groups to live traditional music. The first dance is led by the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the bridal party and finally the guests.
- The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake.
- Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
- A sprig of white heather is usually worn as a buttonhole for good luck.
- It is the norm for the groom and much of the male bridal party and guests to wear kilts, although suits are also worn. Kilts and Highland dress are often rented for this purpose [citation required].
Handfasting is a wedding ritual in which the bride's and groom's hands are tied together. It is said to be based on an ancient Celtic tradition and to have inspired the phrase "tying the knot". "Handfasting" is favored by practitioners of Celtic-based religions and spiritual traditions, such as Wicca and Druidism.
In Finland, a tradition is for the bride-to-be to go from door to door with a pillowcase, to receive wedding gifts. Often, an older, married man accompanies her, holding an umbrella or parasol over her head to shelter her. This symbolises protecting and sheltering the new bride. On the day of the wedding, the bride may wear a golden crown on her head. At the wedding reception, the Dance of the Crown is performed, where the bridesmaids blindfold the bride and dance around her. The bride then places the crown on the head of one of the bridesmaids, who tradition dictates will be the next to marry. Traditionally, the bride and groom sit next to each other in designated "seats of honour" at the wedding reception. The bride holds in her lap a sieve covered by a shawl, into which monetary gifts are put by the guests. In some weddings, the bride's mother-in-law or godmother will place a china plate on the bride's head, after which the newlyweds will perform the first dance (usually a waltz). When the plate falls and breaks, the guests collect the pieces. The number of pieces determines how many children the couple will have.
The last dance in a Finnish wedding is called the weaning waltz. All the female guests dance with the bride and all the male guests dance with the groom, including children. Each guest only dances with the bride or groom for a brief period before moving on. This custom was originally conceived as a test to see how quickly the bride and groom will "forget" each other (i.e. how long they will dance with each other before moving on to a guest).
In France, only civil weddings are legally recognized (due to the concept of laïcité), they are performed in the town hall by the mayor (or another civil servant acting on his/her behalf). At least one of the spouses must reside in the town where the ceremony takes place. Since many people choose to also have a religious wedding, the religious ceremony often takes place immediately after the civil one. Town halls often offer a more elaborate ceremony for couples who do not wish to marry religiously.
If the two ceremonies take place separately, the civil one will usually include close family and witnesses. Once the civil ceremony is complete, the couple will receive a livret de famille, a booklet where a copy of the marriage certificate is recorded. This is an official document and, should the couple have children, each child's birth certificate will be recorded in the livret de famille too. The civil ceremony in France is free of charge.
In smaller French towns, the groom may meet his fiancée at her home on the day of the wedding and escort her to the chapel where the ceremony is being held. As the couple proceeds to the chapel, children will stretch long white ribbons across the road which the bride will cut as she passes.
At the chapel, the bride and groom are seated on two red velvet chairs underneath a silk canopy called a carre. Laurel leaves may be scattered across their paths when they exit the chapel. Sometimes small coins are also tossed for the children to gather.
At the reception, the couple customarily uses a toasting cup called a Coupe de Mariage. The origin of giving this toast began in France, when a small piece of toast was literally dropped into the couple's wine to ensure a healthy life. The couple would lift their glass to "a toast", as is common in Western culture today.
In south west France it is customary to serve spit roast wild boar (or sanglier in French) as the wedding breakfast, a local delicacy.
Some couples choose to serve a croquembouche instead of a wedding cake. This dessert is a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs, drizzled with a caramel glaze.
At a more boisterous wedding, tradition involves continuing the celebration until very late at night. After the reception, those invited to the wedding will gather outside the newlyweds' window and bang pots and pans; this is called a shivaree. They are then invited into the house for some more drinks in the couple's honor, after which the couple is finally allowed to be alone for their first night together as husband and wife. This practice spread throughout France as a way to celebrate special occasions. Decorative replicas of these special sabres can be purchased from artisans in Lyon, (the French capital of cutlery).
- Bride kidnapping
Mostly it is the good friends who kidnap the bride. Here, the kidnappers go with her from bar to bar, the best man of the bride (or her father) or the groom have to pay the bill every time.Today it is mostly handled tolerant. The kidnappers go to a certain place, such as a public building, and leave a few pointers to help for searching. The exemption may be associated with a task for the groom, for example an artistic performance or wash the dishes for the next few weeks, or something like that.
