Weddings are kind of a big deal. All that celebrating, and wearing of finery, and filling enclosed spaces with your nearest and dearest. Many couples use this mad, fun time to also celebrate their individuality by bucking tradition and by incorporating customs indicative of their cultures. So as long as you’re already considering the rituals of your forefathers, why not pull in some other international practices?
Here’s a roundup of my favorite traditions from around the world, both past and present.
Whether we’re talking about joining a man and woman, same sex unions, or blending two people of differing cultures, marriage is an equal partnership. It takes two to get married and it takes two to stay married. Yeah, the typical vows exchanged in America talk about having and holding, and ‘til death do us part, but sometimes actions speak louder than words.
At least, that’s the memo Polish couples got; they demonstrate their willingness and readiness to go through life together by entering the ceremony together. In the last moments before their union, two individuals begin their journey as one unit.
May Your Love Bloom and Grow
I’m a tree-hugger. I love trees for their ability to make my air fresh and enhance the view, but I also love them for all the things they symbolize: strength, growth, and longevity. It seems only natural, then, that many cultures include trees in their wedding-day festivities.
A Czech bride might wake on her wedding day to discover a tree has been planted in her yard and decorated with ribbons and painted egg shells. Tradition says the bride will live as long as the tree. As a modern twist, I could see contemporary couples turning this arboreal tradition into an evening of festivities and well wishes.
A wonderful Dutch custom is to create a wedding “wish tree” in lieu of a guestbook. At the reception, a beautiful tree branch is placed next to the newlywed’s table, and paper leaves attached to pieces of colorful ribbon are placed at each guest’s place setting. Guests each write a special wish for the happy couple on a leaf before hanging it on the tree to be read. As an added touch, the newlyweds plant lilies of the valley around their house to symbolize the return of happiness and renewal of their love each season.
In Bermuda it is traditional for a cedar sapling to be placed atop of the wedding cake. Upon arriving at their first home together, the couple plants the sapling as a symbol of their ever-growing love.
Give Flight to Your Fancies
Ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish. The crane is a symbol of longevity and prosperity, so to bring luck, good fortune, longevity, fidelity, and peace to the marriage, 1,001 gold origami cranes are folded and suspended by strings.
I’m sure such an aerial display would be breathtaking. Why not also make it multi-functional? The cranes would make beautiful mementos for your guests. Or combine your lucky birds with the Dutch custom above by having each guest write their wish for the couple on a bird and hang it from a tree.
Your Future has Come Calling
Still practiced in small villages today, it is a traditional French custom for the groom to call on his future bride at her home the morning of their wedding. The entire wedding party, guest list and all, then parade to the ceremony site led by musicians!
In historic Spain, hand lanterns were used to light the way from the groom’s house to the bride’s home the night before the wedding. The groom’s family would then carry a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride’s family. I like gifts as much as the next girl, but I like the idea of a lantern-lit walk even more. It’d be a lovely way to end an evening of wedding rehearsal and raucous dining with an evening walk and an intimate nightcap for just the two families.
This next tradition has nothing to do with cultural ties or sentiment; it is all about comfort. The Barong Tagalog is practically a staple in terms of smart Filipino attire. And it should be a staple at every summer and spring wedding stateside! The Barong is typically a sheer, embroidered, long-sleeved button-up shirt worn un-tucked over a white t-shirt and black dress pants. As far as I’m concerned the look is elegant and easy, and it looks just as chic on the ladies. Please do your fiancé a favor by proposing this ensemble instead of the typical layered (and hot!) wedding wear.
The global community is no longer restricted to the world wide web. There are so many ways to celebrate that crazy, beautiful matrimony thing! When it comes to weddings there really is a world of inspiration out there.
Photo credits: dieraecherin, Wedding Bee, amgdesignstudio, theefer, and hokuliiimages.