Besides being probably the scariest thing one could fathom (this comes from a married person who remembers the whirlwind of emotions very vividly), a wedding is also one of the most magnificently beautiful ceremonies. A bride who makes her chosen one all teary-eyed about her appearance, the heartwarming promises said to each other, and the celebration to mark it all is truly a day like no other in a person’s life. Even if you choose to celebrate it with just a couple of your closest friends, it is still a day you’ll definitely remember forever. However, if you’re uncertain how your big day should look to truly make it exceptional, we might have some ideas here – take a look at our list of wedding traditions from all over the world!
A traditional wedding, in the sense that we understand it – all white and with traditional wedding vows – is just a tiny little part of the wedding day traditions. And, if you’re looking for alternatives to a traditional wedding but would still like to keep on the theme somewhat, these wedding ceremony ideas might just be the answer. From brides wearing special costumes or accessories to ward off evil spirits to the kidnapping of the bride and taking her on the horse ride of a lifetime (although we wouldn’t suggest you do that if you’re living, say, in NYC) and other special things to be done on the day, this list is one huge source of inspiration of making your wedding your own.
On the other hand, if you’re not one for borrowing things to create your own, treat this list like a showcase of all the unusual traditions tied to weddings. Good thing that we’ve also added explanations to each of the wedding day traditions, so you get an understanding of why people chose to do it at some point in time.
So, ready to check these wonderful wedding traditions out? If so, scroll on down below! Once you are there, be sure to vote for traditions that you found to be the most interesting, and share this article with your friends who might be planning their own ceremony.
England: Something old something new something borrowed something blue
This wedding proverb is based on an Old English rhyme that lists the four good-luck items that a bride should have on her wedding day. “Something old” represents the couples’ previous lives, while “something new” represents their bright future. “Something borrowed” usually refers to incorporating an item belonging to a happily married couple in the hopes that some of their good fortune will rub off on you. And the color blue is associated with fidelity and love, hence the “something blue.”
Mexico: Wedding Lasso
During the ceremony, a “lazo,” or lasso, made of rosary beads and flowers is draped around the shoulders of a Mexican couple in the shape of figure eight. Not only does “el lazo” represent the couple’s union, but its shape also resembles the infinity symbol, indicating how long they hope their marriage will last.
China: Bow and arrow
We can only hope that the groom remembers to remove the arrowheads. In China, a prospective husband will shoot his bride several times with a bow and (headless) arrow, then collect and break the arrows during the ceremony to ensure their love will last forever.
Marriage in England was once restricted to couples aged 21 and up. But that didn’t stop two young lovers from finding a way around the rules—in this case, a nearby Scottish town with no such restrictions. Gretna Green is still a popular elopement destination for couples today.
Japan: A White Tsunokakushi
A Japanese bride attending a traditional Shinto ceremony wears white from head to toe, including makeup, kimono, and a hood known as a “tsunokakushi.” The white represents her maiden status, and the hood conceals her “horns of jealousy” toward her mother-in-law.
German couples traditionally clean up piles of porcelain dishes that their guests have thrown on the ground to ward off any evil spirits in their first bit of housekeeping together. The takeaway from this “Polterabend” is that when two people work together, they can face any challenge that comes their way.
Philippines: Releasing white doves
Happy brides and grooms in the Philippines release a pair of white doves—one male, one female—into the air after they tie the knot. The birds are said to represent the newlywed couple’s harmonious life together.
India: Marrying a tree first
If you are a Hindu woman born during the astrological period when Mars and Saturn are both in the seventh house, you are cursed; if you marry, expect to be widowed young. Fortunately, there is a solution: first marry a tree, then have it cut down to break the evil spell.
Fiji: Presenting a whale’s tooth
When a man asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage in Fiji, he must present him with a whale’s tooth.
China: Carrying the bride
In China, a bride’s family will hire a “good luck” woman to look after her as she travels in an elaborately decorated sedan chair from her home to her groom’s. Furthermore, attendants are busy parasailing the bride and tossing rice (a symbol of health and prosperity) at the chair.
