Fascinating and Meaningful Wedding Traditions from Around the World
Image Credit: Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives
At Blue Nile, we believe love is universal and that means supporting couples to celebrate their love, their way. Whether that’s LGBTQIA+ couples defining their own traditions or couples honoring their cultural beliefs—we think a wedding should be an authentic reflection of two people and what matters to them.
Knot’s Real Weddings Study found that half of all couples marry someone with a different background and 38% incorporate cultural or religious elements in their ceremony. For many couples, cultural and religious rituals are one way they can bring meaning to their big day. From the breaking of a glass to the application of intricate henna skin art, there are so many interesting and purposeful wedding traditions that couples continue to embrace.
We asked nine wedding professionals to share their knowledge about some of the most popular wedding customs from around the world.
Famous wedding traditions from around the world
From Mexico to Malaysia, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic wedding traditions.
Jewish wedding traditions
Image Credit: Ketubah.com
Whether a couple is hosting an Orthodox Jewish wedding, an interfaith wedding, a Reform Wedding, or a Jewish same-sex wedding, many time-honored customs can be incorporated or given a contemporary twist.
Signing of the Ketubah (the wedding contract)
Image Credit: Charlotte Watts Photography, A ketubah ceremony before a couple’s wedding, led by 18Doors’ Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe
The Ketubah is a Jewish marital document that dates back 2,000 years. “Couples today have found beautiful ways to continue the tradition of a ketubah into their modern Jewish weddings,” says Tani Gordon from Ketubah.com, the world’s largest and easiest to use Ketubah gallery. ” While Orthodox couples still use the traditional Aramaic ketubah text, many Reform, interfaith, and same-sex couples make the ketubah tradition their own.”
Breaking of the glass
The breaking of the glass is one of the most well-known Jewish wedding traditions. “Usually occurring at the end of the marriage ceremony, a glass wrapped in cloth is placed under the chuppah and in front of the couple,” explains Jdate, the premier Jewish dating site for Jewish singles. “One member of the couple will stomp on the glass and everyone shouts “mazel tov!”
“There are many beautiful explanations about the meaning of this practice,” says Nicole Wasilus, who runs 18Doors Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service which helps interfaith couples connect to inclusive rabbis and cantors to officiate their wedding. “More traditionally, some see it as a reminder of the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. Others say it is meant to remind us that marriage is as fragile as glass.”
The Chuppah (the wedding canopy)
The Chuppah or wedding canopy is among the most important Jewish wedding traditions. “It was once a cloth draped over the bride and groom, and evolved to a cloth hung above them on a frame, or sometimes, handheld by friends,” explains Jdate. “The rabbi will invite the couple to stand under the chuppah for the wedding ceremony. The chuppah is symbolic of a Jewish home and the covering is also representative of God watching over the covenant of marriage,” they say.
Italian wedding traditions
Image Credit: Italian Wedding Company
What could be more beautiful than the romance of an Italian wedding? And the best part is—you don’t have to be Italian to enjoy it! The team at the Italian Wedding Company plan Roman Catholic, legal civil, Protestant, symbolic, Jewish, or a same-sex wedding ceremony in Italy.
The Italian wedding banquet
Unsurprisingly, many Italian wedding traditions involve food! “Italian weddings usually have lovely meals according to the region you are traveling to,” explains the Italian Wedding Company.
“In general, we have a rich buffet aperitif with local cheeses, cold cuts, finger food, fried bits, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of Prosecco wine. After that, we serve a meal divided into courses: Antipasto that can be warm or cold, then Primo of pasta or risotto, Secondo with fish or meat with side vegetables, and then a dessert to lead to the wedding cake. It is all accompanied by excellent Italian white and red wines. Italian wedding cakes are one-tiered ones made with millefoglie or sponge cake with fresh cream or fresh fruit on top.”
Italian wedding confetti
Confetti is a charming tradition at Italian weddings, which despite the name, it’s actually sugar-coated almonds. “They are part of any Italian celebration such as baptisms, first communions, confirmations, degrees, and weddings,” explains Italian Wedding Company, “They are collected in little boxes or bags and there needs to be five to symbolize health, wealth, fertility, happiness, and longevity. It is a long-time tradition that brings good luck to the bride and groom.”
