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I do! The celebration of marriage around the world

✦ “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

I do! The celebration of marriage around the world, Brilliant-Online
I do!

This famous and oft-used quote sums up the institution of marriage perfectly. For many, it is the biggest and most important day of their lives, and rightfully so.

It is universally acknowledged that the origins of marriage outdated recorded history although it appears the first official ceremony occurred in 2350 B.C. in the Far East.

Naturally, it is now a worldwide practice although the manner in which marriage is conducted and celebrated around the globe differs dramatically. Here we take a look at some of the unusual, humorous and sometimes quite frankly bizarre traditions and customs attached to the institution of marriage.

Lay still!

Whereas it is a common practice in many countries for the man to seek approval from the father of his intended bride-to-be, in Fiji this is symbolised by presenting his future father-in-law with the tooth of a whale, typically a sperm whale. Although an age-old tradition more common in rural areas, it is something that is still widely practiced throughout the various islands.

A truly strange ritual occurs at weddings on the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. Once the wedding ceremony has concluded, relatives from the bride’s side of the family will lay face down on the ground, side-by-side, as the newly married couple walk over them like a human bridge or carpet!

In keeping with the common perception of efficiency and hard work, newly wed couples in Germany often undertake one of two traditions. The first is a nod to housekeeping where the couple will sweep up piles of porcelain dishes that guests have smashed at the wedding venue. The practice is known as ‘Polterabend’ and is done to both ward off any evil spirits and bad luck while also demonstrating the first example of the newly wed couple working together in unison.

A similar tradition sees the couple presented with a large log and saw which they have to cut through, again emphasising their unity and working together to tackle challenges that may lay ahead.

Traditional Russian wedding

TOMSK, RUSSIA - JUNE 26, 2016: Bride Diana Khamitova (R) and groom Ilya Klinkin during a wedding ceremony held according to an old Russian tradition, at the Resurrection Cathedral. The ceremony is organized as part of the work of the laboratory for social and abthropological research of the Tomsk State University. Danila Shostak/TASS

(Photo by Danila Shostak\TASS via Getty Images)

In Russia, the groom must visit the family home of his bride-to-be to prove his worth by either humiliating himself by acting strange, singing or dancing or by showering the family with gifts, often regarded as paying a ransom! It is only when the family have had enough and relent that he is considered blessed to proceed and wed. On a slightly more romantic note, Russian couples will share a sweetbread cake called “karavay” at the ceremony. The cake is decorated with wheat and interlocking rings to symbolise prosperity and faithfulness and whichever of the two takes the biggest bite is then considered the head of the family.

Clean cut!


A man dances to a traditional greek music amid broken plates, during a wedding celebrations in Athens early on September 8, 2019. (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

(Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s all about keeping up appearances in Greece where groomsmen take their role literally by grooming the main man. The “koumparos”, or best man, acts as barber by unveiling a razor and shaving the face of the groom. Once shaved, the groom is then fed honey and almonds by his mother-in-law to be!

India - Neemrana - A newly wed Hindu couple fulfill the final moments of their three day wedding

The climax of a Hindu wedding. Shweta Singhal, sits on her father's lap whilst a priest together with the bride's mother and closest family members look on as the groom Rohit, places around his newly wed wife a necklace with a gold locket, which is sign of a married women. The guests sprinkle the newly weds in a shower of pink rose petals, Neemrana Fort, Palace, Rajasthan, India.

(Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

India is known for its vibrancy of sound and colour and a common tradition for brides is to gather prior to the big day with their close friends to be painted with mehndi, a type of paint made from henna. The elaborate and beautifully crafted designs will remain on their skin for the wedding itself and for several weeks afterwards.


A Japanese bride and her groom sail through a canal for their wedding procession at the irises garden after their wedding ceremony at Katori city in Chiba prefecture, about 100 km northeast of Tokyo, on June 23, 2013. The wedding ceremony was carried with a traditional ritual as part of irises festival at the aquatic botanical garden with some 1,500,000 irises. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)

The focus on tradition and beauty is similar in Japan where brides celebrating a traditional Shinto ceremony will wear white from head to toe, including makeup, kimono, and a hood called a “tsunokakushi''. White denotes her maiden status, and the hood hides the so-called “horns of jealousy” she feels towards her mother-in-law. At the ceremony itself, the newly weds and their respective parents will share sips of sake from the same three cups which symbolises the two families coming together and being united.

PHL, Philippines, Sulu sea:

Badjao wedding on the island of Bongao. Badjao couple and their witnesses sitting in front of a sait case with the dowry. (Photo by H. Christoph/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

White also features prominently for newly wed couples in the Philippines as they will release a pair of white doves (one male, one female) into the air once the official ceremony has concluded. This practice is said to represent a happy, healthy and harmonious life together for the newly married couple.

