Around 3,000 BCE, the first exchange of dowry was recorded and humanity’s history of weddings officially began. In the past 5,000 years humans have had plenty of time to create longstanding traditions, some fun and some just plain odd. We’re taking a better look at some of the unique traditions celebrated by cultures around the world so you can see what you’re missing out on!
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Originating with the Spaniards and passed down through Christian Latin American and Hispanic cultures, las arras matrimoniales are 13 gold coins, called arras, that a groom presents to his bride in a traditional Mexican wedding ceremony. The coins, a symbol of the groom’s intention to provide for his family, are blessed by the priest and presented to the bride an ornate box. While the bride and groom share their vows, the priest or family members wrap a lasso, a large rosary, decorated cord or a band of flowers, in a figure eight around the couple’s necks to represent their eternal unity. Many Mexican and Latin wedding traditions are rooted in Catholicism and Christianity, including the tradition of presenting a bouquet of flowers to a statue of the Virgin Mary and prayers for the marriage blessing.
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One of the popular traditions in Germany is that the newlywed couple has to saw a wood log in a half in front of their wedding guests. They believe that the activity will show a capability to work together and to go through difficulties that life may bring on their marriage. Another tradition, in some regions of Germany, is that the family smashes dishware and porcelain outside the home of the future bride and groom on the night before the wedding. The couple is charged with cleaning up piles of dishes that their guests threw on the ground to ward off any evil spirits. The lesson for the couple is that by working together they can face any challenge thrown their way.
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Chinese wedding ceremonies remain very traditional to this day, despite the influences of Western culture that seep in here and there. Most Chinese brides will wear more than one dress on her special day, sometimes changing her outfit three times. First, to walk down the aisle, the bride will wear a slim-fitting traditional embroidered dress, usually called qipao or cheongsam. For the reception, the bride wears a more decorated gown with Western flare and influences. To finish up the night, the bride will change into a ballgown or a cocktail dress. Red is a key color in Chinese weddings and will be used for everything from decorations to the bride’s traditional dress. In China’s Yugur culture, a prospective husband will shoot his bride with three bows and arrows that don’t have arrowheads and will not cause her harm. He then collects the arrows and breaks them during the ceremony, to ensure their love lasts forever.
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Morocco is very rich in traditions and weddings in this North African country can last up to seven days. Before the actual wedding there are several pre-wedding customs. One pre-wedding tradition is sending presents to the bride, including jewelry, clothing and perfume. In another pre-wedding ceremony called the “furnishing party,” mainly women deliver and decorate the bride’s future home, five days before her wedding date. Women and female friends of the bride may gather for a party in which a “milk bath” is performed by the bride with the intention of purifying her. On the night before the wedding, women of the family and the bride’s female cousins organize a Henna Party, where the Henna artist paints the hands and feet of the bride. Later in the evening older, married relatives share the “secrets” of married life with the bride-to-be. On the day of the wedding ceremony, the bride is carried on an ornate chair, known as the Amariya, by four strong male attendants. Traditionally, at some point of the evening, a group involving the groom, his family and friends would move towards the bridal party and enjoy the delicious food and singing together before leading the new couple to the bridal chamber.
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At a traditional Russian wedding ceremony the bride and groom are welcomed with bread and salt offered by both sets of parents as a symbol of health, prosperity and long life. Both the bride and groom must take a bite of the karavaya, sweet bread decorated with wheat for prosperity and interlocking rings for faithfulness, and the one that takes the largest bite will be the head of the family. During the wedding, the groom should traditionally keep his eyes constantly on his bride because his friends could steal her from him and he will have to pay the ransom. Also fans of the multi-day celebration, Russian wedding festivities will typically carry into a second day, which tends to be even more fun and raucous than the first day – so you don’t want to miss it!
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