Unique Wedding Traditions: An Around the World Review
Wedding traditions these days have come a long way from the simple traditional bouquet toss. It’s no surprise to find that the information exchange on our shrinking planet—thank you, Pinterest—has resulted in modern weddings already incorporating so many near-universal traditions that you may actually be at a loss as to what you can do at your wedding that’s truly unique. Well, we have some ideas:
If you’re willing to walk just a little bit on the wild side, check out these over the top international wedding traditions. Some are sweet, a lot of them are crazy, and some are just downright unbelievable. If nothing else, we’ll make you laugh, but maybe you’ll find a little something here that you can use to make your wedding so memorable, even twenty years later your guests will say, “Remember at your wedding when you did…? That was the coolest thing!”
In a traditional Peruvian wedding, the bottom tiers of the cake trap little ribbons, one of which has a fake engagement ring attached. Whichever single lady gets the slice of cake with the ring inside is crowned to be the next to get married. Bye-bye old-fashioned bouquet toss!
Fun Idea: This tradition is popular particularly in the Southern United States and the charms have been expanded to include other items. Check out this blog for ideas: http://haydelbakery.com/blog/cake-pulls-a-southern-tradition/
But your lucky bridesmaid might not feel so lucky if she lived in Africa where…
In some African villages, an older woman is required to accompany the newlyweds into their bedroom on their wedding night in order to “show the young bride the ropes”—can you believe it?
Even though this is usually a village elder, sometimes it can be the bride’s own mother.
No wonder African brides in the Republic of Congo don’t smile (keep reading!)
The Republic of Congo
Congolese brides and grooms are not allowed to smile during their entire wedding day—not once—no matter how long the ceremony and the reception. This is to prove how “serious” they are about their marriage.
But what’s worse? No smiling whatsoever, or mandatory crying…?
Starting one month in advance of the wedding, Chinese brides cry for one hour each day. Ten days later her mother joins in, then grandma gets involved at day 20. Come wedding day, every female in the family has been crying, every day, for one full hour. Why?
It’s “an expression of joy” because the women weep in different tones, creating a crying song. But Jamaican brides cry for a different reason…
Right before her wedding, the Jamaican bride subjects herself to the scrutiny of all the villagers and guests. They line up to look her over, head to toe, then proceed to call out negative remarks regarding her appearance. If the majority are critical, the bride will have to go home and take another shot at looking good enough for her wedding.
In Germany, though, they don’t criticize the bride. Instead, they celebrate the wedding by…
Breaking dishes at a German wedding is not bad luck. It’s called a Polterabend which translates into “making a lot of noise in the evening.” The good news is that the broken dinnerware wards off evil spirits. The bad news is, if they stick to tradition, the bride and groom do all the sweeping up. Supposedly this is to prove that, by working together, the couple can face any challenge that comes their way.
Fun Idea: Why not adopt this tradition, break a few pretty thrift shop dishes, then make mosaic stepping stones for your garden or decorative flower pots? What a perfect wedding souvenir—for you! http://runningwithsisters.com/how-to-mosaic-with-broken-china/
But wait! Do you want the clatter of broken dishes? Or would you prefer a different kind of keep-you-up-all-night racket?
In France, they practice charivari. Friends and family of the newlyweds stand around their new home, banging on pot and pans, shouting, and in general being as annoying as humanly possible. Not only does this complicate the whole “consummate the marriage” business, but the newlyweds are also required to provide refreshments!
Fun note: This custom is still practiced in America by some families in Appalachia. They pronounce the word charivari with the close English phonetic shivaree.
But banging pots and pans pales in comparison to the other French tradition:
The newlyweds must drink all of the leftover wedding alcohol out of a replica toilet bowl! You could have fun with this, though, and give away miniature toilet shot glasses for wedding favors:
But if bathroom fixtures don’t appeal to you, how about kitchen utensils like…
Hand carved wooden spoons are a wedding gift a man might give to his new wife, symbolizing that he will never let her go hungry. Now that’s charming!
