Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes and often reflect a particular view of marriage.
African-American Wedding Traditions and Customs
Jumping the broom developed out of a West African Asante custom. The broom in Asante and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often but not always jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony.
The custom took on additional significance in the context of slavery in the United States. Slaves had no right to legal marriage; slaveholders considered slaves property and feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals, however, were important events to the Africans, who came in many cases come from richly-ceremonial African cultures.
Taking marriage vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. Jumping the broom has become a practice in many modern weddings between Black Americans.
There are also traditions of broom jumping in Europe, in the Wicca and Celtic communities especially. They are probably unconnected with the African practice.
Arabic Wedding Traditions and Customs
Arabic Weddings vary depending on the country and religion of the bride and groom. Although Christian weddings in the Arab World bear clear similarities to Western Weddings, the Muslim weddings in the Arab countries are influenced by Muslim traditions. Muslim weddings (pre-arranged or not) start with a Shaikh and Al-Kitab (book) for the bride and groom. The groom, may or may not see his bride until the wedding day. Men and women in wedding ceremonies and receptions are segregated affairs, with areas for both men and women. The women at the ceremony symbolically mourn the loss of the bride by doing the “wedding wail”. The brides dress is a beautifully ornate Caftan, and the brides hands and feet are “bound” in intricate lace-like patterns painted using a henna dye.
Asian Wedding Traditions and Customs
Weddings in modern China combine both traditional elements and elements influenced by the West. The actual civil ceremony consists of registering the marriage with the local registrar is brief and done without much ceremony. The wedding reception, however, is elaborate and complex. The one prominent element of modern Chinese weddings is the Chinese wedding album.
Traditional customs include the so-called” three letters and six etiquette”. The “three letters” involve a series of three written letters (”request letter”, “gift letter” and “wedding letter”) being hand-delivered in sequence by the groom’s family to that of the bride through an elderly female envoy/liaison from the groom’s family. The “six etiquette” consists of six steps that are carried out prior to and during the wedding day. In the first step, the groom’s family’s envoy communicates the offer of marriage to the bride’s family and attempts to persuade the bride’s family to accept. If the offer is accepted by the bride’s family, the two families negotiate the terms of the marriage. In the second step, the groom’s family, via its envoy, requests the bride’s family to disclose the eight Chinese characters that mark the date and hour of the bride’s birth. A fortune teller is then hired to analyze the date and hour of the bride’s birth with the date and hour of the groom’s birth to see if the bride’s date and hour of birth are compatible with those of the groom. The third step consists of the groom’s family sending some initial gifts to the bride’s family. The fourth step is where the groom’s family will pick a “good day” to send their formal gifts to the bride’s family and to send gifts, cash, cakes and food for use in ancestral worship. The fifth step is the selection, by the hired fortune teller, of a “good day” for the actual wedding date.
The sixth and final step is the wedding day ceremony itself. The interior of both families’ homes are decorated in red, while the bride and groom are dressed in red with the bride’s face being veiled in a red cloth. A procession of servants and musicians from the groom’s family picks up the bride from her family’s home and delivers her, in a carriage, to the groom’s family’s home. The bride’s gifts to the groom would be delivered to the groom at this time only if the bride is a “long distance” bride who does not live in the same area as the groom. Otherwise, her gifts should have been sent a few days prior. With relatives and friends witnessing, the bride and groom then proceed to worship the heavens, the earth, and the groom’s dead ancestors before the couple serve tea to the elders of their families. After being served tea by the bride and groom, the family elders will give them red envelopes ( lai see ) containing money and offer their blessings. This so-called “tea ceremony” is the ritual climax of the wedding day. The aforesaid “wedding letter” is presented during the wedding day and confirms that the bride will become part of the groom’s family’s household. If financially possible, the groom’s family will then throw a huge feast for all relatives and friends with the groom’s family’s said liaison making repeated toasts to the newly wedded persons. When the married couple are finally alone in the bridal room where the wedding bed is located, the groom may lift the red veil that had hidden his bride’s face.
Three days after the wedding, the bride returns to her family’s home bringing a roasted pig and gifts. She may or may not, depending on which region in China, be required to be accompanied by her new husband, and she may or may not stay in her old home for a few days. The bride’s family, as a courtesy, would return some of the gifts that they had received from the groom’s family.
Although Chinese wedding customs vary from province to province, and from region to region, there are some basic and common themes in the traditional Chinese wedding.
Both the bride and groom are usually dressed in red, as red is the color of celebration and good fortune. The bride, with a red veil or large embroidered handkerchief over her head (much like the Western custom of a white wedding veil), and is lead by the groom to where the parents are seated.
