American weddings can be huge affairs, often becoming the single most important day in a couple’s life. There are a number of traditions that Americans have upheld, from the white dress to the rings to the groom carrying the bride over the threshold.
Around the world, nuptials can be very different from the way they are in the United States. Every culture has its own traditions, many of them dating back centuries. Some are colorful, some are romantic, and some are very different by western standards.
Keep reading to learn about 10 fascinating wedding traditions from around the world!
10 Ireland: Blue Wedding Dress
The tradition of the white wedding dress applies to nearly all Christian-based cultures. Surprisingly, Ireland, which has historically had strong Catholic ties, has a tradition of the bride wearing a blue wedding dress instead of a white one.
According to Wedding Wire, this is because the color blue was associated with innocence and purity in Ireland, rather than white. White dresses are becoming more common, but it’s still possible to find Irish brides donning blue gowns. Typically, the blue is a pale color rather than a deep or royal blue.
9 Denmark: Lots Of Kissing
You generally expect there to be a bit of kissing at weddings. The first kiss between the wedded couple is the biggest moment of the day in many cultures. But in Denmark, there’s even more kissing than you’d normally expect.
At the reception after the ceremony, the male guests are actually the ones that get to kiss the bride. This happens while the groom disappears. Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace explains that after this, the bride disappears, and the female guests get to kiss the groom. Also, at Danish weddings, all guests should have a piece of wedding cake otherwise the marriage will be prone to bad luck.
8 Italy: Dancing “La Tarantella”
Italian weddings typically feature a lot of music, singing, and dancing. One of the most famous dances that you’ll find at Italian weddings is “La Tarantella,” which translates to "The Tarantula." In order to bring good luck to the newlyweds, the guests form a huge circle, holding hands, and perform the dance.
The music starts slow but gets faster and faster. Originating in the south of Italy, the dance is thought to have started when a woman working in the fields found a giant spider on her and jumped around frantically to get it off.
7 China: The Bridal Bed
There are several traditions that take place during Chinese weddings, even in the modern world. One of the most famous is the practice of preparing the bridal bed. Rather than taking place on the wedding day, this happens a few days before.
A woman of good fortune (who has a living husband, children, and grandchildren) covers the bridal bed with various items that will bring good luck and many offspring. According to Bride and Breakfast, sometimes a healthy boy jumps on the bed. No one is allowed to touch the bed until after the wedding.
6 Greece: Spitting On The Couple
If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you would have noticed that as main character Toula walks down the aisle to meet her groom Ian, her family appear to spit on her. This is an old Greek tradition that is said to keep evil away. Traditionally, the couple will be spat on three times.
It sounds pretty confronting, but there’s no real spitting involved. Family members make the gesture to spit on the bride and groom, but don’t actually do it. These days it’s all symbolic!
5 India: Haldi Ceremony
Weddings in India are bright, colorful, and lengthy affairs that often make the average western wedding seem extremely low-key. One of the traditions is known as the Haldi Ceremony. This takes place on the morning of the wedding.
According to Bride Box, the family spread oil, water, and turmeric over the skin and clothes of the bride and groom. Not only does this moisturize their skin before the big day, but it also is a way of blessing them. In the place of wedding rings, Hindi grooms will tie a necklace with two gold pendants—known as a mangalsutra—around the bride’s neck.
4 South Africa: The 12 Symbols Of Life
The “12 symbols of life” is a wedding tradition that is sometimes practiced in South Africa. These symbols are included in the wedding ceremony to remind the couple what to expect during the wedding, according to Hitched.
The 12 symbols that need to be present are wheat (fertility), wine (the mixing of two families), pepper (the hard times to come), salt (healing), water (purity), bitter herbs (pain), a pot and spoon (a healthy family), a shield (pride and honour), a spear (protection), honey (sweetness), a broom (cleanliness), and a holy book (God).
3 Japan: Nuptial Cups
Some Japanese weddings follow the Shinto tradition, while others adopt Christian or western practices. In traditional Japanese weddings, the couple will swap their vows for sake. Rather than saying their vows, they will drink sake thrice from three different cups. Each sip is important.
After this, their parents sip the sake, to symbolize the coming together of the families. With three couples drinking the sake three times, there are nine sips in total. In Japanese culture, nine is considered to be a lucky number.
2 France: No Bridal Party
In American weddings, it’s normal to have a bridal party comprised of the friends and family that are closest to you. But in France, the tradition is actually the opposite. As French Bedroom Company points out, the French don’t even have a word for bridesmaids or groomsmen!
French weddings do feature witnesses. There are usually about one or two during the ceremony, and the best friends usually take on this role. While bridesmaids and groomsmen don’t have a role in French weddings, there are normally flower girls and page boys.
1 Egypt: Mother-In-Law Becomes The Cook
This is a good tradition if you don’t like to cook! In Egypt, it’s customary for the bride’s mother to cook all the meals for the newlyweds for the first week after their wedding. Pretty good deal, unless you’re going on honeymoon the day after your wedding.
In Egyptian wedding ceremonies, the couple will drink rose water juice. The celebrations will be led by singers and belly-dancers. Wedding Street points out that at the end of the party, the bride and groom leave for the groom’s house rather than a hotel.