When one thinks of a wedding these days, one sees the bride in a beautiful white dress with the groom in a tuxedo or other appropriate attire, together with the bridesmaids and other attendants. All, standing before the altar, give a picture of beauty and extreme happiness. It seems that there is always a humorous moment or two where the officiate has a slip of the tongue or the bride or groom, in their nervousness, miss a cue. This just gives more gladness to the ceremony and brings a relaxing mood to all in attendance.
This article is devoted to weddings in different cultures. While all achieve the ultimate end of marriage and togetherness between a man and a woman it is interesting to note the particular actions taken and have very symbolic meanings.
* African-American. A tradition of jumping over an elaborately decorated broom symbolizes sweeping away the old and jumping into a new life for the Bride and Groom. This is performed either at the ceremony or at the reception. The broom is colorfully decorated with bows and flowers the colors of the wedding to be used as wall décor in the new home. Click Here to view African Wedding Customs.
* Belgian. At the wedding ceremony the bride, while walking up the aisle, stops and presents her mother with a flower from her bouquet. Following the ceremony she performs the same ritual with her mother-in-law. In both instances the bride embraces her mother then new mother.
* Chinese. The typical wedding dress is red, which symbolizes joy and love. The wedding reception usually includes a nine-course meal which sometimes lasts up to three hours.
* Indian. Indian weddings are very bright occasions, consisting of rituals and celebrations. Body painting is one of the ritual held and many ceremonies. Indian weddings usually consist of between 300 to 1000 guests that may be well known in the Indian community. Though most marriages are arranged, some may be love marriages.The true Indian wedding is about two families getting wedded socially with much less emphasis on the individuals involved.
* Eastern Orthodox Church. Rings are very important during this ceremony, being blessed by the Priest. He takes the rings in hand and makes the sign of a cross over the Bride and Groom’s head. The rings are then placed three times by the Best Man, placing the Bride’s ring on the Groom’s finger and the Groom’s ring on the Bride’s finger. This signifies the compensation for weakness and strength in each other. Candles are held throughout the wedding service, following which crowns are placed on the head of the bride and groom, crowning them as King and Queen of their home.
* France. Wine is important in France. At the reception the couple raises a glass of wine from two different vineyards. They then pour their wine into a third glass. They then drink the combined wine. This symbolizes the uniting of two families.
* Germany. Power is important in Germany and is demonstrated during the ceremony where the Groom may kneel on the hem of the Bride’s dress to symbolize his control over her. In return the Bride may step on the Groom’s foot to symbolize her power over him.
* Greece. The Bride and Groom wear a crown of flowers during the wedding ceremony and walk around the altar three times representing the Holy Trinity.
* Hispanic. Thirteen gold coins, representing the Bride’s dowry, are blessed during the wedding ceremony. They are passed between the hands of the newlyweds several times before ending with the Bride. A large rosary or white rope, symbolizing their union, is sometimes wound around the couple’s shoulders in a figure-8 symbolizing “infinity.” As they leave the church, red beads are sometime thrown to the newlyweds to bring them good luck.
* Italian. Some brides carry a white purse to store gifts of money. Guests are presented five sugar-coated almonds to represent health, wealth, long life, fertility, and happiness.
* Japanese. The Bride and her parents visit the groom’s house on the wedding day. The Bride usually wears a special wedding kimono. Nine sips of sake, the first drunk by the Bride and Groom at their wedding ceremony, symbolize the official union of the marriage.
* Polish. The mother of the bride places a veil on the Bride before the wedding ceremony to symbolize her last task before her daughter is married. During the reception, a folk song is sung and the Bride transfers her veil to her Maid of Honor, Bridesmaids and Flower girl for good luck.
* Irish. Some Irish people use a wedding ring called a ‘claddagh’, which was created 400 years ago and signifies love, loyalty, and friendship. It can be worn on the right hand previous to marriage, signifying the wearer is unmarried. The newlyweds are given a horseshoe for good luck to display in their home.
* Jewish. The ceremony is in two parts; pre-engagement and marriage. Years ago these were one year apart, now they are combined in one ceremony. A reading of the Torah is done prior to the ceremony. The Groom must cover his head with a kippot acknowledging that God is everywhere. Some weddings take place under a wedding canopy, which signifies their new home. Prior to the ceremony the Groom must sign a document, witnessed by two people showing he is ready to assume his responsibilities as a husband. At the beginning of the ceremony the Bride must circle the Groom seven times, creating the area they will share as husband and wife. During the ceremony the Groom lowers the veil over the Bride’s face, showing she is the correct woman. Following the ceremony the Bride and Groom drink wine from a glass which is then thrown to the floor and broken, a reminder that love is fragile. Immediately after the ceremony the Bride and Groom spend a few private moments together to symbolize the consummation of their marriage.
Wedding customs in different cultures are very interesting and all have symbolic meaning, just as the ceremony itself does. Check out part 2 of this series to discover what other cultures do to unite a couple.