Wild wedding traditions from all around the world
A few weeks ago, I talked about how the tradition of the bride wearing white for her wedding was a comparatively modern one, stemming from the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the mid-1800s. The tradition of the bride tossing her bouquet for her unmarried friends to catch is much older. It began in late medieval times because back then it was thought that touching the bride or stealing part of her dress immediately after the ceremony would bring good luck. This could prove embarrassing, and so brides took to throwing their flowers and then making a run for it while the single ladies were distracted.
These are just two of our wedding traditions, but there are many more around the world, some of them unusual and others quite weird. Germany, for instance, has a couple that come into the unusual category. The first is called “polterabend” and it occurs the night before the wedding. The happy couple go out with their friends to celebrate and everyone brings objects made of porcelain. The idea is that these are thrown down and smashed into as many pieces as possible in front of the bride’s house in order to bring good luck to the union. Glass is strictly forbidden but any other ceramic is fair game and at the end the happy couple get to clean up the mess. It’s thought that this tradition may go back as far as pagan times when clay objects were broken to appease the gods.
The other German tradition is called baumstamm sagen and this occurs after the ceremony when, still dressed in their wedding clothes, the bride and groom use a twohanded saw to cut a log in half. This is supposed to show them that they must work together to get through life.
The origin of those traditions is lost in time, as is the Spanish custom of cutting off the groom’s tie. This is done after the ceremony when the groom’s friends surround him, take off his tie and then cut it into small pieces. They then auction the pieces to the wedding guests. If you buy one, it’s supposed to bring you luck and the money collected goes to the newlyweds.
Staying in Europe, before Greek bridegrooms get married, their friends will gather to shave his face on the morning of the wedding day while, at the same time, the bride’s mother is supposed to feed him snacks consisting of almonds and honey.
That’s a nice, clean tradition but, over in the rural areas of Scotland, we have a one called ’blackening the bride.” Some days before the wedding the bride’s friends will take her by surprise and whisk her away to somewhere where they can cover her with all sorts of noxious, sticky substances, not excluding sour milk, bad food, fish oil, beer, flour, tar and feathers. In some places she is then tied to a tree and left for a time, while in others she is paraded through the town for all to see. The idea is that if she can put up with this humiliation she’ll be able to put up with anything that comes up in her marriage.
Just across the sea in Ireland there is a tradition that when the bride and groom are dancing, the girl’s feet must never leave the floor because, if they do, then evil fairies will come and take her away.
In Sweden, the tradition doesn’t involve fairies. Instead, at the reception, if the bride leaves the room then all the ladies come up and kiss the groom. The same applies if he goes out, then it’s the turn of the men to kiss his bride.
That custom may seem a little odd but China has a couple of traditions that are equally strange. In their Yugur culture, before the marriage the prospective bridegroom must shoot his future bride three times with blunt arrows. After this he ceremoniously breaks the arrows to ensure their love lasts forever.
Meanwhile, brides of the Tujia people must cry for one hour each day starting a month before the wedding. Later her mother joins her, then her grandmother until the whole of her female relatives cry for an hour each day just before the wedding. Apparently it is thought that this brings good luck.
Staying with China, we come to what, to our eyes, is a really weird tradition. If you are a member of the Daur tribe and want to marry then you and your intended have to take a knife and kill a baby chicken. You are then required to inspect the liver. If it’s good, you can set a date for the wedding, if not you kill again.
Just next door in South Korea some families believe that in order to properly prepare a groom for marriage they need to beat his bare feet with dead fish and bamboo sticks. I have no idea why.
You may think that’s strange but in Borneo the brides and grooms of the Tidong people are locked in a house together for three days after the ceremony and are not allowed to use the bathroom for any purpose. Again I have no idea why, but apparently its usual for them to eat and drink little during this period.
Staying in the same sort of area, it’s a tradition in parts of France for the happy couple to be presented with wine, melted chocolate and other goodies served in a chamber pot or toilet. It seems they have to consume all of it before they’re allowed to leave in order to build up strength for what’s ahead.
In some African tribes, it’s the responsibility of the bride’s mother to spend the first night of the honeymoon with the happy couple in order to “educate” them. That may strike you as really weird, but in the Masai tribe of Kenya the tradition is the bride’s father spits on his daughter’s head and chest in order to bring good fortune to the marriage. They also spit on newborn babies for luck, but that’s another story.
One final tradition from our weird, wide world. If you are a bride dieting to make sure you fit into the dress then spare a thought for the girls in Mauritania.
They believe that the healthier and fatter the bride the more luck the marriage will have and so they actually go to fat farms to pack on pounds before the wedding day.
Derek Coleman is a parttime writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.