Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. We have our own American traditions when it comes to weddings. Tossing the bouquet, tossing the garter, lighting a unity candle, dancing the first dance, tossing bird seed…the list goes on and on. People all over the country may celebrate their wedding somewhat differently from others, but we sure are all pretty familiar with the common American wedding traditions.
But just as wedding traditions differ around the country, wedding traditions differ around the world. Every country has their own wedding customs. A bride and a groom can become one in so many different ways. Some wedding traditions aren’t that different from ours, while others are so “out there” that we can’t even begin to understand how they became a wedding tradition or any kind of tradition in the first place.
Like I said earlier, every country has its own wedding traditions. And while many of them are fairly outlandish, one can’t deny their uniqueness. I looked at wedding traditions all over the globe and selected 15 that I thought were particularly intriguing in their own way. I guarantee that at least one will shock you. And maybe at least one will convince you to never get married…well, at least in that country. If I’ve managed to pique your curiosity, then check out this list of 15 of the most intriguing wedding traditions from around the world.
15. Shooting Your Wife
This one isn’t as bad as it sounds. When there’s a wedding ceremony among the Yugur people, an ethnic minority in China, they throw magnificent feasts that last for two days. But before the wedding and all the wonderful festivities can even begin, the groom is required to shoot his future bride three times with a bow and arrow. The arrows don’t have arrowheads on them so for the bride, it should feel like getting shot with rubber bullets. Once that’s over, the groom gathers up the arrows and breaks them, a sign that he and his future bride will love each other forever and stay with each other forever.
14. Forming A Human Rug
Talk about not getting your shoes dirty. As part of a wedding ceremony in the Marquesas Islands in the French Polynesia, the relatives of the bride are required to lie side by side face down on the ground, forming a human rug or carpet. The bride and groom then walk over all of them in order to depart the ceremony. Why is this done you might ask? Well, I don’t really know, and neither does anyone else for that matter. This tradition was first brought to light in the book Planet Wedding: A Nuptual-pedia, and it doesn’t explain why newlywed couples have to walk on the backs of the bride’s relatives. Maybe it brings good luck for the happy couple?
13. The Blackening Of The Bride
A wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life. And what better way to celebrate her upcoming marriage than by humiliating her? In Scotland, the bride, the groom, or both, are waylaid by their friends and spattered with spoiled milk, dead fish, rotten eggs, spoiled curry, molasses, syrup, and other disgusting substances that you could find in a garbage can or dumpster. The bride and/or groom are either paraded through the streets while the friends jangle on pots to announce the wedding or they are tied to a tree. The tradition is meant to prepare the happy couple for the hardships of married life. Basically, if you can withstand public humiliation, you can withstand anything.
12. Fairies On The Floor
We all know the phrase “the luck of the Irish.” In Irish culture, having good luck by your side on your wedding day is absolutely imperative, since evil spirits are magnetized to brides in a way. One good way for a bride to have good luck on her special day is for her to not wear the color green. Fairies are believed to be present during the wedding, actively trying to cajole the bride away, and a bride wearing green would only enhance the fairies’ attempts. And when she is dancing during the reception, she should make sure that she always has at least one foot on the floor. According to Irish superstition, if she should ever have both feet in the air simultaneously, mischievous spirits will come and whisk her away.
11. Sacrificing Chicks
In other parts of the world, the bride and groom set their own wedding date. But for the Daur people of Inner Mongolia, baby chicks decide the wedding date. More specifically, their liver. The bride and the groom must hold a knife together, slaughter a baby chick, disembowel it, and examine its liver. If the liver is in good shape, then the couple can set a wedding date. If the liver isn’t in good shape, then the couple has to repeat the whole process again, and perhaps again, as many times as needed, until they can find a chicken with a sufficient liver. It would probably help if neither the bride nor the groom were squeamish and didn’t mind the sight of blood.
10. Kidnapping Your Bride
Now the bride isn’t actually kidnapped. There are no weapons or masks involved. It’s just a fairly light trick on the groom. While everyone is having a good time during the reception, a group of close friends of the groom will sneak the bride out (usually by hand) of the building where the wedding party is taking place. They take her to a club, a bar, the city center, or the park. The “kidnappers” call the groom on the phone and demand a ransom. Once an agreement has been reached, they take the bride back to the wedding. The ransom is most times fine wine or whiskey for the groom’s friends. However, in some cases, the ransom can be a request for the groom to declare his love for his bride.
9. Kumbh Vivah
This one doesn’t have so much to do with the wedding itself but something that must be done before the actual wedding. If you’re an Indian man or woman born as Manglik, meaning you were born when Mars (Mangal) was located in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of your Rashi (Indian astrological sign), congratulations—you’re cursed! For Mangliks, Mangal Dosha is thought to negatively affect their married life, creating tension, and in a worst-case scenario, the early death of one of the spouses. In order to prevent this potentially disastrous event from occurring, a Kumbh Vivah has to be performed before the wedding. In a Kumbh Vivah, the Manglik must marry a Peepal tree or a banana tree, and then the tree is cut down, freeing the Manglik from the curse.