Chinese Wedding Traditions
Image Credit: East Meets Dress
Much of the Chinese culture is steeped in tradition and weddings are no different. There are many important rituals performed in the lead-up to the wedding to ensure an auspicious marriage and a prosperous future for the happy couple.
The Betrothal Ceremony “Guo Da Li”
In Singapore, it’s common for Chinese couples to have what is known as a Betrothal Ceremony or “Guo Da Li” a few weeks before they marry. According to SingaporeBrides, the country’s first and largest online wedding resource, “The engaged couple will hold a symbolic betrothal ceremony that represents the formal meeting between both families. This involves exchanging a variety of gifts that represent fertility and prosperity, which can include a red packet bearing cash known as “Pin Jin”, liquor or wine, traditional wedding cakes, and a set of jewelry for the bride, among others.”
Chinese Tea Ceremony
On the day of the wedding, Chinese couples often host a Tea Ceremony. “The wedding tea ceremony is one of the most interesting and meaningful traditions of a Chinese wedding. It is a time for the couple to serve tea and pay their respects to their parents, grandparents, and elders. In return, the couple receives blessings (and red envelopes filled with money),” explains the team at East Meets Dress, the first fashion company to modernize traditional Chinese wedding dresses (known as cheongsams or qipaos) for Asian-American women.
Mayan-Mexican Wedding traditions
Image Credit: Mexican Caribbean Tourism Board
Good weather, friendly people, and one-of-a-kind wedding venues are some of the top reasons couples choose to marry in the Mexican Caribbean, including Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Bacalar. While they may not be from the region, many soon-to-be-weds find a connection with the culture and choose to embrace a Mayan wedding ceremony.
“This region is the home to Mayan culture, which has attracted the interest of many people from different parts of the world, due to its connection to nature and wisdom,” says Mexican Caribbean, a resource for those looking to travel to the area. A Mayan wedding ceremony is sought not only to connect the future spouses´ souls, but two people and nature,” they say.
“It starts with the couple being received at the altar playing musical instruments, songs, and Mayan prayers. The sounds of nature unite the heavenly with the earthly, candles are used as a symbol of light, and incense is burned as an offering for the gods.
“The ceremony brings the couple to the four cardinal points (north, south, east, and west) to unite them to Mother Earth and the masculine side, symbolized by a central sacred candle surrounded with flowers. The altar holds the traditional offerings to the Mayan Gods (corn, cacao beans, flowers, and fruits) to represent the gifts of prosperity and fertility.
“The couple exchange vows and give each other gifts for prosperity, then share a sacred beverage called Balché. This beverage is made out of tree bark fermented in water and it is supposed to feed their souls. The union of the couple is sealed with the exchange of the wedding rings which represents the marriage pledge and the Shaman ties their hands with a red lace, which signifies the beginning of a true love relationship.”
Malay wedding traditions
Whether in Malaysia, Singapore, or parts of Indonesia, Malay weddings tend to be vibrant and colorful affairs. In addition to the Solemnization (wedding ceremony) and the Majlis Persandinga (reception), couples also participate in the Tepung Tawar ceremony.
Tepung Tawar ceremony
Malay Muslim couples are blessed by family at the Tepung Tawar ceremony. “This ceremony signifies the blessing of the marriage and protects the Malay bride and groom from evil,” says SingaporeBrides. “At the wedding, the couple’s elders will come forth and sprinkle a handful of things on the bride and groom such as white rice, yellow rice, kernel, and rose water, each signifying a different blessing for the couple and their marriage,” they explain.
Hindu-Sikh Punjabi wedding traditions
If you have ever been to a Punjabi wedding, you will know they are joyous, loud, and colorful celebrations. They are also brimming with several rites, rituals, and traditions—one of which is the Mehendi or henna ceremony.
Mehendi “henna” ceremony
“Mehendi ceremonies are ubiquitous for Hindi and Sikh brides and grooms,” says SingaporeBrides. “Held a day before the actual wedding, the Mehendi ceremony is a fun-filled party for the bride, and in modern times, for the groom too,” they explain. “The day before the wedding, the bride and groom separately have Mehendi paste applied to their palms, back of the hands, and feet. Tradition says the deeper the color of the stain, the happier the bride and groom’s marriage will be.”