Czech republic: Placing a baby on the couple’s bed
Before a Czech bride and groom tie the knot, an infant is placed on the couple’s bed to bless and enhance their fertility. Guests shower them with rice, peas, or lentils after they marry in order to promote fertility.
Venezuela: Couple leaves before the end of the reception
Don’t wait until the reception is over to approach a Venezuelan couple; they may have already left. It’s good luck for the newlyweds to sneak away before the party ends without being discovered; it’s also good luck for whoever finds out they’re gone.
China: Three dresses
Brides in China typically walk down the aisle in a slim-fitting, embroidered gown known as a traditional qipao or cheongsam. They usually change into a more elaborate gown with Western flair for the reception. The bridal fashion show, however, does not end there. Chinese brides frequently change into cocktail dresses at the end of the night. Triple the number of dresses, triple the fun!
Ireland: Keep one foot on the ground during first dance
When the bride and groom dance in Ireland, the bride must keep at least one foot on the floor at all times. According to Irish folklore, if she does not, evil fairies will come and sweep her away.
It’s common for Indian women to gather their closest girlfriends and sit for hours at a time to have their skin intricately painted, tattoo-style, with mehndi, a type of henna paint. The intricate and beautiful skin art lasts approximately two weeks.
Sweden: Stealing kisses
When the bride leaves the table in Sweden, all the ladies at the reception are free to steal a kiss from the groom. When the groom leaves the room, all surrounding gentlemen are free to kiss the bride.
When a Welshman fell in love and was ready to commit, he carved wooden spoons called “lovespoons” and gave them to his beloved. Decorations included keys, representing the key to his heart, and beads, representing the number of children he desired.
Spain: Cutting the tie
At some Spanish weddings, the groom’s friends will cut up his tie with scissors and sell the pieces to guests to raise money for the newlyweds. The same procedure is sometimes used on the bride’s garter. Whatever it takes to make a few extra dollars!
The phrase “Tying the knot”
Have you ever wondered where this commonly used phrase originated? Many cultures, including Celtic and Hindu weddings, join and tie the bride’s and groom’s hands together to symbolise the couple’s commitment to each other and their new bond as a married couple. Handfasting is a Celtic ceremony ritual, whereas the hastmelap is a Hindu wedding ceremony ritual.
Tossing rice at the newlyweds at the conclusion of the ceremony
Marriage used to be associated with growth, from starting a family to increasing one’s assets. Tossing rice at newlyweds at the end of the wedding ceremony conveyed best wishes and good luck—for babies, bountiful harvests, and everything in between. Tossing things on the couple at weddings nowadays takes many forms, from dried lavender buds and blowing bubbles to biodegradable confetti.
Congo: No smiling on the wedding day
While most newlyweds are giddy with excitement and anticipation, Congolese couples must keep their joy in check. The couple is not permitted to smile during their entire wedding day, from ceremony to reception. If they do, it indicates that they are not serious about marriage.
Guatemala: Breaking a bell
As wedding reception hosts, Guatemalan grooms’ parents are free to do whatever they want, including smashing things. When the newlyweds arrive, it is customary for the groom’s mother to break a white ceramic bell filled with grains such as rice and flour to bring the couple prosperity.
Change things up from the traditional white wedding cake. A towering special-occasion cake known as a “kransekake” is traditionally served at Norwegian weddings. It’s made with iced almond cake rings shaped into a cone, and a wine bottle is frequently placed in its hollow center.
Cuba: The money dance
Every man who dances with the bride must pin money to her dress to help the couple pay for their wedding and honeymoon, according to Cuban tradition. You can count on it!
Turkey: Hanging flags
On the day of his wedding, friends of the groom plant the Turkish flag, which features a red crescent and star, in the ground at his home. Objects such as fruit, vegetables, and even mirrors are placed on top, indicating that the wedding ceremony has begun.
French Polynesia: Newlyweds step on relatives
In the French Polynesian Marquesas Islands, after the wedding, the bride’s relatives lie side by side, face down on the ground, while the bride and groom walk over them like a human rug.
Romania: Hiding the bride
Before the wedding, guests in Romania collaborate to “abduct” the bride, whisking her away to an undisclosed location and demanding a “ransom” from the groom. Typical inquiries? A few bottles of alcohol, or if you really want to make the groom sweat, sing a love song in front of the entire party.
