Different cultures, different customs very different traditions. That s the way of weddings. Every religion, region and country has different wedding traditions. There are close similarities, yet they are still very different.
I am most familiar with the traditional Catholic wedding but there are many other ways of celebrating such a joyous occasion. In thirteenth century Scotland, the announcement of intended marriages was a process of banns of marriage. Although this has recently been outdated, it leaves its influence on announcing marriages. After announcing the marriage proposal there is a fourteen-day waiting period before any arrangements are made for the couple.
Like bridal showers held before a traditional Catholic wedding, a show of presents is held for the bride to be. Instead of wrapped gifts bidding the bride good luck, all gifts are unwrapped and displayed as necessary. A simple card or the guest who brought the gift accompanies these gifts. After this show of presents, the bride is dressed up in traditionally a long dress and train made from any fabric. She is then escorted around town with guests making loud noises announcing the wedding to be. The bride to be carries a baby doll, plastic potty filled with salt and other small items. All these things are believed to bring good luck for the bride including prosperity and fertility.
Like a bachelor party for a Catholic wedding, the groom to be in a Scottish wedding is dressed up similarly to the bride to be and escorted around town with his friends. There, they may find a bar and partake in excessive drinking. Harmless practical jokes are traditionally pulled on the groom, including being stripped (partially or totally) of his clothes and dropped outside his home. Creeling the bridegroom is also practiced. A large basket is filled with stones and placed on the back of the groom. He is to walk around town with this until his bride to be frees him with a kiss.
Tossing of the bouquet is done at a Catholic wedding reception after the wedding ceremony. The belief is that the one who catches it will be the next one married. On the eve of her wedding, Scottish brides feet are placed in a tub of hot water and washed by the crowd of people around her. The one who finds a married women s wedding band in the tub is believed to be the next one married.
On her processional to the church, the first person to meet the bride outside is to join the processional and accompany the bride to the church before they can proceed with their own business. Outside the church doors a priest joins the couple together in marriage and later the couple proceeds into the church for a lengthy mass traditionally spoken in Latin.
As a Catholic reception the newly wed bride and groom are introduced together for the first time and take their places on the dance floor and begin the dancing. Other guests join them. Instead of throwing rice grains the groomsmen toss low valued coins to the ground indicating future prosperity for the couple. Upon being carried into her new home, a bannocks oatcake is broken over the brides head and passed around to everyone. Completion of this traditional wedding includes the priest blessing the newlyweds, their home and the marriage bed.
A Jewish wedding is less elaborate. A Jewish wedding begins with the signing of a marriage contract called a ketubbah . The ceremony can take place anytime thereafter, no waiting period. The ceremony is usually performed under a huppah , a wedding altar. Under this altar is a small table with a bottle of wine. This is broken by the groom to seal the end of the ceremony reminding how fragile life is.
In a traditional Catholic wedding, the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father, but in a Jewish wedding the bride and groom are escorted by their parents. After a short reciting of wedding vows, the groom gives a plain uncut gold band to his bride resembling true value and purity. Instead of the left hand ring finger that most people are used to seeing, the ring is placed on the bride s right index finger. The wedding party then proceeds down the aisle and later joins guests for a feast and dancing. Plain and simple.
In some cultures wedding ceremonies are carried out for more than one day of celebration. A Chinese ceremony can take up to 3-4 years. The process begins with an elaborate marriage proposal and acceptance. This is often the job of a go-between .
After the boys parents have chosen a bride for their son, it is up to the go-between to present gifts to the bride to be and her parents to try and win them over. If accepted, the brides parents then release the girls birthday. This document is taken to the ancestral altar of the boys family and left there for three days. If no bad omens occur from this, the boy s parents give the go-between the boys birthday for the brides family to go through the same process. As long as both outcomes are favorable, the families then will meet for the first time, evaluating each other on appearance, character and social position. When both families accept each other, they will exchange tokens of intention. It is then up to the girls family to choose the date of the wedding ceremony and date of gift exchange.
