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A wedding is the marriage rite in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, presentation of a gift (offering, ring(s), symbolic item, flowers, money), and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or leader. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers or readings from Scripture or literature also may be incorporated into the ceremony.
Common elements across cultures
A number of cultures adopt the traditional Western custom of a bride wearing a white dress. This tradition came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception, the white dress did not indicate virginity, which was symbolized by the face veil). Within the 'white wedding' tradition, a white dress and veil are unusual choices for a woman's second or subsequent wedding.
Exchanging rings may be the oldest and most universal symbol of marriage in western culture, but the origins are unclear. The ring's circular shape represents perfection and never-ending love. The rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony and according to tradition, symbolize the love, faithfulness, and commitment of the marriage union.
The wedding is often followed by a reception in which the rituals may include toasting the newlyweds, their first dance as spouses, and cutting a wedding cake.
Traditional wedding garb
- Cheongsam or Hanfu, Chinese traditional formal wear.
- Batik and Kebaya, a garment worn by the Javanese people of Indonesia and also by the Malay people of Malaysia.
- Barong Tagalog, an embroidered, formal men's garment of the Philippines.
- Kimono, the traditional garments of Japan
- Sari, Indian popular and traditional dress in India
- Dhoti, male garment in South India
- Dashiki, the traditional West African wedding attire
- Aodai, traditional garments of Vietnam
- Morning dress, western daytime formal dress
- Kilt, male garment particular to Scottish culture
- Kittel, a white robe worn by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The kittel is worn only under the Chupah, and is removed before the reception.
- Topor, a type of conical headgear
- Evening Suits
- Black tie ("dinner jacket" in the UK; often referred to as a "Tuxedo" in the US; traditionally appropriate only for use after 6:00 p.m., but also seen in daytime, especially in the United States)
- Non-traditional "tuxedo" variants (colored jackets/ties, "wedding suits")
- White tie ("evening dress" in the UK; very formal evening attire)
- Sherwani, a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia
- Wedding crown, worn by Scandinavian brides
- Wedding veil
- Wedding dress
- Langa Oni, traditional two piece garment typically worn during a Pakistani wedding.
Music played at Western weddings includes a processional song for walking down the aisle (ex: wedding march) and reception dance music includes:
- Various works for trumpet and organ, arguably the most famous of which include the Prince of Denmark's March by Jeremiah Clarke as a professional, the "Trumpet Tune" by Henry Purcell and the "Trumpet Voluntary" by John Stanley as recessionals.
- Selections by George Frideric Handel, perhaps most notably the "Air" from his Water Music as the processional and the "Alla Hornpipe" as recessional.
- The "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, often used as the processional and commonly known as "Here Comes the Bride". Richard Wagner is said to have been anti-Semitic, and as a result, the Bridal Chorus is often not used at Jewish weddings. It is also generally discouraged for use at Roman Catholic weddings.
- Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is an alternative processional.
- The "Wedding March" from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, used as a recessional.
- The "Toccata" from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5, used as a recessional.
- Segments of the Ode to Joy, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
- At wedding receptions, Der Ententanz, a 1950s Swiss Oom-pah song known more commonly in America as The Chicken Dance, has become a popular part of the reception dance music.
At traditional Jewish weddings, a solemn, wordless tune is sung as the groom and the bride walk down the aisles.
Wedding customs around the world
The Wedding procedure starts with the groom's side sending a representative who requests the marriage between the parties. Then an appointment is given and a verdict on the marriage is given. Before the wedding the Dowry ( ጧሎሽ) is given as agreed. On the wedding day the groom and three or four "bestmen" ( ሚዜ) go to the wife's house. At the house the wife's family and friends ceremonially block the entrance to the house. The associates must sing strongly and force their way into the house. The first bestman holds perfume and sprays everywhere inside the house.
In Nigeria, in west Africa, a husband never uses his wife’s name. Only relatives and the women's own children are allowed to use the name her father gave her and it is only unmarried girls who may be called by name. So to learn a married woman’s name, one has to ask her husband the name of her father, and use that. When a couple are about to get married in this community people sing to inform that the bride is bound and is brought to the young man. Singing and dancing are two very important fragments in the Nigerian weddings and they are always combined with a big feast. The bride is keept in a special hut where she stays till he is let inside.
Pygmy wedding traditions
Pygmy engagements were not long and usually formalized by an exchange of visits between the families concerned. The groom to be would bring a gift of game or maybe a few arrows to his new in-laws, take his bride home to live in his band and with his new parents. His only obligation is to find among his relatives a girl willing to marry a brother or male cousin of his wife. If he feels he can feed more than one wife, he may have additional wives.
Arab wedding customs
- Main article: Arabic wedding
Although Christian weddings in the Arab World bear similarities to Western weddings, Muslim weddings in the Arab countries are influenced by Muslim traditions. Muslim weddings start with a Sheikh and Al-kitaab (book) for the bride and groom.A wedding is not Islamically valid unless both bride and groom are willing, and the groom is often encouraged to visit her before the wedding (as advised in many aḥadīth of the Islamic prophet Muhammad). However, these visits must be chaperoned to ensure purity of action between the two. Men and women in wedding ceremonies and receptions are segregated, with areas for men and for women.
Bengali wedding customs
- Main article: Bengali wedding
Bengali wedding refers to both Muslim and Hindu weddings in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common cultural rituals in marriages across religion among Bengali people.
Chinese wedding customs
- Main article: Chinese marriage
Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens. A band of musicians with gongs and flute-like instruments accompanies the bride parade to groom's home. Similar music is also played at the wedding banquet. Depending on the region that the bride hails from, Chinese weddings will have different traditions such as Tea Ceremony or the use of a wedding emcee. Also in modern times, Chinese couples will often go to photo studios to take "glamour shots" posing in multiple gowns and various backgrounds.
