Wedding Customs From Around the World

by WiseFool

All wedding ceremonies are steeped in tradition, but those traditions differ from one culture to the next.

As the cast of Fiddler on The Roof reminds us, 'Tradition!' is important in many aspects of our lives. In weddings, customs are handed down from one generation to the next, albeit with slight modifications along the way.

From a bride dressing in white, to the throwing of confetti; almost everything about a wedding is symbolic and deeply rooted in tradition. And customs have evolved in different ways in various cultures around the globe.

If you're looking for some unique customs to include in your own wedding ceremony, you might be interested in these.

Cake Pull

Peruvains Pull a Ring From The Cake

Peru Cake PullIt might seem strange and, let's face it, it is a little, but as well as throwing the bouquet in order to determine which lucky lady will be next to trot her way down the aisle; in Peru, the single female guests, all get stuck into a little ribbon yanking. It's called cintas de torta, which literally translates as cake ribbons.

A ring, usually a cheap replica of the one given to the bride, is hidden in the wedding cake and attached to one of several ribbons also baked into the cake.

The single ladies (who would like to have a ring put on it), grab a ribbon, or more than one if they're able to, and pull. Whoever gets the ring on the end of her ribbon will be the next bride-to-be.

This all happens before the cake is cut, but, don't worry, it doesn't make too much of a mess, as the ring and ribbons are usually placed in just one corner of one layer.

Of course, the cake/ring pull could be made more exciting if the ribbons were all attached to the ring and the girls had to fight for it, tug-of-war style....just me?

This specific tradition is peculiar to Peru. However, there are variations on the theme in other South American countries and some states in the U.S., these customs usually involve charms attached to each ribbon. 

Henna Hands and Feet

Indian Women Decorate the Bride Before the Ceremony

Mehndi wedding designMehndi or mehandi is the art of decorating the body, specifically the hands and the feet (where less melanin in the skin makes the markings more prominent), with pastes made from turmeric and henna.

It's an ancient ritual in the Hindu religion and the decorations are said to represent both inner and outer light; the notion of 'awakening your inner light' being central to Hinduism.

It was subsequently adopted for Muslim festivals, and mehndi is now practiced in many parts of the Middle East and Africa, as well, of course, as India.

In India, mehndi is just one of the many celebrations and rituals that make up a Hindi wedding. Usually taking place the night before the actual ceremony, the mehndi custom involves designs that are applied by either a professional artist, or by the bride's female relatives.

As you can see, the henna 'tattoos', which usually last between two weeks and a month, are often very elaborate and symbolic. Sometimes, these incredibly beautiful designs even have the groom's initials hidden within them.

It's not just about painting the bride, though. The mehndi tradition is filled with dancing, singing and revelry - a little like a bachelorette party.

An example of bridal mehndi

Seclusion for The Bride and Groom

Jewish Newlyweds Spend Some Time Alone After the Ceremony

Yichud or seclusion is central to the Jewish wedding traditionYichud is the period just following the Jewish wedding ceremony, when the bride and groom spend time alone together in seclusion.

This tradition is believed to have existed from the 2nd century A.D., and was initially the time in which the marriage was consummated 

As Jo Harrington tells us in her piece, 'What is Marriage?' weddings were contracts, which were not fulfilled until husband and wife had 'known' each other in the biblical sense. And it seems the sooner the contract was finalized the better.

Now, however, yichud is less about 'sealing the deal' (so to speak), and more about giving the bride and groom the opportunity to spend their first minutes as husband and wife alone; away from the hustle and bustle of the wedding party.

In traditional Jewish weddings, the yichud is a time when the bride will bless her new husband and the couple will break their wedding fast. It's also a great opportunity for the newlyweds to exchange gifts, and simply share a few minutes of quiet.  

Yichud is a wonderful opportunity for the bride and groom to exchange gifts
To my beautiful bride on her wedding ...On Our Wedding Day, from Bride Card

A Costume Change

Chinese Brides Have Three Dresses

Like most cultures, weddings in the Chinese tradition have many phases. And for the majority of Chinese brides this means a couple of costume changes.

Brides in China typically wear a red qipao (traditional Chinese dress that dates back to the 17th century), for the wedding ceremony itself. Red is a popular color, because it represents good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture.

She will continue to wear the qipao for the first three courses of the wedding banquet.

By the fourth course, however, she will have changed into a second dress.

This may be white and, today, might be more Western in style. Once the banquet has moved onto its sixth course, the bride will change again.

Her third dress is likely to be a cocktail dress or gown.

Believe it or not, some Chinese brides even opt for a fourth change of clothes.

Although this may seem elaborate, there is good practical sense in changing from a white wedding gown, with cumbersome train and veil, into something more comfortable for the reception 

After all, you don't want to end up tripping, or ruining your expensive wedding gown by buffing the ballroom floor with it.

And, of course, you might be having trouble narrowing your choice down to just one dress anyway, so why not consider adopting some of the Chinese tradition?

Updated: 03/27/2013, WiseFool
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WiseFool on 03/23/2013

Thanks, Katie. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it - I think we could get the ring pull to catch on!

katiem2 on 03/22/2013

This is so wonderful makes me want to get married! What wonderful traditions. Very well researched and reported. I'm def going to have a cake/ring pull if I do get married, what fun indeed. :)K

WiseFool on 03/22/2013

Hahaha! Thanks, Jo. When I imagine it, it's a much more messy and physical affair. If ever I get married, I'm going to have a cake/ring pull and I'm going to make the girls really work for it!!

JoHarrington on 03/22/2013

All the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies... Great, that's going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day!

I was highly amused by the ribbon pulling in Peru. I imagined the whole cake in bits, as the single ladies ripped into it after a ring. It was a little disappointing to realize that it was only a tiny corner of cake. *sigh*

I loved reading about these traditions though. More! More!

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