The world is getting smaller; email, Internet, Google Earth, blogs. People from all over can connect with each other in an instant. It can therefore be expected that traditions from around the world are being brought into traditional Anglo-Saxon weddings. You no longer have to be a part of a religion or race to feel a special connection with specific customs and traditions. Below you can find a compilation of traditions that you can personalize and put into your ceremony or reception:
I talked about unique unity ceremonies in a previous post. This has become a standard in a lot of American weddings. It usually consists of the Bride and Groom each holding a lighted candle to light a third, larger candle, together. There are a lot of variations, and this is a great way to include parents and grandparents, even children, in your ceremony.
You might want to incorporate Scottish bagpipes to honor your fiance's heritage. You may want to include a full Gospel choir that reminds you of your childhood Sundays. More Eastern influences can be represented with ringing a Tibetan gong, including Flamenco dancers at your reception, or even something as simple as honoring the Bride's passion for ballet with a performance at the ceremony.
This custom started as a Pagan ritual, but is now incorporated into modern services. It consists of the couple's hands being tied with rope to symbolize their union. A great addition to this is including children from previous marriages: the children can be the ones binding your hands, showing their approval of your marriage. (By the way, this is most likely the tradition that started the phrase "tying the knot.")
Sharing of the Cup
This can be seen in many forms in various religions and cultures. The Bride and Groom drink of the same wine glasses (sometimes parents are included as well). Japanese couples who participate in Shinto weddings use sake to create the bonds of new family. French couples drinks from a coup de marraige (marriage cup) that has double handles during their reception. Irish guests gather round the couple and toast with mead.
In the Chinese tradition, red is the color for joy and luck - the perfect accompaniment to your special day. Incorporate red into various aspects from linen to candles to favors.
Pretend to be Mary Poppins
That's right! English tradition says that it is good luck for the Bride to be kissed by a chimney sweep when she leaves the church. (Just be sure to have a handkerchief ready to wipe off the soot!) Brides also may wear a small horseshoe somewhere for good luck. A great twist on saving the top layer of cake, the British save the top layer to be eaten at the baptism of the first born child (not on the first anniversary as in America).
Breaking of China
No - not the Greeks - the Germans have a night called Polterbend (rumbling night) where everyone gathers around the Bride and Grooms and breaks china to scare away evil spirits. Purchase cheap chine - Dollar Store anyone? - and incorporate this into your dual bridal shower! Just make sure to watch out for your hardwood floor....
Have all of your bridal attendants sign the bottom of your shoes. The name that wears off first will be the next to marry! (I guess this one depends on whether you are a big dancer or not...)
Veils of Fire
In Ancient Greece, Brides wore veils in red and yellow which was said to keep evil spirits and demons away. Greek Brides, even today, carry a lump of sugar with them on their wedding day to ensure that they have a sweet life. (It is little traditions like this, gathered throughout the years, and practiced by so many people that make a wedding day special! A moment that only you may know about, but a thought that will stay with you forever!)
Jewelry of the Dynasties
In Hindu, Pakistani and Muslim traditions, the Bride will cover her hands and feet in henna about a week before the ceremony. This process is called mehndi and done by a professional artist - other women in the bridal party can join in as well! This started as a way to mimic the jewelry worn by rich Muslim brides.
Luck 'O the Irish
Irish Brides also carry horseshoes for good luck (though no longer ones that were on the foot of a horse only three hours prior...) Bells are said to keep away evil spirits, so bells have become a traditional gift.
Luck Charms from Around the World
Horseshoes in Ireland and England are concealed on the Bride. Swedish Brides are given a gold coin by their mother to put in the right shoe and a silver coin for the left. Irish Brides usually put a penny in their shoes for good luck. Mediterranean countries practice the giving of Jordan almonds to represent the bitter and sweet sides of marriage (these can also be symbols of fertility). The evil-eye is a good luck charm worn by attendants in Greece to ward off evil spirits. Japanese Brides give kohaku manjyu, steamed buns with sweet bean paste, one red and one white. The Japanese believe guests at a wedding bring luck, so the Bride and Groom thank them well for attending! Finally, orange blossoms have long been a symbol of purity and chastity. They symbolize everlasting love and have been incorporated into crowns in Spanish weddings and even into the wedding of Queen Victoria.
In any instance, gather your family and friends and talk about traditions. It can be something as sentimental as wearing your mother's wedding veil, or as simple as having a sleepover with your little sisters on the eve of your wedding. Create your own traditions - start a wedding cup to be passed on to your traditions. In the family of a close friend, the women gather favorite recipes and put together a family cookbook. Maybe you have a pact with your girlfriends to all have a bridal breakfast on the mornings of your weddings. Think about it, incorporate a few traditions old or new. The small details make your day special.
Written with the help of Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, 2006, harperCollins Publishers.