Cantonese wedding customs
- Main article: Cantonese wedding
Most Cantonese wedding rituals follow the main Chinese wedding traditions, although some rituals are particular to the Cantonese people. In a Cantonese wedding the bride price is based on the groom's economic status. The idea of "selling the daughter" or bride isn't a phrase that is used often therefore the price of the bride isn't too demanding. Most of the time the bride price is in the form of gold jewelry, fine fabric, or money, even a roast pig which symbolizes the bride to be a virgin. Wedding presents are given by the elderly couples or couples that are older than the newlyweds and tea is served by the younger family members.
The Western custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era, not virginity. Within the "white wedding" tradition, a white dress and veil are not considered appropriate in the second or subsequent wedding of a widow or divorcee. The specific conventions of Western weddings, largely from a Protestant and Catholic viewpoint, are discussed at "White wedding."
A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception, known as the 'Wedding Breakfast', at which an elaborate wedding cake is served. Western traditions include toasting the couple, the newlyweds having the first dance, and cutting the cake. A bride may throw her bouquet to the assembled group of all unmarried women in attendance, with folklore suggesting the person who catches it will be the next to wed. A fairly recent equivalent has the groom throwing the bride's garter to the assembled unmarried men; the man who catches it is supposedly the next to wed.
The Wedding Breakfast is one occasion where every member of the family, who has had at least some role in the wedding, is present. It is also important being the first time the newly married Bride and Groom share their first meal together as a lawfully wedded couple. The word Breakfast comes from a more ancient tradition of fasting before the wedding ceremony, the Wedding Breakfast is, therefore 'breaking that fast'. The modern Wedding Breakfast includes the service of food to guests that can range from traditional roasts, buffets, or regional treats such as in the case of a London Wedding in the 'East End'.
A modern tradition is for brides to wear or carry "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" during the service. It is considered good luck to do so. Often the bride attempts to have one item that meets all of these qualifications, such as a borrowed blue handkerchief which is "new to her" but loaned by her grandmother (thus making it old). Another addition to this custom is to wear a penny in one's shoe to bring prosperity.
The full text of the verse is:
- Something old, something new,
- Something borrowed, something blue,
- And a silver sixpence in your shoe.
In smaller French towns, the groom may meet his fiancée at her home on the day of the wedding and escort her to the chapel where the ceremony is being held. As the couple proceeds to the chapel, children will stretch long white ribbons across the road which the bride will cut as she passes.
At the chapel, the bride and groom are seated on two red velvet chairs underneath a silk canopy called a carre. Laurel leaves may be scattered across their paths when they exit the chapel. Sometimes small coins are also tossed for the children to gather.
At the reception, the couple customarily uses a toasting cup called a Coupe de Mariage. The origin of giving this toast began in France, when a small piece of toast was literally dropped into the couple's wine to ensure a healthy life. The couple would lift their glass to "a toast", as is common in Western culture today.
Some couples choose to serve a croquembouche instead of a wedding cake. This dessert is a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs, drizzled with a caramel glaze.
At a more boisterous wedding, tradition involves continuing the celebration until very late at night. After the reception, those invited to the wedding will gather outside the newlyweds' window and bang pots and pans. They are then invited into the house for some more drinks in the couple's honor, after which the couple is finally allowed to be alone for their first night together as husband and wife. This practice spread throughout France as a way to celebrate special occasions. Decorative replicas of these special sabres can be purchased from artisans in Lyon, France (the French capital of cutlery).
If the couple is also having a religious ceremony, the civil ceremony acts as a private family wedding. The mayor of the town where the wedding is taking place usually performs the civil ceremony. Once the civil ceremony is complete, the couple will receive a livret de famille, a booklet where a copy of the marriage certificate is recorded. This is an official document and, should the couple have children, each child's birth certificate will be recorded in the livret de famille too. The civil marriage ceremony in France is free of charge.
- Main article: Marriage in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Two or three days before the wedding, the couple organizes a celebration called Krevati (Greek for bed) in their new home. In Krevati, friends and relatives of the couple put money and young children on the couple's new bed for prosperity and fertility in their life. After the custom, they usually have a party with food and music.
On the day of the wedding, usually Saturday, but also Friday or Sunday, the groom cannot see the bride until the wedding ceremony. The groom usually arrives first in church and waits for bride, who usually arrives late. After they exchange flower bouquets, they have the wedding ceremony, where the best man puts the wedding rings and crowns on the couple. The couple drink red wine from the same glass (between one and three sips, depending on the tradition). This is not "communion" in the formal religious sense, but about sharing the cup of life. At the end of the wedding ceremony, as the newly wedded pair leave the church, the guests throw rice and flowers for fertility and felicity. Special guests, such as close friends and family receive sugar-coated almonds (traditionally an odd number, usually seven but sometimes five) as a gift from the couple. Most Greek ceremonies are Orthodox.
After the ceremony, usually the couple hold a great wedding party in some place with plenty of food, drinks, music and dance, usually until next morning. The wedding party starts with the invited people waiting for the couple, who usually come after some time. They start the party dancing blues and eating a piece of their wedding cake. In some point of the party, they also dance the traditional zeibekiko (groom) and çiftetelli (bride).
In many places of Greece, where they hold a more traditional wedding, they usually play only traditional music and eat local food. For example in the region of Cyclades, they eat the traditional pasteli (solid honey with sesame) and in the region of Crete they cook rice with goat. In most traditional weddings, they bake whole animals like pigs, goats or sheep just like the Greek Easter celebration. Before the church ceremony, especially in smaller areas, usually friends and relatives of the bride and the groom, accompanies them separately to the church playing traditional instruments, according to the region.
