Weddings are important and for many – they’re the most memorable days of their lives! But, while no two weddings were ever created equal, weddings around the world have striking cultural contrasts!
Each culture around the world has its own rituals to affirm this spiritual and ritual contract between two people. However, no matter where you go, each culture has traditions and quirks that add a different take on one of the world’s oldest ceremonies. Here are some of the strangest, which we thought would be fun to share with you!
1. Chinese Wedding
In a traditional Chinese wedding, red plays an important role. Symbolising boldness, luck, and love, the brides face is covered with a red veil while her mother holds a red umbrella over her head for fertility. Stranger still are the practices of the Yugur and Tujia. In the Sichaun Province, the Tujia follow a crying ritual where the bride spends an hour crying, 30 days before the wedding to express joy and love. Ten days later, her mother joins and another ten days later, her grandmother does. Amongst the Yugur people, the groom shoots his bride with three arrows (without arrowheads!) after which he breaks the bow during the wedding.
2. German Wedding
Bachelorette parties and stag nights originated from the tradition of Polteraband. At the Polteraband, guests break old porcelain and earthenware to bring the couple luck. The couple then cleans up the pieces, an act that teaches them to work together to overcome challenges. Teaching a similar lesson is another custom in which German newlyweds instantly put their bond to the test by sawing a log in half, showing their guests their ability to work together.
3. Arab Wedding
Originating in Old Palestine, the Arab custom of Henna Night is still alive. Traditionally used to complete last minute preparations, the groom’s family dance to the house of the bride where they decorate the bride and groom’s hands with henna. The Katb el-Kitab is the official marriage ceremony where a sheikh or imam speaks on how the Prophet honoured his wives, how to honour women, and how women should treat their husbands and honour them. At the wedding reception, the bride and groom sit on a raised dais, and reign as king and queen while the guests toast their health with a sharbat.
4. Russian Wedding
A Russian groom is not in for an easy ride. In this entertaining custom, the groom must ransom his wife from her parents. Bridenapping seems to be a common theme across European countries, including Romania. Paying her ransom through drinks, money, or romantic gestures, they then begin the wedding festivities. The Welsh take it more lightly, with the groom’s best man taking the bride to a pub before the wedding, and the unfortunate groom settling the bill.
5. Balinese Wedding
Bali has three types of Hindu wedding ceremonies –Memadik, Nyentana (the man moves permanently into his wife’s home) and Ngerorod. In the Memadik, the groom goes to the house of his bride, and respectfully asks her parents for their permission. More popular is the Ngerorod, or elopement. The bride and groom meet out of sight and spend a night at a friend’s house. While this may seem secretive, in reality, plenty of publicity is created and the girl’s parents are mostly never surprised.
6. African Wedding
In the heart of the Massai nation lives the curious custom of spitting on the bride. After the ceremony, the bride’s father spits on her head and chest after which she leaves without looking back. This is done to avoid disturbing their good fortune. Brides believe they will turn to stone if they look back! Traditional Congolese weddings forbid the bride and groom to smile as weddings are sombre, thoughtful affairs.
7. Japanese Wedding
Traditional Japanese weddings are defined by how you found your partner and whether it is an arranged (miai) or a love marriage (ren’ai). Their ceremonies are similarly elaborate and held at Shito shrines. To declare her maiden status to the Gods, a Japanese bride-to-be may be painted pure white from head to toe. They also wear elaborate head gear – a white hood or watabōshi and a tsunokakushi, a hat that is meant to hide the bride’s ‘horns of jealousy,’ and show that she is gentle and obedient. In some cases, the younger generation celebrate ‘no host parties,’ where guests pay for attendance to the wedding.
8. Ukrainian Wedding
Ukrainian weddings are a host of fun, and one of the most interesting parts of the entire ritual is paying a ransom for a bride! The bride’s family only hands over the bride when a high enough ransom has been negotiated. But, even after the strange pre-wedding rituals, the actual wedding itself is a visual treat. Apart from all the religious ceremonies (several borrowed from pagan traditions and then Christian ones), what’s most interesting about the wedding is that the ceremony is performed in song! The bride and groom walk in hand-in-hand and are dressed in traditionally embroidered outfits.
9. Malaysian Wedding
Traditional Malaysian weddings are a mix of old-age traditions. They include several customs similar to Asian weddings including the dowry (although the groom has to provide the bride with one in this case) and the henna ceremony. The actual wedding is a massive show of colour and pomp, as the bride and groom walk in. The groom arrives in true film-star fashion, with an entire entourage and musicians accompanying him! Several performances take place through the wedding and it’s filled with fun, games, laughter and music!
10. Thai Wedding
In Thailand, the traditional ceremony is steeped in Buddhist traditions. All the rituals are performed with a monk present, although they are not involved. They also have a unique tradition called a ‘Merit Gift’ where a sum of money is donated to a Buddhist temple in order for the ceremony to be blessed. The ceremony includes a procedure where the couple kneels on a pedestal, people put garlands on them and holy water is poured onto their hands by all the guests.