Wedding traditions and rituals are kind of my ‘thing.’ As a celebrant, I really love incorporating something unique into a ceremony – that is, if it resonates for the couple. Conversely, there is nothing good about a ritual if it holds no meaning for anyone involved. That is why learning as much as I can about different cultures and traditions keeps my palette expanding. Then I pass it on to you.
Wedding traditions are as diverse as our world, and today I want to share three cool customs that come from three completely different places: Peru, Lebanon and the Czech Republic. While they are all intriguing, I don’t expect to see them in action in my future (although I’d be pleasantly surprised if I did).
- In Peru single, female guests take part in a tradition much like our familiar bouquet toss, but with a sweet twist. Charms are placed between layers of the wedding cake, and attached to the charms are ribbons dangling out of the cake. Before the cake cutting, the single women each take hold of a ribbon and pull. That’s when they discover which one ribbon holds the toy wedding ring. The woman who gets ring is said to be next in line for marriage. Isn’t that charming?
- In a Lebanese wedding, music, dancing and joyful shouting are part of a tradition call ‘zaffe.’ This ruckus takes place just before the ceremony, right outside the groom’s door – beckoning him to the wedding. A rowdy group made up of friends, family, and often hired musicians and dancers, escorts the groom to meet his bride, sending them to their nuptials with shouted blessings or even a shower of flower petals.
There is an entire profession dedicated to this. It reminds me of how our American DJs help get the party started. Although it’s a very ancient Arab tradition, it can be made very modern, and sounds like a lot of fun.
- In the Czech Republic the bride’s friends plant a tree in her yard and decorate it with colored ribbons and painted eggshells, because, according to legend, the bride will live as long as the tree. This takes place before the wedding ceremony. I always love a tree planting ritual, sometimes called a ‘unity tree.’ I’ve created so many variations on this ritual, and I truly love it.
I have a caveat with the tree planting, it is: what happens if the tree dies? When using anything living for a ritual, I’m always mindful of that. Consider the words, symbolism and the practical elements, when deciding upon a ritualistic act.
Butterfly releases, doves, as well as trees and plants in the ceremony, should be carefully researched and considered. But in the end, I have to admit, I love tree planting as a ritual. Not surprisingly, you will find tree planting rituals in many cultures. A Buddhist shrine requires a special tree, in Israel trees are planted in honor of loved ones, and the Oubangui of central Africa plant a tree for a newborn child. Trees also play a prominent role in mythology.
Candles are another example of how ritual can go wrong, at least if you use them outdoors. Assuming the candles represent something like the flame of your love – if you cannot light them, or they blow out in the wind, you have defeated your intent.
I hope to keep exploring this big amazing world of customs and traditions, discovering new ideas, everywhere!