Cultural Wedding Traditions
Incorporating cultural wedding traditions and customs to a wedding is not only a fantastic way to share something personal with the guests but a nice tribute to the families. The most memorable weddings will touch the hearts of those in attendance and make even the most distant relative and that friend of a friend of a friend feel as if they've known you all their lives.
The wedding doesn't have to be small and exclusive to be intimate and personal.
Even the smallest attention to detail and thinking outside the box can turn a typical wedding into a unique experience that leaves an impression. The following cultural wedding traditions are examples of some of the ways couples all over the world do their ceremonies. There are more than 1 in each country, these are just the most popular!
You may have heard of "Jumping the broom." It is a tradition stemming back to the days of slavery when slaves were forbidden from marrying. They created this ritual to represent the beginning of their new life together. In modern ceremonies, couples jump over a broom, often decorated with ribbon and tulle, after they’re pronounced married.
Others may prefer to use a regular household broom decorated with bows, flowers, and/or other trinkets in the wedding colors. At some receptions, guests may participate in the ceremony by tying ribbons around the broom before the Broom Jumping begins.
The color red represents celebration and prosperity and the Bride may wear a red wedding dress, symbolizing love and joy. At the wedding reception, lobster and chicken is served because they symbolize the dragon and the phoenix respectively. A family member may act as the official "Master of Ceremonies" orchestrating family introductions, toasts, comedy sketches, and a reenactment of the newlywed's courtship.
The tradition of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue is strictly followed; however, the borrowed item must belong to a friend who is already married and the something old must be a family heirloom. To start off the reception, someone in the wedding party would break a plate at the feet of the bride and groom. The newlyweds would then proceed to sweep the chips together to insure happiness and show a willingness to work together.
Traditionally the groom’s family pays for the wedding and the grandparents act as the primary witnesses or sponsors. The bride’s gown is often custom made and both the bride and groom wear white. It is bad luck for the bride to try on her dress before the wedding day and to wear pearl jewelry, which is considered a bad omen.
The groom customarily walks his mother down the aisle before arriving at the altar to be married. This is a lovely gesture that can be easily adopted and will surely elicit a collective "aww" from the audience. The traditional layered wedding cake originated in France, but another common cake is called the croquembouche, which is essentially a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs covered in a caramel glaze.
Breaking dishes, pots, or anything that will break into pieces and then cleaning it up together is said to bring good luck to the bride and groom just before the wedding. The idea is to prepare the bride and groom for facing life's trials together.
During the engagement, the bride and groom wear their rings on the left hand and after they are married, the couple switches their rings to the right. The couple wear crowns made of either gold or orange blossoms that are connected with a ribbon to signify the union. When the ceremony is complete, the bride and groom walk around the altar three times to symbolize the trinity and their first walk as a married couple. During the reception, dishes are smashed on the floor with choruses of “opa” for good luck.
Indian weddings are traditionally multi-day affairs, and involve many intricate ceremonies, such as the painting of the hands and feet of the bride called a mehndi. Garlands are presented to guests of honor instead of corsages, and lots of flower or rose petals are thrown for good luck.
For good luck, the newlyweds are given a horseshoe to display in their home in the upward position. A traditional Irish wedding cake is a fruitcake. Traditional Irish toasts, in addition to remarks from the Best Man, are very popular.
Bells were thought to keep evil spirits away, so for your exit have your guests ring little wedding bells or use them instead of clinking glasses at the reception. Bunratty mead is the oldest drink in Ireland and this honey drink is probably where the term honeymoon came from—when the groom would kidnap his bride for a month (moon) and they would drink plenty of the mead—it was thought that after this month the bride would become pregnant and then the family would have to accept the marriage.
Sunday weddings are the luckiest and if a bride wears green the night before the wedding, it will bring luck and abundance to the couple. Some Brides may choose to carry a white silk or satin purse ("busta") to store gifts of money that are welcomed. One of the oldest traditions is the giving of candy-coated Jordan almonds. Meant to represent the bittersweet nature of marriage, these treats are given to guests wrapped in tulle, or pretty pouches, in quantities of
5 or 7, which are lucky numbers. At the end of the wedding day, a couple would break a vase or glass and the number of pieces was supposed to represent the number of years that they would be happily married. Of course no reception would be complete without dancing the traditional tarantella.
The bride traditionally wears two outfits: the shiro, which is a white kimono worn for the ceremony and the uchikake kimono which is a patterned brocade worn at the reception. The hair is worn in a bun with colorful kanzashi accessories. The bride also carries a tiny purse (hakoseko), a small encased sword (kaiken), and a fan that is worn in the obi belt that represents happiness and a happy future. The Japanese ritual of "san-san-kudo", the three by three exchange is rich with meaning. It is performed by the bride and groom and both sets of parents; each person takes 3 sips of sake from each of 3 cups.
Ducks and geese are animals that are known to mate for life and so in the olden days, the groom would give his mother in law a live goose to represent his fidelity, but now the live goose has been replaced by a wooden one. In Korean culture these animals are the perfect symbols of fidelity and are incorporated into weddings. The bride wears two dresses which are said to be from the noble class, a light green wonsam and an elaborate hwarrot or flower robe.
The groom is not allowed to see his bride before the wedding and it was the bride's father's job to keep her hidden before the wedding and of course give away his daughter. As in France, the groom escorts his mother down the aisle.
The flower girl and the ring bearer traditionally dress as miniature versions of the bride and groom. One important part of the ceremony is the arras (gold coins). These are 13 gold coins that represent Jesus and his 12 apostles, which are given to the bride with the groom's promise to care for and support his wife. In Spanish and Latin American culture the bride and groom wear their rings on their right hand. Aside from the bouquet toss, single ladies at the party are expected to wear special pins upside down. Wedding favors for the men are typically cigars, other favors include wedding cookies, Spanish hand fans, or some other local good such as pottery.
The bag pipes or traditional Gaelic hymns are typically played or sang in the ceremony. Traditionally, the groom wears a kilt, a kilt jacket, and a sporran in his clan colors and the couple participates in a hand fasting ceremony where their wrists are bound together by a cloth or string. At the end of the ceremony, he presents his bride with an engraved teaspoon to ensure that his bride will never go without food, and he may also present the bride with a family sword to be given to their first born son or the bride's family might present the groom with their sword as an act of acceptance into the family. As the bride walks out, a toddler would hand a horseshoe to the bride for good luck, and the bride and groom would then scatter coins for the assembled children to collect, so that their kindness would be returned to them throughout their marriage.
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