A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, presentation of a ring or rings, and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or religious leader. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayer or readings from Scripture may also be incorporated in the ceremony.
Common elements across cultures
A number of cultures adopt the western custom of a bride wearing a white dress. This tradition came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception, the white dress did not indicate virginity, which was symbolized by the face veil). Within the ‘white wedding’ tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate for a second or third wedding of a widow or a divorcee.
Exchanging rings may be the oldest and most universal symbol of marriage, but the origins are unclear. The ring’s circular shape represents perfection and never-ending love.
The rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony and symbolize the love, faithfulness and commitment of the marriage union.
The wedding is often followed by a reception during which the rituals include toasting the bride and groom, the newlyweds' first dance as husband and wife, cake cutting, etc.
Traditional wedding garb
- Qipao or Hanfu, Chinese traditional formal wear
- Batik and Kebaya, a garment worn by the Javanese people of Indonesia.
- Barong Tagalog, an embroidered, formal men's garment of the Philippines.
- Kimono, the traditional garments of Japan
- Sari, Indian popular and traditional dress in India
- Dashiki, the traditional West African wedding attire
- Ao dai, traditional garments of Vietnam
- Morning dress, men's daytime formal dress
- Kilt, male garment particular to Scottish culture
- Kittel, a white robe worn by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The kittel is worn only under the Chupah, and is removed before the reception.
- Topor, a type of conical headgear
- Black tie ("dinner jacket" in the UK; traditionally appropriate only for evening weddings but also seen in daytime, especially in the United States)
- Non-traditional "tuxedo" variants (colored jackets/ties, "wedding suits")
- White tie ("evening dress" in the UK)
- Sherwani, a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia
- Wedding crown, worn by Scandinavian brides
- Wedding veil
- Wedding dress
played at western weddings includes a processional song for walking down the aisle (ex: Wedding March
) and reception dance music.
Music played at western weddings includes:
- The "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, often used as the processional and commonly known as "Here Comes the Bride". Richard Wagner is said to have been anti-Semitic, and as a result, the Bridal Chorus is often not used at Jewish weddings. It is also generally discouraged for use at Roman Catholic weddings.
- Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is an alternative processional.
- The "Wedding March" from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, used as a recessional.
- The "Toccata" from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5, used as a recessional.
- Segments of the Ode To Joy, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
- At wedding receptions, Der Ententanz, a 1950s Swiss Oom-pah song known more commonly in America as The Chicken Dance, has become a popular part of the reception dance music.
A band of musicians with gongs and flute-like instruments accompanies the bride parade to groom's home. Similar music is also played at the wedding banquet.
Depending on the region that the bride hails from, Chinese weddings will have different traditions such as Tea Ceremony or the use of a Wedding emcee.
Also in modern times, Chinese couples will often go to photo studios to take "glamour shots" posing in multiple gowns and various backgrounds.
At some Jewish weddings, a solemn, wordless tune is sung as the groom and then bride walk down the aisles.
Wedding customs around the world
Arab wedding customs
Although Christian weddings in the Arab World bear similarities to Western weddings, Muslim weddings in the Arab countries are influenced by Muslim traditions. Muslim weddings start with a Shaikh
(book) for the bride and groom. It is a western misconception that the groom may not see his bride until the wedding day; indeed, a wedding is not Islamically valid unless both bride and groom are willing, and the groom is often encouraged to visit her before the wedding (as advised in many hadeeths of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH)). However, these visits must be chaperoned to ensure purity of action between the two. Men and women in wedding ceremonies and receptions are segregated, with areas for men and for women.
An old tradition, now rarely observed, involves the women at the ceremony symbolically mourning the loss of the bride by doing the "wedding wail". The bride's dress is an ornate Caftan, and the bride's hands and feet are decorated in intricate lace-like patterns painted using a henna dye. Women guests do not show their hair, shoulders or legs; and all guests at a Mosque remove their shoes on entering. Guests may give gifts to the bride and groom. In many Arab countries including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, the practice of carrying the bride and groom on chairs and dancing in a circle around them (dabke) is still carried out. The bride and groom hold separate corners of a handkerchief. Arabs may have Western-like weddings, but still preserve most Arab customs and traditions.
Bengali wedding customs
Bengali wedding refers to both Muslim
weddings in Bangladesh
and West Bengal
. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common cultural rituals in marriages across religion among [[Bengali people].