In Austria and Bavaria (preferably at country weddings), it is now customary to sing a derisive song before the freeing of the bride.
In Lower Austria it is customary for the masked men and the bride to go to the nearest coffee bar, tavern or something like that to drink sing and to wait for the groom comes. In most areas of Austria it is to the best man, sometimes the groom or the bride's father (rarely the best man) to pay the price of the kidnappers.
This ordinariness is due to the supposed 'right of the first night' (German 'Recht der ersten Nacht', French 'droit du seigneur') in the Middle Ages. According to myth the clergy and nobility in the Middle Ages had the right to deflower their female subordinates in their wedding night. Back then the brides was retrieved (kidnapped) from the vassals of the government from their Weddings. The historiography sees this right rather as a literary fiction.
Two or three days before the wedding, the couple organizes a celebration called Krevati (Greek for bed) in their new home. In Krevati, friends and relatives of the couple put money and young children on the couple's new bed for prosperity and fertility in their life. After the custom, they usually have a party with food and music.
On the day of the wedding, usually Saturday, but also Friday or Sunday, the groom cannot see the bride until the wedding ceremony. The groom usually arrives first in church and waits for bride, who usually arrives late. After they exchange flower bouquets, they have the wedding ceremony, where the best man puts the wedding rings and crowns on the couple. The couple drink red wine from the same glass (between one and three sips, depending on the tradition). This is not "communion" in the formal religious sense, but about sharing the cup of life. At the end of the wedding ceremony, as the newly wedded pair leave the church, the guests throw rice and flowers for fertility and felicity. Special guests, such as close friends and family receive sugar-coated almonds (traditionally an odd number, usually seven but sometimes five) as a gift from the couple. Most Greek ceremonies are Orthodox.
After the ceremony, usually the couple hold a great wedding party in some place with plenty of food, drinks, music and dance, usually until next morning. The wedding party starts with the invited people waiting for the couple, who usually come after some time. They start the dancing and eventually eat a piece of their wedding cake. At some point during the party, they also dance the traditional zeibekiko (groom) and çiftetelli (bride).
In many places of Greece, where they hold a more traditional wedding, they usually play only traditional music and eat local food. For example in the region of Cyclades, they eat the traditional pasteli (solid honey with sesame) and in the region of Crete they cook rice with goat. In most traditional weddings, they bake whole animals like pigs, goats or sheep just like the Easter celebration. Before the church ceremony, especially in smaller areas, usually friends and relatives of the bride and the groom, accompanies them separately to the church playing traditional instruments, according to the region.
A typical Greek wedding will usually have more than 100 invited people (but usually 250-500) who are friends, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, first or second cousins, neighbors and colleagues. It is common to have guests whom the couple has never met before. This is because the people who will be invited are usually determined by the parents of the couple and not by the couple themselves. Traditionally, the whole village would have attended the wedding, so very often the parents invite friends of theirs and their children, to the weddings of their own children.
There are many other traditions which are local to their regional areas. One famous tradition is the pinning of money on the bride's dress. This custom originated in one part of Greece, where it is a substitute for wedding presents, however it has become more widespread recently.
In some parts of Italy, a party, known as a Serenade, is thrown outside of the bride's home by the groom. His family and friends come and wait for the bride, entertaining themselves until she appears. The groom then sings to his bride to further seduce her. Once his song is sung, the party ends.
The day of the wedding, the groomsmen try their hardest to make the groom as uncomfortable as possible by saying things like "Maybe she forgot where the church is".
It is also traditional for the grooms family to give a dowry to the bride and to provide the engagement ring. The bride's family is then responsible for receiving the guests of the wedding in their home for a reception afterward.
The color green is very important in the Italian wedding. In Italy, the tradition of something blue is replaced with something green. This color brings good luck to the married couple. The veil and bridesmaids also were important in an Italian wedding. The tradition began in Ancient Rome when the veil was used to hide the bride from any spirits that would corrupt her and the bridesmaids were to wear similar outfits so that the evil spirits were further confused.
An old Roman custom was that brides threw nuts at rejected suitors as they left the ceremony.
