Wedding Traditions

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Wedding Traditions from Around the World

Marriage is an important aspect of family life in almost every culture worldwide. A vast majority of these cultures have wedding traditions that in some cases are hundreds and even thousands of years old. These are an important aspect of the merging not only of two lives, but of families as well. These traditions create a foundation for the future family that is to come as they honor the past at the same time. In many ways the comfort of following these cultural traditions celebrate the marriage union in a way that adds joy and excitement to a universally life-changing and often challenging time for young couples.

Looking at wedding traditions from around the world gives one a sense of security in the purpose of the sacred marriage vows as we realize our ancestors who come from many parts of the world valued their marriage relationships and paved the way for us to be here now. As we look back at our roots we can find out more about whom we are and maybe even find a way to incorporate these traditions into our lives. In doing so, we can honor not only our heritage, but our ancestors.

Here are some examples of wedding traditions, old and new from various parts of the world. Click on a country to read about its wedding traditions.

Middle East
New Zealand
Puerto Rico
United States
West Indies
Western Europe

African Wedding Traditions

  • The Origins of weddings in Africa date back thousands of years and include the combining of two tribes into one family unit. Children marry as young as 13 to 15 years old and divorce is rare as marital problems are worked out on a family and sometimes community level.
  • Girls are trained from childhood to be good wives and even learn secret codes and languages that allow them to talk to other married women without their husbands understanding them.

Sudan Wedding Traditions

  • A man must pay his wife’s family in sheep and cattle for the loss of their daughter’s support to the family. A wife may cost a man 30 to 40 head of cattle, which makes it difficult to pay the family and still have some left to support his new wife.

Japan Wedding Traditions

  • Purple is considered the color of love and often a young bride will wear an elaborately embroidered silk kimono covered with purple iris flowers.
  • Shinto weddings feature a ceremony in which spirits such as the Kami are called upon to bless the couple, while Buddhist ceremonies include 2 strings of beads that are interwoven and symbolize the joining of 2 families into one.

China Wedding Traditions

  • The groom’s family gives the gift of a whole roasted pig to the bride’s family as an engagement present.
  • The traditional wedding gown is a bright red color, symbolizing luck for the couple and loud firecrackers are set off to scare off evil spirits.

Indonesia Wedding Traditions

  • Weddings are so large that up to 1,000 guests are invited to the wedding and reception. The bride and groom must greet each guest in a long reception line before the reception festivities begin.

Korea Wedding Traditions

  • Weddings often feature a fortune teller called a Kung Hap, who is called upon to foretell the couple’s future before they are married to determine whether they will live together harmoniously or not. This is especially important as engagement gifts for a traditional Korean wedding can total $40,000.

Filipines Wedding Traditions

  • Culture early customs required the groom to throw a spear onto the front porch steps of his fiancé’s home as a dramatic statement that she belongs to him.
  • In the past weddings lasted as long as 3 days with ceremonies performed each day, until the 3rd day when the couple would join hands and declare their love for one another 3 times. This was followed by the binding of their hands by a priest, who then declared them married.

India Wedding Traditions

  • A part of the wedding ceremony features the bride’s mother and father washing the couple’s feet with water and milk in order to purify them for the journey of their new life together.
  • During the ceremony the couple also holds grains of rice, oats and green leaves in their hands which signify good health, wealth and happiness.

Middle East Wedding Traditions

  • Is where the tradition of wearing wedding rings originated and at the wedding each guest is given five almonds that symbolize the five sacred wedding wishes of health, happiness, wealth, fertility and longevity.
  • It is common for a Middle Eastern wedding to feature five different parties including the engagement party, the party to celebrate the signing of the wedding contract, the Henna Party, Reception and Bridal Shower.

Israel Wedding Traditions

  • Ancient wedding traditions included the bride wearing something blue with her wedding dress. Currently brides in Israel wear a blue ribbon on their wedding dress in order to symbolize fidelity.

Yemen Wedding Traditions

  • The Yemeni wedding celebration includes the entire community and features a musical celebration where guests as well as professional musicians “gladden the bride” on her wedding day.
  • The day also includes the women in the family preparing a feast for the wedding reception with traditional sweetened fritters and donuts which symbolize a “sweet life” for the newlyweds.

