Wedding traditions from around the world
Marriage is a very sacred tradition in almost all cultures. It’s a celebration of a holy union between two people. Depending on which part of the world you’re in, however, the nature of the celebration can vary dramatically. Marriage as an institution is nearly identical throughout the world, with the couple making vows of loyalty, love, trust and staying together forever. Indeed, in Indian weddings, the couple is believed to be united for seven lives! Traditions and wedding customs, on the other hand, vary dramatically from culture to culture. Let’s look at some of these unique wedding traditions from around the world.
The Thai have a fascinating custom that’s similar to the western tradition of exchanging wedding rings. The traditional ceremony is akin to most Buddhist rituals but involves a Mong Kol, a very special headgear made from a single piece of string that is blessed by the monks. In the course of the ceremony, the bride and the groom kneel next to each other while a respected elder from the community places the Mong Kol on their heads which they are expected to wear for the rest of the ceremony. The tradition symbolizes the union, as a single thread unites them, and is widely practiced to this day.
As tradition goes, there’s no guarantee that a German groom will have their bride present in time for the wedding; rather he must work hard to find his bride, who would have been kidnapped by his family and close friends! Yes, you read that right! It may sound strange, but kidnapping the bride is a traditional part of many ancient cultures and is still practiced in some German villages. The kidnappers intentionally leave behind clues for the bridegroom, who must find and follow them in order to rescue their bride in time. The hunt for clues typically begins at the local pubs, where the groom is often expected to pay for the patrons’ drinks in exchange for clues!
The French like to take their drinking and dancing seriously, and their weddings are no different! You might have heard the term ‘dancing the night away’, but it’s hard to actually experience this outside of a true French wedding. Typically a weekend-long affair, most couples choose to have a civil marriage ceremony that legally binds them together, as well as a religious ceremony to unite them in the eyes of God and the community. Fueled by champagne and usually accompanied by a live band – or, these days, a DJ – at least seven hours of dancing follow. Guests are expected to dance till they literally drop, or until they have to go to work the next day! The French really do know how to party!
One of the most unique wedding celebrations can be seen in the Andes mountains where the entire ceremony is held out in the open. In a longstanding custom, an offering is made to the Mother Earth Goddess, Pachamama, at the wedding. The bride and groom usually enter from the opposite sides of a garden and are greeted by a Shaman who chants blessings while rhythmic drum-based music sounds. Herbs are burnt, the scent filling the air, and the Shaman pours oil down the backs of the couple’s necks. A sensory overload indeed! The celebrations typically end with the bride and groom making an offering to each other. They also make a joint offering to Pachamama, which is buried underground for the Goddess to find.
Hindu weddings in India are usually a very bright and colourful affair with intricate flower arrangements and loud music, traditionally played on their own version of the clarinet, a flute-like instrument. The couple sits on either side of a ceremonial fire, with a priest chanting blessings next to them. In many Indian cultures, the couple’s faces are covered until the ceremony reaches a point at which its customary for the bride and groom to see each other. At one point in history, this traditional moment towards the end of the marriage ceremony was the first point the bride and groom saw each other’s faces! The ends of the couple’s garments are then tied in a knot as they take seven rounds around the fire while their loved ones shower them with flowers and blessings. As with most cultures, a feast is an integral part of the wedding festivities.