It’s not that your 17 cousins don’t know how to throw a legitimate banger, but if American weddings are the only kind you’ve ever attended, you’re probably missing out. There is so much rich diversity when it comes to wedding traditions around the world, it’s almost as though feeding each other a slice of cake isn’t the most creative way to seal the deal (even if it’s kind of a win-win all around).
Holding the bride hostage for ransom? Spitting on the bride? Consuming chocolate from a toilet bowl to give you strength? Yeah, some of these don’t sound like they’re for the faint of heart, but we promise they’re all done in good fun (and, of course, out of love).
Note: it should go without saying that not everyone in these countries follows these traditions today, but the world is still a very diverse and interesting place when it comes to how we ceremoniously communicate our commitment to each other.
Here are some of our favorite wedding traditions around the world.
It wouldn’t be a wedding in France without chocolate and champagne, but the French have a dirty sense of humor. Per tradition, the bride and groom must eat and drink these from a toilet bowl or chamber pot after the reception to give them “stamina” for their wedding night. This used to be much more rude of an imposition, actually. The bridal party would collect all of the leftover food and drink in a chamber pot and bring this “meal” to the honorary couple.
In some countries, there’s a little bit of pain involved, but everyone is generally in on the joke.
For instance, in South Korea, the groom has to have his feet bound together and whipped with a cane or a fish before he’s allowed to join his bride for the “afterparty.” To pass the test, he sometimes has to answer a certain set of questions correctly.
If you’re attending a Yugur wedding in China, you might see the groom shoot a series of tipless arrows at his bride, which he then collects and breaks during the ceremony to symbolize eternal love.
The Tidong people of Indonesia and Malaysia forbid the bride and groom from leaving their house or using the bathroom for three days following the wedding to prevent bad luck. It’s hard to imagine how one even pulls this off, but they only consume a tiny bit of food and drink during this period.
In Kenya, it’s customary for the father of a Maasai bride to spit on her head and breasts as a form of blessing. In the Maasai culture, spitting isn’t seen as rude — people also spit on newborn babies for good luck.
If you’re a Scottish couple, you can expect to basically get tarred and feathered in advance of your wedding. In a custom known as the “blackening,” the soon-to-be-wed are covered in unspeakable things by their friends on the day before the wedding: rotten eggs, soot, spoiled milk, molasses, feathers, meats, stinky sauces. They’re then paraded around town to encourage evil spirits to stay away from them.
Tears Of Joy
In China, a Tujia wedding is often preceded by a month of crying. The bride begins by crying for one hour each day about a month before the wedding. After 10 days, her mother begins to cry alongside her, and then 10 days after that, her grandmother joins the wailing chorus. If she has sisters or aunts, they join her, too. This tradition is a complicated expression of a lot of historical realities, but it’s treated as more of a necessary rite of passage than an expression of sadness today.
Breaking things appears to be a semi-universal concept when it comes to wedding traditions around the world.
There’s the infamous “breaking of the glass” in Jewish weddings, which is done to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish temples in Jerusalem.
In Germany, wedding guests throw porcelain dishes on the ground to ward off evil spirits, which the couple must then clean up to demonstrate their capacity for teamwork.
In Guatemala, the groom’s mother will typically break a white ceramic bell full of grains in order to bring prosperity to the newly minted couple.
In the same spirit of destruction, Spanish groomsmen will often cut the groom’s tie into little pieces, which are then auctioned off to the guests for good luck.
Nigerian wedding receptions often feature a real camel getting jiggy with it to a tight drumbeat.
Mongolian weddings don’t involve live animals, necessarily. But in order to set a divinely ordained wedding date, the couple must slaughter a baby chicken together in pursuit of a healthy liver. If they don’t find one on the first try, they must keep slaughtering more chicks until they do.
There’s a running theme of “abduction” in a lot of wedding traditions around the world.
In Russia, the groom must come to the home of the bride’s parents on the morning of the wedding, but he has to prove himself before he’s allowed to proceed with her to the ceremony. This could involve meeting a series of challenges or demands posed by the family or the bridesmaids. Sometimes, this means dancing and singing. Other times, this means paying a ransom for the bride. The latter guarantees nothing, as he may get a decoy bride in return for his initial offer (for instance, one of his male friends wearing a dress).
In Romania, the wedding guests abduct the bride and put her up for ransom from the groom. They usually accept drinks, public love songs, or other silly gestures in exchange for her safe return.
In Wales, the best man “kidnaps” the bride and brings her to a bar before the wedding. It’s up to the groom to find them and pay for their drinks.
In Pakistan and India, it’s the groom’s shoe that’s often abducted (and sometimes put up for ransom).
Don’t Be Jealous
In Sweden, it’s customary for all the women to kiss the groom whenever the bride gets up from the table and vice versa (for the men to kiss the bride whenever the groom leaves to go to the bathroom).
It Takes A Village
In Australia, wedding guests hold stones in their hands during the ceremony, which are then all placed in a “unity bowl” that the couple will bring home with them as a reminder of the “rock-steady” support of their loved ones.
South Africa has a somewhat similar tradition, but this one involves a different natural element: fire. The parents of the bride and groom bring fire from their own fireplaces to the home of their newlywed children in order to metaphorically “carry the torch” from one hearth to another.