Weddings in the Western world seem to consist of the same things—a bouquet toss, a garter belt, a big white dress. But, what about traditions from around the world? From visiting fortune tellers and smashing plates to having three dress changes and drinking out of toilets, we’ve found just a few of the many interesting international wedding traditions.
Because of the many religions that have roots in India, wedding traditions can vary from state to state, but one commonality of these weddings is mehndi. Mehndi, or henna, which dates back to ancient Egypt, is a dark paste that is applied onto the bride’s (and sometimes groom’s) hands and feet as decoration and a symbol of health, wealth, and prosperity. According to Business Insider, brides pair their mehndi with heavily decorated red saris while grooms dress in equally fancy sherwanis, and then adorn each other with beautiful flower garlands.
According to Hello Magazine, married couples in France are forced to eat the leftover food and drinks from their receptions out of a toilet bowl. Thankfully, this tradition has been recently modified and newlyweds are now asked to drink champagne and chocolate out of said toilet bowl instead. As much as we love champagne and chocolate, we'd prefer a flute and plate.
According to The Knot, Greek brides can be found wearing many good luck charms, including one in the shape of a small eye to ward off evil spirits. Grooms, however, carry a small piece of iron in hopes of doing the same. Brides also place some sugar in their gloves to symbolize sweetness in the marriage and add ivy to their bouquets to represent eternal love. At the reception, the groom shreds his tie and sells it to guests in exchange for monetary gifts.
Wedding season isn’t a good time to be a chicken in Mongolia. According to Huffington Post, to choose a wedding date Mongolian couples must slaughter a chicken together and look at the liver. If the liver doesn’t give them the answer that they are looking for, they have to keep slaughtering chickens until they find it. Fingers crossed that they get it on the first try!
Have you had your noodles yet? According to Wedding Channel, this is a way of asking Koreans if they have been married yet because it is the main dish at most weddings. At the ceremony, called a kyobaele, the bride and groom are placed on opposite ends of the table with traditional foods between them. They share three spoonfuls of rice, drink liquor in two cups made from one gourd, and the bride is then carried in a sedan chair to the reception.
If you guessed that food would be a big part of Italian weddings, you’d be right. According to The Knot, even hundreds of years ago an abundance of food was an essential part of Italian weddings—but that’s not all. At the end of the ceremony, the couples are told to shatter a vase and must do their best to break it into as many pieces as possible. Each shattered piece is said to represent how many happy years the couple will spend together. The more glass shards, the happier you will be!
The first time that Jewish couples gets a glimpse of each other is at the b'deken, which is the veiling of the bride, according to The Knot. All of the men of the family lead the groom to his bride where all of the female members surround her. The groom then lowers the veil over her face which symbolizes his love for her inner beauty. The chuppah is also an incredibly important aspect of Jewish ceremonies. This wedding canopy is said to date back to nomadic Jewish days and sanctifies the ground the bride and groom stand on when they marry. Once under the chuppah, the bride walks around the groom seven times which represents the seven wedding blessings and seven days of creation. The Jewish ceremony usually ends with the breaking of a glass to pay homage to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Apparently, Germans like to plan ahead. According to Business Insider, when a new German girl is born, trees are planted in her honour and are sold years later once she has set a date for her wedding. This money is then used towards her dowry. German brides are said to have only one person accompanying them down the aisle, the flower girl, and hold the wedding in three parts—city hall, the party, and the religious ceremony.
According to Havana Guide, due to the communist rule of the country, Cuba’s weddings are unable to be religious. The celebration happens before and after the ceremony and is usually accompanied by a parade of family and friends that follow the bride and groom to the church and to the reception. One tradition that has withstood the test of time is the money dance. During the bride and groom’s first dance, friends and family take money and pin it to the bride’s dress. This monetary gift is to help the bride and groom kickstart their new life together.
Brides in Ireland must keep their feet on the ground at all times while dancing with their new husbands. According to Hello Magazine, brides must do this because, as the story goes, if her feet are off the ground for more than a split second evil fairies may come and sweep her away.
Chinese wedding traditions start even before the wedding, according to FluentU. During the engagement process, the bride’s family must approve the groom’s request and upon approval the groom must give monetary gifts to the family that only come in nines ($999 or $9,999...or if they’re really rich, $99,999!). From here, the couple then seeks out fortune tellers to determine the date of their wedding due to superstitions that are taken very seriously.
In Mexico, wedding ceremonies are heavily tied to religion. According to The Knot, during a Mexican ceremony, the groom hands his bride 13 gold coins, termed arras, said to symbolize Christ and his apostles. Then, a priest wraps a large rosary around the couple in a figure eight to represent their eternal unity.
If you’re looking to have more than one ring, you need to find yourself a Swede! According to The Knot, a bride in Sweden will receive a gold ring from her future husband in honour of their engagement, wedding day, and for their first child.
Czechoslovakians don’t play around when it comes to marriage. They know that it is the first step in the direction of children and base all traditions around the bride’s fertility. According to Business Insider, a baby is placed in the newly married couple’s bed to promote an upcoming pregnancy and the family gives the bride three dishes to prepare her for motherhood. The first is a wheat dish for (more!) fertility, the second is a dish with millets strewn in ashes that she has to separate to show her patience, and the third is a dish that houses a live sparrow that she must set free.
In Japan, brides are covered in white makeup from head to toe to symbolize their purity. According to Business Insider, the brides wear large hoods over their heads, or tsuno kakushi, in order to hide any egotistical feelings. Don’t worry, she doesn’t have to wear this all day and night—these brides have plenty of wardrobe changes, such as kimonos and even Western-style dresses. During the ceremoney, the couple shares a shot of sake to seal the deal.
According to Live Science, single ladies that attend weddings in Peru take part in the Peruvian version of the bouquet toss. The wedding cake is baked with ribbons attached to it and each single lady must pull a ribbon. The lucky lady that pulls out the ribbon with a charm on the end is said to be the next in line to marry.
Grooms in Russia don’t just simply ask for their bride-to-be's hand in marriage, they work for it. According to Live Science, before the wedding, the groom ventures to the bride’s house to ask the bride's family for permission. Holding up tradition, the family refuses to allow the wedding to take place until the groom pays for her—in money, gifts, or pure humiliation. Russian grooms are said to have to answer riddles and tests and even do dances until the bride’s family believes that he has paid his dues.
Canadian and American wedding traditions are all about superstitions. Many brides follow an English folk poem and ensure that they have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue to bring the best of luck in their marriages. Other common traditions include the bouquet toss and the removal of the bride's garter belt by the husband (usually with his mouth!). While these are dipped in tradition, they are also a fabulously entertaining aspect of these weddings.