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Front Page » June 12, 2003 » Focus on Weddings » Wedding traditions down the years
Published 3,961 days ago

Wedding traditions down the years


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By RICHARD SHAW
Focus pages editor

Bunny and Dean Bradley, 1959

As with everything else wedding traditions have changed over the years. But for Americans some things generally hang on like having a white wedding dress, a wedding cake, and a ring to seal the deal.

However, in this ever increasing age of diversity in almost everything, some of the older ways of doing things are being resurrected and in addition, wedding customs from various cultures are showing up in today's ceremonies.

All around the world people celebrate the stages of life or the transition of such stages. Births, baptisms, coming out parties,graduations and weddings are some of the most common, regardless of the names they are called in each culture.

Cultural tradition, often steeped not only in secular terms but also in religious ones, dominate many weddings. Those customs have carried down through the years.

On the following pages are some of those customs and traditions from various cultures.

Greek wedding traditions

•Greek couples become engaged in the presence of their families. This is as binding as the wedding itself.

•Weddings in Greece take place on Sunday.

•Greek grooms send wine with their wedding invitations to his friends and relatives.

•The bride sends sweets with hers.

•Greek brides wear yellow or red veils, which symbolize fire and were thought to protect the bride from evil spirits in ancient times.

•A Greek bride carries a lump of sugar with her to ensure that her life is sweet.

•In Greek weddings dishes are smashed on the floor during the huge wedding celebration, for good luck. The party can last all night!

•A Greek bride may throw a pomegranate instead of the traditional bouquet. The seeds of the pomegranate symbolize fertility.

Catholic traditions

•Catholic brides and grooms take marriage preparatory courses at their church.

•A traditional wedding takes place during a full mass.

•The priest blesses the Catholic couple's wedding rings.

•Often the bride places her flowers in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary.

•The Catholic wedding allows for a large extended wedding party in the form of readers, alter boys, deacons, and ministers of the Eucharist .

Kaye and Sam Tallerico, 1946

Polish wedding traditions

•In a Polish wedding, bread, wine and salt are very important. Bread represents never being hungry. Salt is a reminder that times may be difficult, but they will cope with whatever may happen. Wine represents good health and good spirits.

•The unveiling of the bride represents the bride's transformation from girl to woman. The single women circle the bride and the maid of honor removes her veil. A married woman pins a cap to her head. When this happens, the bride is officially considered married. Often the bride tosses the veil, rather than her bouquet, to the unmarried female guests.

Russian wedding traditions

•Russian weddings last for two days!

•A loaf of bread, symbolizing health, long life and prosperity, is bitten into during the ceremony by both the bride and the groom. Whoever takes the biggest bite wears the pants in the family!

•Russian wedding parties ride around their city in decorated cars, leaving flowers at historical sites.

•If a Russian groom takes his eyes off his bride, she can be "kidnapped" and the groom must pay a ransom.

•Russians wear their wedding rings on their right hand. The bands are traditionally three interwoven bands of gold or tri-gold.

Irish wedding traditions

•The traditional Irish wedding ring features a Claddagh. The heart held by two hands, with a crown, means love, faith, and honor.

•The traditional Irish couple walks to the church and down the aisle together.

•Irish brides mix English lavender into their bouquets.

•In Ireland, the honeymoon lasts for an entire month! This began because many couples eloped and wanted to hide for a while.

•Irish lore states "Marry in May and rue the day. Marry in April if you can; joy for maiden and for man."

•Honey mead is served at Irish weddings to protect the bride from faeries who may come to kidnap her.

•Irish brides carry a horseshoe for good luck.

•The top tier of the Irish wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake.

Latter-day Saints wedding traditions

•Latter-day Saints get married in their own temple and only members of the church that are deemed fit by a bishop may attend the ceremony.

•Large, long greeting lines are a fixture at most LDS wedding receptions that are often held the evening of the actual ceremony. There they greet friends and relatives who attended the ceremony as well as those who could not.

•Latter-day Saints are married in their church for time and all eternity.

•Most often the reception and celebration are held in a ward house.

•The exchange of rings is not in the temple ceremony, but is done after the actual ceremony.

Indian wedding traditions

•Wedding bands are made of gold, because gold lasts forever. The ring is placed on the fourth finger, because it is believed the vein from this finger runs directly to the heart. The groom wears his on his right hand and the bride on her left, to symbolize a complete heart.

•The traditional Hindu wedding includes a Sangeet Party where guests eat, drink, and dance.

•In the Hathialo ceremony, the bride's dress is tied to a scarf worn by the groom. Then their hands are bound by a thread that has been blessed. This symbolizes their unity and their new life together

Scottish wedding traditions

•Before a Scottish wedding, a shower is held so that the bride can open the wedding gifts surrounded by everyone who has sent a gift. At this shower the bride is dressed up in a "veil" (made from anything you have - shower curtain, sheet, or anything you can think of!). She is given a plastic baby doll and a plastic toilet or container. The party walks through town singing songs. The bride can exchange kisses for money, which is placed into the toilet or container.

•The groom also has a special night out with his friends. He is often dressed up as a pregnant woman and paraded around town. His friends play a lot of practical jokes on him and the evening often ends up with the groom tied up in front of his home - with or without his clothes!

•The Scots begin the wedding the night before the ceremony...drinking, singing, and dancing accompanies a festive party.

Protestant wedding traditions

•Protestant weddings are very simple ceremonies.

•The bride and groom light a unity candle to unite the two families together.

•Typical verses are read from the bible.

•The father accompanies the bride down the aisle.

•Ceremonies are short and include a couple of songs.

•There is often no communion.

•Receptions are usually held in the church hall following the ceremony.

•Often protestants follow community traditions such as having a wedding in a park or having a dance afterward.

Jewish wedding traditions

•The bride and groom sign a "Ketubah", a Jewish marriage contract. The document will be framed and displayed in the couple's home.

•The groom studies the bride's face underneath her veil. This is because in the Biblical story of Jacob, he accidentally married the wrong woman after she covered her face with a veil.

•Jewish wedding bands are simple, with no decorations. This symbolizes that there is no beginning, and no end, in the union. Jewish parents escort their children down the aisle.

•The men should all wear yamulkes. There are seven wedding blessings in a Jewish ceremony.

Chinese wedding traditions

•For a time before the wedding day, the bride spends time in seclusion with her friends. She does not see her family or her fiancee during this time.

•A new bed was always installed in the couple's home on the day before the wedding. Children were invited into the room to provide an omen of fertility. The bed was scattered with fruit, which the children could take.

•The "Hair Dressing Ritual" was a very important part of the wedding day preparation. The bride would take a pumelo (grapefruit) scented bath and wear new underclothes, before her hair was dressed in the style of a married woman by a woman who was considered to be lucky. The bride traditionally wears red shoes and a red veil over her face.

•In some regions, the groom eats dinner with the bride's family. He is often served hardboiled eggs. He breaks the yolk, to symbolize the breaking of the bride's ties with her family.


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