Chinese wedding customs
Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese
societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families
. Within Chinese culture
, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy
was the norm for most ordinary citizens.
Cantonese wedding customs
Most Cantonese wedding rituals follow the main Chinese wedding
traditions, although some rituals are particular to the Cantonese people.
Filipino wedding customs
The groom usually wears the Barong Tagalog
during the wedding, along with the male attendants, though nowadays the wealthy opt to don Western attire such as a tuxedo
: weddings held within the same year by two siblings, usually sisters, are frowned upon as it is regarded as bad luck. Some hold it that the wedding rings dropping to the ground is a portent of bad luck (this is usually said to the ringbearer to ensure that the child is careful in handling the rings). Money, in the form of paper bills, is sometimes taped or pinned to the groom and bride during the reception.
Indian wedding customs
Indian weddings continue for several days. Due to the diversity of Indian culture, the wedding style, ceremony and rituals may vary greatly from amongst various states, regions, religions and castes. While the Christians of India usually follow a more or less Western wedding ceremony, the Indian Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Sikhs follow traditions quite different from the West. It is quite common that during the traditional wedding days, there would be a tilak
ceremony (where the groom is anointed on his forehead), a ceremony for adorning the bride's hand and feet with henna
) accompanied by Ladies’ Sangeet (music and dance)
, and many other pre-wedding ceremonies. On the day (i.e. late evening) of the wedding proper
, the Bridegroom, his friends and relatives come singing and dancing to the wedding site in a procession called baraat
, and then the religious rituals take place to solemnize the wedding according to the religion of the couple. While the groom may wear traditional Sherwani
or Western suit, his face is usually veiled with a mini-curtain of flowers called sehra
. The bride (Hindu or Muslim) always wears red clothes, never white because white symbolizes widowhood in Indian culture. In Southern and Eastern states the bride usually wears a red Sari, but in northern and central states the preferred garment is a decorated skirt-blouse and veil called lehenga
. After the solemnization of marriage, the bride departs with her husband. This is a very sad event for the bride's relatives because traditionally she is supposed to permanently "break-off" her relations with her blood relatives to join her husband's family. The wedding may be followed by a "reception" by the groom's parents at the groom's place. While gifts and money to the couple are commonly given, the traditional dowry
from the bride's parents to the couple is officially forbidden by the law.
Japanese wedding customs
Japanese wedding customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto
ceremonies, and modern Western-style ceremonies. In either case, the couple must first be legally married by filing for marriage at their local government office, and the official documentation must be produced in order for the ceremony to be held. The Japanese bride-to-be is painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the gods; a white hood is attached to her kimono, which the bride wears like a veil to hide her 'horns of jealousy' from the groom's mother, who will now become the head of the family.
Traditional Japanese wedding customs (shinzen shiki) involve an elaborate ceremony held at a Shinto shrine.
In recent years, the "Western Style Wedding" (influenced by a Christian church wedding) has become a choice. An industry has sprung up, dedicated to providing couples with a ceremony modeled after Protestant church ceremonies. Japanese western style weddings are generally held in a chapel, either in a simple or elaborate ceremony, often at a dedicated wedding chapel within a hotel.
Before the ceremony, there is a rehearsal. Often during this rehearsal, the bride's mother lowers the veil for her daughter, signifying the last act that a mother can do for her daughter, before "giving her away". The father of the bride, much like in Western ceremonies, walks the bride down the aisle to her awaiting groom.
After the rehearsal comes the procession. The wedding celebrant will often wear a wedding cross, or cana, a cross with two interlocking wedding rings attached, which symbolize a couple's commitment to sharing a life together in the bonds of holy matrimony. The wedding celebrant gives a brief welcome and an introductory speech before announcing the bride's entrance. The procession ends with the groom bowing to the bride's father. The father bows in return.
The service then starts. The service is given either in Japanese or English, or, in some cases, a mix of both. It follows a traditional Protestant ceremony, relaxed and not overtly religious. The opening hymn is usually the Japanese version of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". Part of 1 Corinthians 13 is read from the Bible. After the reading, there is a prayer and a short message, explaining the sanctity of the wedding vows (seiyaku). The bride and groom share their vows and exchange rings. The chapel register is signed and the new couple is announced. This is often followed by the traditional wedding kiss. The service concludes with another hymn and a benediction.
