Wedding traditions around the world prove there are many ways to say “I do.”
There are many fascinating wedding traditions around the world, from the bride tossing her bouquet to wearing something old, new, borrowed, and blue, British wedding customs are still so popular today that even the most non-traditional couples happily take part. (Why tempt fate and start off your new marriage with anything other than good luck vibes?) But Brits don’t have a monopoly on such rituals—pretty much every other country and culture also has its own beloved wedding customs.
Some are sweet, like how wedding guests in Sweden kiss the bride or groom anytime their new spouse leaves the room. Some are perplexing: Couples in the Congo, for example, are forbidden to smile on their wedding day. And some are seemingly strange, such as the way engaged pairs in Mongolia must kill and butcher a chicken to find a healthy liver before being allowed to wed. But what binds these seemingly disparate customs from near and far is one simple thing: love.
If you follow these traditions, the theory goes, you will find eternal joy with your soulmate. So, even if some Hindu brides must first marry a tree or some South Korean grooms have to tolerate getting their feet whipped by family and friends, hopefully, it’s all worth it in the end. When love and happiness ever after are the outcomes, it’s usually a win-win for the newly wedded couple.
Keep reading to learn about many of the most awe-inspiring rituals from around the globe to give you an idea of the many traditions that go far beyond the bouquet toss.
1) Norwegian Tradition | Brides Wear Crowns to Deflect Evil Spirits
One Norwegian wedding tradition states that the bride will wear an ornate silver and gold crown that has small charms dangling all around it. When she moves, the tinkling sound is supposed to deflect evil spirits.
2) Mexican Wedding Tradition | Wedding Lasso
During the ceremony, as a Mexican couple is exchanging their vows, a “lazo,” or lasso, made of rosary beads and flowers is draped around their shoulders in the shape of a figure eight. Not only does “el lazo” represent the union of the couple, but its shape also resembles the infinity symbol, signifying just how long they’re hoping the marriage will last.
3) Armenian Tradition | Balance Bread
Want to keep evil spirits far away from your marriage? Balance lavash flatbread on your shoulders. That’s what newlywed Armenian couples traditionally do. According to the custom, when the bride and groom enter their wedding reception—typically at the groom’s house—they break a plate for good luck, then are given lavash and honey by the groom’s mother. They balance the bread on their shoulders to ward off evil and eat spoonfuls of honey to symbolise happiness, and then the party really starts.
4) Congolese Wedding Tradition | No Smiling on the Wedding Day
While most about-to-be marrieds brim with excitement and anticipation, Congolese couples must keep their happiness in check. During their entire wedding day, from ceremony to reception, the two are not allowed to smile. If they do, it would mean they aren’t serious about marriage.
5) Chinese Tradition | Bow and Arrow
Let’s hope the groom remembers to remove the arrowheads. In China, a prospective husband will shoot his bride with a bow and (head-less) arrow several times, then collects the arrows and breaks them during the ceremony, to ensure their love lasts forever.
6) Fijian Wedding Tradition | Presenting a Whale’s Tooth
In Fiji, when a man asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, he must present his future father-in-law with a whale’s tooth.
7) Chinese Tradition | Carrying the Bride
In China, a bride’s family will hire a “good luck” woman to take care of her as she travels from her home to her groom’s in an elaborately decorated sedan chair. Even more, attendants are busy shielding the bride with parasols and tossing rice (a symbol of health and prosperity) at the chair.
8) Scottish Tradition | Eloping
Centuries ago, England restricted marriage to couples who were 21 and over. But that didn’t stop young lovers from finding a loophole—in this case, a nearby Scottish town without such limitations. Today, that village, Gretna Green, is still popular for couples who want to elope.
9) Greek Wedding Tradition | Shaving the Groom
Taking the term “groomsman” literally, on his wedding day, a Greek groom’s best man, or “koumparos,” becomes his barber when he pulls out a razor and shaves his pal’s face. But the groom’s day also has a sweet side. After he’s been freshly shaved, his new mother-in-law will feed him honey and almonds.
10) Guatemalan Ritual | Breaking a Bell
As wedding reception hosts, the parents of Guatemalan grooms can do whatever they want, including smashing things. When the newlyweds arrive, it’s a tradition that the groom’s mom breaks a white ceramic bell filled with grains like rice and flour to bring prosperity to the couple.
11) Japanese Wedding Tradition | A White Tsunokakushi
On her wedding day, a Japanese bride celebrating a traditional Shinto ceremony wears white from head to toe, including makeup, kimono, and a hood called a “tsunokakushi.” White denotes her maiden status, and the hood hides the so-called “horns of jealousy” she feels towards her mother-in-law.