Wedding traditions aren’t just about exchanging vows and rings. There are so many non trivial ways to say “I do.” From the well-known bride tossing her wedding bouquet, the couple’s first dance and the cutting of the cake, to wearing something old, new, borrowed and blue, American wedding customs became very popular around the world. But other countries too have their own beloved wedding customs. Some of them are heartwarmingly romantic, some are a little weird, and some might even make you uncomfortable. But what binds these disparate traditions from near and far is one simple thing: love!
1. China: Stars, Colors & Chicken Liver
In Chinese tradition, a middleman was used to cement a lengthy engagement. Once a man found a woman he wanted to marry, the go-between person would present gifts to the girl’s parents and consult an astrology expert to check the auspicious nature of the match. Modern Chinese wedding ceremonies also place a heavy importance on auspicious dates. It’s common to ask fortune tellers consult Chinese almanacs and analyze the prospective union.
A traditional Chinese wedding features a full procession, with the bride escorted to the ceremony in a covered sedan chair. Red is the main color in Chinese weddings, symbolizing love, good luck and courage. For centuries, Chinese brides wore the traditional qipao, a long bright-red silk dress with intricate gold embroidery, that covered her whole body, revealing only the head, hands and toes. According to an old tradition, the bride wears a red veil to hide her face, and her mother or attendant holds a red umbrella over her head to encourage fertility in the new family. Throughout the ceremony the bride changes gowns several times to demonstrate the opulence of her family.
In Daur region in China, there is quite a disturbing tradition that requires future husband and wife to dissect a chicken and check out its liver: if the liver is healthy, the couple can set a date for the wedding. If not, they should hold off on the marriage until they find one that will tell them otherwise.
2. Japan: Lady in White
Japanese ceremonies were traditionally held in Shinto Shrines. The bride’s skin is painted pure white from head to toe, she wears a white kimono and a big white hood hiding the “horns of jealousy” for her mother-in-law and signifying the desire to become an obedient wife. Throughout the ceremony a bride wears several costumes, first changing into another kimono in red and then into a Western-style dress. To symbolize their union, the couple drinks sake together, becoming husband and wife the moment they take the first sip.
3. Korea: It All Starts With a Duck
While in Fiji a groom must present his future father-in-law a whale’s tooth, in Korea a man gives their mother-in-law wild geese or ducks. The monogamous animals represent a man’s pure intentions and loyalty to his bride. Nowadays, brides and grooms exchange wooden geese and ducks on their wedding day instead as a symbol of their commitment.
4. India: Forget Jewelry
Indian weddings are surrounded by numerous rituals and ceremonies. A popular pre-wedding tradition includes a special engagement ceremony during which bride and groom exchange rings and their families exchange gifts and sweets. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s home and is followed by decorating the bride’s body with henna art. As part of the visually stunning traditional Indian wedding, bride’s palms, wrists, arms, legs, and feet are painted, in tattoo fashion, with intricate henna designs to represent the joy, hope, and love of the occasion. The elaborate skin art takes hours to make and it lasts about two weeks making additional accessories totally unnecessary.
5. Malaysia: All About Numbers
There’s a Malaysian tradition of exchanging wedding gifts between the bride and groom-to-be. The number of gifts is very important – it must be a minimum of 7 or more gifts of an odd number. The minimum of 7 gifts for the betrothed bride generally includes a diamond or gold ring, brand new outfit, pair of shoes, handbag, traditional shawl or scarf, special container of aromatic and symbolic betel leaves, fruits or food gifts.
The Malaysian wedding ceremony also incorporates some Hindu traditions including painting hands with henna. At the ceremony, each guest receives an artistically decorated hard-boiled egg to symbolize fertility. And before the wedding a groom might send his future bride child-bearing presents, such as trays of food with origami flowers and cranes made from currency bills.
6. Fiji: Toothy Treasure
In Fiji, a man have to find an unusual gift if he wants to propose to the beloved one. Before asking for the hand of the woman he is in love with, the groom must present his future father-in-law a whale’s tooth.
7. Jamaica: Everyone’s a Critic
Jamaican weddings are a community affair, with the entire village often coming together to help plan the big day. Before the ceremony villagers line up in the street to take a look at the bride and call out negative comments and publicly criticize her if her appearance isn’t in tip-top shape. If the majority is critical, the bride must go home and make a second try at looking her best.
8. Mauritius: Go Large or Go Home
Many brides-to-be around the world go on a strict diet to lose weight before the big day. Not so in Mauritius, where young women are often forced to gain some weight before their wedding, sometimes causing them many health problems later in life. In Mauritania, a large, full-bodied wife is said to signify good luck and prosperity in marriage.
9. Kenya: Some Spitting Allowed
How would you like to be all dressed up in your wedding finery and have your dad spit on you? In Kenya, as the newlyweds leave the ceremony, the father of the bride spits on his daughter’s head and chest in order not to jinx the good fortune of the married couple.
10. Venezuela: Missing In Action
Don’t wait until the wedding reception’s end to chat up a Venezuelan bride and groom — they could be long gone. It’s good luck for the newlyweds to sneak away before the party’s over without getting caught; it’s also good luck for whichever guests catches on that they’re gone.