Malay wedding customs
A Malay wedding ceremony spreads over two days, beginning with the akad nikah
ceremony. The groom signs the marriage contract and agrees to provide the bride with a mas kahwin
(dowry). After that, their hands are dyed with henna during the berinai besar ceremony. The bride's hair is also trimmed or her eyebrows shaped by a beautician known as the mak andam
Pakistani wedding customs
wedding typically consist of four ceremonies on four separate days.
Russian wedding customs
A traditional Russian wedding lasts for at least two days and some weddings last as long as a week. Throughout the celebration there is dancing, singing, long toasts, and food and drinks. The best man and maid of honor are called itnesses, “svideteli” in Russian. The ceremony and the ring exchange takes place on the first day of the wedding.
Throughout the years, Russian weddings have adopted many western cultures, including bridesmaids and flower girls.
During the wedding feast any of the guests can start chanting "Gorko" ("bitter") which usually is immediately supported by the rest of the guests. In this case bride and groom should kiss each other and the kiss should last for as long as the chanting continues.
The Western custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress, came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception and the hackneyed jokes of situation comedies the white dress did not indicate virginity, which was symbolized by a face veil). Within the "white wedding" tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate in the second or third wedding of a widow or divorcee. The specific conventions of Western weddings, largely from a Protestant and Catholic viewpoint, are discussed at "White wedding."
A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception, at which an elaborate wedding cake is served. Western traditions include toasting the couple, the newlyweds having the first dance, and cutting the cake. A bride may throw her bouquet to the assembled group of all unmarried women in attendance, with folklore suggesting the person who catches it will be the next to wed. A fairly recent equivalent has the groom throwing the bride's garter to the assembled unmarried men; the man who catches it is supposedly the next to wed.
A modern tradition is for brides to wear or carry "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" during the service. It is considered good luck to do so. Often the bride attempts to have one item that meets all of these qualifications, such as a borrowed blue handkerchief which is "new to her" but loaned by her grandmother (thus making it old). Another addition to this custom is to wear a penny in your shoe, this will bring you prosperity.
In smaller French towns, the groom may meet his fiancée at her home on the day of the wedding and escort her to the chapel where the ceremony is being held. As the couple proceeds to the chapel, children will stretch long white ribbons across the road which the bride will cut as she passes.
At the chapel, the bride and groom are seated on two red velvet chairs underneath a silk canopy called a carre.
Laurel leaves may be scattered across their paths when they exit the chapel. Sometimes small coins are also tossed for the children to gather.
At the reception, the couple customarily uses a toasting cup called a Coupe de Marriage. The origin of giving this toast began in France, when a small piece of toast was literally dropped into the couple's wine to ensure a healthy life. The couple would lift their glass to "a toast", as is common in Western culture today.
Some couples choose to serve a croquembouche instead of a wedding cake. This dessert is a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs, drizzled with a caramel glaze.
At a more boisterous wedding, tradition involves continuing the celebration until very late at night. After the reception, those invited to the wedding will gather outside the newlyweds' window and bang pots and pans. They are then invited into the house for some more drinks in the couple's honor, after which the couple is finally allowed to be alone for their first night together as husband and wife.
Another practice common at wedding celebrations is Sabrage: the "beheading" a bottle of champagne with a sabre made for the occasion. It was started as a way for the Hussars (under Napoleon's command) to celebrate victories and exhibit their horseback skills: they would "behead" the top off a bottle of champagne while on horseback. Legend has it that the skilled horsemen would ride at a full gallop while brave women held up bottles of champagne. The sabre must strike the neck of the bottle at exactly the right angle (champagne bottles have over 100 pounds of pressure per square inch).
This practice spread throughout France as a way to celebrate special occasions. Decorative replicas of these special sabres can be purchased from artisans in Lyon, France (the French capital of cutlery).
Two or three days before the wedding, the couple organizes a celebration called "Krevati" (Greek for bed
) in their new home. In Krevati, friends and relatives of the couple put money and young children on the couple's new bed for prosperity and fertility in their life. After the custom, they usually have a party with food and music.