After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor or bomboniere, a small token of appreciation.
In Polish weddings, the celebrations may continue for two or three days. In the past, the engagement ceremony was organized by the future groom as a formal family gathering, during which he asked his chosen lady to marry him. In the recent years this custom has changed and today an engagement is much more personal and intimate. An elegant dinner party afterward is still a nice way to inform the closest family members about the couples' decision to get married.
In some regions of Poland, the tradition to invite the wedding guests in person is still upheld. Many young couples, accompanied by the parents, visit their family and friends to hand them the wedding invitations personally.
According to the old tradition, a groom arrives with his parents at the house of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. At that time, both parents and parents-in-law give a young couple their blessing. The couple enter the church together and walks up to the altar followed by two witnesses and the parents. In Poland, it is quite unusual for the bride to be walked down the aisle or to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The couple is assisted by two witnesses, a man (usually grooms' side) and a woman (usually brides' side) who are either family members or close friends.
The Polish bride traditionally wears a white dress and a veil. The groom, on the other hand, usually wears a fitted suit with a bow tie and a boutonnière that matches the brides' bouquet. During the ceremony, wedding rings are exchanged and both the husband and wife wear them on their right hand. Right after the ceremony, the closest family and all the guest form a line in the front of the church to congratulate the newlyweds and wish them love and happiness. As soon as the married couple leave the church they get showered with rice for luck or guests drop coins at their feet for them to pick up. This is done to ensure a good and prosperous future for the newlyweds.
Once all the guests have showered the couple with kisses, hugs and flowers everyone heads to the reception. It is a custom in Poland to prepare "passing gates" on the way to the reception for the newlyweds who, in order to pass, have to give the "gate keepers" some vodka. This is a misinterpretation of an earlier tradition, where the "passing gates" were built if the bride was an orphan and money collected by "gate keepers" from the guests was handed over to the bride as her dowry (being an orphan usually implied poverty).
The married couple is welcomed at the reception place by the parents with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes the prosperity, salt stands for hardship of life, the parents wish the young couple that they never go hungry and learn how to deal with every day hardships together. The wedding party lasts (and the bride and groom remain) until the last guest leaves, usually until morning.
Lăutari are Romanian musicians performing traditional songs. The music of the lăutari establishes the structure of the elaborate Romanian weddings. The lăutari also function as guides through the wedding rituals and moderate any conflicts that may arise during what can be a long, alcohol-fueled party. Over a period of nearly 48 hours, this can be very physically strenuous.
Following custom almost certainly dating back at least to the Middle Ages, most lăutari spend the fees from these wedding ceremonies on extended banquets for their friends and families over the days immediately following the wedding.
The wedding begins at the Town hall where the couple literally gets married in the presence of their closest friends and relatives. After that, they go to the bride's house where the Lăutari come and sing themed songs like "Ia-ți mireasă ziua bună" (Say goodbye, bride) while the bride, the groom and the couple's parents take part in a symbolic preparation for the wedding (the best man and the best maid put a flower on their chests, arrange the groom's tie and shaves him and put the bride's veil, all in front of a big mirror decorated with pieces of veil and white flowers, mirror that separates the bride from the groom). They then go to the church where the religious ceremony is performed. Afterwords they go to a restaurant where the banquet begins.
The newlyweds meet the guests at the entrance and they serve a glass of champagne while the Lautari sing the "Marș de intampinare" (meeting march). After all the guests have arrived, the couple breaks the ice and starts dancing a waltz. Later on, the chefs do ”Dansul găinii” (the chicken dance: they dress up a roasted chicken and decorate it and they dance with it while the best man negotiate the chicken's price with them).
Another tradition is bride kidnapping. A few friends of the newlywed stake the bride while the groom is not paying attention and take her somewhere else, usually to a club. The groom is then forced to negotiate the bride's price and to redeem it, but not until the "criminals" show evidence of having the bride ( a shoe, her necklace, etc.). Usually, the "thieves" ask for beverage. They then take the bride back to the wedding and as a punishment they are forced to dance a waltz with the bride lifted up.
It is normal to wish the bride and groom "Casa de Piatra" (Stone house) which symbolizes a solid marriage.