A tradition often witnessed at weddings in Spain sees friends of the groom taking a pair of scissors to his wedding tie or to his bride’s garter, cutting them into small pieces then selling the pieces to guests in an effort to raise money for the newly weds.

Fertility is a key focus at weddings in the Czech Republic as a child is placed on the bed of the couple about to tie the knot to bless them and enhance chances of them making babies themselves! Likewise, once the ceremony has taken place, guests will shower the happy couple with lentils, peas and rice in an attempt to also increase fertility.

Things get patriotic in Turkey where groomsmen plant a national Turkish flag outside the home of the groom on his special day to signify the official ceremony has begun. Often friends and neighbours will leave gifts along side the flag such as fruit, vegetables, money and, bizarrely, mirrors!

Very superstitious

In India where a ritual called ‘Joota Chupai’ takes place on the wedding day itself where female relatives of the bride will steal the groom’s shoes and demand ransom money for their safe return to thus allow the wedding ceremony to proceed.

Wedding celebrations, Maramures county

ROMANIA - OCTOBER 10: Men and women in traditional costumes, wedding celebrations, Maramures county, Romania. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

It’s all cheeky fun and games in Romania too as mischievous guests will “kidnap” the bride prior to the wedding then demand gifts from the groom in order to sanction her “release”. Typically a nice bottle or wine or a similar gift will suffice but guests really wanting to embarrass the groom will demand he sings a love ballad in front of the entire wedding party before his beloved is let go.

A similar tradition occurs in Scotland where both the bride and groom are “captured” by friends and wedding guests before being covered in flour, feathers and molasses to then be paraded around town. Whereas this appears to be a practical joke designed to humiliate, the tradition is believed to be conducted in an effort to ward off evil spirits and ensure a happy and prosperous life together for the couple.

Over in Ireland, superstition is also the name of the game. During the first dance between the newly wed couple the bride must ensure she keeps one foot on the ground at all times. If she doesn’t then Irish folklore says evil fairies will come and sweep her away.

The camel dance

Tuareg Wedding Celebration in Niger

Women stand in a circle singing and playing on drums, (C), while men have their camels run to the beat in circles around the women, as part of a Tuareg wedding celebration in the village of Kanak, Niger. The wedding which takes place over several days includes song, dance, games, food and camel races. It starts in the village of the bride and continues later in the village of the groom as he brings his bride to her new home. | Location: Kanak, Niger.

(Photo by Ann Johansson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Music and dancing are common traditions at weddings in all cultures although in Niger they take things a step further by having a real camel perform a dance at the reception, grooving away and shaking his hump to a drum-based rhythm along with the guests! In Cuba, anyone other than the groom wishing to dance with his new bride must pay for the privilege, pinning money to her dress to help the couple pay for the occasion and honeymoon.

One of the more unusual traditions takes place in South Korea where the “Falaka” ceremony sees friends and family of the groom hold him down as they beat the bottoms of his feet with a stick or dried fish as he is asked random trivia questions. The somewhat bizarre ritual is believed to improve both the groom’s memory and the strength of his feet!

A rather gruesome ritual occurs in Mongolia even before the big day itself has been set. Couples wishing to marry and determine the right date must first kill a baby chicken and find a healthy liver. The couple both hold the knife while cutting the chicken apart and will continue doing so with other chickens until they find the right one with that healthy liver.

Although tears are often shed at weddings all around the world, more often than not they are tears of joy and positive emotion. However, for the Tujia people in China, crying takes on an altogether different capacity and meaning. One month prior to the big day, the bride will dedicate one hour per day to crying. After 10 days her mother will join in and also shed tears and, 10 days after that, it is the turn of the grandmother to join in. By the time the wedding comes around, all female members of the family will be joining the weep-fest, a tradition believed to express joy as the differing tones of the wailing women is said to be reminiscent of a song.

Tears may be admissible in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on wedding day but smiling is absolutely not! Couples must keep their happy emotions in check during the entire ceremony as smiling is said to denote that they are not serious about the venture they are about to undertake.

Kenya - Loita Hills - Maasai wedding

The Stars Foundation visiting S.A.F.E in the Loita Hills in Kenya. The Maasais are well known though out Kenya and the world for their colorful clothing and their way of keeping their old traditions alive. Young men called Morans are competing in jumping as high and straight as possible, a copetitive dance called adumu, at Wilson's wedding. The Morans are you men almost ready for the coming of age ceremony held every 10-15 years. | Location: Loita Hills, Kenya.

(Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Last but not least we remain in Africa for what many may consider one of the more, ahem, gross traditions. For the Maasai people in Kenya the act of spitting is regarded as showing one another respect and, as such, do not be surprised if the father of the bride is seen spitting on his daughter at her wedding ceremony for good luck!


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