Why are wedding traditions still a part of modern nuptials?
Image Credit: Inn at Laurel Point
Some of these traditions date back for thousands of years but why do couples today choose to incorporate these customs into their wedding?
“We find that many couples still want to incorporate certain conventions to make their guests and themselves feel connected to the time-honored traditions of a wedding,” says the team at Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives.
The folks at the Inn at Laurel Point, a beautiful wedding venue situated at the entrance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, have hosted a diverse array of weddings. They say that “Traditions allow a moment for the couple to incorporate something that truly speaks to them as individuals. Showing pride in their personal history and heritage.”
“Many couples nowadays want to showcase their heritage which is central to their upbringing and who they are,” says the team at East Meets Dress. “Cultural wedding traditions also pay respect to and honor the couple’s parents and elders,” they say.
“As a minority population, embracing Jewish traditions helps Jewish people stay connected with their culture and community. This is especially true for Jewish weddings, which are a time of celebration for the families and a way for couples to pay homage to their heritage,” says Jdate.
Nicole Wasilus, from 18Doors explains, “What’s unique about the Jewish religion is that some Jews may identify as “culturally Jewish”, a concept that may be unfamiliar to some. Instead of following religious observances, they find a connection in Jewish culture, like Jewish food, music, art and more.” Tani Gordon at Ketubah.com agrees. “It is a wonderful way to share something personal with the guests and a meaningful tribute to their heritage and families.”
Tips for including traditions in your wedding
If you are considering embracing some of your or your partner’s heritage as part of your wedding, here are a few things tips to help you on this journey.
Do your research
Before you set any ideas in stone, make sure you have done your homework and spoken to relevant parties. For example, “Jewish wedding traditions vary by religious denomination, geographic region, and personal preference,” says Jdate. “There is no one-size-fits-all way to plan a Jewish wedding, so it’s helpful to speak with your rabbi or do some research online about the symbolism behind the traditions to find the customs that best speak to you and your roots.”
Do what feels right for you
“I would encourage couples to lean into what feels right to them and who they are,” says Nicole Wasilus from 18Doors. “Maybe having knishes (a small round or square of dough stuffed with a filling like potato) at their cocktail hour can be a tribute to one partner’s Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Or having a recipe mashup like Mochi Latkes (potato pancakes) could honor the families’ Japanese and Jewish cultures.”
The Inn at Laurel Point suggests couples should reflect on what traditions are important to each person individually and as a couple. “Showcase a tradition, sentiment, or value that speaks to who you are as individuals and who you are moving forward as a united couple,” they say.
The folks at Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives agree. “We always recommend that couples stay true to their own vision. Individuals from various backgrounds and cultures all have different traditions they value. By working with expert planners like those at our resorts, couples can honor the traditions that are most important to them.”
Educate your guests
Tani Gordon at Ketubah.com says it can be helpful to give your guests some information about your celebration so they understand the customs and feel included. “Some guests may not know what the heck is going on during your wedding ceremony. It’s handy to print out explanations but make it personal by including how you as a couple connect to each tradition or how you put your twist on it.”
Choose an officiant who shares your vision
“My biggest piece of advice is to find an officiant who is tuned into your vision,” says Nicole Wasilus from 18Doors. “They can play an important role in sharing ideas for your wedding ceremony. The benefit of choosing a clergy person as your officiant is that they often come with years of experience and expertise in officiating for couples,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to update older customs with a modern twist
If some traditions don’t feel relevant today, think about how you can bring them up to date, like this example from Jdate: “Breaking the glass used to be done only by the groom and is now often done by the groom and bridge together,” they say.
East Meets Dress suggests that couples “Think about the things they’re already including in their wedding—like food, decorations, and wedding favors—and how they can seamlessly incorporate some cultural traditions and themes.”
Remember why you’re there
SingaporeBrides reminds us that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate a wedding because each culture is unique. “Some traditions may lose their meaning or relevance in today’s world, but what hasn’t changed is that traditions establish bonds and create memories, especially for two families coming together.”
We can all raise (or break) a glass to that!