People get married all over the world every day and each country has it’s own traditions and superstitions that surround weddings. Young couples in many countries are now tending to break away from the traditional weddings that their parents, grandparents and earlier generations adhered to. America doesn’t have the market cornered on young people deciding to do things their own way and throw tradition to the wind.
In some cultures and in some religions it is much more difficult for young couples to break with the traditions that are deeply ingrained in their way of life than it is in America. Some of these foreign traditions are so interesting that young American couples adopt them for use in their own weddings in an effort to ‘do their own thing’. Consider adding one or two of these wedding traditions that are common in other countries to your wedding ceremony or celebration to give it a little flair or to acknowledge your own ethnic heritage.
Weddings in Italy
Italy is a mostly Catholic country so the weddings and wedding traditions are
commonly centered around that Catholic heritage.
Italians as a group love to eat and drink so many of the wedding traditions concern food and beverages. The typical wedding day begins with early Mass followed by a large breakfast for the wedding party. The wedding day ends with dancing and a lot of food and drink well into the early morning hours of the following day.
Here are some of the beliefs and traditions of an Italian wedding:
1. May and August are considered a bad luck months to get married in Italy.
2. Sunday is considered the luckiest day of the week for a wedding to be held.
3. The Italians say, “Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunate.” The literal translation is, “Bathed spouse, spouse fortunate” which all means that it is considered lucky for it to rain on a wedding day.
4. To ward off the evil eye, the groom is supposed to carry a piece of iron in his pocket.
5. The bride’s veil is worn to hide her from jealous spirits and if the veil is torn it is considered a piece of good luck.
6. All of the invited male guests are supposed to kiss the bride at the reception to bring good luck for the couple.
7. The cookie dance is a part of most wedding receptions. The bride and groom lead a line of dancing guests over to the cookie table where each guest takes a cookie.
8. The best man cuts the tie of the groom into pieces and sells the pieces to wedding guests. In past times this was done for ‘real’ but today it just done as a part of tradition.
9. At the end of a wedding, a vase is broken. The number of pieces the vase breaks into determines the number of years the bride and groom will be married.
10. The bride and groom never open presents before leaving the reception.
It’s considered bad luck.
Weddings in France
If you have a French branch on your family tree, you might consider incorporating some of these French wedding traditions into your wedding or the preparations for your wedding:
1. Remember the ‘Hope Chest’ of old? That whole notion was based on the French word, trousseau, which translates as ‘bundle’. It refers to the small bundle of clothing that the bride took with her to her new home after she married. Today it means a collection of personal and household items that the bride has collected to begin married life. Trousseau can also mean the clothing that the bride will take with her on her honeymoon.
2. When a bride wears orange blossoms in France it is considered a sign of
3. During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom stand beneath a silk canopy called a ‘carre’ for the purpose of protecting them from bad luck.
4. As the wedding couple leaves the church, Laurel leaves are scattered before them to ensure they will have children.
5. A two handled cup called a ‘Coupe De Marriage’ is used as a toasting cup by the newly married couple at the reception.
6. On the couple’s wedding night, their young and rowdy friends congregate outside the window and bang pots and pans together until they are invited in for another few drinks.
The German Wedding
Those of German descent know that the Germans have always had a way of doing things a bit differently and weddings are no exception. Consider incorporating some of these German traditions into your wedding if you are of German decent and plan to stay awhile:
1. The traditional German wedding lasts three days. On the first day, the wedding couple is married in a civil ceremony that is attended only by their families and closest friends. On the second day, there is a huge but informal party that starts early and ends late at which the community at large celebrates the wedding. The third day of the wedding is when the religious ceremony is performed and a formal reception is held.
2. One of the traditions at the big party that is held on the second day of the wedding is that dishes are smashed…a lot of them. The couple is required to clean up the broken dishes as a symbol that nothing else will ever be broken in their home.
3. The German version of the bachelor party is called the ‘junggesellenabschied’. The groom and his friends go out to a local pub to drink the night away a few days before the wedding.
4. Another German wedding custom is for the Bride to carry salt and bread as an omen of a good harvest.
5. The groom is supposed to carry some grain to ensure good luck and wealth.
6. When the couple is kneeling during the wedding ceremony, the groom kneels on the bride’s wedding dress to show the world that he will be wearing the pants in the family. After they rise from their kneeling positions, the bride will step on the groom’s foot to assure the world that
he is wrong.
7. As the newlyweds leave on their honeymoon they toss coins to the children who attended the wedding for good luck.
8. After the ceremony, the best man kidnaps the bride and takes her to a local pub. The groom must search for them and when he finds them, he is required to pay for all of their drinks in order to get her back.
9. The veil dance or sometimes called the money dance, wedding guests pin money to the bride’s veil to get her to dance with them at the reception.
10. Friends of the newlyweds block the exit so that when the couple leaves they are required to pay a toll. Most often this ‘toll’ is the promise of another party.