A typical Greek wedding will usually have more than 100 invited people (but usually 250-500) who are friends, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, first or second cousins, neighbors and colleagues. It is common to have guests whom the couple has never met before. This is because the people who will be invited are usually determined by the parents of the couple and not by the couple themselves. Traditionally, the whole village would have attended the wedding, so very often the parents invite friends of theirs and their children, to the weddings of their own children.
There are many other traditions which are local to their regional areas. One famous tradition is the pinning of money on the bride's dress. This custom originated in one part of Greece, where it is a substitute for wedding presents, however it has become more widespread recently.
In some parts of Italy, a party, known as a Serenade, is thrown outside of the bride's home by the groom. His family and friends come and wait for the bride, entertaining themselves until she appears. The groom then sings to his bride to further seduce her. Once his song is sung, the party ends.
The day of the wedding, the groomsmen try their hardest to make the groom as uncomfortable as possible by saying things like "Maybe she forgot where the church is".
It is also traditional for the grooms family to give a dowry to the bride and to provide the engagement ring. The bride's family is then responsible for receiving the guests of the wedding in their home for a reception afterward.
The color green is very important in the Italian wedding. In Italy, the tradition of something blue is replaced with something green. This color brings good luck to the married couple. The veil and bridesmaids also were important in an Italian wedding. The tradition began in Ancient Rome when the veil was used to hide the bride from any spirits that would corrupt her and the bridesmaids were to wear similar outfits so that the evil spirits were further confused.
An old Roman custom was that brides threw nuts at rejected suitors as they left the ceremony.
In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a Venetian Table, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Venetian Hour.
After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation.
In Polish weddings the celebrations may continue for two or three days. In the past, the engagement ceremony was organized by the future groom as a formal family gathering, during which he asked his chosen lady to marry him. In the recent years this custom has changed and today an engagement is much more personal and intimate. An elegant dinner party afterwards is still a nice way to inform the closest family members about the couples' decision to get married.
In some regions of Poland the tradition to invite the wedding guests in person is still upheld. Many young couples, accompanied by the parents, visit their family and friends to hand them the wedding invitations personally.
According to the old tradition a groom arrives with his parents at the house of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. At that time both parents and parents-in-law give a young couple their blessing. The couple enter the church together and walks up to the altar followed by two witnesses and the parents. In Poland it is quite unusual for the bride to be walked down the aisle or to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The couple is assisted by two witnesses, a man (usually grooms' side) and a woman (usually brides' side) who are either family members or close friends.
The Polish bride traditionally wears a white dress and a veil. The groom, on the other hand usually wears a fitted suit with a bow tie and a boutonnière that matches the brides' bouquet. During the ceremony wedding rings are exchanged and both the husband and wife wear them on their right hand. When they leave the church the guests toss rice or coins at the married couple for good and prosperous future together. Right after the ceremony the closest family and all the guest form a line in the front of the church to congratulate the newlyweds and wish them love and happiness. As soon as the married couple leave the church they get showered with rice for luck or guests drop coins at their feet for them to pick up.
Once all the guests have showered the couple with kisses, hugs and flowers everyone heads to the reception. It is a custom in Poland to prepare "passing gates" on the way to the reception for the newlyweds who, in order to pass, have to give the "gate keepers" some vodka. This is a misinterpretation of an earlier tradition, when the "passing gates" were built when the bride was an orphan and money collected by "gate keepers" from the guests was handed over to the bride as her dowry (being orphan implied usually poverty).
The married couple is welcomed at the reception place by the parents with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes the prosperity, salt stands for hardship of life, the parents wish the young couple that they never go hungry and learn how to deal with every day hardships together. The wedding party lasts (and the bride and groom remain) until the last guest leaves, usually until morning.
- Main article: Lăutari
Lăutari are musicians performing traditional songs. The music of the lăutari establishes the structure of the elaborate Romanian peasant weddings. The lăutari also function as guides through the wedding rituals and moderate any conflicts that may arise during what can be a long, alcohol-fueled party. Over a period of nearly 48 hours, this can be very physically strenuous.
Following custom almost certainly dating back at least to the Middle Ages, most lăutari spend the fees from these wedding ceremonies on extended banquets for their friends and families over the days immediately following the wedding.
- Main article: Marriage in Scotland
Scotland is a popular place for young English couples to get married since, in Scotland, parents' permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England it was the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith's at Gretna Green, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland's third most popular tourist attraction.
- The bride's family sends invitations on behalf of the couple to the wedding guests, addressed by hand. The couple may send the invitations themselves, especially if they are more middle-aged. The invites will specify if the invitation is for ceremony and/or reception and/or evening following the meal at the reception.
- Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day. Alternatively, the couple may register at department store and have a list of gifts there. The shop then organizes delivery, usually to the bride's parents' house or to the reception venue.
- A wedding ceremony takes place at a church, register office or possibly another favorite location, such as a hilltop. In this regard Scotland differs significantly from England where only pre-approved public locations may be used for the wedding ceremony. Most ceremonies take place mid afternoon and last about half an hour during which the marriage schedule is signed by the couple and two witnesses, usually the best man and chief bridesmaid.
- The newly wed couple may leave the ceremony to the sound of bagpipes.
- There is a wedding reception following the ceremony, usually at a different venue.
- The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
- Usually a drink is served while the guests and bridal party mingle. In some cases the drink may be whisky or wine with a non alcoholic alternative.
- The best man and bride's father toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes, usually humorous. The groom then follows with a response on behalf of his bride. Champagne is usually provided for the toast.
- There is nearly always dancing following the meal. Often in Scotland this takes the form of a céilidh, a night of informal traditional Scottish dancing in couples and groups to live traditional music. The first dance is led by the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the bridal party and finally the guests.
