20 Extraordinary Wedding Traditions Around the World

wedding traditions - Minstrel Court

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Love knows no boundaries, and when it comes to celebrating the union of two souls, cultures around the world have their own unique and captivating ways of marking the joyous occasion. From intricate rituals passed down through generations to fascinating customs that reflect a region’s rich history and beliefs, wedding traditions vary greatly across different corners of the globe. Here are 20 extraordinary wedding traditions from around the world, with diverse cultures, each offering a glimpse into the beautiful tapestry of human celebration.

1. Armenian Khosk-Arnel and Khosk-Kap

The bride’s family hosts a gathering at their home where they invite the groom’s immediate family for coffee/tea or dinner. During the event, the groom respectfully seeks the approval of the bride’s father for their marriage. They call this Khosk-Arnel.

Today, the tradition of Khosk-Arnel is being replaced by Khosk-Kap. In Khosk-Kap, it is the groom who directly asks for the bride’s hand in marriage.

2. Jumping the Broom in Black Weddings

The wedding tradition known as jumping the broom involves the couple leaping over a broom placed at the front of the ceremony. This African tradition originated during the era of slavery and carries symbolic meanings.

It emerged during a time when enslaved individuals were prohibited from legally marrying. This act signifies leaving the past behind and embracing the future together as a unified entity.

3. The Chinese Umbrella

In Chinese weddings and during the procession to the bridal car, it is customary for the bride to be protected by a red umbrella to ward off any negative influences. According to Chinese superstition, a bride’s fertility in her marriage can be ensured if she walks under a red umbrella whenever she is outdoors. It is common for a bridesmaid to have the responsibility of holding the umbrella for the bride during such occasions.

4. Long Speeches of the Dutch

In the Netherlands, speeches play an important role in both wedding ceremonies and receptions. Dutch wedding ceremonies are typically longer, lasting an average of 45 minutes but can range between 30 and 60 minutes. These ceremonies often involve personalised speeches delivered by the wedding organiser, as well as close family members or friends.

While traditional speeches by the fathers of the bride or groom are common, there is also room for other guests or members of the wedding party to contribute in unique ways. This can include reciting poems, sharing memories, or even performing music or acts to celebrate the couple.

5. Laylat Al-Henna in Egypt

Wedding traditions around the world - Minstrel Court
*Photo by James Douglas on Unsplash 

In Egypt, the night before the wedding is known as Laylat Al-Henna or the “night of henna party,” a significant tradition. This Middle Eastern version of a bachelorette party holds great importance for many Egyptian women, with some considering it the second most significant night of their lives. During this event, women come together to adorn the bride’s hands and feet with intricate henna designs. This ancient tradition aims to bring happiness and good fortune to the couple.

6. Arras in the Philippines

In Filipino wedding ceremonies, there is a tradition called arras, which involves the exchange of 13 coins. In the past, wedding coins served as a dowry when marriages were arranged between the families of the bride and groom. Nowadays, the presentation of these coins during the wedding ceremony is symbolic rather than practical. These coins symbolise the groom’s commitment to providing for the bride and their mutual oath to support each other.

7. The Haldi Ceremony among the Hindus

Wedding traditions around the world - Minstrel Court
*Photo by Teresa Ling on Flickr 

The Haldi ceremony is a significant pre-wedding ritual in traditional Indian weddings, observed either on the wedding day or the day before. It is an intimate event where close family members, relatives, and friends gather to apply turmeric paste (haldi) on the faces and bodies of the bride and groom.

The common belief is that the application of haldi during the ceremony serves to protect the bride and groom from evil spirits. Some also believe it has medical and antibacterial values.

8. Sharing Sake in Japan

While modern Japanese weddings may have deviated from traditional practices, a significant element that remains is the sake-sharing ceremony, particularly in Shinto weddings. This custom involves the exchange of sacred sake cups between the bride and the groom. 

This ceremony serves as a formal bonding ritual for the couple, symbolising their union. In some cases, the parents of the couple also participate by taking three sips from each sake cup. This act represents the strengthening of the family ties that are formed as a result of the wedding.

9. Jewish Wedding Canopy (Chuppah)

In Jewish wedding customs, couples traditionally held their ceremonies outdoors beneath a chuppah. The chuppah, a canopy supported by four columns, represented the couple’s new home and harkened back to their nomadic ancestors’ tent-dwelling days.

Typically, friends or family members hold up the four posts of the chuppah, symbolising their support for the couple’s future. Nonetheless, a standalone chuppah is also acceptable.

