Weddings have so many different traditions surrounding them and these various customs differ from country to country. More common wedding traditions include wedding toasts, throwing the bouquet and even breaking a bottle after the nuptials are completed. These different practices sometimes come from a religious background and sometimes they are a national institution. Wherever the tradition comes from, over time it becomes warped and the meaning begins to change. Where a custom was once a ceremonial foot washing it can now be a time when all of the newlyweds favorite people pelt them with smelly garbage. The fun thing about rituals is that they bring a sense of camaraderie to those who take part, when it comes to wedding rituals a sense of camaraderie is necessary for a happy and healthy future.
The concept of wedding rituals almost always ends with a hope of good luck for the bride and groom. Wherever the custom derives from in the world and whether it comes from a religious belief or not, the custom generally ensures a long happy relationship for the couple getting hitched. These wedding traditions take us from shocked to confused as we travel all around the world in this list of strange wedding rituals.
15. The Museum of Broken Relationships – Croatia
The museum located in Zagreb, Croatia contains artifacts from failed love affairs and marriages. The museum began as a traveling collection of items that had been donated and has even received awards for being such an innovative display. Croatian film producer Olinka Vištica and sculptor Dražen Grubišić joked about starting a museum of their leftover personal items after their break up. After 3 years Grubišić contacted his old flame to make the joke into a reality and eventually their friends began donating items to be put on display.
From 2006 to 2010 the collection traveled from Argentina to Germany to South Africa and back again, in this time it was viewed by over 200,000 people. The ex-couple turned business partners eventually invested in a personal space to house the collection. The Museum of Broken Relationships continues inspiring visitors to attempt to understand the concept of the fragility surrounding human relationships. There are also political, social and economical stories surrounding the donated displays.
14. Graveside Weddings – Russia
If we know anything about the Russian people, it is that they have mastered the somber tone, and why should the celebrations of their union be any different? Some young Russian couples get married at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow out of respect for their nation. The large red building sits on the closest place that the Germans were able to approach Moscow during the war and now holds the remains of the unknown soldiers that died during World War II in 1941. At the front of the monument is a five-pointed star made of labradorite that holds the eternal flame. If a couple does not marry at the site they will generally lay flowers at the tomb while in their wedding attire for luck in their nuptials. Before planning a ceremony there be sure to time it right as the changing of the guard happens hourly at the tomb.
13. Wedding Dolls – Puerto Rico
This long-standing Puerto Rican wedding tradition is slowly dying in modern culture but is still found in certain families. In this tradition, a doll is either placed on top of a cake or on the gift table. The doll is said to signify good luck and will have charms placed on or around it somehow. This symbol is usually dressed similarly to the bride and can be anything from a Barbie to a large, handmade doll. These charms serve as thank you gifts, or capias, for the guests in attendance. Sometimes the charms are just placed on the table around the dolls. Some couples prefer to get a doll with a long, beautiful skirt that has the charms pinned all over it. This is the doll that would be placed on the gift table so that a guest could put their gift down and take their charm with them into the reception.
12. Jumping the Broom – Wales
This antiquated custom was said to have been started in the 18th century amongst the Romani people of the Welsh area of the United Kingdom. It is, however, thought that couples would jump over the shrub known as common broom and not an actual household object. Couples would elope and have to jump over the shrubs in order to leave their homes to marry.
In the 1970s the novel and miniseries Roots introduced the practice of jumping over an actual broom during a wedding originating in the 19th century among the African slaves of the antebellum period in American history. Slaves were not allowed to legally wed due to the complications that had for their owners, jumping the broom became their way of acknowledging a new couple into holy matrimony. There are some wedding traditions in Ghana that involve brooms but the origination of this custom has not yet been discovered.
11. Shagun Matrimony Channel – India
Indian weddings are some of the most beautiful and extravagant events in the world, in fact, the wedding industry in the country reaches to about Rs 250 billion in profit. The channel is only about matrimony dealing with programs about marriage & weddings, relationships, shopping, and astrology. The hindi based Matrimonial TV Channel airs in 15 cities across India as of now.