Baltic Wedding Traditions

  • The bride’s Father’s blessing must be obtained before the couple can marry. If it is not, the couple will get no dowry, inheritance or help of any kind from the bride’s parents. The engagement lasts for six months and consists of an exchange of rings in silk scarves, which is considered a binding legal agreement.
  • During the wedding the bridesmaids either hold a red or white canopy above the heads of the couple, who then exchange portions of their souls. On the 2nd day after the wedding it is customary for the bride to be seated, having a small child placed upon her lap and being told to go make one of her own.

Estonia Wedding Traditions

  • The wedding tradition includes the prediction of the next groom-to-be, which happens after the bride tosses the bouquet the single women. At that time the groom is surrounded and blindfolded by the single men, who then spin him around and then the groom puts his top hat on the next bachelor to marry.

Iceland Wedding Traditions

  • Engagements there typically last 3 to 4 years as the marriage is not to be rushed into.
  • The wedding starts a day before the actual ceremony and towards the end the bridesmaids take the bride to the bridal bed and undress her, leaving only the bridal headdress which only the groom can remove. The bride and groom then present each other with gifts. Once they are in bed together the priest comes in to bless them one last time and the couple drink from bridal cups to seal their marriage.

Latvia Wedding Traditions

  • Brides must wear a white wedding dress and veil until midnight on the day of their wedding, when the women at the wedding then remove her veil and pass it down to one of her younger sisters, who is to marry next. Once the bride’s wedding dress and veil are removed the bride is then given a “married women’s cap” to wear.
  • Sometimes the bride is kidnapped from the wedding reception by the groomsmen, who then demand a ransom (such as a round of drinks) before returning her to the groom.

Lithuania Wedding Traditions

  • There the marriage ceremony has 3 parts. First a matchmaker puts the couple together and arranges for the dowry to be paid. Next, the wedding ceremony takes place and lastly, is the “Atgriztai” or coming back. This occurs as the bride and groom return to the bride’s parent’s home and the bride is greeted as a guest rather than a member of the family.

Scandinavia Wedding Traditions

  • Wedding traditions there are very similar to those in Iceland as far as the seriousness of marriage and long engagements, allowing a great of time for the bride and groom to get to know each other and see each other at their best and worst.

Denmark Wedding Traditions

  • At the wedding the groom will leave for a short time, while the bride gets kissed by all of the single men. Then the bride leaves while the single women kiss the groom.
  • The wedding cake is cut by the bride and groom as they both hold the knife together. This is a tradition that is meant to ward off evil spirits and bring the couple good luck

Finland Wedding Traditions

  • Brides traditionally walk from house to house with a pillowcase to collect their wedding presents with an older married man who walks besides her carrying an umbrella or parasol to symbolically offer her shelter and protection.
  • The bride will also wear a golden crown during the wedding reception and is then blindfolded and spun around as the unmarried girls dance around her until she places it on one girl, who will be the next to marry.

Norway Wedding Traditions

  • Brides wear a silver crown with silver charms hanging all around it so that when she walks the charms make a tinkling sound that wards off evil spirits, which have been known to cause havoc with newlyweds.
  • After the couple is married, their friends and neighbors plant 2 small pine trees on either side of the couple’s front door as a symbol of fertility.

Sweden Wedding Traditions

  • The bride is given gold coins by her mother. The gold coin is to be placed in her right shoe and her father also gives her a silver coin to put in her left shoe, to insure that the bride will never be poor.
  • Swedish brides also receive three golden rings, an engagement ring, a wedding ring and a motherhood ring.

Czechoslovakia Wedding Traditions

  • Brides often plant a tree in their yard and decorate it with ribbons and brightly painted egg shells hoping that they will live as long as the tree.
  • Following the wedding ceremony, the couple break plates into as many pieces as possible as more pieces mean a more successful marriage and an infant is placed upon the couple’s wedding bed symbolizing fertility.

Hungary Wedding Traditions

  • New brides wear elaborate headdresses at the wedding, which are woven with strands of wheat to symbolize fertility. They are also presented with an egg, which the bride smashes to insure the health of her future children.
  • The bride also presents her husband with seven scarves, as seven is a lucky number which also signifies her desire for a long and happy marriage.

