Each year, thousands of couples vow everlasting love to each other. Though the ceremonies vary from one culture to another, what is important is performing a ritual to ensure that this union (for life) is a success.
So what do those rituals look like around the world?
- The money dance: also known as the Polish bridal dance, the money dance is said to have originated in Poland, sometime during the early 20th century. According to tradition, it takes place at the end of the reception and guests pay to take turns dancing the polka with the bride while the maid of honor collects cash in an apron tied around her waist.
- Jumping the broom: this Black wedding tradition is believed to have started during slavery in the United States. Enslaved people would thus jump over the broom, easily available to them, in order to signify their union since they could not legally wed. When slavery ended, some Black people would continue to get married by jumping the broom if an officiant was not readily available, and they would legalize their marriage later. It makes sense that this tradition is steeped in history and goes back all the way to Africa; after all, slaves were from this continent.
- The role of the Koumbaro: according to the Greek Orthodox Church, the koumbaro (masculine) or koumbari (feminine), is the person who will officially sponsor the marriage. One of the highlights of the wedding ceremony is the exchange of the wedding crowns (stephana) three times by the Koumbaro. In addition, there are some other items the Koumbaro is expected to provide like a letter of good standing indicating that you are a Orthodox Christian in good standing.
- Blackening: a Scottish custom taking place prior to the wedding was feet-washing. Friends of the bride would wash her feet as a symbolic act of cleansing. Treatment of the groom was much rougher. His feet were covered in soot and feathers. Soot represented hearth and home and was thought to be lucky. With time, it was no longer just the feet which were blackened, and the tradition evolved to include the application of hard to remove substances, such as boot polish, tar, treacle, eggs and flour. The groom (and sometimes even the bride!) would be covered from head to foot!
- Tea ceremony: a definite must-have, the Chinese tea ceremony is one of the most important wedding traditions in the Chinese culture. It represents the formal introduction of the newlyweds to their families and shows their respect and gratitude towards them. In return, the newlyweds are welcomed into the family and receive blessings for their union.
- Haldi : this ceremony marks the beginning of the Indian wedding rituals and is one of the most important pre-wedding rituals after Tilak. The ceremony is held on the morning of the wedding day with only close family members and friends taking part in the ritual. A paste prepared with turmeric (haldi) is rubbed onto the bride’s and groom’s skin before a ceremonial bath. There’s a role for turmeric in every ritual as it signifies purity, fertility and good health.
- Polterabend (Smashing porcelain): Supposedly, the name Polterabend initially came from Poltergeistabend meaning “evening of the Poltergeist”. For centuries, people have tried to chase away ghosts and demons with loud noise. Thus, the smashing porcelain serves the purpose to protect the bridal couple from evil. In a more symbolic than literal way, these “ghosts” can also represent the fears of the bride and groom. Thus, the ritual of cleaning together helps to free them from any uncertainties as they settle down to spend the rest of their lives together.
Whatever the language, “I do” are two little words that will change two lives forever.
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