- The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake.
- Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
- A sprig of white heather is usually worn as a buttonhole for good luck.
- It is the norm for the groom and much of the male bridal party and guests to wear kilts, although suits are also worn. Kilts and Highland dress are often rented for this purpose [citation required].
- Main article: Handfasting
Handfasting is an ancient Celtic wedding ritual in which the bride's and groom's hands are tied together — hence the phrase "tying the knot". "Handfasting" is favored by practitioners of Celtic-based religions and spiritual traditions, such as Wicca and Druidism.
Filipino wedding customs
The groom usually wears the Barong Tagalog during the wedding, along with the male attendants, though nowadays the wealthy opt to don Western attire such as a tuxedo. Weddings held within the same year by two siblings, usually sisters, called Sukob are frowned upon as it is regarded as bad luck. Some hold it that the wedding rings dropping to the ground is a portent of bad luck (this is usually said to the ring bearer to ensure that the child is careful in handling the rings). Money, in the form of paper bills, is sometimes taped or pinned to the groom and bride's dress during their first dance.
Indian wedding customs
- Main article: Indian wedding
Indian weddings continue for several days. Due to the diversity of Indian culture, the wedding style, ceremony and rituals may vary greatly from amongst various states, regions, religions and castes. While the Christians of India usually follow a more or less Western wedding ceremony, the Indian Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Sikhs follow traditions quite different from the West. It is quite common that during the traditional wedding days, there would be a tilak ceremony (where the groom is anointed on his forehead), a ceremony for adorning the bride's hand and feet with henna (called mehendi) accompanied by Ladies' Sangeet (music and dance), and many other pre-wedding ceremonies. Another important ceremony is the "Haldi" program where the bride and the groom are anointed with turmeric paste. All the close relatives make sure that they have anointed the couple with turmeric.On the day (i.e. late evening) of the wedding proper, the Bridegroom, his friends and relatives come singing and dancing to the wedding site in a procession called baraat, and then the religious rituals take place to solemnize the wedding according to the religion of the couple. While the groom may wear traditional Sherwani or dhoti or Western suit, his face is usually veiled with a mini-curtain of flowers called sehra. The bride (Hindu or Muslim) always wears red clothes, never white because white symbolizes widowhood in Indian culture. In Southern and Eastern states the bride usually wears a red Sari, but in northern and central states the preferred garment is a decorated skirt-blouse and veil called lehenga. After the solemnization of marriage, the bride departs with her husband. This is a very sad event for the bride's relatives because traditionally she is supposed to permanently "break-off" her relations with her blood relatives to join her husband's family. The wedding may be followed by a "reception" by the groom's parents at the groom's place. While gifts and money to the couple are commonly given, the traditional dowry from the bride's parents to the couple is now officially forbidden by law.
Japanese wedding customs
- Main article: Japanese wedding
Japanese wedding customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies, and modern Western-style ceremonies. In either case, the couple must first be legally married by filing for marriage at their local government office, and the official documentation must be produced in order for the ceremony to be held. Before ever getting married there are two types of mate selection that may occur with the couple: (1) miai, or an arranged marriage and (2) ren ai, or a love match. The Japanese bride-to-be may be painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the gods. Two choices of headgear exist. One, the watabōshi, is a white hood; the other, called the tsunokakushi, serves to hide the bride's 'horns of jealousy.' It also symbolizes the bride's intention to become a gentle and obedient wife.
Traditional Japanese wedding customs (shinzen shiki) involve an elaborate ceremony held at a Shinto shrine. Japanese weddings are being increasingly extravagant with all the elaborate details placed into thought. However, in some cases, younger generations choose to abandon the formal ways by having a "no host party" for a wedding. In this situation, the guests include mainly of the couple's friends who pay an attendance fee.
In recent years, the "Western Style Wedding" (influenced by Christian weddings) has become the choice of most couples in Japan. An industry has sprung up, dedicated to providing couples with a ceremony modeled after church rituals. Japanese western style weddings are generally held in a chapel, either in a simple or elaborate ceremony, often at a dedicated wedding chapel within a hotel.
Before the ceremony, there is a rehearsal. Often during this rehearsal, the bride's mother lowers the veil for her daughter, signifying the last act that a mother can do for her daughter, before "giving her away". The father of the bride, much like in Western ceremonies, walks the bride down the aisle to her awaiting groom.
After the rehearsal comes the procession. The wedding celebrant will often wear a wedding cross, or cana, a cross with two interlocking wedding rings attached, which symbolize a couple's commitment to sharing a life together in the bonds of holy matrimony. The wedding celebrant gives a brief welcome and an introductory speech before announcing the bride's entrance. The procession ends with the groom bowing to the bride's father. The father bows in return.
The service then starts. The service is given either in Japanese, English or quite often, a mix of both. It follows Protestant ceremony, relaxed and not overtly religious. Typically part of 1 Corinthians 13 is read from the Bible. After the reading, there is a prayer and a short message, explaining the sanctity of the wedding vows (seiyaku). The bride and groom share their vows and exchange rings. The chapel register is signed and the new couple is announced. This is often followed by the traditional wedding kiss. The service can conclude with another hymn and a benediction.
With the two types of ceremonies, Shinto and Western, available it was bound for the two to be combined into what is called a contemporary Japanese wedding. Contemporary Japanese weddings are celebrated in many ways. On the beginning of the wedding day, the participants are to get ready at the parlor's beauty shop. The responsibility of the beauty shop is to dress the bride, the groom, and the other participants in the formal Japanese attire. Dressing the bride is an important task because the bride is to change into several outfits throughout her wedding day. Due to the complexity of the design, dressing a bride can be difficult and time consuming and for this reason the bride must be the first person to arrive two hours prior to the wedding ceremony. The bride's attire consists of an extravagant kimono, heavy make-up, a wig, and a head covering. An hour prior to the wedding ceremony, the guests and the groom should start to arrive.