Scotland: Covering the bride and groom
The day before their wedding, Scottish brides and grooms are captured by their friends and covered in everything from molasses and ash to flour and feathers before being paraded around town. The goal may appear to be ultimate humiliation, but the ritual is rooted in the practice of warding off evil spirits.
Italy: La Serenata
An Italian groom may traditionally throw a surprise party outside his bride-to-window be’s the night before the wedding. “La serenata” begins with the groom serenading his fiancée, accompanied by musicians. Then it becomes a full-fledged party, complete with a lavish buffet and all of the couple’s friends and family.
Carrying a bridal bouquet
Brides nowadays carry peonies and roses down the aisle, but in ancient Greece and Rome, it was all about herbs. It was fashionable at the time to keep aromatic bouquets of garlic, dill, and other herbs and spices to ward off evil spirits. Thankfully, we’ve progressed from pungent herb bouquets to lush floral bouquets, often featuring the bride’s favorite flower. Carrying a bouquet of one’s favorite flower variety is a tradition that began in 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert and carried a bouquet of snowdrops, his favorite flower. If you’re looking for floral inspiration, check out our detailed wedding flower guide written by a professional florist.
Norway: Brides wear crowns to deflect evil spirits
According to one Norwegian tradition, the bride will wear an ornate silver and gold crown with small charms dangling all around it. The tinkling sound she makes when she moves is supposed to deflect evil spirits.
Armenia: Balance bread
Do you want to keep evil spirits at bay in your marriage? On your shoulders, place lavash flatbread. That’s what newlywed Armenian couples usually do. When the bride and groom arrive at their wedding reception—typically at the groom’s house—they break a plate for good luck before being given lavash and honey by the groom’s mother. They balance bread on their shoulders to ward off evil and eat spoonfuls of honey to represent happiness before the party begins.
Greece: Shaving the groom
Taking the term “groomsman” literally, a Greek groom’s best man, or “koumparos,” becomes his barber on his wedding day when he pulls out a razor and shaves his pal’s face. However, there is a sweet side to the groom’s day. His new mother-in-law will feed him honey and almonds after he has been freshly shaved.
Lebanon: Music and dancing before the ceremony
In Lebanon, the wedding celebration, known as the Zaffe, begins with music, belly dancing, and shouting at both the groom’s and bride’s homes, courtesy of the couple’s friends, family, and, on occasion, professional dancers and musicians. Everyone eventually arrives at the bride’s house, where the couple is showered with blessings and flower petals as they leave for the ceremony.
India: Joota Chupai
On the wedding day, an Indian bride’s mischievous sisters and female cousins steal the groom’s shoes and demand a ransom for their safe return in a ritual known as “Joota Chupai.” That’s one way to take things to the next level!
China: Wedding door games
In this lighthearted tradition, Chinese bridesmaids put the groom (and sometimes his groomsmen) through a series of tests and challenges called “wedding door games” to prove that he is worthy of the bride on the morning of the wedding. Then he must repay the girls with money in envelopes. That’s why we have friends!
Niger: Camel Dance
You’ve probably heard of the chicken dance, but in the West African country of Niger, the camel dance is performed by a real camel at a wedding reception in the desert. While surrounded by wedding guests, the humpback animal gets his groove on to a rhythmic drumbeat.
Wales: Myrtle in the bridal bouquet
On their wedding day, Welsh brides consider not only themselves but also their bridal party. Myrtle, a herb that symbolizes love, is included in the bridal bouquet, and the bride gives a cutting to each of her bridesmaids. (Kate Middleton’s bouquet even included myrtle!) According to legend, if a bridesmaid plants the myrtle cutting and it blooms, she will be the next bride.
China: Crying before wedding
Brides of the Tujia people in China take joyous tears to a whole new level. The bride begins crying for one hour every day one month in advance. Her mother enters the picture ten days into the waterworks, and her grandmother follows ten days later. By the end of the month, every female in the family has joined the bride in her tears. The women weep in different tones, reminiscent of a song, in what is thought to be an expression of joy.
