Regular readers of ‘wedding talk’ know my interest, even fascination, with all kinds of rituals and traditions. Today I thought I’d take a quick trip around the world and look at just some of the more obscure wedding customs.
In South Asian weddings, the bridesmaids steal the groom’s shoes and hide them on the day of the wedding, forcing him to be shoeless at the reception. The younger guests then negotiate with him (for money!) for the shoes return. Kind of fun, don’t you think?
Also South Asian is a custom I simply love. The two family sides enter into an intense sing-off. They sit gathered around a drum and take turns singing songs. I’m not entirely clear about the criteria, but apparently the side that sings loudest usually wins.
In Danish weddings, if the bride or groom leaves the other’s side, the remaining partner gets swarmed with kisses from the wedding party until their better half returns.
An old Scottish tradition involves dumping flour, tar, spoiled food (and whatever else you can get their hands on) on the bride and groom. The ritual is meant to ward off evil spirits. Yuk! There are several other traditions with the same intent. Some say the same thing about the ‘breaking of the glass’ in a Jewish wedding. The wearing of a veil is meant to protect the bride.
In Korea, married friends of the groom carve wooden ducks for the married couple, meant to symbolize marital harmony. Sweet. Another Korean custom is that after the ceremony friends of the groom take off his socks, tie a rope around his ankles and beat the soles of his feet with dried fish. This is meant to make the groom stronger before the wedding night. Not so sweet. I’m not sure about the effectiveness of this custom, but it’s an unusual one for sure. Koreans also say that smiling a lot at the wedding brings a daughter for your firstborn.
In Yemen, the groom’s father throws raisins on the ground for guests to pick up. Raisins are meant to symbolize happiness for the happy couple. Ok.
Japanese brides are sometimes painted pure white from head to toe, declaring she is a maiden (i.e. virgin). While the painting part is not as popular anymore, wearing a white kimono and an elaborate headpiece is still common. During the ceremony, the bride puts on a white hood to hide her ‘horns of jealousy’ - the jealousy that she feels toward her mother-in-law, and to show her resolve to become a gentle, obedient wife. I hope that one is going out of fashion. To symbolize their union, the couple drinks sake together, becoming husband and wife once they take the first sip. I would love to incorporate that one into anyone’s ceremony. And brides have quite a few changes of clothing during the reception, first changing into a red kimono and then later into a Western-style dress.
Changing outfits is popular in many cultures and especially when couples are honoring two different cultures (see photo of my friends Danielle & Raj) I see wardrobe changes becoming even more popular.
In Italy the bride is supposed to wear green the night before the wedding for good luck. Wearing purple is to be avoided. In southern Italy there are no weddings in May, because that brings bad luck.
As symbol of being married people in India wear toe rings. During the wedding ceremony the groom puts the toe ring on the second toe of bride’s foot while she holds her foot on a ceremonial grinding stone. I’m not clear about the meaning of the stone, but I love the toe ring part.
These are just a few unusual customs, but remember, they are only strange to us. They may be odd or fun or even taken with a grain of salt (that’s another custom, of course) but not strange to for those within that culture. I probably cannot incorporate most of these into my western style ceremonies, but I find it fun to learn about them. There are many, many more strange wedding traditions around the world.