The boy s family traditionally present gifts of money, tea, bridal cakes, sugar, wine and tobacco. This is a replacement for taking the bride from her family. If the gifts are accepted, it is a pledge to the boy and his family that they indeed will give up their daughter. The brides family reciprocates with gifts of food and clothing. As a form of announcement the bride s family distributes the bridal cakes to family and friends. This exchange of gifts can last for a year or two. The families meet at different times of the year exchanging different gifts for the seasons.
A great deal of preparation ensures it is an eventful day. The bride to be and her closest friends retreat to a living of seclusion for as long as needed. There the ladies sing, mourn the departing of the bride from her family, curse the go-between as well as the grooms family and girls parents. It is a little less harsh preparing for the wedding on the grooms part. The day before the wedding he is in charge of installing the bridal bed. It is usually a newly purchased bed, moved slightly around the bedroom. Friends assist him. After the bed is in place, children are invited into the bed in hopes of bringing luck of fertility.
The night before the wedding, the bride must bathe in skin nourishing water to cleanse her of evil spirits. She is then placed in front of two dragon-and-phoenix candles where her hair is dressed into traditional wedding style. The bride to be is then carried on the back of her sister or sister in law where she is dressed in a jacket and skirt. Her face has to be covered from this point on with a red silk veil. Now she is to wait the arrival of the bridal procession from the groom s house. Dress for the groom is less elaborate. A long gown, red shoes and a red silk sash are all that is required. Wearing this, he is knelt in front of his father who places a cypress leaf decorated cap on his head. They are now ready to begin the procession to retrieve his bride.
Drums, gongs and firecrackers are traditional sounds to announce the processional led by the groom followed by the bridal chair . Retrieving his bride is not easy. He is met by friends of the bride, who will not give her up until they are satisfied with red packets of money. Much haggling takes place during this time. The groom will also in some cases bring dinner to the bride s family. Shielded, the bride to be is lifted into the bridal chair, not letting her feet touch the ground. The chair is curtained so she cannot see her groom or any unlucky sights, such as a cat, widow, well, etc. On arrival at the groom s house, the groom s household awaits her. Upon entering she is required to step over a lit stove to cross the threshold. This is said to ward off evil influences. When she has completed this task, the groom can finally lift the silk veil and view his brides face.
In comparison to the elaborate years of preparation, the wedding ceremony in itself is simple. At an altar the bride and groom pay homage to the Heaven and Earth, sip tea to seal the ceremony and ends it with a bow to each other. Just like the Scottish wedding reception, there is a big feast following the ceremony; although in the Chinese reception, the men and women sit separately. It is considered the most important meal of all given by the groom s parents.
The very next day after the wedding is the first time the bride gets to meet her new groom s family and friends. Her in laws give her a title according to her husband s seniority in society. Three days after the wedding, the couple visits with the bride s family where she is now considered a guest rather than their daughter.
Like the Chinese wedding, there is a similarity in a Japanese wedding. A go-between is assigned to bring the couple and their families together. Gifts are exchanged between the bride to be and grooms family. The gifts include as many as nine items representing happiness and fortune. Gifts include money, soup, hemp ropes and wine. This gift exchange also can last one to two years.
A Shinto priest first holds a purification mass to rid the bride and groom of evils. He will also officiate at the ceremony. Guests include close friends and family. During the actual wedding ceremony, the groom recites an oath of promise to be faithful and obedient to his bride. Just like in the Catholic religion, he pledges to love and honor, in sickness and in health. It is followed by the exchange of wedding bands. Both the bride and groom can exchange rings. In the Jewish wedding, only the bride receives a ring. A retreat to a scared Sakaki tree ends the main part of the wedding.
The go-between like in the Chinese religion does the introduction of the bride and groom, their parents and background at the reception. Traditional colorful costumes are worn by the bride along with ornaments in her hair. During the course of the reception, the bride changes her outfit to a different color and style Kimono. These dresses are passed down in the family and/or made into beddings later in life. Red and white are the main colors used just as in the Chinese religion. The reception itself is a very colorful event. Married guests wear black formal wear. The single guests wear more colorful clothing indicating they are available for marriage. At the end of the ceremony, as in the Catholic wedding, a honeymoon is allowed.
Different cultures and different religions have different wedding traditions. Many people relate to the traditional church wedding but there are many different ways to celebrate this joyous occasion. Whether it takes five months or five years to prepare, happiness is always most important.