Once there, the couple then kneels and kow-tows to their parents, and to their ancestors - taking note to bow and kow-tow to all four directions (north, south, east and west). They will also pour tea and serve it to their parents, which then the parents accept and gives the couple a red envelope (or hong-bao ) filled with cash. Usually, the mothers will take this opportunity to also give the bride many pieces of gold jewelry or heirlooms.
After this ceremony, it is considered that the couple is married, and the family and guests spend the evening feasting and drinking all night long. During this meal, the bride will change her outfit several times; generally a new outfit for each course. This shows her new family, and her guests her wealth and status. Oftentimes, many games will be played during this banquet. Guests give the bride and groom gifts of cash, stuffed in red packets or envelopes.
In more recent years, a new custom has emerged where the wedding guests will escort or sneak into the new couple’s room, to play games and pranks. As Chinese custom requires that hosts (in this case, the newlyweds) can not be rude to their guests, and can not ask them to leave - this celebration can last for several hours. Another more modern tradition occurs before the tea ceremony. The bride is hidden in a room and her attendants (called “sisters,” even if the women are not biologically the bride’s siblings) try to prevent the groom and his attendants (”brothers”) from coming in to pick up the bride. They try to get the groom to bid for the bride, asking for money in 8s or 9s. They also ask the men (especially the groom) trivial questions, such as “where did you meet the bride?” Sometimes, the women would ask the groom and his attendants to write a poem about the bride or do silly tricks. At the end, the women are given money by the men.
European and American Wedding Traditions and Customs
The Western custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress, came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception and the hackneyed jokes of situation comedies the white dress did not actually indicate virginity, which was symbolized by a face veil). Within the ” white wedding” tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate in the second or third wedding of a widow or divorcee. The specific conventions of Western weddings, largely from a Protestant and Catholic viewpoint, are discussed at” White wedding.”
A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception, at which an elaborate wedding cake is served. Western traditions include toasting the bride(s) and/or groom(s), the newlyweds having the First dance, and cutting the cake. If there is a bride, she throws her bouquet to the assembled group of all unmarried women in attendance, and the person who catches it is supposed to be the next to wed. A fairly recent equivalent has the groom throwing the bride’s garter to the assembled unmarried men; the man who catches it is supposedly the next to wed. Now, at some receptions, the man who caught the garter has to place it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet. This sometimes causes those two people to start dating, and causing them to, indeed, be the next to wed.
A long-standing modern tradition is for brides to wear or carry “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” during the service. It is considered good luck to do so. Oftentimes the bride attempts to have one item that meets all of these qualifications, such as a borrowed blue hankerchief which is “new to her” but loaned by her grandmother (thus making it old.)
French Wedding Traditions and Customs
Many times in smaller French towns, the groom will meet his fiance at her home on the day of the wedding and escort her to the chapel where the ceremony is being held. As the couple proceeds to the chapel, children will stretch long white ribbons across the road which the bride will cut as she passes.
At the chapel, the bride and groom are seated on two red velvet chairs underneath a silk canopy they called a carre . Laurel leaves may be scattered across their paths when they exit the chapel. Sometimes small coins are also tossed for the children to gather.
At the reception, the couple customarily uses a toasting cup, called a Coupe de Marriage . The origin of giving toast actually began in France, when they literally dropped a small piece of toast into the couple’s wine (to ensure a healthy life). They lifted their glass to “a toast”, as is common in Western culture today.
Some couples choose to serve a croquembouche instead of a wedding cake. The dessert is a pyramid of cra¨me-filled pastry puffs, drizzled with a caramel glaze.
At a more boisterous wedding, tradition involves continuing the celebration until very late at night. After the reception, those invited to the wedding will gather outside the newlyweds’ window and bang pots and pans. They are then invited into the house for some more drinks in the couple’s honor, after which the couple is finally allowed to be alone for their first night together as husband and wife.
Another practice that is becoming more common at wedding celebrations is “beheading” a bottle of champagne with a sabre made for the occasion. It was started as a way for the Hussards (under Napoleon’s command) to celebrate victories and exhibit their horseback skills: they would “behead” the top off a bottle of champagne while on horseback. Legend has it that the skilled horsemen would ride at a full gallop while brave women held up bottles of champagne. The sabre must strike the neck of the bottle at exactly the right angle (champagne bottles have over 100 pounds of pressure per square inch).
This practice spread throughout France as a way to celebrate special occasions. Now decorative replicas of these special sabres can be purchased from artisans in Thiers, France (the French capital of cutlery).
Italian Wedding Traditions and Customs
At the start of a typical Italian wedding reception, the bridal party and the rest of the guests are separated for an hour and served cocktails. The food during cocktail hour is served in a buffet setup. During the cocktail time, the bride and the groom usually take their time to shoot photographs in a proper setting.
At the conclusion of cocktail hour, the guests will gather in the main dining room. The newlywed couple is introduced with much fanfare and they take their first dance, with the bridal party following soon after, who are then ultimately joined by the rest of the guests. Afterwards, everyone is seated, speeches are made by friends and family, and everyone champagne toasts the wedded couple.