Not so charming, though, is this smelly, painful custom in Korea…
In South Korea, a traditional custom holds that the groom’s feet should be beaten with fish and canes the night before his wedding. Supposedly this proves his strength of character, but maybe it’s just his groomsman trying to stop him from walking down the aisle.
Feet are also featured at weddings in Ireland, though they do stay a little cleaner…
During an Irish wedding, the bride and groom must keep their feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. Why? Fairies like beautiful things. The bride is a beautiful thing. If she doesn’t keep her feet on the ground the fairies will come and carry her away!
Your relatives might appreciate your ability to walk a few feet off the ground if you marry in French Polynesia…
On the Marquesas Islands, at the end of the wedding reception, the relatives of the bride all lay side by side—face down—in the dirt—making what amounts to a human rug. The bride and groom then walk across all of them.
But if you think carpets made of humans is bad—try being forced to marry an inanimate object…
You probably know the tradition of Indian women being adorned with delicate henna designs on their hands and feet, but that’s the winning side of Indian weddings. In other places, it bodes less well:
In some parts of India, women born under a certain astrological combination—when both Mars and Saturn are in the 7th house—are called Mangliks. They’re thought to be cursed and hence will more than likely cause their husbands to suffer an early death.
In order to ward this off, each woman—before marrying a human—must be married first to a tree. Then the tree is destroyed, the curse is broken, and the woman can marry a real live man.
Good for the man. Bad for the tree. But wait! There is equal opportunity weirdness:
India’s Shagun TV channel is dedicated to broadcasting profiles of single men, in the hopes that other singles (we’re assuming they mean single women) will call wanting to meet, date, and eventually marry them. It’s pretty much eHarmony for the small screen.
But not to be outdone…
In their own version of The Bachelorette—the Gerewol Festival—Nigerian men dress in elaborate costumes and perform for their potential mates. When the performance is over, each woman gets to choose the man she likes best.
Your girlfriends might want to have a say in who you choose, though, especially if you elope to Sweden…
For some reason we still haven’t figured out, it’s traditional for the bride—or the groom—or each one at different times—to abandon the wedding ceremony for a short period. While she’s gone, all the unmarried female guests get to kiss the groom, and while he’s gone, the male guests get to kiss the bride.
At least in Sweden, they come back and finish celebrating the wedding, while in Venezuela…
The bride and groom go MIA. The newlyweds sneaking away from the party unnoticed is considered good luck. It’s also good luck for the first guest that catches on that they’re gone. It looks like “The French Exit” should be renamed “The Venezuelan Escape.”
Maybe they escaped to Rome for this next unquestionably romantic tradition…
Now popular all over the world, many think that this lovely tradition started in Rome, Italy:
Couples come to a bridge, attach a decorated lock to the fence—either in a pretty color or personalized with their names, date, initials, etc.—and then throw away the key. This symbolizes that they’re be bound together forever. Isn’t that lovely?
And isn’t this next Scottish tradition just plain downright…weird?
In Scotland, there is a particularly nasty pre-wedding tradition called Blackening of the Bride. It’s absolutely lovely:
The bride—and sometimes the groom—are pelted with trash, including the particularly aromatic rotten eggs and fish. Many Scots believe that if a couple can withstand this, their marriage can withstand anything. Let us hope so.
We saved the best for last (drumroll please).
My Big Fat Mauritania Wedding
Apparently, beauty is relative, and there is nothing in the world that exposes that more than the country of Mauritania. Evidently, they’ve confused the concept of a fat camp with a fat farm. Westerners go to fat camps to get skinny; Mauritanian girls go to fat farms to get fat…specifically so that they can get married.
In Mauritania, a large, full-bodied wife signifies good luck and prosperity in a marriage. In the U.S. though…
So does that Mauritanian tradition make you want to diet even more to fit into that little wedding gown of yours, or make you think to heck with it—order a bigger dress because we’re ordering pizza?!
No Offense Intended
We hope you’ve enjoyed our little romp through what we consider to be some of the weirdest wedding traditions we could find. Did you choose one for your own nuptials? You could just print out this list and leave it on the tables at your reception. We guarantee your guests will get a kick out of it!