Germany: Sawing a log
After getting married in Germany, couples are given a large log and a saw. It is believed that by sawing the log in half as a team, they are demonstrating their ability to work together to overcome difficult obstacles.
Peru: Cake pull
In Peruvian weddings, the cake is typically assembled with ribbons attached to charms, one of which is a fake wedding ring. During the reception, all the single women in attendance participate in the “cake pull.” Each participant grabs a ribbon, and the single lady who pulls out the fake wedding ring, per tradition, will be the next to get married.
South Korea: Falaka ceremony
In South Korea, the groom’s friends and family beat the bottoms of his feet with a stick or dried fish as part of the “Falaka” ceremony. He’s asked trivia questions in between beatings, which is said to help strengthen his memory and his feet.
Canada: Money Dance
The couple’s older, unmarried siblings traditionally perform a dance at French-Canadian ceremonies, all wearing wacky, brightly colored socks. Guests throw money at them as they dance, which is collected and presented to the newlyweds.
Bridesmaids in matching bridesmaid dresses
Identical bridesmaid dresses may be out of style these days, but matching outfits meant good luck in Roman times and were a common wedding tradition. People used to believe that evil spirits would attend weddings in order to curse the bride and groom. Bridesmaids acted as decoys and dressed identically to the bride to confuse the spirits. The idea was that the spirits would be confused as to which was the bride, leading them to leave her alone and allow the couple to marry.
Wearing a wedding veil
The tradition of wearing a wedding veil dates back to ancient Rome, when a bride would walk down the aisle with a veil over her face to protect herself from any evil spirits who might try to ruin her wedding day. Spirits were apparently a major concern back then! Wedding veils now come in a variety of styles and lengths, with the four most common types being:
– Blusher: A veil that is shorter and grazes the bustline. It can be worn over the face during the ceremony and then retracted for the rest of the day.
– Mantilla: A regal, Old World-style veil made of tulle and lace in a circle. It’s typically draped over the head, framing the face.
– Fingertip: This medium-length veil grazes your fingertips and can be worn with almost any style of wedding gown.
– Cathedral: With lengths ranging from 9 to 25 feet, this is the veil to wear if you want to make a statement.
Wearing your ring on the “Ring finger.”
This custom dates back to the Romans, who believed that the fourth finger on the left hand was linked directly to the heart by a vein known as “the vein of love.” Because of this hand-heart connection, this finger has long been considered the best place to wear one’s wedding ring.
“Giving” the bride away
This wedding ceremony tradition dates back to the days of arranged marriages, when the bride’s “giving away” represented a transfer of ownership. Young women were used as collateral and given away in exchange for a “bride price” or dowry back then. Thankfully, this ancient tradition has evolved into a loving, affirming moment as a father leads his daughter down the aisle to meet the person she is about to marry.
Having a wedding cake
The wedding cake tradition originated in ancient Rome, when guests broke a loaf of bread over the bride’s head to symbolise fertility. Guests would scoop up the leftover crumbs for good luck while the newlyweds shared a few bites. In medieval England, the bride and groom had to try to kiss over a pile of stacked spiced buns, scones, and cookies—a precursor to today’s tiered wedding cakes—supposedly ensuring a prosperous future if they could smooch without tipping the entire thing over.
Candy wedding favors
Candy wedding favors, like many Western wedding traditions, have their origins in the European aristocracy. Couples gave guests a bomboniere, a small trinket box made of crystal, porcelain, and precious stones that was filled with candy or sugar cubes, as a show of wealth in the 16th century. You must remember that sugar was a costly delicacy at the time. Bombonieres were replaced by sugar-coated almonds as sugar became more affordable. The now-traditional wedding favor of five Jordan almonds represents the newlyweds’ five wishes for health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and longevity.
Saving the top tier of the wedding cake
The top tier of the wedding cake was traditionally saved and frozen to be enjoyed by the wedding couple again at their future child’s christening. Many people used to assume that the couple would have a baby within a year, so by preserving the wedding cake, they wouldn’t have to buy another dessert to celebrate the pregnancy or birth. On their one-year anniversary, some couples simply return to the bakery that made their wedding cake and order a cake with the same flavors.