International Traditions

By Reina V. Kutner

December 18, 2009 5 min read

Imagine your wedding lasting several days, where you get painted with intricate designs in henna, get ritually bathed, have multiple parties over those days, wear red and ride an elephant to your wedding ceremony. Your groom? He's on a horse.

This may seem unrealistic for you, but for many Indian wedding ceremonies, this is standard. Although many countries have adapted to Western wedding traditions, a lot of their traditions are heading to America.

"Couples want more of a personal stamp on their weddings and look to their heritage as a way of doing this," says Harriette Cole, an author specializing in African-American culture, in an interview with The Knot. She says she has seen a lot of African-American couples incorporating aspects of African culture into their weddings.

These traditions often offer spiritual grounding in a difficult time. Although weddings are meant to be joyous, the stress of putting together a huge event can take a toll on couples. Cole says that in African-American tradition, there is a lot of importance put on family, including the merging of two families. During the ceremony, sometimes the families will join hands while the minister makes a unification blessing.

For Cole, this is important, as it reminds the couple that there is more to their marriage than just them. "Any couple getting married should first have spiritual grounding and knowledge of themselves," she says. This includes allowing families to get involved in the wedding process, as it helps the couple find their own identity.

A lot of the rituals practiced by African-Americans, for example, "keep the spirit alive -- the feeling that one's words and deeds mean something and the acknowledgment that you are becoming family and will cultivate new family relationships after the wedding."

Are you unsure of the traditions from your heritage? You always can look them up online. The Knot has a large resource for different wedding traditions from cultures around the world.

But if you don't like the traditions from your country, here are some fascinating traditions, courtesy of The Knot, with some ideas for how to incorporate them into your wedding:

*In Chinese tradition, the bride sometimes wears red, as it is the color of love and joy. If you don't want to wear a red wedding dress, accent your dress with a red sash.

*In Moroccan tradition, the bride bathes in a luxurious milk bath before her wedding and gets a massage in aromatic oils. You may not need milk, but taking a luxurious bath before your wedding will help calm any jitters you may be having.

*The Japanese perform a sake-sharing ceremony during their weddings, which is supposed to cement the bond between the bride and the groom, as well as their families. If you don't feel comfortable putting this into your wedding, feel free to go out to coffee with your sweetheart, his parents and your parents beforehand. That way, you can solidify bonds among people through conversation.

*In a Greek Orthodox wedding, the bride and groom often wear crowns of orange blossoms. Although your sweetie may not be so willing to wear flowers, that shouldn't stop you. Instead of a veil, flowers in your hair can make a beautiful and elegant substitute. In the Czech Republic, brides often wear crowns of rosemary.

*In Hawaiian weddings, Elvis' "Hawaiian Wedding Song," from the movie "Blue Hawaii," often is played as couples go down the aisle. Although this may not be your choice, feel free to pick an original song for your entrance, such as a song that means a lot to you and your sweetheart.

*At the end of some weddings, there are symbolic gestures performed to seal the unions other than the kiss alone. In Jewish weddings, grooms break glass under their feet, whereas in African-American ceremonies, couples jump over brooms into their new lives together. If you don't like these, you always can create your own tradition to end your ceremony.

*In Holland, it's traditional to plant a pine tree outside the newlyweds' home as a symbol of fertility and luck. This eco-friendly habit of planting a tree to symbolize new love is great no matter where you are, as you will grow in love together with your new spouse.

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