In the Western world, there are plenty of wedding traditions that must seem baffling from an outsider’s viewpoint. Why does the bride throw her flowers at the other women? Why does the bride wear white and the groom wear black? Why are they all lining up on the dance floor and dancing like chickens? As you read these wedding traditions from around the world, keep in mind that they probably seem as reasonable to their practitioners as Western wedding traditions seem to us.
Japan: Sake-Sharing Ceremony
Even in the U.S., we know that tipping back a drink or two with the in-laws is a good way to break the ice. But the Japanese turn that concept into a formal ritual, in which the bride and groom each take four sips of sake, then the parents of both take sips from the same cup. It’s a way of symbolically showing that the family has combined into a single united family.
There are plenty of traditions around the world that have the bride and groom do something together to symbolize how they intend to support each other now that they’re married. One of our favorites is the German tradition of Baumstamm Sägen. As soon as the couple exits the wedding venue, their first task as a new couple is to saw a log in half with a two-person lumber saw. It definitely captures the spirit of give-and-take that will serve the couple well in their married lives.
India: Capture the Shoe
There’s a whimsical bit of fun that takes place during the multi-day, incredibly elaborate Indian wedding ceremony. When the groom enters the wedding venue, he is supposed to take off his shoes. As soon as he does, the bride’s family tries to steal the shoes, while the groom’s family tries to protect them. Should the bride’s side prevail; the groom’s family will have to pay a ransom to get the shoes back, either a trivial amount of money or the equivalent in food and drink.
Russia: Truth or Dare
In America and the U.K., there is the (mostly outdated, thankfully) custom of asking the bride’s father for the bride’s hand in marriage. In Russia, asking permission goes several steps further. The Russian would-be groom must ask permission of the bride’s entire family, and its common practice to make him work for the permission a bit by dancing, singing, and generally embarrassing himself for the amusement of others. This may sound a little strange to us Americans, but I’m sure the idea of lighting a bunch of wedding sparklers indoors or tossing birdseed sounds pretty ridiculous to other cultures as well.
South Asia: Singing Competition
Here’s a tradition we’re surprised hasn’t crossed into American popular culture yet, given our love of singing competitions (at least on TV): after the wedding, the bride and groom’s family sit in a circle for a singing and drumming competition. Each side tries to sing louder than the other side, and the loudest party gets bragging rights at family get-togethers for years to come.
As you prepare for your wedding ceremony, there are bound to be traditions you embrace and some you decide to let rest in perpetuity where they belong. Whether or not you embrace any of these global traditions is up to you and your partner.