When everyone is dressed in their formal attire, the bride and the groom are to separate from each other and meet their close relatives in a waiting room. The relatives present will appear in the family photo and will also attend the religious ceremony. During this gathering, the kaizoe (assistant) will inform the participants of what will take place and what they should do during the day since they are not familiar with the ceremony.
When all is understood, the relatives and participants are brought to the photo studio where the professional photographs are to be taken. Taking the photographs of the bride, the groom, and their relatives is considered to be the central part of the wedding day. The photographs of the couple and their family are designed to represent the couple's prospective future together.
After the lengthy photo session, the bride, the groom, and others are brought to the Shinto shrine. Nowadays, the Shinto shrine may be conveniently located inside a hotel where all the activities will take place. A Shinto priest conducts the ceremony. In the ceremony, the bride and the groom are purified. However, the ceremony's important event occurs when the bride and the groom exchange nuptial cups of sake also known as san-san-ku-do. With the addition of Western tradition, the exchange of rings and weddings vows also take place. Those guests who did not attend the religious ceremony are able to view the ceremony on video screens located in the lobby.
Like Western-style traditions, a reception takes place right after the wedding ceremony. The guests of the reception include family members, friends, and colleagues. Due to the wedding industry's attempt to maximize time and space, the reception will last exactly two hours. The reception does not include any random activities, but follows a strict order of events. The reception includes dramatic entrances by the bride and the groom with special effects, speeches, and other performances.
Throughout the reception, the bride shall receive the guests' utmost attention because she changes two to three times for the dramatic entrances. With all the dramatic entrances, the groom will join the bride. For example, the first entrance includes the bride, the groom, and the nakodo couple. Nakodo means a "matchmaker" or a "go-between", which is usually referred to the husband. The nakodo couple plays such an important role that their names appear on the announcement of the wedding. The purpose of the nakodo is to symbolize a stable marriage. As the two couples appear a special effect of a cloud of white smoke will appear to surround them. Simultaneously, the hall lights are dimmed and the stage lighting will turn to the color of rose-pink; this astonishes the guests. Pictures are to be taken during the dramatic entrances of the bride and the groom. After the photographs have been taken, they will be led back to their table.
At this point the Master of Ceremonies will congratulate the newlyweds and their family. He/she will then introduce the nakodo, who will start the opening speeches and more speeches will follow. Being that the reception is highly structured the speakers will have the idea of being formal and concise in mind. With all the speeches finished, the bride and the groom will perform the Western-style traditions, which include the following: (1) the cake cutting ceremony and (2) the newlyweds' first dance as husband and wife.
The next part of the reception is the toast, or kanpai, which simplifies the mood of the reception where the guests can start to relax, eat, and drink. What follows the toast are the short congratulatory speeches made by relatives, friends, and colleagues. During this time, the bride has gone to change into her first costume and continues throughout the reception. However, the groom will also have a chance to change into his costume, which is the Western tuxedo. By the end of the night, both the bride and the groom have changed from their traditional Japanese attire to their Western-style attire.
After their last change of costumes, the newlyweds will perform the candle service. Both will have a long, unlit candle, which will be lit from the table where their parents are seated. Next, the couple will walk around the room in a circle and light the candles placed on their guests' table. Once all the candles are lit, the newlyweds will return to their table where they will light what is called the Memorial Candle.
By the time the candle service is done the two hours restriction will soon expire. The remaining few minutes includes short speeches, songs, dances, etc. As the reception ends a flower presentation ceremony will take place, which is where the newlyweds will present their parents with a gift of flowers to display appreciation for their parents raising them to the people they are today. At this point, the reception has ended with quick flashes and farewells.
Malay wedding customs
- Main article: Malay wedding
A Malay wedding ceremony spreads over two days, beginning with the akad nikah ceremony on the first day. The groom signs the marriage contract and agrees to provide the bride with a mas kahwin (dowry). After that, their hands are dyed with henna during the berinai besar ceremony. The bride's hair is also trimmed or her eyebrows shaped by a beautician known as the mak andam. One the second day, the bride is with her family and friends with musicians and bunga manggar or palm blossom carriers at the bride's house. At the house they are greeted with sprinkling of yellow rice and scented water.
North American customs
United States customs
- See also: Etiquette in Canada and the United States#Weddings
- See also: Ceremonial clothing in Western cultures#Marriage
Most weddings in the United States follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary, but common components are listed below.
- Before the wedding
- The host sends invitations to the wedding guests, usually one to two months before the wedding. Invitations may most formally be addressed by hand to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion. Large numbers of invitations may be mechanically reproduced. As engraving was the highest quality printing technology available in the past, this has become associated with wedding invitation tradition. Receiving an invitation does not impose any obligation on the invitee other than promptly accepting or declining the invitation, and offering congratulations to the couple.
- While giving any gift to the newlywed couple is technically optional, nearly all invited guests who attend the wedding choose to do so. Wedding gifts are most commonly sent to the bride's or host's home before the wedding day. Gifts are typically not brought to ceremonies or receptions, and any that are will not be opened, but rather placed aside for later delivery to the newlyweds' home.
- A color scheme is selected by some to match everything from bridesmaids' dresses, flowers, invitations, and decorations, though there is no necessity in doing so.
- At the wedding
- A wedding ceremony may take place anywhere, but often a church, courthouse, or outdoor venue. The ceremony is usually brief, and may be dictated by the couple's religious practices. The most common non-religious form is derived from a simple Anglican ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, and can be performed in less than ten minutes, although it is often extended by inserting music or speeches. Because of its brevity, guests who arrive late may miss the ceremony entirely.
