“A diamond is forever,” De Beers’ slogan for their 1940’s marketing campaign made diamonds forever synonymous with romance and marriage. So to my surprise, when my cousin in Portugal excitedly sent me a picture of her engagement ring, instead of a diamond taking residence on her left finger I saw a beautiful emerald on her right hand. It is not only customary in many parts of Europe for the ring to be worn on right hand until the big day but also for the rings to have semi precious stones rather than diamonds.
Wedding traditions today still vary from culture to culture and some of the most common customs in the United States originated in other countries—the best man began in Germany, and the tradition of the bride including something blue on her wedding day started in Israel. In rural parts of Scotland it is common for the wedding party to throw spoiled food and mud on the brides-to–be—this tradition hasn’t gained much of a following yet here in the States.
Take a look at some unique traditions from across the globe!
Originally a tradition in Victorian England, the groom’s cake has become a modern tradition in the American South. This cake is an opportunity to get creative and usually is themed around interests of the groom.
“Bem Casado” a Brazilian sweet is given to guests as they leave the reception and is a symbol of good luck to the new marriage.
The groom and the bride each have a candle and after the rings have been exchanged use their candles to light a third candle together. Once the other candle is lit, they blow out their own candles. This tradition symbolizes unity and that they become one body for the rest of their lives.
The bride has two bouquets; one is left at the church for the Virgin Mary. Another tradition is a lasso of rosary beads or orange blossoms—which represents fertility and happiness—looped around the necks of the bride and groom as they exchange vows.
When exiting the church, the newlyweds are showered with handfuls of loose change thrown by the guests. If you're ever invited to a Polish wedding, pay close attention to details on the wedding invitation, as it is common for some guests to be invited to the ceremony and not the reception.
Women aren’t the only ones that receive engagement rings—so do the men! And, hope everyone has fresh breath—it is also tradition when the bride leaves the room for all the women to kiss the groom, and when the groom leaves, all the men kiss the bride.
Typically, the Traditional Grand March starts the reception—bring on the bagpipes! The bride and groom are first on the dance floor and then the maid of honor and groom join in followed by the in-laws!
Dating back to the age of Napoleon, it is common to incorporate the beheading of a bottle of champagne during special celebrations. Commanders would use special swords, as the women held the bottle. Safety first!
Referred to as Korovai, a bread that is decorated and shaped like a wedding cake is given to the bride and groom before the wedding and later shared with the wedding party. It is usually made by both families and represents the blessing from the community to the newlywed couple.
Hope you've stocked up on eye drops and cooling eye patches—in southwest China, starting a month before the big day, the bride cries for one hour every day. As the wedding approaches, the mom joins in on the crying ritual and then by the end of the month, every female in the family is crying with the bride. This is supposed to be a symbol of joy and a happy marriage.
As if asking the father of the bride for permission isn’t intimidating enough, in Fiji the suitor has to bring a Tabua, or whale tooth, as a gift representing wealth and status.
Don’t book a final fitting for your wedding dress—it is said in Philippine culture that the bride shouldn’t wear her final gown before the wedding day, as it is bad luck. And, make sure your groom is punctual—it is considered bad luck if the bride arrives to the church before the groom.
San San Kudo is the ritual where the couple drinks sake during the ceremony. There are three sake cups and the bride and groom sip from each cup three times. It is said to be a symbol of heaven, earth, and mankind, or love, wisdom, and happiness.
The night before the wedding the women in the bride’s family decorate her hands in henna while telling stories and singing.
Wedding celebrations and rituals last several days and have many components. It is tradition for the wedding ceremony to be held at the bride’s home and the final day of celebrations is the Walima—where the bride and groom host their first dinner as a married couple.
Marriage is very serious business considering the bride and groom are not allowed to smile during the entire ceremony! It is said to be disrespectful and can be misconstrued as not being serious about the union.
Thanks for the slobber, dad! It is tradition of the Massai nation for the father of the bride to spit on her head and breasts. She then has to walk away without looking back, or she will turn to stone.
In contrast to the wedding diets and fitness regimes brides typically go on before their wedding day here in the U.S., it is typical of brides on this small island to gain weight before walking down the isle. A woman with many layers of fat is considered the ideal of feminine beauty and a symbol of a man’s wealth.