International Traditions and Customs
In Holland and Switzerland a pine tree, a symbol of fertility and luck, was once planted outside a new couple's home.
In South Africa, both bride's and groom's parents carried a fire from the hearths of their own homes and took this fire to the new couple's home to begin the fire in their home.
In Armenia, two white doves were set free to symbolize love and happiness.
The wedding cake in Bermuda was a multi-level fruitcake and included a small cedar tree on top. This tree was planted and is supposed to grow with the love of the bride and groom.
In Japan, brides change their bridal attire several times throughout the wedding day.
In England, the bride wouldn't allow her married name to be used before the wedding for it was considered bad luck.
In Italy, the groom's tie was cut into pieces and sold to the guests at the reception. The money earned is used for the honeymoon. Flowers decorated the front of the bridal car in Italy so that the bride and groom would have happy travels throughout life together.
In Japan, ducks or a goose and gander were included in the processional because they mate for life and are a symbol for fidelity.
In Poland, guests paid to dance with the bride and this money is used for the honeymoon.
During the reception in Spain, wedding guests danced a special dance and then present gifts to the bride.
An early American custom---the bride pinned a small pouch to her wedding petticoat. This pouch contained a small piece of bread, cloth, wood and a single one-dollar bill. This ensured that there would be enough food, clothes, shelter and money for the future couple.
In Korea, Wedding ducks are a symbol for a long and happy marriage. Cranes are a symbol of long life and may be represented on the woman's sash.
In a Native American wedding ceremony, water is used as a symbol of purification and cleansing. The bride and groom have a ceremonial washing of hands to wash away past evils and memories of past loves.
In the Philippines, at a certain point during the ceremony, a ceremonial veil is placed over the groom's shoulders and the bride's head. This symbolizes the unity of the two families into one and is also a prayer for health and protection for the couple during their married life.
Italian folklore called for the groom to carry a piece of iron in his pocket on his wedding day to ward off the evil eye. The bride, of course, would wear a bridal veil to conceal her from evil spirits. In present day, the couple shatters a glass or vase at the end of the ceremony and the number of pieces represents the number of years of happy marriage. Many couples also release white doves to symbolize their love and happiness.
During a Mexican wedding ceremony, a lazo, or large rosary, is draped around the bride and groom while they are kneeling at the altar. Padrinos, two special relatives the couple has chosen as additional "sponsors" of their wedding (in addition to their parents of course) may also present them with coins (for prosperity), a Bible and a rosary during the ceremony. After the ceremony, lucky red beads are sometimes tossed at newlyweds. And a beautiful reception tradition has all the guests during the couple's first or last dance create a heart shaped circle around them.
Flowers are a big part of wedding ceremonies and receptions. The groom is supposed to wear a flower that appears in the bridal bouquet in his button hole. This stems from the medieval tradition of a knight wearing his lady's colors to declare his love.
In Ukraine a mock capture of the bride is carried out at wedding receptions to remind everyone present of the many times their homeland was invaded. And instead of cake, Ukrainian couples share korovai, a sacred wedding bread decorated with symbolic motifs that represent eternity and the joining together of two families.
In Scotland, usually about a week before the nuptials, the bride's mother may hold a show of presents for her daughter where all wedding presents that have been received are shown unwrapped and assembled. The gifts are set out with the card of the gift giver. Invitations are to an open house, and this gives the bride and bridal party a chance to get acquainted with the guests before the wedding. After the show of presents, the bride is dressed and garnished in over-the-top costumes, and she may be given things like a baby doll to carry in her arms. Now dressed up, the bride is taken out by her friends around town. The women make plenty of noise by singing and banging pots and pans to herald the bride's status.
In Egypt families, rather than grooms propose to the bride and many marriages are arranged. Also in Egypt, the zaffa, or wedding march, is a musical procession of drums, bagpipes, horns, belly dancers and men carrying flaming swords; it's a bright, colorful and musical way to announce the marriage is about to begin. I think that's a custom we should start in the states!
In the Czech Republic friends sneak into the bride's yard to plant a tree and decorate it with ribbons and painted eggshells. Legend says the bride will live as long as the tree. Also, brides in the countryside carry on the very old custom of wearing a rosemary wreath, which symbolizes remembrance. Her friends as a wish for wisdom, love and loyalty weave the wreath for the bride on the night before her wedding.
In Yemen the bride's female relatives prepare all the food, including small-sweetened fritters, which promise a sweet life for the newlyweds and all who partake. The entire community is invited to join the celebration. Playing music to "gladden the bride and groom" is a sacred duty, so not only do professional musicians play, but performers and guests take turns with the instruments as well!
From Germany, during the ceremony, when the couple kneel, the groom may kneel on the bride's hem to show that he'll keep her in line. Then, the bride may step on his foot as she rises to reassert herself.