- The bride usually wears a white, off-white, silver, or other very light-colored dress, particularly at her first marriage. Brides may choose any color, although black is strongly discouraged by some as it is the color of mourning in the west.
- Uncooked rice is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony to symbolize fertility. Some individuals, churches or communities choose birdseed due to a false but widely believed myth that birds eating the rice will burst. Because of the mess that rice and birdseed make, modern couples often leave in clouds of bubbles.
- The wedding party may form a receiving line at this point, or later at a wedding reception, so that each guest may briefly greet the entire wedding party.
- At the wedding reception
- Drinks, snacks, or perhaps a full meal, especially at long receptions are served while the guests and wedding party mingle.
- Often the best man and/or maid of honor toast the newlyweds with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne is usually provided for this purpose.
- In a symbolic cutting of the wedding cake, the couple may jointly hold a cake knife and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake, which they feed to each other. In some sub-cultures, they may deliberately smear cake on each other's faces, which is considered vulgar elsewhere.
- If dancing is offered, the newlyweds first dance together briefly. Often a further protocol is followed, wherein each dances next with a parent, and then possibly with other members of the wedding party. Special songs are chosen by the couple, particularly for a mother/son dance and a father/daughter dance. In some subcultures, a dollar dance takes place in which guests are expected to dance with the one of the newlyweds, and give them a small amount of cash. This practice, as is any suggestion that the guests owe money to the couple, is considered rude in most social groups as it is contrary to basic western etiquette.
- In the mid-twentieth century it became common for a bride to toss her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women during the reception. The woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In a similar process, her groom tosses the bride's garter to the unmarried men, followed by the man who caught the garter placing it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet. While still common in many circles, these practices (particularly the latter) are falling into less favor in the 21st century.
The purpose of inviting guests is to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in their joy and celebration. Gifts for the wedding couple are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some couples and families feel, contrary to proper etiquette, that in return for the expense they put into entertaining and feeding their guests, the guests should pay them with similarly expensive gifts or cash.
The couple often registers for gifts at a store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of household items, usually including china, silverware and crystalware, linens or other fabrics, pots and pans, etc. Registries are intended to aid guests in selecting gifts the newlyweds truly want, and the service is sufficiently profitable that most retailers, from luxury shops to discount stores, offer the opportunity. Registry information should, according to etiquette, be provided only to guests upon direct request, and never included in the invitation. Some couples additionally or instead register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund. Some find bridal registries inappropriate as they contravene traditional notions behind gifts, such as that all gifts are optional and delightful surprises personally chosen by the giver, and that registries lead to a type of price-based competition, as the couple knows the cost of each gift. Traditionally, weddings were considered a personal event and inviting people to the wedding who are not known to at least one member of the couple well enough to be able to choose an appropriate gift was considered inappropriate, and registries should therefore be unnecessary. Whether considered appropriate or not, others believe that weddings are opportunities to extract funds or specific gifts from as many people as possible, and that even an invitation carries an expectation of monetary reward rather than merely congratulations.
Letters of thanks for any gift are traditionally sent promptly after the gift's receipt. Tradition allows wedding gifts to be sent up to a year after the wedding date. Thanks should be sent as soon as possible, preferably within two weeks.
- Main article: Jumping the broom
Jumping the broom developed out West African Asante custom. The broom in Ashanti and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often but not always jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony.
The custom took on additional significance in the context of slavery in the United States. Slaves had no right to legal marriage; slaveholders considered slaves property and feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals, however, were important events to the Africans, who came in many cases come from richly ceremonial African cultures.
Taking marriage vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. Jumping the broom has become a practice in many modern weddings between African Americans.
There are also traditions of broom jumping in Europe, in the Wicca and Celtic communities especially. They are probably unconnected with the African practice.
Pakistani wedding customs
- Main article: Pakistani wedding
A Pakistani wedding typically consist of four ceremonies on four separate days. It may consist of 3 days if the first function called "Mehndi" is done in a combined manner by both the bride and groom's family.
The first function is Mehndi in which the families get together and celebrate the upcoming wedding function. On this day, it is customary to wear either green, yellow, orange, or other vibrant colors. The bride-to-be gets her hands painted with henna, and songs and dances go on throughout the night. The next day is "baraat" which is hosted by the bride's family. This event is usually held in a reception hall, and the groom comes over with his family and friends; a large feast is given. The bride's friends and relatives are also present, and the Baraat event can be considered the 'main' wedding event as it is the largest one out of all the events. Then there is the holy ceremony of "Nikah" which is performed by a religious imam, after which bride and groom are declared as husband and wife.
Next day there is a function of "Walima" in which the groom's family is the host and the bride's family come over for a big feast. On her wedding day, the bride-to-be can wear any color she wants, but vibrant colors and lots of traditional gold jewelry are typically worn. It is customary for the bride to wear traditional clothes such as a lahnga, shalwar kameez, or sari. These weddings are also typical of the Muslim community in India.
- Main article: Persian marriage
Persian wedding tradition, despite its local and regional variations, like many other rituals in Persia goes back to the ancient Zoroastrian tradition. Though the concepts and theory of the marriage have changed drastically by Islamic traditions, the actual ceremonies have remained more or less the same as they were originally in the ancient Zoroastrian culture.
Russian wedding customs
- Main article: Russian wedding
A traditional Russian wedding lasts for at least two days and some weddings last as long as a week. Throughout the celebration there is dancing, singing, long toasts, and food and drinks. The best man and maid of honor are called witnesses, "svideteli" in Russian. The ceremony and the ring exchange takes place on the first day of the wedding.