On the day of the wedding, usually Saturday, but also Friday or Sunday, groom cannot see the bride, until the wedding ceremony. The groom usually arrives first in church and waits for bride, who usually arrives late. After they exchange flower bouquets, they have the wedding ceremony, where the best man puts the wedding rings and crowns on the couple. The couple drink red wine from the same glass (between one and three sips, depending on the tradition). This is not "communion" in the formal religous sense, but about sharing the cup of life. At the end of the wedding ceremony, as the newly wedded pair leave the church, the guests throw rice and flowers for fertility and felicity. Special guests, such as close friends and family receive sugar-coated almonds (traditionally an odd number, usually seven but sometimes five) as a gift from the couple. Most Greek ceremonies are Orthodox, see there for more details.
After the ceremony, usually the couple hold a great wedding party in some place with plenty of food, drinks, music and dance, usually until next morning. The wedding party starts with the invited people waiting for the couple, who usually come after some time. They start the party dancing blues and eating a piece of their wedding cake. In some point of the party, they also dance the traditional zeibekiko (groom) and tsifteteli (bride).
In many places of Greece, where they hold a more traditional wedding, they usually play only traditional music and eating local food. For example in the region of Cyclades, they eat the traditional pasteli (solid honey with sesame) and in the region of Crete they cook rice with goat. In most traditional weddings, they bake whole animals like pigs, goats or sheep just like the Greek Easter celebration. Before the church ceremony, especially in smaller areas, usually friends and relatives of the bribe and the groom, accompanies them separately to the church playing traditional instruments, according to the region.
A typical Greek wedding will usually have more than 100 invited people (but usually 250-500) who are friends, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, first or second cousins, neighbors and colleagues. It is common to have guests whom the couple has never met before. This is because the people who will be invited are usually determined by the parents of the couple and not by the couple themelves. Traditionally, the whole village would have attended the wedding, so very often the parents invite friends of theirs and their children, to the weddings of their own children.
There are many other traditions which are local to their regional areas. One famous tradition is the pinning of money on the bride's dress. This custom originated in one part of Greece, where it is a substitute for wedding presents, however it has become more widespread recently.
In some parts of Italy, a party, known as a Serenade, is thrown outside of the bride’s home by the groom. His family and friends come and wait for the bride, entertaining themselves until she appears. The groom then sings to his bride to further seduce her. Once his song is sung, the party ends.
The day of the wedding the groom’s men try their hardest to make the groom as uncomfortable as possible by saying things like “Maybe she forgot where the church is”
It is also traditional for the grooms family to give a dowry to the bride and to provide the engagement ring. The bride’s family is then responsible for receiving the guests of the wedding in their home for a reception afterward.
The color green is very important in the Italian wedding. In Italy, the tradition of some thing blue is replaced with something green. This color brings good luck to the married couple. The veil and brides maids also were important in an Italian wedding. The tradition began in Ancient Rome when the veil was used to hide the bride from any spirits that would corrupt her and the bridesmaids were to wear similar outfits so that the evil spirits were further confused.
In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a Venetian Table, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Venetian Hour.
After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation.
In Polish weddings the celebrations may continue for two or three days. In the past, the engagement ceremony was organized by the future groom as a formal family gathering, during which he asked his chosen lady to marry him. In the recent years this custom has changed and today an engagement is much more personal and intimate. An elegant dinner party afterwards is still a nice way to inform the closest family members about the couples' decision to get married.
In some regions of Poland the tradition to invite the wedding guests in person is still upheld. Many young couples, accompanied by the parents, visit their family and friends to hand them the wedding invitations personally.
According to the old tradition a groom arrives with his parents at the house of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. At that time both parents and parents-in-law give a young couple their blessing. The couple enter the church together and walks up to the altar followed by two witnesses and the parents. In Poland it is quite unusual for the bride to be walked down the aisle or to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The couple is assisted by two witnesses, a man (usually grooms' side) and a woman (usually brides' side) who are either family members or close friends.
The Polish bride traditionally wears a white dress and a veil. The groom, on the other hand usually wears a fitted suit with a bow tie and a boutonnière that matches the brides' bouquet. During the ceremony wedding rings are exchanged and both the husband and wife wear them on their right hand. When they leave the church the guests toss rice or coins at the married couple for good and prosperous future together. Right after the ceremony the closest family and all the guest form a line in the front of the church to congratulate the newlyweds and wish them love and happiness. As soon as the married couple leave the church they get showered with rice for luck or guests drop coins at their feet for them to pick up.
