Something Borrowed

Take inspiration from these international customs to add a touch of the old-country to your celebration.

I’m always in search of something new for a wedding ritual. I find a lot of inspiration around the world; there is so much to draw from, whether from different countries, cultures or religions.

I’ve used the ‘sawing the log’ ritual for a real German experience in a wedding but I recently learned about another tradition for couples with Germanic roots. In their first bit of housekeeping together, German brides and grooms clean up a pile of porcelain dishes that their guests throw on the ground. The smashing is supposed to ward off any evil spirits. Those evil spirits come into play a lot with old wedding traditions! But the lesson for the couple is that working together, they can face any challenge thrown their way (even evil spirits I suppose). I would love to find a way to work this one into a ceremony, it would be tricky, but I’d like to try!

Breaking and sweeping up the plates!

Speaking of breaking things in Guatemala apparently grooms like to smash things. When the newlyweds arrive at their reception, it’s customary (or used to be customary) for the groom’s mother to break a white ceramic bell which filled with grains like rice and flour. Traditionally the bell is placed at the door of the reception venue. When the newlyweds arrive, the groom’s mother ceremonially breaks the bell to welcome the pair to the party. This symbolizes that the couple will prosper. I think I can work with this one, too, but my twist would be to have the mothers present a bowl (or bell?) full of grains to the couple, and maybe just forget about the smashing part. I’m not sure why a bell and not a bowl, but I do know there are lots of traditions involving bells, which ring out the old and ring in the new. Oh, and bells can also scare away those evil spirits!

Beautiful traditional couple from Guatemala.

There are many traditions specifically for women, such as coins in the shoe, carrying specific things in her bouquet, wearing something borrowed, something blue, etc.  – but not that many for men. Well, in Greece they take the term “groomsman” literally, so on his wedding day, the groom’s men become his barber when they shave his face. There is a sweet side for the groom, as well, because his new mother-in-law will feed him honey and almonds.

Groom's men shave the groom (Tobiah Tayo Photo)

 Fertility symbolism has long and deep roots in almost every culture. That is because infant and maternal mortality was high before our modern era, so the hopes of successfully having children was important for the continuation of the social group. Children were needed to help with survival of the family and community. That’s why in Czechoslovakia, before the ceremony, an infant is placed on the couple’s bed to bless and enhance their fertility. Once they’ve wed, guests shower them with rice, peas or lentils to also promote fertility.

All of these customs sound intriguing to me, although a little extreme for modern American weddings. But you never know where exploring cultural traditions will lead and learning about them is fun. Should you decide to incorporate one of them I’m sure your guests will be talking about it for years to come.

The white bell.




thanks to Tobiah Tayo Photography

#LoisHeckmanCelebrant #PoconoWeddingTalk  #WeddingAdvice


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