Weddings are always a special event no matter what country you’re from or religion you belong to. It’s occasions like these when real culture and tradition come to life. When you consider the fact that many traditions have been lost to our fast-paced modern lives, it’s all the more remarkable that most wedding rituals still remain intact.
Maybe it’s because a wedding is all about bringing two people, two families together. Or maybe it’s the only occasion where whole communities gather to celebrate. Whatever the reason, a wedding is seen as an event where a couple who is about to celebrate their love also celebrates their heritage.
Here’s how a few cultures from all over the world celebrate their wedding days:
Greek Orthodox Weddings
Greek orthodox wedding rituals begin a couple of days before the wedding day. “Krevati” is celebrated in the home of the new couple, where guests place money and young children on the couple’s new bed. This is to bless them with good tidings and fertility.
On the wedding day itself, the groom enters the church first and waits with the priest for his bride to arrive. The bride enters and makes her way to the groom, usually accompanied by her father. The couple exchange bouquets before the best man comes in and gives them their wedding rings. Sometimes crowns are also placed on the couple’s head.
After the marriage ceremony is conducted by the priest, the couple will drink red wine out of the same cup to signify the beginning of a new journey together. As the ceremony ends and the newly married couple is leaving, guests shower them with rice and flowers for happiness and fertility.
Jewish weddings are bright affairs, full of amazing traditions. On the wedding day, the bride and groom are expected to fast from dawn until they’re married. They break the fast together during a small window after the ceremony and before the festivities, called “Yichud.”
Before the ceremony, when the guests are arriving, the bride can be seen sitting on a throne, while the groom entertains guests separately. The wedding ceremony is performed by a Rabbi. It begins when the bride and groom are escorted to the “chuppah”, a canopy, by their families. Here the groom will circle the bride seven times symbolizing the man making a house for his wife. Now, the Rabbi will say a blessing on a cup of wine called the “Kiddushin,” which is then shared by the couple. After this, the groom places a wedding ring on the bride’s forefinger to bring her under his protection.
Once these rituals are out of the way, the marriage contract, or “Ketubah,” is signed. The Rabbi blesses another cup of wine with “Sheva Brechot” or the seven blessings, and the couple shares the cup of wine again. The ceremony ends with the “breaking of the glass” ritual where the groom must break a glass by stomping it with his foot. This is followed by partying and feasting.
Muslim wedding traditions tend to vary from region to region, but for the most part, these are simple affairs where sometimes the bride is not even present. The marriage ceremony is called the “Nikah” and is conducted by an Imam. During Nikah, a marriage contract is signed by the groom and the bride (or her representatives) in the presence of witnesses. The Imam will often follow it up with a short sermon.
The main wedding celebrations are usually reserved for “Walimah,” which is basically a large feast for friends and family with the purpose of declaring the marriage publicly. Almost everyone who knows the families of either the bride or groom is invited to eat.
Hindu weddings are colorful affairs that involve celebrations and rituals starting weeks before the wedding itself. Mehndi ceremonies, Haldi programs, and Sangeet gatherings are all pre-wedding rituals that involve a lot of singing and dancing.
On the day itself, the groom makes his way to the wedding location with a huge procession of friends and family. There is a lot of singing and dancing along the way. Once there, the groom makes his way to a canopy called the “mandap.” The bride joins him there and the ritual of “kanyadan” takes places. Kanyadan signifies the giving away of the bride by her parents. The parents wash the feet of the couple with milk. The father of the bride places his hands over the couple’s hands, and the mother pours water over them.
Next up, a thread is wound over the bride and groom’s hands multiple times binding them together, to show their unbreakable bond. They are then seated in front of a fire, and a priest, or “pundit,” chants mantras. The couple circles the fire four times, chanting religious verses as they do. The wedding is solemnized with by both the bride and groom taking seven holy vows.
This is just a snapshot on how a handful of different cultures celebrate their wedding days. From being crowned to breaking glasses, feasting and drinking to chanting mantras; whatever the differences in ceremonies and traditions, one common bond unites them all. Wedding days are a joyous occasion around the world!
Wedding rituals and cultures in general differ significantly from country to country, and religion to religion. Some of these may sound strange to outsiders but the underlying message is the same. It doesn’t matter if someone is a Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jew. Weddings are occasions that mark the joining of two lives forever. That is what really counts.
Katie Jones writes content for Orla James. In her spare time she also loves to write, travel the world and go horse riding.