Throughout the years, Russian weddings have adopted many western customs, including bridesmaids and flower girls. During the wedding feast any of the guests can start chanting "Gor'ko" ("bitter") which usually is immediately supported by the rest of the guests. In this case bride and groom should kiss each other and the kiss should last for as long as the chanting continues.
Religious aspects of weddings
In virtually all religions, marriage is a life-long union between two or more people and is established with ceremonies and rituals. The people are most commonly one man and one woman, though some religions have permitted polygamous marriages and some faiths and denominations recognize same-sex marriages.
In marriage, Christians see a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the Church. In Judaism, marriage is so important that remaining unmarried is deemed unnatural. Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Bahá'í Faith sees marriage as a foundation of the structure of society, and considers it both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife. Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. By contrast, Buddhism does not encourage or discourage marriage, although it does teach how one might live a happily married life and emphasizes that marital vows are not to be taken lightly (see separate article for details).
Different religions have different beliefs as regards the breakup of marriage (see divorce). For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes that marriage is a sacrament and a valid marriage between two baptized persons cannot be broken up by any other means than death. This means that civil divorcés cannot remarry in a Catholic church marriage as long as their spouse is alive.
In the area of nullity, religions and the state often apply different rules. A couple, for example, may begin the process to have their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church only after they are no longer married in the eyes of the civil authority. The Catholic Church will not, in fact, grant an annulment petition unless the marriage has also been dissolved or annulled under civil law. Though sometimes styled "Catholic divorce", an annulment means not a dissolution of a marriage, but the recognition that a marriage has not taken place at all. This applies to sacramental marriages; marriages between an unbaptized and a baptized person can be dissolved according to Canon law (see Pauline privilege).
Detailed viewpoints on various wedding customs
Customs associated with various religions
- Main article: Christian views of marriage
Many religions have extensive teachings regarding marriage. Most Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage; the wedding ceremony typically includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. A church wedding is a ceremony presided over by a Christian priest or pastor. Ceremonies are based on reference to God, and are frequently embodied into other church ceremonies such as Mass.
Customs may vary widely between denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church "Holy Matrimony" is considered to be one of the seven sacraments, in this case one that the spouses bestow upon each other in front of a priest and members of the community as witnesses. As all sacraments, it is seen as having been instituted by Jesus himself (see Gospel of Matthew 19:1-2, Catechism of the Catholic Church §1614-1615). In the Eastern Orthodox church, it is one of the Mysteries, and is seen as an ordination and a martyrdom.
Mar Thoma customs
- Main article: Mar Thoma weddings
Kerala is the homeland of Syrian Malabar Nasrani (Mar Thoma Christians or St. Thomas Christians). It is believed that they were converted by Thomas the Apostle, the disciple of Jesus, in the 1st century. Their wedding customs and traditions include several Jewish elements and Indian customs. The ceremony is divided into two parts. In part I, the officiating minister receives the wedding ring from the groom, blesses it and puts it on the ring finger on the right hand of the bride. This is a very old custom that is still followed. In Part II, the bride and groom join hands, and a Bible portion is read. Then they are crowned as the head of a new family. The first gift to his wife is a necklace with a golden pendant called Minnu. The groom ties it around the neck of the bride. She is also given a saree known as Manthrakodi.
After the ceremony at the church there is the reception that will be followed by a ceremony called kachakoduppu. In the presence of immediate relatives only, at the house of the groom, the groom gives a kacha (saree) to his mother-in-law. From that time they address one another as mother and son.
- Main article: Quaker wedding
A Quaker wedding ceremony in a Friends meeting is similar to any other meeting for worship, and therefore often very different from the experience expected by non-Friends.
- Main article: Hindu wedding
Hindu ceremonies are conducted totally or at least partially in Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu scriptures. The wedding celebrations may last for several days (see the previous sub-section on Indian customs) and they can be extremely diverse, depending upon the region, denomination and caste. On the night of wedding proper, the bride and the bridegroom garland each other (jaymaala) in front of the guests. Most guests witness only this short ceremony and then socialize, have dinner and leave. The religious part comes hours later, witnessed by close friends and relatives. A Brahmin (Hindu priest) arranges a sacred yajna (fire-sacrifice), and the sacred fire (Agni) is considered the prime witness (sākshī) of the marriage. He chants mantras from the Vedas and subsidiary texts while the couple are seated before the fire. The most important step is saptapadi or saat phere, wherein the bride and the groom, hand-in-hand, encircle the sacred fire seven times, each circle representing a matrimonial vow. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 of India considers this step to be necessary and sufficient for the Hindu wedding to be complete. Then the groom marks the bride's forehead with vermilion (sindoor) and puts a gold necklace (mangalsutra) around her neck. Several other rituals may precede or follow these afore-mentioned rites. Then the bride formally departs from her blood-relatives to join the groom's family.
- Main article: Jewish wedding
- Before the ceremony, the couple formalize a written ketubah (marriage contract), specifying their obligations to each other and contingencies in case of divorce. The ketubah is signed by two witnesses and later read under the chuppah.
- The couple is married under a wedding canopy (chuppah), signifying their new home together. The chuppah can be made from a piece of cloth or other material attached to four poles, or a prayer shawl (tallit) held over the couple by four family members or friends.
- The couple is accompanied to the chuppah by both sets of parents, and stands under the chuppah along with other family members if desired.
- Seven blessings are recited, blessing the bride and groom and their new home.
- The couple sip from a glass of wine.
- At some weddings the couple may declare that each is sanctified to the other, and/or repeat other vows, and exchange rings.