The creator of Shagun TV Anuranjan Jha met his wife on a dating website. He realized that while 3% of Indians have internet access over 47% of Indians have television, if he could make dating sites available on television then more young people could find each other. The channel now runs an energetic rendition of simple stats about bachelor’s while showing non-edited images of the men. Jha has made it clear that the prospective bride and groom will not meet without families present, that this is not a seedy dating site but a place to find a potential life partner.
10. The Love Spoons – Wales
Generally made of wood, love spoons are a gift of romantic intent. This is a custom that dates back to Welsh origins. The spoons are made with decorative handles that are meant to show off the woodworking prowess of the husband to be. A husband would carve a love spoon and then give it to his intended as a message to her father that he can provide for the family with his woodworking skills. It is also a symbol that he will be able to keep food on the table for his beloved. Some of these historic spoons also came from time at sea.
Sailors would spend their long journeys abroad carving love spoons as they thought of their love back home, this is why many of the love spoon handle designs contain anchors. There are other common symbols found in the classic love spoons and they all have special meanings. A horseshoe represents good luck, bells mean marriage, a cross signifies faith, a wheel supports a loved one, a lock represents security and caged balls mean the number of children that the couple hopes for. These spoons are still made but are completely decorative due to their intricacy.
9. Money Dance – Greece
Anyone who knows anything about Greek culture knows that a Greek party is always full of two things: food and dancing. At a Greek wedding, there is a very special dance called the money dance, the portion of the wedding where we can give the bride and groom our gifts of cold hard cash. To begin the dance the couple will start moving slowly with a handkerchief and then one by one, guests will come up and pin money directly onto their garments. The tradition begins with the parents approaching the couple first to give their gifts and then the rest of the wedding party joins in. Parents will sometimes have cash pre-pinned into a scarf of sorts and place that over the shoulders of the newlyweds. On occasion, the family gets really inventive and creates a crown with their gifts. Expect everyone to maul at the bride and groom at the same time because order is not something that Greeks are interested in!
8. Wife Carrying or Eukonkanto – Finland
This strange tradition is now practiced in Australia, Hong Kong, the United States of America, Estonia and the UK but originated in Finland. There are three common stories to how this weird sport started and they all involve a robber named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen from the late 1800s. Some stories include him and his men stealing women from villages and carrying them away on their backs while others describe villagers stealing wives from nearby villages.
Modern wife carrying involves a man carrying a woman on his back as he navigates through obstacles, the fastest competitor wins. There are three ways to carry a woman in the event, either piggyback, fireman’s carry over the shoulder and the Estonian hold where the woman hangs upside by her knees on her man’s shoulders and holds onto her waist. Competitors are only allowed a belt and a helmet for the woman and if she weighs any less than 49 kg then she will be given the appropriate amount of weight so that everyone is equal.
7. Blackening – Scotland
In Scottish wedding custom, the families and bridal parties of the bride and groom will kidnap them and pelt them with food that is supposed to stick on to their clothes and skin. They are then paraded around their community for all of the citizens to see. Oftentimes they will be driven around in the back of an open truck to cover the most land while all of the captors bang pots and pans to draw everyone out of their houses.
This tradition mostly takes place in the more rural areas of Northeastern Scotland along with the Isles and the Highlands. There is also a custom in Northern Ireland called a ‘the doing’ that is very similar but the origins are a bit shaky. It seems that in the beginning, the custom was a feet washing ceremony that over time developed into something quite different which then led to dirtying their feet and legs. Over time it became an outdoor activity that was more joking, just shows how time changes all things.
6. Bachelor and Spinster Ball – Australia
Often called B&S Balls or simply B&S’s, these Australian outback parties began as a place for kids that live in the bush to meet potential mates since they lived remotely. In modern Australia, these balls are now huge parties where kids that live hours away from each other are able to meet up. These parties feature large quantities of cheap liquor and live country music. Tickets can cost up to $110 AU and include drinks, dinner and sometimes breakfast as well as a swag bag with various small gifts.
