No matter your culture, ethnicity, region, or belief system… weddings are universally perceived as a blessing not just for the bride and groom but the community as a whole.
In our last two posts, we've explored some unique traditions from the Western World – everything from handfasting to sock dances to drinking from chamber pots (but all to bless the newlyweds of course!)
Now we pick back up on the third leg of our whirlwind world tour to take a look at some of the more little-known customs from the East…
Nigeria: The Flavors of Love
The Yoruba – an ethnic group native to southwestern and north-central Nigeria – incorporate the sense of taste into their marriage ceremonies. The bride and groom taste four flavors that represent the main emotions one experiences in a committed relationship… sour, bitter, hot, and sweet. If the couple tastes all four flavors, they will survive the difficult times and enjoy the sweetness of love.
Sudan: My Kingdom for a Cow
In southern Sudan, a groom is often still required to pay a dowry of 20 to 40 cows to wed his new bride. Then begins one of the longest weddings in the world. (You think your dad might give too long of a toast? Check this out…) The wedding is not considered finalized until the woman gives birth to two children. If she does not produce a child, the husband may divorce her and reclaim his dowry. If she only has one child, the husband may divorce her and choose between taking back his cows or keeping custody of his child.
China: The Lucky Comb
Superstition reigns in China. The bride and groom spend the night before their wedding separated. Ensconced away, they wash their hair in pomegranate water to ward off evil. Then they select a woman who they believe to be lucky in some aspect of life – has many children, is well traveled, is wealthy – to comb their hair four times. The first stroke means the marriage will last forever. The second instills harmony in the marriage. The third grants fertility. And the fourth blesses good health and fortune.
India: A Henna Party
In India, the bride and her family spend hours dyeing their skin in intricate designs called henna (or "mehndi"). The dye is made from a plant called Lawsonia inermis (or hina) and is meant to elicit positive spirits and good luck. An added benefit is the herbs in the paste are said to cool the body and relieve stress. Plus, it just looks beautiful!
The Japanese crane is considered sacred. They mate for life and are therefore a symbol for fidelity, love, longevity, and luck. Japanese lore says the birds live for 1,000 years. So it's traditional for a bride and groom to fold 1,000 origami cranes and display them at the wedding. One folded crane for each year of the bird's life blesses the couple with health, luck, and a strong union.
Korea: Set the Date
It's not often you get a wedding redo. But in Korea, one just isn't enough. Following the main ceremony, the newlyweds visit the groom's family for a p'ye-baek. The bride presents her in-laws with dates and chestnuts to symbolize fertility. The parents ply her with sake and toss the nuts at her. She tries to catch as many as possible in her skirt. The more nuts she catches, the more blessed with children she will be.
Alright travelers, we're all set for the fourth and final leg of our trip around the world! Next time, we visit South and Central America for some of the most beautiful wedding traditions we've found yet.
Writer Fawn believes in the power of a well-crafted story, the promise of an adventurous future, and the perfection of a Nutella-covered strawberry.