A traditional Russian wedding lasts for at least two days and some weddings last as long as a week. Throughout the celebration there is dancing, singing, long toasts, and food and drinks. The best man and maid of honor are called witnesses, "svideteli" in Russian. The ceremony and the ring exchange takes place on the first day of the wedding.
Throughout the years, Russian weddings have adopted many western customs, including bridesmaids and flower girls. During the wedding feast any of the guests can start chanting "Gor'ko" ("bitter") which usually is immediately supported by the rest of the guests. In this case bride and groom should kiss each other and the kiss should last for as long as the chanting continues.
In a Swedish church wedding, the priest generally doesn't say when the couple may kiss each other, in contrast to Anglo-Saxon traditions. It is probably because the kiss doesn't traditionally belong to Swedish wedding customs, but has relatively recently been associated with marriage.
In Swedish weddings, the bride and groom usually go down the aisle together, rather than the bride being escorted by her father.
South Asian customs
Pakistani wedding customs
A Pakistani wedding typically consist of four ceremonies on four separate days. It may consist of 3 days if the first function called "Mehndi" is done in a combined manner by both the bride and groom's family.
The first function is Mehndi in which the families get together and celebrate the upcoming wedding function. On this day, it is customary to wear either green, yellow, orange, or other vibrant colors. The bride-to-be gets her hands painted with henna, and songs and dances go on throughout the night.The next day is "baraat" which is hosted by the bride's family. This event is usually held in a reception hall, and the groom comes over with his family and friends; a large feast is given. The bride's friends and relatives are also present, and the Baraat event can be considered the 'main' wedding event as it is the largest one out of all the events. Then there is the holy ceremony of "Nikah" which is performed by a religious Pastor or imam, after which bride and groom are declared as husband and wife.The Next day there is a function of "Walima" in which the groom's family is the host and the bride's family come over for a big feast.
On her wedding day, the bride-to-be can wear any color she wants, but vibrant colors and lots of traditional gold jewelry are typically worn. It is customary for the bride to wear traditional clothes such as a lahnga, shalwar kameez, or sari. These weddings are also typical of the Muslim community in India.
Indian wedding customs
Indian weddings take anywhere from five minutes to several days, depending on region, religion, and a variety of other factors. Due to the diversity of Indian culture, the wedding style, ceremony and rituals may vary greatly amongst various states, regions, religions and castes. In certain regions, it is quite common that during the traditional wedding days, there would be a tilak ceremony (where the groom is anointed on his forehead), a ceremony for adorning the bride's hand and feet with henna (called mehendi) accompanied by Ladies' Sangeet (music and dance), and many other pre-wedding ceremonies. Another important ceremony followed in certain areas is the "Haldi" program where the bride and the groom are anointed with turmeric paste. All of the close relatives make sure that they have anointed the couple with turmeric. In certain regions, on the day of the wedding proper, the Bridegroom, his friends and relatives come singing and dancing to the wedding site in a procession called baraat, and then the religious rituals take place to solemnize the wedding, according to the religion of the couple. While the groom may wear traditional Sherwani or dhoti or Western suit, or some other local costume, his face, in certain regions, is usually veiled with a mini-curtain of flowers called sehra. In certain regions, the bride (Hindu or Muslim) always wears red clothes, never white because white symbolizes widowhood in Indian culture. In Southern and Eastern states the bride usually wears a red Sari, but in northern and central states the preferred garment is a decorated skirt-blouse and veil called lehenga. After the solemnization of marriage, the bride departs with her husband. This is a very sad event for the bride's relatives because traditionally she is supposed to permanently "break-off" her relations with her blood relatives to join her husband's family. Among Saint Thomas Christians in the state of Kerala, the bridegroom departs with the bride's family. The wedding may be followed by a "reception" by the groom's parents at the groom's place. While gifts and money to the couple are commonly given, the traditional dowry from the bride's parents to the couple is now officially forbidden by law.
Bengali wedding customs
Bengali wedding refers to both Muslim and Hindu weddings in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common cultural rituals in marriages across religion among Bengali people.