8. Shoe Thieves
This wedding tradition only applies in certain parts of India. Before the groom can approach the wedding altar, he must first remove his shoes. And then, the action begins. The eldest unmarried members on the bride’s side—this includes sisters, cousins, and bridesmaids—take the groom’s shoes and make off with them, usually laughing as they do so. The groom’s side does their best to recover the groom’s shoes so he can, you know, get married. But the bride’s side doesn’t make it easy for them. The girls will hide the shoes in a place the groom’s side will never find, forcing the groom to pay a ransom to get them back. In some cases, the groom can bargain with the girls to get his shoes back without having to pay a ransom.
7. Smashing Dishes
If you’re a woman in Germany getting married, it would probably be best for you to hide your most valuable porcelain objects at least days before your wedding. In Germany, it’s a custom for guests to go into the bride’s house the night before the wedding and break any porcelain object in sight. The only rule is that you can’t break glass, as it represents happiness. The smashing of anything porcelain is believed to grant good luck to the happy couple. Once the porcelain is broken, it’s the couple’s job to clean it all up, teaching them that while married life may not always be flowers and sunshine all the time, as long as they work together, they can defeat any obstacle that stands in their way. Nowadays, the younger generation break the porcelain on the wedding day instead of the night before.
Many women will hit the gym with a fitness trainer to work off some pounds or simply to maintain their figure for their big day. But for many women in the African country of Mauritania, they have to put on weight for their wedding day, whether they like it or not. The military regime that rules over the country is responsible for girls being force-fed in preparation for marriage. Mauritanians believe that a woman’s size shows the amount of space she takes up in her husband’s heart, but the regime takes it way too far, torturing women into eating massive amounts of food. Young girls living in rural areas, as young as five, are taken to “fattening farms” where they are forced to eat and are physically hurt if they refuse. And if they vomit, they are forced to drink that too.
5. A Teary Wedding Song
A wedding is a tearfully joyous occasion for any bride. Just ask the Tujia people of China. It is required for a bride to shed tears at her wedding, whether she feels the need to cry or not. If she doesn’t or is unable to, then her neighbors will look down on her in contempt. In a worse-case scenario, the poor bride will become the laughingstock of the village. In one severe case, a bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at her wedding. And in the western section of the Sichuan Province where this crying ritual takes place in, it’s taken a step further. A month before the bride’s wedding, she enters into a large hall and cries for a whole hour every day, joined by her mother, grandmother, and other relatives over the course of the month.
4. Beating Of The Groom’s Feet
For grooms in South Korea, it would probably help to have a high tolerance for pain. After a wedding ceremony, the groomsmen or the groom’s family members remove his socks and shoes, tie his ankles, and they take turns beating his feet with a fish or a cane, in a ritual known as “Balaka” or beating of the groom’s feet. This must be done before the groom’s first night as a married man and it’s done to make him stronger so he doesn’t displease his wife on their wedding night. In addition to having his feet beaten, the groom has his knowledge tested in a series of questions. Balaka can be painful for some, but it’s far from cruel and is thought to be more amusing than anything.
3. No Smiling Allowed
We’ve seen plenty of pictures of smiling brides. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find any pictures of smiling brides in a Congolese wedding. In Congo, weddings are taken seriously; so seriously that the couple is forbidden from smiling before, during, and after the wedding ceremony. And they’re not allowed to smile during wedding photos either, in the photo for the wedding invitation, or even during the gathering before the wedding starts. If you smile, it looks as if you’re not serious about the marriage. In addition to no smiling, the bride has to have her face turned towards the floor. As one observer of a Congolese wedding said, it looked like the wedding party was at a funeral while the rest of the guests were happily celebrating the joyous occasion.
2. Holding It In
I guess the people of the Tidong tribe found in Northern Borneo, are really good at holding their bladder. Newlyweds are forbidden to use the toilet or leave the place they are staying in for 72 hours. To make sure neither the bride nor groom cheats on this rule, the residence is fervently guarded by relatives who feed the couple small amounts of food and water, just enough where they won’t starve and won’t be desperately wishing to use the bathroom. After the three-day period is up, the couple can leave and begin their marriage. This tradition is believed to cultivate a healthy marriage full of healthy babies. Cheating on this important trial is believed to bring bad luck, such as the death of the couple’s children.
1. Toilet Soup
This one is probably the most disgusting wedding tradition ever. If you’ve eaten recently or if you’re eating right now, you may want to skip over this entry and come back to it later. When a wedding ceremony is over, you may think it’s time for the bride and groom to jet off to their honeymoon destination, right? Wrong. The members of the bridal party will gather all the leftovers from the reception along with bits of trash and anything else disgusting, put it all in a toilet bowl, and make the recently-married couple drink out of the bowl. Nowadays, chocolate is substituted for soup, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re drinking out of a toilet. This tradition is expected to give the couple fuel for their wedding night and most likely an upset stomach.