Once all the guests have showered the couple with kisses, hugs and flowers everyone heads to the reception. It is a custom in Poland to prepare "passing gates" on the way to the reception for the newlyweds, who in order to pass have to give the "gate keepers" some vodka. This is a misinterpretation of an earlier tradition, when the "passing gates" were built when the bride was an orphan and money collected by "gate keepers" from the guests was handed over to the bride as her dowry (being orphan implied usually poverty).
The married couple is welcomed at the reception place by the parents with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes the prosperity, salt stands for hardship of life, the parents wish the young couple that they never go hungry and learn how to deal with every day hardships together. The wedding party lasts (and the bride and groom remain) until the last guest leaves, usually until morning.
In Poland, movements like Human Liberties Crusade
or Wedding of the Weddings promote non-alcoholic wedding celebrations.
Lăutari are musicians performing traditional songs. The music of the lăutari establishes the structure of the elaborate Romanian
peasant weddings. The lăutari also function as guides through the wedding rituals and moderate any conflicts that may arise during what can be a long, alcohol-fueled party. Over a period of nearly 48 hours, this can be very physically strenuous.
Following custom almost certainly dating back at least to the Middle Ages, most lăutari spend the fees from these wedding ceremonies on extended banquets for their friends and families over the days immediately following the wedding.
is a popular place for young English couples to get married since, in Scotland, parents' permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England
it was the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith's at Gretna Green
, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland's third most popular tourist attraction.
- The bride's family sends invitations on behalf of the couple to the wedding guests, addressed by hand. The couple may send the invitations themselves, especially if they are more middle-aged. The invites will specify if the invitation is for ceremony and/or reception and/or evening following the meal at the reception.
- Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day. Alternatively, the couple may register at department store and have a list of gifts there. The shop then organizes delivery, usually to the bride's parents' house or to the reception venue.
- A wedding ceremony takes place at a church, register office or possibly another favorite location, such as a hilltop. In this regard Scotland differs significantly from England where only pre-approved public locations may be used for the wedding ceremony. Most ceremonies take place mid afternoon and last about half an hour during which the marriage schedule is signed by the couple and two witnesses, usually the best man and chief bridesmaid.
- The newly wed couple usually leave the ceremony to the sound of bagpipes.
- There is a wedding reception following the ceremony, usually at a different venue.
- The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
- Usually a drink is served while the guests and bridal party mingle. In some cases the drink may be whisky or wine with a non alcoholic alternative.
- The best man and bride's father toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes, usually humorous. The groom then follows with a response on behalf of his bride. Champagne is usually provided for the toast.
- There is nearly always dancing following the meal. Often in Scotland this takes the form of a ceilidh, a night of informal traditional Scottish dancing in couples and groups to live traditional music. The first dance is led by the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the bridal party and finally the guests.
- The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake.
- Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
- A sprig of white heather is usually worn as a buttonhole for good luck.
- It is the norm for the groom and much of the male bridal party and guests to wear kilts, although suits are also worn. Kilts and Highland dress are often hired for this purpose.
is an ancient Celtic wedding ritual in which the bride's and groom's hands are tied together — hence the phrase "tying the knot". "Handfasting" is favored by practitioners of Celtic-based religions and spiritual traditions, such as Wicca
North American customs
United States customs
Most weddings in the United States follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary but common components are listed below.
- The bride may wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”
- The bride usually wears a white dress at her first marriage.
- A color scheme is often selected to match everything from bridesmaids' dresses, flowers, invitations, matchbooks, and table settings.
- Rice is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony to symbolize fertility. Some individuals, churches or communities choose birdseed due to a false but widely believed myth that birds eating the rice will burst.
- The bride's family sends engraved invitations to the wedding guests, addressed by hand (or in an elegant font) to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion.
- Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day.
- A wedding ceremony takes place at a church or other location, such as an outdoor venue.
At the wedding reception following the ceremony, sometimes at the same location but sometimes at a different venue:
- The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
- Usually snacks or a meal are served while the guests and bridal party mingle.
- Often the best man and/or maid of honor toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne, sparkling cider, or nonalcoholic carbonated drinks are usually provided for this purpose.
- Clinking silverware against glassware encourages the newlyweds to kiss.