Kids start arriving in the afternoon to start drinking and doing tricks with their pickup trucks, which they call “utes” (short for utility truck). After the party people pass out in their trucks and wake up the next morning for either the provided breakfast or head to ‘recovery’, an afterparty where we can keep on drinking. B&S balls are currently under much scrutiny and are getting more and more difficult to insure, also much of the youth of Australia lives in the cities and far less young people are living in the bush.
5. Gerewol Festival – Niger
Beauty pageants are a custom that most of us are familiar with, but when we imagine it the contestants are usually women. The Gerewol is an annual beauty pageant where the men of the Wodaabe tribe dress up, paint their faces and dance for the women. After the festival, the women will choose a winner as their mate. The Wodaabe tribe is a small offshoot of the Fulani, their main source of existence is raising cattle. They run cows in the Sahel region on the edge of the Sahara and can be found mostly in Chad and Niger.
The Gerewol courtship lasts for a week and includes several dance routines where the men have the opportunity to impress the ladies. In these dances, the men will stand shoulder to shoulder while slowly moving in a circle, as they turn the women will tap the shoulders of the men that they find attractive. The Yaake is the most rigorous dance of the week and it lasts all day under the hot Summer sun. The men are fueled by a hallucinogenic drink and spend the dance showing off their stamina to the prospective beloved.
4. No Bathroom Breaks for Newlyweds – Indonesia
In the Indonesian Tidong community, there are a few very sweet wedding traditions that involve wooing a bride with love songs but some are just kind of tortuous. After the wedding, the bride and groom are not permitted to use the bathroom for three days. Those who do expel their bodily waste in those three days are believed to take on terrible luck that will bring infidelity, a broken marriage and even the death of a child at a young age.
Within this three day period, a couple is watched over by a few individuals. They will eat very little food and drink very little in order to make it through this time frame without using the bathroom. After three days the bride and groom will be ceremonially bathed and then released to go about their normal lives. The Tidong people can be found in the city of Sandakan located in Sabah, Malaysia.
3. Weeping Brides – China
This custom began in Southeast China’s Sichuan province and continued until the end of the Qing dynasty. It is an especially common custom amongst the Tujia people. In west Sichuan Province, a bride will begin crying one month before her wedding day. The bride will begin by walking the halls at nightfall and crying for an hour. After 10 days she is joined by her mother and then after 10 more days the grandmother, aunts, and other female relatives will join in on the crying game.
The “Crying Marriage Song” is a specific way that Chinese brides would cry. They will cry in various ways with different words in order to set the stage for a wedding. Before leaving for the wedding it is also expected that the bride curse at the matchmaker. These customs come from a very sad place of arranged marriages before the liberation of the People’s Republic of China. It has been said that some mothers will beat their daughters on their wedding day if they are free of tears.
2. Bounty of the Chicken Liver – China
The small group of people from the Duar minority are descendants of Khitan, an ancient people of China. This group resides mainly in the Mongolia Autonomous Region and Heilongjiang Province with some in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In order to set a wedding date within the Duar community, the bride and groom must kill a baby chicken in order to inspect the liver. If the appearance of the liver is ‘lucky’ then the couple can set the wedding date and if it is unlucky then the couple must continue killing the chicks until they find the lucky liver. The Duar also make a custom of surrounding the bride with her family members on her wedding day, the whole group will deliver the wife to her new husband singing merry songs all the way. Duar are pioneers, that is what the word means! But their marriage customs seem not to have caught on.
1. Mars Bearing Women Marry Trees – India
In India, it is customary to assess the astrological compatibility of a bride and groom before their engagement. If the woman is ‘mars-bearing’ or has the 1, 4, 7, 8, or 12th houses filled with Mars ruling planets they are deemed manglik, a term that implies bad luck but only if you’re a woman. Not just any bad luck, being manglik implies that a woman will bring early death to her husband. In order to shed away this ‘untouchableness’ a woman must marry either a banana or a peepal tree.
This practice is illegal in modern India as it perpetuates a lack of women’s rights in the country and fortifies the caste system. In fact, simple mathematics finds that out of every 100 people 41 of them are manglik, making this ritual outdated and offensive to women. Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai recently underwent the ceremony to marry her husband and is now facing a lawsuit because of it.