The one thing every human society has in common is marriage.
Around the world, wedding traditions are a little bit different. Some of them are heartwarmingly romantic, and some of them are a little strange, and some of them might make you a little bit uncomfortable, it is likely to be gross, confusing, terrifying..
Weddings may be a universal celebration, but traditions vary depending on culture and country, other cultures have drastically different ways to go about celebrating the big day.
It doesn’t matter how isolated or backwards it is, if you stick around long enough then you’ll find yourself at something at least resembling a wedding.
From the bride tossing her bouquet to single female guests to wearing something old, new, borrowed and blue, American wedding customs are still so popular today that even the most nontraditional brides happily take part.
Some are sweet, some are perplexing and some are downright strange. But what binds these seemingly disparate customs from near and far is one simple thing, love.
If you follow this custom, the theory goes, you will find eternal joy with your soul mate. So even if certain Indian brides must first marry a tree or a South Korean groom has to tolerate getting his feet whipped by family and friends, it’s all worth it in the end. When love and happiness ever after are the outcomes, it’s a win-win for brides and grooms.
– In Germany their first bit of housekeeping together, German brides and grooms clean up piles of porcelain dishes that their guests threw on the ground to ward off any evil spirits. The lesson: working together, the couple can face any challenge thrown their way.
– In Krygyzstan, an old adage claims that tears on a wedding day will make for a happy marriage. Until 1991 (when it was finally made illegal) many parents would consent to the marriage of a kidnapped young girl, especially if she was crying.
– In Armenia, single women eat a slice of a traditional salty bread in order to inspire a prophetic dream about the man they are going to marry: The guy that brings them water in their dream is the one they are supposed to marry.
– In Scotland, there is a particularly nasty pre-wedding tradition that involves the bride and groom being pelted with food trash, including rotten eggs and fish. The Scots believe that if a couple can withstand this, their marriage can withstand anything.
– Also in Scotland centuries ago England restricted marriage to couples who were 21 and over. But that didn’t stop young lovers from finding a loophole, or in this case a nearby Scottish town without such limitations. Today that village, Gretna Green, is still popular for couples who want to elope.
– In France brides and grooms traditionally eat chocolate and champagne after the reception, but they must consume these treats from a toilet bowl. The belief is to give the twosome strength before their wedding night.
– In China bride’s family would hire a “good-luck” woman to take care of her as she traveled from her home to the groom’s in an elaborately decorated sedan chair. Attendants were busy shielding the bride with parasols and tossing rice (a symbol of health and prosperity) at the chair.
– In some gypsy cultures, there is a controversial tradition that involves male suitors to grab a girl and start forcefully kissing her. It might be love – or it just might be an unwanted assault.
– In Puerto Rico, a doll dressed as the bride is placed at the head of the table during the wedding reception, surrounded by charms and gifts. At the end of the reception, the guests receive these trinkets as a show of appreciation.
– In Greece taking the term “groomsman” literally, on his wedding day, the groom’s best friends becomes his barber when he pulls out a razor and shaves his face. But the groom’s day also has a sweet side: His new mother-in-law will feed him honey and almonds.
– In Finland (Sonkarjävi) every year competitors come from all over the world to participate in a wife-carrying competition. Basically, it’s like a huge obstacle course that must be conquered with your spouse, girlfriend, or partner on your back. This competition brings new meaning to “carrying the load in the relationship.”
– Arabic, African, and Indian women tattoo themselves with henna before their wedding days. The tattoos symbolize the bride’s elegance and beauty.
– In Ireland, the bride’s feet must stay on the floor at all times when she and the groom are dancing. This is due to the belief that if they don’t, evil fairies will come and sweep her away.
– In Mauritania, girls aged between five and 15 are sent to “fat farms” before their wedding to pile on the pounds. If a bride had stomach rolls, stretch marks and overlapping thighs, it signalled her husband was wealthy enough to keep her satisfied.