- If dancing is provided, the bride and groom first dance together. Often further protocol is followed, where they dance first with their respective mother and father, then possibly with the maid of honor and best man; then the bride and groom rejoin while the parents of the bride and groom join the dance and the best man and maid of honor dance together; then other attendants join in; then finally everyone is entitled to dance. Dancing continues throughout the reception. Music is sometimes provided by a live band or musical ensemble, sometimes by a disc jockey.
- In some cultures, the dollar dance takes place, in which it is expected and encouraged for guests to pin money onto the young bride and groom to give them a financial base to start their new lives. This practice, as is any suggestion that the guests owe money to the couple, is contrary to etiquette and considered extremely rude in some circles.
- The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter—often a special silver keepsake cutter purchased or given as a gift for the occasion--and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake. They then entwine arms and feed each other a bite of cake. In some social groups, the bride and groom smear cake on each other's faces at this time, which again is considered quite vulgar elsewhere.
- The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women; the woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In some social groups, the process is repeated for unmarried men with the groom tossing the bride's garter for the same purpose. These practices are falling into less favor in the 21st century.
- Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
The purpose of inviting guests was to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in the bride and groom's joy and celebration. Gifts for the bride and groom are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some brides and grooms and families feel, contrary to proper etiquette, that for the expense and effort they put into showing their guests a good time and to wine and dine them, the guests should reciprocate by providing nice gifts or cash.
The couple often registers for gifts at a store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of household items, usually including china, silverware and crystalware; often including linen preferences, pots and pans, and similar items. With brides and grooms who might already be independent and have lived on their own, even owning their own homes, they sometimes register at hardware or home improvement stores. Registries are intended to make it easy for guests who wish to purchase gifts to feel comfortable that they are purchasing gifts that the newlyweds will truly utilize. The registry information should, according to etiquette, be provided only to guests who request it, and should never be included in the invitation. Some couples register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund.
Some guests may find bridal registries inappropriate. They can be seen as an anathema to traditional notions behind gift buying, such as contravening the belief that all gifts are optional and should be taken as delightful surprises, taking away the element of surprise, and leading to present buying as a type of competition, as the couple knows the costs of each individual item. Etiquette considers it inappropriate to invite people who know neither the bride nor groom well enough to be able to choose an appropriate gift.
Many believe a false etiquette myth that thanks for gifts may occur up to a year after the ceremony. Gifts however, though optional, may be sent up to a year after the wedding date. Thanks should be sent as soon as possible, preferably within two weeks. Extra time can understandably be given for gifts received just after the ceremony, while the couple is honeymooning. While receiving an invitation does not require that a gift be given, etiquette dictates that all wedding invitations be returned with at least congratulations.
Jumping the broom developed out West African Asante
custom. The broom in Asante and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often but not always jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony.
The custom took on additional significance in the context of slavery in the United States. Slaves had no right to legal marriage; slaveholders considered slaves property and feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals, however, were important events to the Africans, who came in many cases come from richly-ceremonial African cultures.
Taking marriage vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. Jumping the broom has become a practice in many modern weddings between Black Americans.
There are also traditions of broom jumping in Europe, in the Wicca and Celtic communities especially. They are probably unconnected with the African practice.
Pygmy wedding traditions
Pygmy engagements were not long and usually formalized by an exchange of visits between the families concerned. The groom to be would bring a gift of game or maybe a few arrows to his new in-laws, take his bride home to live in his band and with his new parents. His only obligation is to find among his relatives a girl willing to marry a brother or male cousin of his wife. If he feels he can feed more than one wife, he may have additional wives.
Religious aspects of weddings
In virtually all religions
is a life-long union between two or more people and is established with ceremonies and rituals
. The people are most commonly one man
and one woman
, though some religions have permitted polygamous
marriages and some faiths and denominations recognize same-sex marriages
In marriage, Christians see a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. In Judaism, marriage is so important that remaining unmarried is deemed unnatural. Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Bahá'í Faith sees marriage as a foundation of the structure of society, and considers it both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife. Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. By contrast, Buddhism does not encourage or discourage marriage, although it does teach how one might live a happily married life and emphasizes that married vows are not to be taken lightly (see separate article for details).
