Age-old traditions, lucky charms, all-out costumes and bombastic venues… We must be talking weddings. Charlotte Horlock had a wander round the globe and picked out six wedding ceremonies from different cultures that embrace the wild and wonderful…
In Indian culture, marriage symbolises not just the sacred union of two individuals, but two families. Months before the ceremony, the families meet to perform rituals and to present the bride and groom with a stack of OTT gifts. Further pre-wedding ceremonies include the Haldi, a relaxing hot bath during which turmeric (Haldi), oil and water is applied to both the bride and groom (although naughtiness is strictly forbidden until wedding night), and the Mehendi, where the bride’s hands and feet are painted with gorgeous Henna patterns. On the day of the wedding, the bride dolls up in a sari or a lehenga, decorated with gold and silver embroidery. The groom makes his entrance on a horse or sometimes an elephant. The final moments of the ceremony are the most poignant, as the bride will say goodbye to her family and leave to live with her husband. With so much colour, vibrancy, food and fun, an Indian wedding is truly a festival in itself!
A Chinese wedding ceremony involves a fair amount of prep, too. It’s all down to a fortune-teller to predict whether the marriage will be a success, based on the bride and groom’s full names and their zodiac animals (fingers crossed it’s not the year of the rat.) The bride is expected to bond with her in-laws long in advance by making them tea and helping them with the chores. At the wedding ceremony, the bride will wear a red skirt, as the Chinese believe red foreshadows delight. Music and firecrackers mark the arrival of the groom (or sedan) at the wedding place. The bride will then be led along a swanky red carpet before vows are exchanged, their emphasis on loyalty and looking after one another, especially in sickness and poverty. The lucky couple get to retreat to their bridal chamber while guests submit to the toasts and speeches part. Wine is poured to the brim of a cup but mustn’t spill over. These traditions have been maintained for thousands of years, but in recent years (especially after the founding of modern China), people have tended to discard some of the details and embrace more simple ways.
The Japanese are renowned for that magical bride every little girl dresses up as, at some stage in their lives. Before the ceremony (or shinzen shiki), the rehearsal takes place, during which the bride’s mother lowers the veil for her daughter, signifying the last act that a mother can do before giving her child away. Traditionally, the Japanese bride is then painted white from head to toe, declaring her maiden status to the Gods. She has two choices of headgear: one, the watabōshi, a white hood, and the other, the tsunokakushi, serving to hide her ‘horns of jealousy.’ On a less intense level, it also symbolises the bride’s intention to become a gentle and obedient wife. The ceremony is held at a Shinto shrine, and the father of the bride, as in Western ceremonies, walks his daughter down the aisle. Recently though, a Western-style wedding has become the choice of many couples in Japan, and these are generally held in a modest little chapel or hotel.
A Russian wedding lasts between two days and a week packed with singing, dancing, drinking and toasts. Once the groom arrives at the venue, he must pay a ransom for the bride (a term in Russian known as vykup nevesty.) The groom will usually give jewellery, before the bride’s parents bring out a woman (or man) that is not the actual bride but dressed up like one, covered in a veil so the groom can’t see the face. If you haven’t already guessed, these guys are pretty big on comedy. The ceremony is held in a church and is divided into two parts: the Betrothal and the Crowning. During the Betrothal, the priest blesses the couple and presents them with lighted candles – exciting for about five minutes. This is followed by the exchanging of the crowns, and these babies are as colourful as they come. In the past, the couple would wear their wedding crowns for eight days, but now they are removed at the end of the service. Phew. And as if that wasn’t enough, look out for the ‘bread and salt’ tradition. In the old days, the groom’s mother presented the couple with bread and salt at the groom’s family house when the bride moved in to live. Nowadays, as a rule, the bread and salt ritual takes place right there in the wedding.
This is the one wedding where the groom really makes an impression. Since the 16th Century, the kilt has been the traditional – and sexy – dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands. At a Scottish wedding, the groom will wear his kilt, sometimes coupled with a dagger. And yes, it’s true, a true Scotsman won’t put on underwear. All Scots believe in good-luck charms, and when better to seize one of these than on your wedding day? A sixpence in the bride’s shoe or a sprig of white heather in the bouquet are long-standing traditions in Aberdeenshire and Angus. The ‘Wedding Scramble’ is also said to bring the couple fortune. As the bride steps into the car, her father will throw a handful of coins for the children to collect. After the ceremony, the Scottish Quaich or ‘Loving Cup’ will be passed round for the wedding party to sip. This is a two-handled silver bowl filled with whisky, usually by the bride. Scottish weddings are all about fun, frolic, dance and beer. Lots of beer.
Think sand, sea, sunshine and Mamma Mia. We’ve added a Greek wedding in at number six for its postcard setting and quirky traditions. If you’re getting married in Greece, the whole town will know about it and expect to be invited. Before the ceremony, the bride lists all the names of her unmarried girlfriends on the sole of her right shoe. Sounds a bit degrading, but there’s a method to the madness. At the end of the night, the names of the girls that have rubbed off are said to be the next to get married – better than haphazardly throwing a bouquet and watching it get torn apart by your drunken girlfriends, right? Taking the term ‘groomsman’ literally on his wedding day, the groom’s best man (or koumbaros) becomes his barber when he shaves off his beard. On the bright side, the groom’s new mother-in-law will feed him honey and almonds, symbolising her affection and generosity. Greece is renowned for its backdrop of gorgeous sandy beaches and white houses, and weddings here are nothing short of magnificent.