10. Irish Handfasting

Wedding traditions around the world - Minstrel Court
*Photo by @markheybo on Flickr

Handfasting is a popular Irish wedding tradition where the couple’s hands are tied together with a cord during the marriage ceremony. The handfasting ceremony originated in ancient Celtic traditions. In ancient Ireland, couples who wanted to marry would have a braided cord or ribbon tied around their hands by a priest, signifying their engagement. This symbolic act represents the binding union they are entering into.

11. Korean Wild Goose

Jeonanyrye, known as the “presentation of the wild goose,” is a traditional Korean custom where the groom would give a wild goose to his mother-in-law as a symbol of his lifelong commitment to his new wife, reflecting the faithfulness of geese who mate for life.

Before presenting the geese, the groom bows twice to the mother-in-law. Today, instead of a real goose, Koreans exchange a wooden one. Wooden geese are often displayed in the newlywed’s home as a symbol of their faithfulness to each other.

12. Native American Blanket Ceremony

The blanket ceremony is a significant tradition observed in Native American weddings. It involves the mothers of the couple placing blue blankets over their children’s shoulders. This act symbolises the hardships the couples faced before coming together in marriage.

The blue blankets are then removed, and the large white blanket is placed over the couple’s shoulders. This gesture signifies their transition into a new life of marriage, characterised by peace and fulfilment.

13. Sofreh Aghd in Iran

During the Persian wedding ceremony, the aghd takes place, where the bride and groom sit before a beautifully arranged table, called Sofreh-Aghd. The sofreh aghd holds great significance as it symbolises the coming together of the couple in a traditional and symbolic union. It consists of a carefully curated collection of objects that represent the shared journey of life and marriage that awaits them.

14. The Scottish Blackening

In rural areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland, a traditional pre-wedding custom known as blackening takes place. This unique practice involves the “capture” of the bride and/or groom by their friends and family. They then proceed to cover them in various sticky substances or food items. 

The purpose is to create a messy and uncomfortable state for the couple, which is then showcased publicly for the community to witness. Engaging in this practice is thought to bring good fortune. 

15. Cutting the Log in German Weddings

Each German wedding tradition holds its own distinct significance. Germans consider these time-honoured customs as sacred, which is precisely why these traditions have endured for generations. One of these traditions is cutting of the log.

After the completion of the wedding ceremony, the newly-married couple encounters their inaugural test: the act of sawing a wooden log in half. This symbolic task, requiring the joint effort of both partners, represents the strength and unity of the couple as they confront the trials and tribulations of married life.

16. Kissing of the Bride among the Swedes

In Sweden, a peculiar tradition unfolds during wedding receptions: whenever the bride temporarily departs from the table, all the women in attendance find the opportunity to steal a kiss from the groom. Similarly, when the groom momentarily exits the room, the nearby gentlemen are given the chance to plant a gentle kiss on the bride’s cheek.

17. Mexican Wedding Lasso

*Photo by Amber & Eric Davila on Flickr  

The wedding lasso is an old tradition within the Catholic Church and in countries like Mexico. In the course of the ceremony, following the exchange of wedding vows, Mexicans typically place the lasso around the couple’s shoulders. It involves using a rope, rosary, or cord to join the couple together. It is usually considered a symbol of unity. 

18. Shaving the Groom in Greece

The sequence and structure of the wedding ceremony will vary based on whether it is a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding or a secular wedding. In the case of a secular Greek wedding, there is a possibility of incorporating certain Greek marriage customs without a religious component. 

Nevertheless, tradition has it that the best man should perform a wet shave on the groom on the morning of the wedding. It is the best man’s responsibility to ensure that the groom is well-dressed and prepared for the occasion.

19. Russian Karavai

Among the cherished customs of Russian weddings is the karavai, a round wedding bread imbued with deep symbolism. This elaborate, fluffy bread represents prosperity, good health, and fertility. It has historically been adorned with intricate designs such as pigeons, flowers, the sun, and stars.

Following the formal wedding ceremony, it is customary for the groom’s mother to hold the karavai and present it to the newly-married couple as a blessing. Subsequently, the Russians divide the karavai and share it among the wedding guests.

20. Camel Dance in Niger

As a part of the wedding festivities in Niger, guests are treated to the presence of camels, which are invited to provide entertainment. This customary practice occurs in the enchanting desert setting. In the desert, an elegant dance performance takes place, captivating all those in attendance.

The exploration of wedding traditions around the world reveals a tapestry of love, diversity, and cultural richness that transcends borders. From intricate rituals to vibrant festivities, these customs highlight the universal desire for unity, happiness, and the celebration of marriage.

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