East Asian customs
Chinese wedding customs
Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens. A band of musicians with gongs and double-reed instruments accompanies the bridal parade to the groom's home. Similar music is also played at the wedding banquet. Depending on the region from which the bride hails, Chinese weddings will have different traditions such as the Tea Ceremony or the use of a wedding emcee. Also, in modern times, Chinese couples will often go to photo studios to take "glamour shots," posing in multiple gowns and various backgrounds.
Most regional Chinese wedding rituals follow the main Chinese wedding traditions, although some rituals are particular to the peoples of the southern China region. In most southern Chinese weddings, the bride price is based on the groom's economic status. The idea of "selling the daughter" or bride is not a phrase that is used often. Therefore, the price of the bride does not tend to be too demanding. Most of the time, the bride price is in the form of gold jewelry, fine fabric, money, or even a roast pig, which symbolizes that the bride is a virgin. Wedding presents are given by elderly couples or couples that are older than the newlyweds, while tea is served by the younger family members.
Japanese wedding customs
Japanese customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies, and modern Western-style ceremonies. In either case, the couple must first be legally married by filing for marriage at their local government office, and the official documentation must be produced in order for the ceremony to be held.
Before ever getting married there are two types of mate selection that may occur with the couple: (1) miai, or an arranged marriage and (2) ren ai, or a love match. The Japanese bride-to-be may be painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the gods. Two choices of headgear exist. One, the watabōshi, is a white hood; the other, called the tsunokakushi, serves to hide the bride's 'horns of jealousy.' It also symbolizes the bride's intention to become a gentle and obedient wife.
Traditional Japanese wedding customs (shinzen shiki) involve an elaborate ceremony held at a Shinto shrine. Japanese weddings are being increasingly extravagant with all the elaborate details placed into thought. However, in some cases, younger generations choose to abandon the formal ways by having a "no host party" for a wedding. In this situation, the guests include mainly of the couple's friends who pay an attendance fee.
In recent years, the "Western Style Wedding" (influenced by Christian weddings) has become the choice of most couples in Japan. An industry has sprung up, dedicated to providing couples with a ceremony modeled after church rituals. Japanese western style weddings are generally held in a chapel, either in a simple or elaborate ceremony, often at a dedicated wedding chapel within a hotel.
Before the ceremony, there is a rehearsal. Often during this rehearsal, the bride's mother lowers the veil for her daughter, signifying the last act that a mother can do for her daughter, before "giving her away". The father of the bride, much like in Western ceremonies, walks the bride down the aisle to her awaiting groom.
After the rehearsal comes the procession. The wedding celebrant will often wear a wedding cross, or cana, a cross with two interlocking wedding rings attached, which symbolize a couple's commitment to sharing a life together in the bonds of holy matrimony. The wedding celebrant gives a brief welcome and an introductory speech before announcing the bride's entrance. The procession ends with the groom bowing to the bride's father. The father bows in return.
The service then starts. The service is given either in Japanese, English or quite often, a mix of both. It follows Protestant ceremony, relaxed and not overtly religious. Typically part of 1 Corinthians 13 is read from the Bible. After the reading, there is a prayer and a short message, explaining the sanctity of the wedding vows (seiyaku). The bride and groom share their vows and exchange rings. The chapel register is signed and the new couple is announced. This is often followed by the traditional wedding kiss. The service can conclude with another hymn and a benediction.
With the two types of ceremonies, Shinto and Western, available it was bound for the two to be combined into what is called a contemporary Japanese wedding. Contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated in many ways. On the beginning of the wedding day, the participants are to get ready at the parlor's beauty shop. The responsibility of the beauty shop is to dress the bride, the groom, and the other participants in the formal Japanese attire. Dressing the bride is an important task because the bride is to change into several outfits throughout her wedding day. Due to the complexity of the design, dressing a bride can be difficult and time consuming and for this reason the bride must be the first person to arrive two hours prior to the wedding ceremony. The bride's attire consists of an extravagant kimono, heavy make-up, a wig, and a head covering. An hour prior to the wedding ceremony, the guests and the groom should start to arrive.
When everyone is dressed in their formal attire, the bride and the groom are to separate from each other and meet their close relatives in a waiting room. The relatives present will appear in the family photo and will also attend the religious ceremony. During this gathering, the kaizoe (assistant) will inform the participants of what will take place and what they should do during the day since they are not familiar with the ceremony.
