The world is full of diverse cultures and many of these cultures have been interwoven into Western countries because of immigration and a growing respect for diversity. Because of this multiculturalism, many couples today are more eager to celebrate the customs of their ancestors or even their homelands as part of their weddings.
If you choose to have a culture-specific traditional wedding, such as an African or Indian wedding, or if you simply want to incorporate some of those cultural traditions into your ceremony, consider letting those choices be reflected in your wedding invitations and other wedding stationery. For example, you can find paper with traditional African, Japanese, or even Greek designs. Another idea is to include the wording of your invitation in both English and the language of your culture (or both of your cultures if both of you come from different ones). You could find a calligrapher and/or a translator to do the work.
Another way to blend your cultural traditions with your wedding invitations is to include an insert explaining one or two traditional customs from your culture, possibly something you’ve planned to include in your wedding or reception. Most of your guests will find the information interesting and won’t be confused when they see it in person at the ceremony.
If you’re not sure what to include, below are some ideas of cultural wedding customs. Even if you’re not from one of these cultures, you might still want to include one or more in your wedding just to add a multicultural feeling to the festivities.
Africa is actually a diverse continent containing hundreds of different groups of people who all practice their own unique customs. One of the more general wedding practices is to make the entrance of the bride very festive. Unlike in Western traditions where almost somber music is played as the bride slowly walks down the aisle, African weddings include fast, rhythmic music often including drums to announce her arrival at the ceremony.
In Armenia, weddings usually take place on Fridays during the autumn months. During the wedding, its the godmother’s responsibilities to collect money from the guests as a gift to the bride and groom. In exchange for the gifts, the godmother distributes dried nuts and fruits to the guests.
Because red symbolizes celebration in China, the color is used throughout the wedding. Many brides wear a red silk dress instead of the white gowns brides often wear in the West. After the couple becomes husband and wife, they drink a mixture of honey and wine from two glasses which are tied together using red string. This act signifies their union.
Besides throwing peas instead of rice at the married couple as they leave the ceremony location, the Czech Republic is home to a number of other wedding traditions. For example, couples have to wait until the day after their wedding to receive their gifts. On this day, the bride goes for the first time to the home she will share with her husband. All of their guests gather at the house and give money (or sometimes practical gifts) to the couple, then they celebrate the couple’s happy future with a mug of beer.
French weddings are typically very long. In fact, some do not end until midnight or later. During that time, the couple share a drink from a silver cup known as the coupe de marriage. In some families, these cups are passed down for generations. Drinking from the cup represents the joining of the two people into one life. Instead of rice, guests throw wheat at the couple as they leave the ceremony location.
The German sense of fun is present in many of their cultural traditions. For example, couples usually have both a civil and a religious ceremony. After the civil ceremony, their friends often concoct unusual tasks for them to complete as a team to test their ability and desire to work together as a team on the challenges they face in life. Also, the day before the wedding, the couple experience Polterabend. Guests come to their home (or to the bride’s home) and break pottery because this is supposed to bring the couple good luck.
Like the French, the Greeks throw long weddings. Among the traditions included in their ceremonies are the crowning of the bride and groom usually by the godfather or best man. The couple also has to take three sips from a wine glass – each sip represents part of the Holy Trinity. At the reception, guests throw dishes as a sign of good luck.
Prior to the start of the ceremony, the bride and groom are seated under a green bough or evergreen. Each of their wedding guests comes up to them and offers their good wishes for the couple’s future. After the wedding, the families of the couple will plant a tree outside their new home as a symbol of fertility.
As in China, Indian brides often wear red dresses (saris) made of silk to their ceremonies. During the actual ceremony, the couple must circle around a small fire, which represents one of the Hindu gods, seven times while also throwing food offerings, such as rice, into the fire. At the end of the ceremony, the bride’s closest male relative showers the couple with petals, usually from jasmine or roses, to protect them from harm.
The Irish have a long history of superstition which has influenced many of their wedding customs. For example, the bride and groom receive a horseshoe during their wedding which must be hung inside their new home in order to bring them good luck. At the reception, couples don’t share a multi-tiered wedding cake with their guests, instead they serve a fruit cake.
Surprisingly, many of the traditions found in Western ceremonies can be traced back to Italy, including the bride’s veil which was supposed to keep dangerous spirits away and the tossing of the bridal bouquet. Another tradition which some brides have already adopted is the bonbonniere. The bonbonniere is a small gift bag, usually made from tulle and ribbon, containing sugared almonds. These are given as gifts to the guests today, although the sugared almonds used to be thrown at the exiting couple.
Unlike China where red is a traditional color for brides to wear on their wedding day, white has almost always been the preferred color in Japan. However, Japanese brides go through several changes during the ceremony and reception. Exactly what she chooses to wear is up to her. Some brides prefer traditional silk kimonos while others choose more Western-style wedding gowns. Brides often end their reception wearing the furisode, a style of kimono only worn by unmarried women. Because the bride will never wear this kimono again, this change of clothes is a symbolic moment in her life.
In Korean marriage ceremonies, ducks or geese – both of which were thought to mate for life – play a role. Usually, wooden versions of these animals are given as a gift to the couple to symbolize fertility. During the ceremony, the couple drink from a pyojubak which are cups made out of a single gourd – this represents the unity of the couple. Later, the couple go to the reception and eat noodles which is why asking a woman if she has eaten noodles is a way of asking her marital status.
In Mexico, godparents play important roles in the weddings. For example, one godparent wraps a rope in a Figure 8 pattern around the couples’ heads as they repeat their vows. During the reception, the couple has a first dance but before they can take it, all of the guests must form a heart shape around them.
As in Mexico, a rope is wrapped around the couple, usually around their shoulders, by their godparents. This is supposed to represent the bonds of their marriage. At the beginning of the ceremony, the groom is given 13 coins, known as arras, which he hands to the bride to signify his willingness to provide for her financially. Also, the entire bridal party traditionally wears the same color dresses so evil spirits won’t be able to find the bride among them.
Like the Irish, Scottish couples don’t serve wedding cake at their receptions. Instead, they provide a two-tiered fruitcake covered in brandy to their guests. The fruitcake is usually cooked the day the couple’s engagement is announced. Guests are only allowed to eat one layer of the cake, however. The other layer is eaten when the couple’s first child is born.
As in the Philippines, the groom gives his bride 13 coins as a sign of his desire to take care of her in their married life together. During the reception, the bride dances the sequidillas manchegas with any male guests who want to participate. Each guest she dances with must give her money in exchange for the dance.
One common Swedish wedding custom is also popular among other brides as well: carrying a bouquet of flowers. In Sweden, however, the flowers were supposed to be strong smelling as a way to ward off evil creatures, such as trolls. Today, the bride places coins from her mother and father in each of her shoes so she will always be taken care of.
In Vietnam, the couple brings cooked rice dyed red and a boiled chicken to an altar along with their guests and a Buddhist minister. The minister asks the gods to bless the union before he takes red thread and wraps it around the couple. Afterward, the couple is officially married and the guests all share the rice and chicken to celebrate the marriage.