Different religions have different beliefs as regards the breakup of marriage (see divorce). For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes that marriage is a sacrament and a valid marriage between two baptized persons cannot be broken up by any other means than death. This means that civil divorcés cannot remarry in a Catholic church marriage as long as their spouse is alive.
In the area of nullity, religions and the state often apply different rules, meaning that a couple, for example, could have their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church but still be married in the eyes of the law because the state disagrees with the church over whether an annulment can be granted in a given case. This produces the phenomenon of Catholics getting church annulments simultaneously with civil divorces, so that they may remarry both legally and sacramentally. The Catholic Church will not, in fact, grant an annulment petition unless the marriage has also been dissolved or annulled under civil law. Though sometimes styled "Catholic divorce", an annulment means not a dissolution of a marriage, but the recognition that a marriage has not taken place at all. This applies to sacramental marriages; marriages between an unbaptized and a baptized person can be dissolved according to Canon law (see Pauline privilege).
Detailed viewpoints on various wedding customs
Customs associated with various religions
Many religions have extensive teachings regarding marriage. Most Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage; the wedding ceremony typically includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. A church wedding is a ceremony presided over by a Christian priest or pastor. Ceremonies are based on reference to God, and are frequently embodied into other church ceremonies such as Holy Mass.
Customs may vary widely between denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church "Holy Matrimony" is considered to be one of the seven sacraments, in this case one that the spouses bestow upon each other in front of a priest and members of the community as witnesses. As all sacraments, it is seen as having been instituted by Jesus Christ himself (See Mt 19:1-2, CCC §1614-1615). In the Eastern Orthodox church, it is one of the Mysteries, and is seen as an ordination and a martyrdom.
Mar Thoma customs
is the homeland of Mar Thoma Christians (St.Thomas Christians). It is believed that they were converted by Saint Thomas the disciple of Jesus Christ in the first century. Their wedding customs and traditions include several Jewish elements and Indian customs
. The ceremony is divided into two parts. In part I, the officiating minister receives the wedding ring from the groom, blesses it and puts it on the ring finger on the right hand of the bride. This is a very old custom that is still followed. In Part II, the bride and groom join hands, and a Bible portion is read. Then they are crowned as the head of a new family. The first gift to his wife is a necklace with a golden pendant called Minnu
. The groom tie it around the neck of the bride. She is also given a saree known as Manthrakodi
After the ceremony at the church there is the reception that will be followed by a ceremony called kachakoduppu. In the presence of immediate relatives only, at the house of the groom, the groom gives a kacha (saree) to his mother-in-law. From that time they address one another as mother and son.
A Quaker wedding
ceremony in a Friends meeting is similar to any other Meeting for Worship, and therefore often very different from the experience expected by non-Friends.
Hindu ceremonies are conducted totally or at least partially in Sanskrit
, the language of the Hindu scriptures. The wedding celebrations may last for several days (see the previous sub-section on Indian customs
) and they can be extremely diverse, depending upon the region, denomination and caste. On the night of wedding proper
, the bride and the bridegroom garland each other (jaymaala
) in front of the guests. Most guests witness only this short ceremony and then socialize, have dinner and leave. The religious part comes hours later, witnessed by close friends and relatives. A Hindu priest arranges a sacred yajña
(fire-sacrifice), and the sacred fire (Agni
) is considered the prime witness (sākshī
) of the marriage. He chants mantras from the Vedas
and subsidiary texts while the couple are seated before the fire. The most important step is saptapadi
or saat phere
, wherein the bride and the groom, hand-in-hand, encircle the sacred fire seven times, each circle representing a matrimonial vow. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 of India considers this step to be necessary and sufficient for the Hindu wedding to be complete. Then the groom marks the bride's forehead with vermilion (sindoor
) and puts a gold necklace (mangalsutra
) around her neck. Several other rituals may precede or follow these afore-mentioned rites. Then the bride formally departs from her blood-relatives to join the groom's family.
A Jewish wedding usually follows this format:
- Before the ceremony, the couple formalize a written ketubah (marriage contract), specifying their obligations to each other and contingencies in case of divorce.
- The couple is married under a wedding canopy (chuppah), signifying their new home together. The chuppah can be made from a piece of cloth or other material attached to four poles, or a prayer shawl (talit held over the couple by four family members or friends.
- The couple is accompanied to the chuppah by both sets of parents, and stands under the chuppah along with other family members.
- The couple sip from a glass of wine.