When all is understood, the relatives and participants are brought to the photo studio where the professional photographs are to be taken. Taking the photographs of the bride, the groom, and their relatives is considered to be the central part of the wedding day. The photographs of the couple and their family are designed to represent the couple's prospective future together.
After the lengthy photo session, the bride, the groom, and others are brought to the Shinto shrine. Nowadays, the Shinto shrine may be conveniently located inside a hotel where all the activities will take place. A Shinto priest conducts the ceremony. In the ceremony, the bride and the groom are purified. However, the ceremony's important event occurs when the bride and the groom exchange nuptial cups of sake also known as san-san-ku-do. With the addition of Western tradition, the exchange of rings and weddings vows also take place. Those guests who did not attend the religious ceremony are able to view the ceremony on video screens located in the lobby.
Like Western-style traditions, a reception takes place right after the wedding ceremony. The guests of the reception include family members, friends, and colleagues. Due to the wedding industry's attempt to maximize time and space, the reception will last exactly two hours. The reception does not include any random activities, but follows a strict order of events. The reception includes dramatic entrances by the bride and the groom with special effects, speeches, and other performances.
Throughout the reception, the bride shall receive the guests' utmost attention because she changes two to three times for the dramatic entrances. With all the dramatic entrances, the groom will join the bride. For example, the first entrance includes the bride, the groom, and the nakodo couple. Nakodo means a "matchmaker" or a "go-between", which is usually referred to the husband. The nakodo couple plays such an important role that their names appear on the announcement of the wedding. The purpose of the nakodo is to symbolize a stable marriage. As the two couples appear a special effect of a cloud of white smoke will appear to surround them. Simultaneously, the hall lights are dimmed and the stage lighting will turn to the color of rose-pink; this astonishes the guests. Pictures are to be taken during the dramatic entrances of the bride and the groom. After the photographs have been taken, they will be led back to their table.
At this point the Master of Ceremonies will congratulate the newlyweds and their family. He/she will then introduce the nakodo, who will start the opening speeches and more speeches will follow. Being that the reception is highly structured the speakers will have the idea of being formal and concise in mind. With all the speeches finished, the bride and the groom will perform the Western-style traditions, which include the following: (1) the cake cutting ceremony and (2) the newlyweds' first dance as husband and wife.
The next part of the reception is the toast, or kanpai, which simplifies the mood of the reception where the guests can start to relax, eat, and drink. What follows the toast are the short congratulatory speeches made by relatives, friends, and colleagues. During this time, the bride has gone to change into her first costume and continues throughout the reception. However, the groom will also have a chance to change into his costume, which is the Western tuxedo. By the end of the night, both the bride and the groom have changed from their traditional Japanese attire to their Western-style attire.
After their last change of costumes, the newlyweds will perform the candle service. Both will have a long, unlit candle, which will be lit from the table where their parents are seated. Next, the couple will walk around the room in a circle and light the candles placed on their guests' table. Once all the candles are lit, the newlyweds will return to their table where they will light what is called the Memorial Candle.
By the time the candle service is done the two hours restriction will soon expire. The remaining few minutes includes short speeches, songs, dances, etc. As the reception ends a flower presentation ceremony will take place, which is where the newlyweds will present their parents with a gift of flowers to display appreciation for their parents raising them to the people they are today. At this point, the reception has ended with quick flashes and farewells.
South Korean wedding customs
Southeast Asian customs
Filipino wedding customs
The groom usually wears the Barong Tagalog during the wedding, along with the male attendants, though nowadays the wealthy opt to don Western attire such as a tuxedo. Weddings held within the same year by two siblings, usually sisters, called Sukob are frowned upon as it is regarded as bad luck. Some hold it that the wedding rings dropping to the ground is a portent of bad luck (this is usually said to the ring bearer to ensure that the child is careful in handling the rings). Money, in the form of paper bills, is sometimes taped or pinned to the groom and bride's dress during their first dance.
Vietnamese wedding customs
Thai wedding customs
Malay wedding customs
A Malay wedding ceremony spreads over two days, beginning with the akad nikah ceremony on the first day. The groom signs the marriage contract and agrees to provide the bride with a mas kahwin (dowry). After that, their hands are dyed with henna during the berinai besar ceremony. On the second day, the bride is with her family and friends with musicians and bunga manggar or palm blossom carriers at the bride's house. At the house they are greeted with sprinkling of yellow rice and scented water.
