Over the years, I’ve planned many weddings across various religions and in this way, I’ve gotten to know and admire a lot of wedding traditions outside of my own faith that I found fascinating. Some are thought provoking and others are just down right romantic, but either way, this is my list of top 10 wedding traditions I appreciate even more now that I know their meaning.
Exchanging of the Rings
Let’s start with one we’re familiar with. While we know the ring symbolizes a never-ending circle of the couple’s bond and eternal quality of love, the Bible says it’s an exchange of resources as well. Your wealth, your possessions and your lives all become one and your wedding ring is a reminder that having a joint bank account just makes paying bills easier.
Knocking on the door
Many wedding traditions involve the bride leaving her family behind. In a Chinese tradition, the bride returns to her family’s house 3 days after the wedding as a guest. I understand the symbolism but the literal thought of leaving my family makes me sad. In African culture, marriage is considered the joining of two families – no one is left behind, not even grandma. Bearing gifts, the groom and his family knock on the bride’s parents’ door and if the bride’s father answers, wedding planning and celebrations begin!
A Choora is a set of beautiful bangles worn by traditional Indian brides. That’s just one of many pieces of jewelry that adorns the bridal garb. Here’s what I didn’t know until I was having a chat with one of my brides after her ceremony… she has to wear it for a whole year!!! So 365 days with all those bangles jiggling every time she does the dishes, types on her computer or just moves her arm. The best part is her in-laws have the responsibility of removing it after the year is over. Great way to make her suffer if you don’t like her. It’s no wonder some brides decide to take it off after 30 days… #compromise
San San Kudo
In traditional Shinto weddings, the main goal is simply the pursuit of good fortune. This tradition can be seen in both Shinto and Buddhist Japanese weddings and the words literally mean “three, three, nine times”. During this wedding ritual, the bride and groom take three sips of sake from three stacked cups. After the bride and groom sip their sake, both sets of parents also sip the sake. The ritual is complete after a total of nine sips. I know it’s just a sip, but I’m a big sipper and that’s a lot of sake.
Arrival of the Vara Yatra
This was honestly one of my favorite wedding traditions ever witnessed. As part of the Hindu faith, the groom and his party (together make up the Vara Yatra) arrive at the ceremony venue making as much noise as one can handle. There’s music, lots of flower garlands, live instruments, dancing in the streets and a white elephant. If you’re getting married in Long Island like my Hindu couple, you rent a white hummer with external speakers and start the processional a block from the venue. With a little help from the NYPD, you’ve got yourself a proper arrival.
Henna is so beautiful! Also called Mehndi, it is one of the oldest forms of body art conceived by man... take THAT tattoo artists! Instead of a bachelorette party the night before the wedding, the bride decides to get inked. Traditionally, this ritual is meant to “improve and brighten” the bride’s complexion but dang it, it’s just really pretty. It’s usually applied to the bride’s hand and feet by a female relative. The bride is not supposed to step out of the house after this ceremony so hopefully she has a Netflix subscription.
For the most part, the wedding veil has similar meanings across many cultures – purity. But something really tricky (and so wrong) happened ages ago. A man named Jacob got tricked into marrying his fiancée’s less desirable sister. So in Jewish wedding tradition, the groom is encouraged to take a look under that veil to make sure he’s marrying the right girl. Can’t assure a job is done right unless you do it yourself, right?
Joining Right Hands
In ancient Catholic tradition, bridal couples would cut their right hands and by joining their bleeding palms, they would be joined together in the “blood covenant”. It’s definitely unsanitary (love you, babe) so Catholics have just settled for joining the right hand while saying your vows as a public commitment to becoming one. Thank God!
Throwing of Rice
Another familiar one with Christian weddings. This started with the throwing of seeds (ouch!) and was meant to be a reminder that the purpose of marriage was to start a family. So today, guests throw rice as a way to say “you better start the baby making on the honeymoon… or your marriage will fail.” I like the symbolism of seeds where planting something isn’t enough. You have to care for it, water it and give it light so it can grow.
The No-Tradition Tradition
Gay weddings are creating their own traditions as a way of finding a place in the wedding industry that better reflects their love. There are a couple “remixes” in same sex weddings that I really love. Some couples choose to not have an aisle or walk together at the processional. Most same sex couples opt to see each other before the wedding especially if they’re both wearing suits or wedding dresses. Also, traditional vows tend to be gender specific, so most same sex couples are choosing to write their own. So romantic!