From headless statues and kidnapped brides to unique gift experiences, the world of wedding traditions can get a little weird.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the more colorful customs and traditions from around the world.
India – And the groom went barefoot.
As part of a Hindu wedding ceremony, it is customary for the groom to remove his shoes on entering the wedding pavilion (the mandap). His shoes are then stolen by the bride’s sisters or cousins and can only be returned on payment of a ransom. Tradition dictates that the groom must leave the pavilion wearing the same shoes as when he arrived.
Kenya – Seriously? You just spit on the bride
In most cultures, spitting is regarded as a disgusting habit. Among Kenya’s Massai people, it is regarded as good luck for the father of the bride to spit on his daughter’s head and breasts before the ceremony. The spitting is regarded as a blessing for his daughter’s happy marriage.
Romania – There goes the bride
Kidnapping the bride before the wedding is a common prank for Romanians. The bride is kidnapped by family, friends, or hired ‘kidnappers’. The groom must then attempt to rescue his wife-to-be by paying a ransom, buying drinks for the kidnappers, or by being overly romantic. This tradition is not restricted to Romania with versions of the same prank being carried out right across eastern and northern Europe.
Germany – Making a clean sweep
Polterabend is a German custom where on the night before the wedding, guests smash piles of crockery. This is thought to bring good fortune to the bride and groom in their married life. The first task that the new couple must perform together is to clean up the broken shards. This symbolizes that the couple can now face any adversity that comes their way.
Ireland – A headless child in the garden
Almost every household in the mostly Catholic Republic of Ireland possesses a statue of the Child of Prague. The statue is of an elaborately dressed figure of the baby Jesus and plays a part in almost every Irish wedding. Tradition dictates that such a statue must be placed in the garden under a bush the night before the wedding. This is said to ensure fine weather on the wedding day. Some people believe that the statue should be headless – for some bizarre reason.
Greece – A very close shave for the groom
In Greece, the koumbaro, or best man, is the one who must shave the groom on the morning of the wedding. This is to signify the trust that exists between the groom and his best man. Another Greek wedding tradition is that a baby is rolled on the wedding bed to ensure fertility.
Russia – Bitter-sweet traditions
At Russian wedding receptions, once the toasts have been made, there is a shout of ‘Gorko’ from the guests. Gorko means bitter and acts as a signal for the newlyweds to kiss. Hopefully, the sweetness of their kiss will kill the bitterness of their drinks. In addition, guests count how many seconds the couple can hold their smoochy embrace. The longer the kiss, the greater their love, and the longer their marriage will last.
China – The long wedding march
In China, on his way to collect the bride, the groom leads a noisy, fun-filled procession to his future wife’s home. The motley crew is accompanied by the sound of firecrackers, gongs, and drums, and is lead by a child – signifying the hope the marriage will be blessed with children. Oh, and the procession is usually followed at its rear by the figure of a lion.
Spain – Coining it in
Traditionally, Spanish grooms gift their brides 13 gold coins – arras – on their wedding day. The coins are usually blessed by a priest and are thought to signify the couple’s commitment to sharing all they have.
Scotland – Beware the blackenings
Not the nicest of traditions, blackenings are usually performed the night before the wedding. The groom is captured by his ‘so-called’ friends, stripped to the waist and covered (or blackened) with a mix of treacle, soot, flour, and feathers. If that’s not enough, he is then paraded through town to cause ultimate embarrassment. But be careful girls, this can also happen to the bride. Are you sure you still want to get married in bonny Scotland?
Italy – Let’s hope you can sing
La Serenata is an Italian tradition where the groom serenades the bride with song beneath her window. Usually, family and friends know in advance but are sworn to secrecy. Accompanied by musicians the groom arrives at the bride’s house and begins his performance. This act is considered to be the start of the entire wedding celebration.
Venezuela – The sneaky escape
Where have the bride and groom gone? You could well be asking that at a wedding in Venezuela. Apparently, it’s good luck for the bride and groom to sneak away from the celebrations without being seen. Funnily enough, it’s also good luck to be the first to notice their disappearance.
Finland – Pillow talk and parasols
An old Finnish wedding tradition was for the bride-to-be to walk around her neighborhood going from door to door, carrying a pillowcase. The purpose of the pillowcase was for collecting her wedding presents. In addition, the bride was accompanied by an older, married man whose job was to hold an umbrella or parasol above her head. This was probably intended as a sign of protection and shelter for the new bride.
Australia – A rock-solid gift experience
A really nice tradition among Australian wedding couples is to give the guests smooth polished stones to hold during the ceremony. Once the ceremony is completed, the stones are placed in a special bowl, called a unity bowl, to serve as a reminder of the support offered by their family and friends on their big day.
Chile – A different kind of wedding rings
At Chilean wedding receptions, small brass bells are placed on the guests’ tables. Every time someone rings one of the bells the bride and groom are expected to kiss. With up to 500 guests at some Chilean weddings, that can be an awful lot of kissing.
Mexico – Getting all tied up
El Lazo, meaning the lasso, is a cornerstone of Mexican church wedding rituals. The lasso is usually made from string, flowers, and rosary beads and is placed around the shoulders of the couple directly after the wedding vows. The lasso is wrapped in a figure of eight as the couple is blessed by a priest. El Lazo signifies the bond that has just been created between the newlywed couple.
Serbia – The apple of your eye
In many parts of rural Serbia, there is a rather strange tradition involving apples and guns. An apple is hung from a tree in the bride’s garden or yard, it must then be shot by the groom. The groom is not allowed to enter the bride’s house until the apple has been shot from the tree.
In certain arid regions of Indonesia, one of the duties of the bride and groom is to plant the seedlings of at least five teak trees. Not only is this a wonderful symbol for the couple to grow old together and watch the trees mature like their marriage, but it’s good for the environment too.
South Africa – Putting a spark in the wedding
A wonderful South African tradition involves the parents of the bride and groom bringing the gift of fire from their own fireplaces to the newlywed’s home. The bride and groom can then use the gift of fire from their homes to create heat and warmth in their new home.
Sweden – Walking on money
In Sweden to ensure that the bride will never be without money, tradition dictates that she arrives at the church with money tucked into her shoes. Usually, and most probably uncomfortably, the bride arrives with a silver coin in her left shoe and a gold coin in the right one.
Nigeria – A very open invitation
Weddings in Nigeria generally come with a twist. There is often no guest list, meaning that everyone is invited. It’s not unusual for hundreds, if not thousands, to turn up and help the happy couple celebrate in style. On the plus side, the couple is lavished with gifts of money by the guests, in what could be a very profitable event.
The future of wedding traditions
Wedding traditions vary from country to country – what’s weird in one place might be the norm in another. Wedding traditions, customs, and gifting experiences are constantly changing and evolving. With the world getting smaller and smaller many traditions and customs are overlapping and being redesigned to suit the new world we live in.
Don’t be afraid to create your own unique wedding experience. It might not be a tradition yet, but perhaps it will be someday.