North American customs
United States customs
Most weddings in the United States follow a similar pattern to an English wedding. It traditionally follows the white wedding type (see also Wedding types below), which originates from the white color of the bride's wedding dress, but refers to an entire wedding routine. Customs and traditions vary, but common components are listed below.
- Before the wedding
- The host sends invitations to the wedding guests, usually one to two months before the wedding. Invitations may most formally be addressed by hand to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion. Large numbers of invitations may be mechanically reproduced. As engraving was the highest quality printing technology available in the past, this has become associated with wedding invitation tradition. Receiving an invitation does not impose any obligation on the invitee other than promptly accepting or declining the invitation, and offering congratulations to the couple.
- While giving any gift to the newlywed couple is technically optional, nearly all invited guests who attend the wedding choose to do so. Wrapped gifts can be brought to the wedding ceremony or reception, but it's considered thoughtful to have them delivered to the address on the wedding invitation or to the address given with the couple's bridal registry. Typical gifts are useful household items, such as dishes, silverware, kitchen utensils and appliances, or towels. Guests are not obligated to use the couple's registry information.
- A color scheme is selected by some to match everything from bridesmaids' dresses, flowers, invitations, and decorations, though there is no necessity in doing so.
- The groom's friends throw a party for the groom, called a "bachelor party". It usually involves alcohol and racy entertainment, as this is supposedly the groom's last chance to engage in debauchery before marriage. It has become increasingly popular for the bride's friends to organize similar "bachelorette" parties.
- At the wedding
- A wedding ceremony may take place anywhere, but often a church, courthouse, or outdoor venue is selected. The ceremony may be dictated by the couple's religious practices, or lack thereof. The most common non-religious form is derived from a simple Anglican ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, and can be performed in less than ten minutes, although it is often extended by inserting music or speeches.
- American brides usually wear a white, off-white, silver, or other very light-colored dress, particularly at their first marriage. Brides may choose any color, although black is strongly discouraged by some as it is the color of mourning in the west.
- White seeds, or confetti is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony to symbolize fertility. Some individuals, churches or communities choose birdseed due to a false but widely believed myth that birds eating the rice will burst. Because of the mess that rice and birdseed make, modern couples often leave in clouds of bubbles.
- The wedding party may form a receiving line at this point, or later at a wedding reception, so that each guest may briefly greet the entire wedding party.
- At the wedding reception
- Drinks, snacks, or perhaps a full meal, especially at long receptions, are served while the guests and wedding party mingle.
- Often, best men and/or maids of honor will toast newlyweds with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne is usually provided for this purpose.
- In a symbolic cutting of the wedding cake, the couple may jointly hold a cake knife and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake, which they feed to each other. In some sub-cultures, they may deliberately smear cake on each other's faces, which is considered vulgar elsewhere.
- If dancing is offered, the newlyweds first dance together briefly. Sometimes a further protocol is followed, wherein each dances next with a parent, and then possibly with other members of the wedding party. Special songs are chosen by the couple, particularly for a mother/son dance and a father/daughter dance. In some subcultures, a dollar dance takes place in which guests are expected to dance with one of the newlyweds, and give them a small amount of cash. This practice, as is any suggestion that the guests owe money to the couple, is considered rude in most social groups as it is contrary to basic western etiquette.
- In the mid-twentieth century it became common for a bride to toss her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women during the reception. The woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In a similar process, her groom tosses the bride's garter to the unmarried men, followed by the man who caught the garter placing it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet. While still common in many circles, these practices (particularly the latter) are falling out of favor in the 21st century.
The purpose of inviting guests is to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in their joy and celebration. Gifts for the wedding couple are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some couples and families feel, contrary to proper etiquette, that in return for the expense they put into entertaining and feeding their guests, the guests should pay them with similarly expensive gifts or cash.