- The couple declares that each is sanctified to the other, and/or repeats other vows, and exchanges rings. In Orthodox and traditional Jewish weddings, only the bride receives a ring. This part of the ceremony is called kiddushin.
- The ceremony ends with the groom breaking a glass underfoot, after which the assembled congregation shouts mazel tov. The reasons given for this act vary from making a loud noise to scare away bad luck, to breaking the shared glass as a sign that no one else can partake in relations between the couple, to a symbolic spilling of blood (the wine dregs) to symbolize the wedding night, to a remembrance even at joyous occasions of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, to bringing revelers back to the reality of daily living, to (jestingly) the groom's last chance to put his foot down.
- The couple retire (cheder yichud) from the post-wedding festivities to briefly spend some time alone together.
Many of these traditions stem from much older marriage customs, and are directly relevant to Talmudic law regarding marriage.
Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(also known as Mormons), the act of marriage is regarded as an eternal affair. As such, there are two kinds of marriages recognized by the Church, civil marriage and celestial marriage. Civil marriages are those legally contracted under local law and are dissolved upon the death of the participants, while celestial marriages, also known as sealings
, bind the participants as husband and wife for all eternity if both are righteous.
Celestial marriages can only be performed by Priesthood authority within a Sealing Room in a dedicated temple. Only members of the LDS church who have a temple recommend may attend an LDS wedding. The wedding is often referred to as a sealing, in which husband and wife are sealed beyond death into the next life. Space is limited in sealing rooms so only family and close friends attend.
The sealing can be performed at the same approximate time as the civil marriage or for a couple civilly married for at least one year. In the latter case, if the couple already has children, they may also accompany the ceremony to be sealed to their parents. Children who are born to parents who have already been sealed need no such ceremony, as they have been "born in the covenant."
Many LDS couples will then hold wedding receptions or open houses after the wedding ceremony in another venue that is open to all family and friends. Some couples choose to recreate a more traditional wedding ceremony, or will simply perform certain traditional acts, such as the throwing of the bouquet, first dance, etc.
In the United Kingdom
, the average wedding cost approximately £20,000 in 2005. This means that couples wait longer before getting married, with the average age of those getting married 6.7 years higher than 20 years previously.
A double wedding
is a single ceremony where two affianced
couples rendezvous for two simultaneous or consecutive weddings. Typically, a fiancé with a sibling
might plan a double wedding with that sibling. In the Philippines
, however, the wedding of two siblings within the same year is considered bad luck and is called sukob
A destination wedding
is any wedding in which the engaged couple and/or a majority of their guests travel to attend the ceremony. This could be a beach ceremony in the Caribbean or on the California coast, a lavish event in Las Vegas, or a simple ceremony at the home of a geographically distant friend or relative.
A weekend wedding
is a wedding in which couples and their guests celebrate over the course of a weekend. Special activities, such as spa treatments and golf tournaments, may be scheduled into the wedding itinerary throughout the weekend. Lodging usually is at the same facility as the wedding and couples often host a Sunday brunch for the weekend's finale.
A white wedding
is a term for a traditional formal or semi-formal Western wedding
. This term refers to the color of the wedding dress
, which became popular in the Victorian era
and came to symbolize purity of heart and the innocence of childhood. Later attribution suggested that the color white symbolized virginity
A military wedding
is a ceremony conducted in a military chapel and may involve a Saber Arch
. In most military weddings the groom will wear a military dress uniform in lieu of civilian formalwear, although military dress uniforms largely serve the same purpose. Some retired military personnel who marry after their service has ended may opt for a military wedding.
A civil wedding
is a ceremony presided over by a local civil authority, such as an elected
or appointed judge
, justice of the peace
or the mayor
of a locality. Civil wedding ceremonies may use references to God
or a deity (in UK law), but generally no references to a particular religion or denomination
. They can be either elaborate or simple. Many civil wedding ceremonies take place in local town or city halls or courthouses in judge's chambers.
, the act of getting married without consent or approval of parents or others.
A same-sex wedding
or same-gender wedding
is a ceremony in which two people of the same sex are married or civilly united
. This may be an official and legally recognized event, or, in places that do not allow same-sex marriage
, it may simply be a symbolic ceremony designed to provide the opportunity to make the same public declarations and celebration with friends and family that any other type of wedding may afford.