11. Friends of the couple go to great lengths to ensure that the wedding night will be fraught with problems. They will loosen the headboard of the bed, for example, or hide strange things in the room that have strange smells.
The Mexican Wedding
The Mexican wedding has many traditions. Some are based on superstition while others are rooted in tradition only. They vary from region to region in the country but if you are of Mexican heritage or if you just want to use a Mexican theme for your wedding here are some common traditions:
1. The first step is the religious ceremony…most often Catholic. Then there is a party or fiesta that is followed by a short civil ceremony.
2. Brides should not wear pearls…they signify tear drops and grief in her marriage and are considered very bad luck.
3. A bride that wears her mother’s or grandmother’s wedding dress is assured of good fortune and it is a status symbol as well.
4. To ensure food, money, and passion in their marriage, the bride sews a yellow, a blue and a red ribbon, respectively, onto her lingerie.
5. The padrinos (Godparents) selection ceremony is held before the wedding. These honored people play a large role in the wedding and in the following reception. The padrinos are chosen because of their own successful marriage and high moral standards. The padrinos need to be financially stable because they are expected to provide a substantial gift to the newlyweds and to assist them financially after they are married if needed. More than one set of padrinos may be chosen. The first are called ‘major’ padrinos and others are called ‘minor’ padrinos.
6. Since the Mexican wedding is a very family oriented affair, often a heart shaped piñata is provided at the reception for the children who attend to break.
7. At the beginning of the reception (fiesta) following the wedding ceremony, the father of the bride makes a short speech and then the band plays a waltz for the ‘money dance’. The guests, in descending order of importance or kinship and according to gender, dance with the bride and
the groom and pin money to their clothing. The money dance is called the ‘aguinaldo’.
8. The groom is assaulted by his male friends. An apron is tied around his waist and he is given a broom. He is insulted by being called ‘henpecked’.
9. The bride stands on a chair while the unmarried women, holding on to each other’s waists, dance around her. The bride then tosses her wedding bouquet over her shoulder and the girl who catches it will be the next bride.
10. The groom stands on a chair while the unmarried men dance around him and he tosses the apron over his shoulder. The first man it touches will be the next henpecked husband.
11. The wedding cake consists of five to seven layers and is usually cut with a sword. It is not, however, served to the wedding guests. It is taken home by the parents of the bride to symbolize that this is the last time the bride and groom will be the center of attention.
The Vietnamese Wedding (Westernized)
Those who have a Vietnamese ethnic background often have a traditional Vietnamese wedding that precedes their legally recognized marriage before a judge or minister. The customs and traditions of a Vietnamese wedding are so beautiful and meaningful that many who have no Vietnamese background at all like to incorporate some of the traditions into their weddings.
The morning of the wedding the mother of the groom visits the family of the bride bearing two gifts. The first gift is a plant that represents respect and the second is pink chalk. Pink represents the color of happiness.
In the traditional Vietnamese wedding, the bride wears Ao Dai….this is a long dress that is red in color. The Vietnamese consider red to be the color of good luck while white is used only for mourning. The bride waits at her home with her family and friends for the groom. Along his way to the home of the bride, the groom picks up his family and friends. He arrives at the bride’s home bearing gifts of money, jewelry, and clothing. The wealthiest couple will lead the procession to the bride’s home to provide good fortune and wealth for the couple.
The gifts that the groom and his family bring to the bride at her home will be wrapped in red paper or be in red boxes or boxes lined with red paper. The gifts will include betel leaves, areca nuts, wines, fruits, cakes, and jewelry.
The leading couple (the wealthiest) enters the home first and offers a bottle of wine to the parents of the bride. With their acceptance of the wine, the bride’s parents are accepting the groom into their family.
The wedding ceremony takes place at an altar in the home of the bride. The wedding couple kneels at the alter and ask the blessings of their ancestors on their union. The couple then rises and facing their parents, they both bow and thank their parents for raising them and protecting them. The couple then faces each other and bow to signify mutual respect. Each of the four parents then gives advice to the couple about the responsibilities of marriage and family. Then there is a candle ceremony that signifies the unifying of their two lives.
The red gift box that contains jewelry will be opened by the mother of the bride and she puts each piece on the bride to ensure good luck for her. The couple then exchanges rings than symbolize their commitment to one another. The couple then signs their marriage certificate and is given red envelopes containing money with which to start their new life together. At this point they are considered officially married in the eyes of their families and their ancestors but not in the eyes of American law. Often the bride changes out of her Ao Dai into a traditional white wedding gown and the couple are married in a ceremony that is legal in America.
A Vietnamese friend explained to me like this. “We succeed the tradition of our ancestors and look forward to our ancestors for help and protection. Every spouse must be respectful not only to the other but also to the other’s parents and consider the other’s family as his or hers.”
Whatever your heritage is, you can find out what the customs and traditions for weddings are. All you really need to do is perform a Google search…or you can just ask your mother or your grandmother about traditional ceremonies. Including such traditions and customs in your own wedding will add special memories for you.
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