Poland Wedding Traditions

  • Weddings there include a part of the ceremony where the couple is presented with rye bread sprinkled with salt and a glass of wine. The bread ensures that the couple will never go hungry, the salt – that there will be difficulties in life, and the wine – a blessing of health and happiness.

Bulgaria Wedding Traditions

  • Brides traditionally toss a dish filled with wheat, coins and a raw egg over her head. It is considered that good luck will come if the dish breaks.
  • The bride and groom each step into the church with the right foot first as a sign of future happiness.
  • At the wedding reception the bride’s mother will throw flowers in the path of newlyweds to symbolize wishes for their future health, purity and happiness, after which the groom’s mother has the couple eat sweet honeyed cakes to insure a long and sweet marriage.

Croatia Wedding Traditions

  • All of the wedding guests circle the well of the church three times to signify the holy trinity, which is followed by all of the guests throwing an apple into the well to insure the fertility of the new couple.

Romania Wedding Traditions

  • Marriage is of such importance that girls start collecting their trousseau and planning their weddings at the age of six.

Western Europe Wedding Traditions

  • Takes credit the origin of the engagement ring when in 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas the 1st, sent out a proclamation that not only were engagement rings a requirement to seal the marriage contract, but that they must be made of gold. This signified that the groom was willing to make a financial sacrifice for his bride.
  • The single flower for the groom, white wedding gowns and the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold all originate from Western European Traditions.

Italy Wedding Traditions

  • Considered the land of love, that gold wedding rings first gained popularity. Italians also get credit for the first wedding cakes, as bread or cake was traditionally broken over the bride’s head to insure fertility.
  • A groom in Italy may carry a piece of iron in his pocket to ward off evil spirits and the bride wears a veil to cover her face and hide her from jealous evil spirits. Tearing her veil is considered good luck.

Germany Wedding Traditions

  • Germany is the place where the best man originated, as in the old days grooms sometimes kidnapped their brides from neighboring villages and needed the best man (strongest man) to stand by them during the wedding ceremony to fight off the wife’s relatives who may have come to try and get her back.

Austria Wedding Traditions

  • In more formal times, the prospective groom would send his friend or family to the prospective bride to represent his interests. There are many wedding superstitions, including the belief that it is bad luck to marry a man with a last name that has the same first letter of the bride’s last name.
  • It is also believed that the first partner who buys a new item after the wedding will be the dominant partner in the marriage. Many brides insure that they make the first purchase by arranging to buy a small item (such as a pin) from a bridesmaid immediately following the wedding ceremony.

Belgium Wedding Traditions

  • The bride presents her mother with a flower and an embrace before the wedding as well as her mother-in-law after the wedding to symbolize the uniting of two families.
  • The bride carries a handkerchief embroidered with her name on it to the wedding, after which is framed and hung on the wall to be passed down to the next woman who marries in the brides family.

England Wedding Traditions

  • Is where the tradition of “something old, new, borrowed and blue” began with a nursery rhyme. Something old was a symbol of continuity, something new – hope for the future, something borrowed - happiness and something blue – purity.
  • The bride sews a good luck charm, such as a silver horse shoe of British Royal brides to the hem of their dress for good luck.
  • The traditional English wedding cake is a fruitcake, made up with raisins, cherries, ground almonds and marzipan. The top layer of the cake is the “christening cake” which the couple saves for the baptism of their first child.

France Wedding Traditions

  • The origin of the hope chest (or trousseau), white wedding dress and a fragrant bouquet of flowers all originate in France. The groom also brings his future wife to the church and as he escorts her to the wedding chapel, the small children in the town stretch white ribbons across the streets, which the bride cuts as they walk by.
  • A wedding toast is made during the reception, where the new husband and wife drink from specially engraved double handled goblet (usually a precious family heirloom).
  • Late on the couple’s wedding night, friends of the newlyweds often show up outside their house banging pots and pans and singing loudly until the groom invites them in for snacks and drinks.