- In Orthodox and traditional Jewish weddings, the bride does not speak under the chuppah and only she receives a ring. The groom recites "Harei at mekudeshet li k'dat Moshe V'Yisrael"- "behold you are [thus] sanctified to me as the law of Moses and Israel" as he places the ring on the bride's right index finger. The bride's silence and acceptance of the ring signify her agreement to the marriage. This part of the ceremony is called kiddushin. The groom's giving an object of value to the bride is necessary for the wedding to be valid.
- In more egalitarian weddings, the bride responds verbally, often giving the groom a ring in return. A common response is "ani l'dodi, v'dodi li" (I am my beloved's, my beloved is mine)
- In Orthodox weddings, the groom then says:
- "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
- May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth.
- If I do not remember you,
- if I do not consider Jerusalem in my highest joy."
- The ceremony ends with the groom breaking a glass underfoot.
- The couple spend their first moments as man and wife in seclusion (apart from the wedding guests, and with no other person present). This cheder yichud - "the room of seclusion (or 'oneness')" halachically strengthens the marriage bond, since unmarried women are traditionally not alone with an unrelated male.
- The ceremony is followed by a seudat mitzvah, the wedding meal, as well as music and dancing.
- At the conclusion of the wedding meal, Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) is recited, as well as the seven wedding blessings.
In more observant communities, the couple will celebrate for seven more days, called the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) during which the seven wedding blessings are recited at every large gathering during this time.
- Main article: Celestial marriage
Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), the act of marriage is regarded as an eternal affair. As such, there are two kinds of marriages recognized by the Church, civil marriage and celestial marriage. Civil marriages are those legally contracted under local law and are dissolved upon the death of the participants, while celestial marriages, also known as sealings, bind the participants as husband and wife for all eternity if both are righteous.
Celestial marriages can only be performed by Priesthood authority within a Sealing Room in a dedicated temple. Only members of the LDS church who have a temple recommend may attend an LDS wedding. The wedding is often referred to as a sealing, in which husband and wife are sealed beyond death into the next life. Space is limited in sealing rooms so only family and close friends attend.
The sealing can be performed at the same approximate time as the civil marriage or for a couple civilly married for at least one year. In the latter case, if the couple already has children, they may also accompany the ceremony to be sealed to their parents. Children who are born to parents who have already been sealed need no such ceremony, as they have been "born in the covenant."
Many LDS couples will then hold wedding receptions or open houses after the wedding ceremony in another venue that is open to all family and friends. Some couples choose to recreate a more traditional wedding ceremony, or will simply perform certain traditional acts, such as the throwing of the bouquet, first dance, etc.
A double wedding is a single ceremony where two affianced couples rendezvous for two simultaneous or consecutive weddings. Typically, a fiancé with a sibling might plan a double wedding with that sibling. In the Philippines, however, the wedding of two siblings within the same year is considered bad luck and is called sukob.
A destination wedding is any wedding in which the engaged couple, alone or with guests, travels to attend the ceremony; most often in a vacation-like setting. This could be a beach ceremony in the tropic or in a coastal community, a lavish event in a metropolitan resort, or a simple ceremony at the home of a geographically distant friend or relative.
A weekend wedding is a wedding in which couples and their guests celebrate over the course of a weekend. Special activities, such as spa treatments and golf tournaments, may be scheduled into the wedding itinerary throughout the weekend. Lodging usually is at the same facility as the wedding and couples often host a Sunday brunch for the weekend's finale.
- Main article: White wedding
A white wedding is a term for a traditional formal or semi-formal Western wedding. This term refers to the color of the wedding dress, which became popular in the Victorian era after Queen Victoria wore a white gown when she married Prince Albert. Although it is often said that the color white symbolizes virginity, it was actually originally used as a display of wealth, as it alluded to the money available to spend on a dress which could only be worn once, as white would become easily soiled and so couldn't be reused.
A military wedding is a ceremony conducted in a military chapel and may involve a Saber Arch. In most military weddings the groom will wear (and occasionally the bride if both individuals are in the Armed Services), a military dress uniform in lieu of civilian formal wear, although military dress uniforms largely serve the same purpose. Some retired military personnel who marry after their service has ended may opt for a military wedding.
A civil wedding is a ceremony presided over by a local civil authority, such as an elected or appointed judge, Justice of the Peace or the mayor of a locality. Civil wedding ceremonies may use references to God or a deity (in UK law), but generally no references to a particular religion or denomination. They can be either elaborate or simple. Many civil wedding ceremonies take place in local town or city halls or courthouses in judges' chambers.
Eloping, the act of getting married without consent or approval of parents or others.
A same-sex or same-gender wedding is a ceremony in which two people of the same sex are married. This event may be legally documented as a marriage or another legally recognized partnership such as a civil union. Where such partnerships are not legally recognized, the wedding may be a religious or symbolic ceremony designed to provide an opportunity to make the same public declarations and celebration with friends and family that any other type of wedding may afford.
Offiants at same-sex weddings may be religiously ordained. Many religions and branches of religions, including Quakers, Unitarians, Ethical Culture, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Metropolitan Community Church, and the Reformed Catholic Church recognize and perform same-sex marriages, even if the government of their geographic area may not.
Many couples wish for a wedding with spiritual content but do not want the restrictions of a church setting or they want to promise to the goodness of themselves as lovers and human beings with- out making reference to deities. You may wish to register your marriage at a registry office and then hold a wedding ceremony, conducted by a trained minister, in the venue of your choosing your own home or garden. Alternative wedding ceremonies are experienced by the couples as just as valid as any church marriage ceremony and the promises or vows made are taken just as seriously by them. They often feel attracted to the traditions of wearing splendid clothes, processing, speaking of their love before their loved ones, exchanging gifts and relating friends and families by promises but have no wish of the church setting or the limitations of a registry office.
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