Food is plentiful during most weddings, and Italian custom is no exception. Between courses, the MC will encourage dancing.
After the bulk of the courses have passed, it is time for the cake cutting, which ushers in the dessert course. In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a VenetianTable, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) are presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Venetian Hour.
After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation. In Northern Italy instead, the wedding favor is still given, but no tradition of envelopes with money exists.
Romanian Wedding Traditions and Customs
LÄƒutari are traditional musicians performing traditional Gypsy songs. The music of the lÄƒutari establishes the structure of the elaborate Romanian peasant weddings, as well as providing entertainment (not only music, but magic tricks, stories, bear training, etc.) during the less eventful parts of the ritual. The lÄƒutari also function as guides through the wedding rituals and moderate any conflicts that may arise during what can be a long, alcohol-fueled party. Over a period of nearly 48 hours, this can be very physically strenuous.
Following custom almost certainly dating back at least to the Middle Ages, most lÄƒutari rapidly spend the fees from these wedding ceremonies on extended banquets for their friends and families over the days immediately following the wedding.
Scottish Wedding Traditions and Customs
Scotland has historically been a popular place for young English couples to get married, due to the fact that in Scotland, parents’ permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England it was historically the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith’s at Gretna Green, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland’s third most popular tourist attraction.
A Church of Scotland wedding and reception generally follows a fairly established set of customs and practices although most couples chose to adapt these to their own personal circumstances and preferences.
Typical Wedding Traditions and Customs:
Unusual Wedding Traditions and Customs
Handfasting is an ancient Celtic wedding ritual in which the bride’s and groom’s hands are tied together â€” hence the phrase “tying the knot”.
United States customs
Wedding and Wedding Reception Music Traditions
Music often played includes:
African-American Wedding Music
Traditional music throughout Africa is almost always functional; in other words, it is performed to mark a ritual such as a wedding. Because Africa is a continent with a wide range of ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity, the music of Africa varies widely.
Wedding Gift Traditions and Customs
Originally, the purpose of inviting guests was to have them witness a couple’s marriage ceremony and vows and to share in the bride and groom’s joy and celebration. Gifts for the bride and groom are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some brides and grooms and families feel that, for the expense and effort they put into showing their guests a good time and to wine and dine them, the guests should reciprocate by providing nice gifts. No etiquette book or rule condones this belief.
The couple often registers for gifts at a favorite store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of preferred or needed household items, usually including a favorite pattern for china, for silverware, and for crystalware; often including linen preferences, pots and pans, and similar items. With older brides and grooms who might already be independent and have lived on their own, even owning their own homes, they sometimes register at hardware or home improvement stores. This is intended to make it easy for guests who wish to purchase gifts to feel comfortable that they are purchasing gifts that the newlyweds will truly appreciate. Taking this a step further, some couples register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund.
Etiquette rules prohibit the bride and groom from soliciting gifts, which would preclude them listing their place of registry, for example, in their wedding invitations. Guests are supposed to ask for this information if they want it; however, many couples do include the information in their invitations with the intention of making it more convenient for guests.
Many older guests often find bridal registries vulgar. They can be seen as an anathema to traditional notions behind gift buying, such as contravening the belief that “one should be happy for what they receive”, taking away the element of surprise, and leading to present buying as a type of competition, as the couple knows the costs of each individual item.
Christian Wedding Traditions and Customs
A Christian or mainstream wedding and reception follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary with part of the country, ethnic group, social group, and so on, but components include the following:
At the wedding reception following the ceremony, sometimes at the same location but sometimes at a different venue:
Jewish Wedding Tradition and Customs
The prominence and exact expression of traditions used in a Jewish wedding varies based on the denomination of Judaism of the people being married. Some of the most common are listed below. The bride and groom sign a Ketubah (a marriage contract). Originally, the Ketubah detailed the husband’s obligations to his wife, and provided for monetary payment to her in case of divorce. Nowadays,while literally it serves the same function, the Ketubah is a decorative keepsake that sets out expectations for both the bride and groom. It is typically framed and displayed in the couple’s home.
The Jewish ceremony generally starts with the bride and groom being escorted to the huppah (a Jewish wedding canopy) by both sets of parents. The ceremony takes place under the huppah, and is presided over by a Rabbi. After the vows, seven marriage blessings are read and the groom then smashes a wine glass with his foot. The bride and groom spend time together alone before the reception, which is traditionally a joyous celebration with much music and dancing.
There are several traditional activities that often take place during the reception:
Quaker Wedding Tradition and Customs
A traditional Quaker wedding ceremony in a Friends meeting is similar to any other Meeting for Worship, and therefore often very different from the experience expected by non-Friends.