Germany Wedding Traditions

  • At German weddings it is a tradition and considered good luck for the guests to bring old dishes to break. After the dishes are broken, the newly married couple sweep them up together to symbolize that nothing in their house will ever be broken again.
  • After the wedding reception the best man steals the bride and takes her to a local pub, where they drink Champagne until the groom finds them. He then has to pay for their drinks. Later on, friends of the couple block the exits of the reception hall with ribbons and garlands.

Ireland Wedding Traditions

  • The traditional Irish bride wears a special wedding ring, called a “Claddagh ring”, which is a heart that is held by two hands and topped by a crown. The heart represents love, the hands signify faith and the crown - honor. The ring has a motto that is: “Let love and friendship reign.”
  • If a woman wears her claddagh ring on the left hand it means that she is married. If she wears the ring on her right hand with the heart facing outward it means that she is single and available. If she wears the ring facing in-ward, it signifies that she is engaged.

Holland Wedding Traditions

  • The families of the bride and groom throw them a party the day before their wedding, and have them sit on a throne beneath the pines as their guests come by to bless them and wish them well.
  • At Dutch wedding receptions it is common to serve heavy foods such as sweet meats called “Bridal Sugar” and spiced wine, known as “Bridal Tears.”

Portugal Wedding Traditions

  • Couples today still practice the ancient tradition at their wedding reception where the bride’s shoes are passed around and the guests stuff money in them to help pay for the honeymoon and their new life together.
  • As the couple leaves the church, friends and family throw candies and flowers at the couple instead of rice. The couple then parades through the streets where anyone who sees them wishes them well.

Scotland Wedding Traditions

  • There is an ancient tradition called “creeling the bridegroom”, where the groom has to carry a large basket (a creel) filled with stones on his back all around the town until his intended bride comes out of her house and gives him a kiss.
  • After the wedding vows the groom often pins a small piece of his clan’s tartan to his bride’s wedding dress to show that she is now a member of his clan.

Spain Wedding Traditions

  • Orange Blossoms are usually the flower of choice for Spanish brides as the orange tree is known to bear fruit and blossom at the same time. Its flowers represent happiness and fulfillment.
  • Before the wedding ceremony, the groom gives his intended bride a wedding present consisting of thirteen coins as a symbol of his commitment to support her. The bride carries the coins with her in a little bag to the wedding.

Switzerland Wedding Traditions

  • Swiss brides wear a traditional wreath that symbolizes her maidenhood. After the wedding ceremony the wreath is removed and then burned. If it burns quickly, the bride is considered to be lucky.
  • A pine tree is often planted in the new couple’s yard to represent fertility.

Mexico Wedding Traditions

  • It is customary for a white ribbon or rosary, called a “lasso” to be draped around the necks of the marrying couple during the wedding vows as a symbol of their union. As the couple leaves the church their guests throw red beads at them for good luck.
  • At a Mexican wedding reception guests form a heart-shaped circle around the newlyweds as they dance their first dance as husband and wife.

United States Wedding Traditions

  • American couple’s write their own vows, which express their love, commitment and feelings.
  • Couples traditionally exchange wedding rings, the circular ring which has no beginning and no end as a symbol of everlasting love and the perform traditional wedding kiss to seal their union in front of friends of family.

Puerto Rico Wedding Traditions

  • During the wedding ceremony, the Priest blesses a plate of coins and gives them to the groom, who gives them to his bride as a wedding present after the ceremony. The coins represent good luck and prosperity.
  • At the wedding reception a bride doll, that is dressed like the bride is placed at the main table. The “bride doll” is covered with little charms, which are given to the guests.

Belize Wedding Traditions

  • Brides dance or “strut” down the aisle accompanied by her father or another male member of the family.

Guatemala Wedding Traditions

  • The bride and groom are bound together with a silver rope to symbolize their union.
  • It is also common for the bride, bridesmaids and flower girls to all wear matching wedding gowns.

Panama Wedding Traditions

  • It is customary for the groom to give the bride 13 gold coins during the wedding ceremony, which the Priest blesses. These are a symbol of the groom’s commitment to support his new bride.