The couple often registers for gifts at a store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of household items, usually including china, silverware and crystalware, linens or other fabrics, pots and pans, etc. Registries are intended to aid guests in selecting gifts the newlyweds truly want, and the service is sufficiently profitable that most retailers, from luxury shops to discount stores, offer the opportunity. Registry information should, according to etiquette, be provided only to guests upon direct request, and never included in the invitation. Some couples additionally or instead register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund. Some find bridal registries inappropriate as they contravene traditional notions behind gifts, such as that all gifts are optional and delightful surprises personally chosen by the giver, and that registries lead to a type of price-based competition, as the couple knows the cost of each gift. Traditionally, weddings were considered a personal event and inviting people to the wedding who are not known to at least one member of the couple well enough to be able to choose an appropriate gift was considered inappropriate, and registries should therefore be unnecessary. Whether considered appropriate or not, others believe that weddings are opportunities to extract funds or specific gifts from as many people as possible, and that even an invitation carries an expectation of monetary reward rather than merely congratulations.
Letters of thanks for any gift are traditionally sent promptly after the gift's receipt. Tradition allows wedding gifts to be sent up to a year after the wedding date. Thanks should be sent as soon as possible, preferably within two weeks.
Jumping the broom developed out of the West African Asante custom. The broom in Ashanti and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often but not always jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony.
The custom took on additional significance in the context of slavery in the United States. Slaves had no right to legal marriage; slaveholders considered slaves property and feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals, however, were important events to the Africans, who came in many cases come from richly ceremonial African cultures.
Taking marriage vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. Jumping the broom has become a practice in many modern weddings between African Americans.
There are also traditions of broom jumping in Europe, in the Wicca and Celtic communities especially. They are probably unconnected with the African practice.
South American customs
The South American country of Brazil features a host of traditions and customs within its culture. For Brazilian brides, these traditions lead to extravagant, fun-filled weddings.
- Bridesmaids and groomsmen are chosen months before the time of the wedding. Those selected consist of couples paired off at the altar, usually three men and three women for the brides side and more three men and three women for the grooms side. The groom arrives at the wedding ceremony location first. The bride comes to the location, usually a church, at least 10 minutes after the groom’s arrival. The two should not see each other before the ceremony, however, as it is believed this will bring bad luck.
- In a military officer's wedding, the roles of groomsmen are replaced by swordsmen of the sword honor guard. They are usually picked as close personal friends of the groom who have served with him. Their role includes forming the traditional saber arch for the married couple and guests to walk through.
- Some time before the wedding, usually about one month, either the bride, or her best friends, organizes a “kitchen shower” (wedding shower) with the purpose of giving the bride an intimate reunion with her closest friends. This party used to be a “girls-only” event, and was usually a small intimate party. Nowadays not only have the parties gotten bigger, but they also have started to admit men to the event. The person that is invited to this kind of party usually gives the bride something for her kitchen; hence the name “kitchen shower”, and not wedding shower.
- The wedding ceremony and party are usually paid by the wife’s family, although this is a tradition that is not always followed, understandably because of the high costs involved.
- Brazilian wedding ceremonies normally follow Christian traditions closely. The bride and groom recite wedding vows to each other after a prayer is read. Then the bride and groom exchange wedding rings. These rings are usually engraved with the name of the groom on the bride’s ring and the name of the bride on the groom’s ring.
- After the religious ceremony, the newlyweds usually throw a big party were they receive the compliments from all the guests. The party usually happens in a different place, a private party house that in Brazil is called a “ceremonial.” A lot of singing and dancing goes on usually after the couple dances a Waltz.
- Receptions for Brazilian weddings involve food, drinks and music. The married couple gives gifts to their parents, while the parents bestow a number of gifts upon the couple.
- Another unique thing about the weddings in Brazil is a sweet called “bem casado” (well married), which is normally given to the guests on their way out. It is considered to bring good luck to the couple. Usually towards the end of the party or before the married couple leaves, the bride throws her flower bouquet to her unmarried friends. The belief is that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next one to marry. One other tradition for offering fortune to the couple is for the bride’s friends is to write their names on the inner part of the bride’s dress. This is also said to help the unmarried bride’s friends to find a husband for them.
The Brazilian culture is very rich with its numerous traditions, celebrations, and in many cases superstitions. Wedding celebrations are definitely inserted in this context. This is considered a festive event for the Brazilian society and thus it is usually celebrated with a lot of music, dances and overall happiness.
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