Argentina Wedding Traditions

  • Instead of having a best man, maid of honor or bridesmaids the mother of the groom and the father of the bride escort the couple down the aisle and stand beside them during the wedding ceremony.
  • The couple also traditionally exchanges rings at the engagement and not during the wedding ceremony.

Chile Wedding Traditions

  • Couples traditionally exchange rings during the engagement, then wear them to the wedding ceremony on their right hands. After the ceremony, they then switch them to their left hands.

Venezuela Wedding Traditions

  • There are two wedding ceremonies, a civil ceremony that takes place two weeks before the church wedding. A reception follows both weddings, but the religious ceremony is the bigger of the two.
  • During the wedding ceremony the families of the bride and groom exchange 13 gold coins, known as “Arra’s”. These may also be exchanged between the bride and groom as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.

Bermuda Wedding Traditions

  • Traditional wedding cakes are topped with a small sapling. Following the reception, the newlyweds plant the tree at their home so they can watch it grow as their marriage does.

Cuba Wedding Traditions

  • Wedding receptions in Cuba are famous for their lively celebrations featuring live music and dancing.
  • Wedding guests get to participate in money dance, where the men who dance with the new bride pin money to her dress to help the newlyweds pay for the honeymoon.

Jamaica Wedding Traditions

  • At the wedding reception, the traditional cake is a dark fruitcake made liberally with rum. After the reception, the bride and groom send the remaining slices of the wedding cake to friends and relatives who were not able to attend.

West Indies Wedding Traditions

  • A traditional French West Indies wedding feast usually features white rice and curried goat.
  • The wedding cake is rum-flavored and is hidden beneath a white table cloth. Guests must pay in order to get a look at it.

Fiji Wedding Traditions

  • A young man must ask his true love’s father for her hand in marriage, and also present him with a gift. The customary gift is the tooth of a whale, symbolizing wealth and status.
  • When permission to marry is given to the prospective groom, he must prepare a lavish feast “the warming” and send it to his bride’s family before the wedding.

Hawaii Wedding Traditions

  • Hawaiian couples wear flower leis to their wedding as a symbol of love and respect. The bride and groom dress in pure white, with the groom also wearing a red sash or black cloth belt tied around his waist.
  • The “Hawaiian Wedding Song” is also played at the wedding and the bride’s and groom’s names are engraved upon their gold wedding bands.

Samoa Wedding Traditions

  • The traditional Samoan wedding gown is made up of a cloth called “Tapa”, which is created from Mulberry bark.
  • Fresh flower and a mother-of-pearl crown, complete the bride’s wedding outfit.

Australia Wedding Traditions

  • It is traditional for the bride to give the groom a keepsake bible as a wedding gift. Marriage bibles are treasured as family heirlooms and are often passed down in families over the years.
  • Australian wedding traditions are influenced by England, Scotland, Ireland and even Aboriginal customs.

New Zealand/Maori Wedding Traditions

  • New Zealand weddings traditionally involve the Maori culture (New Zealand natives) even though lavish church weddings are common.
  • Some Maori wedding traditions include a ceremonial welcome to the bride and groom, called a “Powhiri” and a warrior challenge. “Infinity loops” are also place around the necks or the newlyweds, symbolizing never ending love.

Bohemian Wedding Traditions

  • Traditionally, Bohemian couples give each other specific wedding gifts. The groom will give the bride a wedding ring, fur hat, prayer book and a rosary. He also gives her a girdle with 3 keys to safe guard her chastity.
  • The bride traditionally gives the groom a wedding band and a shirt that has been sewn with gold thread and colorful silks.

Jewish Wedding Traditions

  • Jewish weddings have many traditions, including the signing of the wedding contract by the bride and groom, which is called a Ketubah. It is then framed and hung in the couple’s home.
  • After the vows and seven blessings are read, the groom crushes a wine glass to symbolize the fragility of human happiness. A lively Israeli dance called the “Hora” is performed at the reception.

Welsh Wedding Traditions

  • A courting tradition in Wales consists of the prospective groom carving a “wooden love spoon”, with various symbols such as hearts, bells or keys in order to show his intentions to his intended bride.
  • Welsh brides traditionally carry myrtle, which is a symbol of love in their bridal bouquets.

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