Worldwide Wedding Customs

Tips for Bride’s…
Worldwide Wedding Customs

Early American:

  • Victorian brides wore gloves, symbols of modesty and romance; without the “g”, they were a pair of loves.

Africa/ African American:

  • Jumping the Broom: In the times of slavery in this country, African American couples were not allowed to formally marry and live together.To make a public declaration of their love and commitment, a man and woman jumped over a broom into matrimony, to the beat of drums. ( The broom has long held significant meaning for the various Africans, symbolizing the start of homemaking for the newlywed couple. In Southern Africa, the day after the wedding, a kgatla bird assisted the other women in the family in sweeping the courtyard, indicating her dutiful willingness to help her in-laws with housework till the newlyweds could move to their new home.) Some African- American couples today are choosing to include this symbolic rite in their wedding ceremony, directly before the recession.
  • Cowrie Shells- Smooth cowrie shells, which encourage fertility, are worn in bridal necklaces used to trim gowns, jackets, and headpieces in silver and white- as decorative accents. Cowrie shells, found of the coast of West Africa, were once used as money and today are used for purification. The shell is also used for purification. The shell is also a symbol of beauty and power.


  • Two white doves may be released to signify love and happiness.
  • The bride may dress in red silk and may wear cardboard wings with feathers on her head. Small coins may be thrown at her.


  • Brides may crown their veils with myrtle, which is the flower of life.


  • The bride may still embroider her name on her handkerchief, carry it on the wedding day, then frame it and keep it until the next family bride marries.


  • Islanders top their tiered wedding cakes with a tiny sapling. The newlyweds plant the tree at their home, where they can watch it grow, as their marriage grows.


  • The groom gives the bride a rosary, a prayer book, a girdle with three keys ( to guard her virtue), a fur cap, and a silver wedding ring.
  • The bride gives the groom a shirt sewn with gold thread blended with colored silks and a wedding ring.
  • Before the ceremony, the groomsman wraps the groom in the bride’s cloak to keep evil spirits from creeping in and dividing their two hearts.


  • A rich black cake baked with dried fruits and rum is especially popular on the islands of Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia. The recipe, handed down from mother to daughter, is embellished by each. It is considered a “pound” cake- with the recipe calling for a pound each of flour, dark brown sugar, butter, glace cherries, raisins, prunes, currants, plus a dozen eggs and flavorings. The dried fruits are soaked in rum and kept in a crock anywhere from two weeks to six months.


  • Chinese brides receive pocketbooks filled with gold jewelry from female relatives, which bestows status on the bride.
  • In old China, the color of love and joy is red, which is the favorite color choice for the bride’s dress, candles, gift boxes, and the money envelopes that are presented to the bride and guests.


  • Married female relatives remove the bride’s veil and replace it with a kerchief and apron, symbols of her new married status. She is then serenaded by all the married women.
  • Following the wedding ceremony, those assembled walk three times around the well ( symbolizing the Holy Trinity), and throw apples into it (symbolizing fertility).

The Czech Republic:

  • Friends would seak into the bride’s yard to plant a tree, then decorate it with ribbons and painted eggshells. Legend said she would live as long as the tree.
  • Brides in the countryside carry on the very old custom of wearing a wreath of rosemary, which symbolizes remembrance. The wreath is woven for each bride on her wedding eve by her friends as a wish for wisdom, love, and loyalty.


  • The traditional wedding cake is the cornucopia cake or Danish marzipan ring cake, made of almond cake, pastilage, and marzipan and beautifully decorated with sugarwork. It is filled to the brim with the good things in life: candies, almond cakes, perhaps fresh fruit and sorbet. the cake may also be decorated with marzipan medallions bearing portraits of the bride and groom.


  • Families, rather than grooms, propose to the bride. In Egypt, many marriages are arranged.
  • The zaffa, or wedding march, is a musical procession of drums, bagpipes, horns, belly dancers, and men carrying flaming swords; it announces that the marriage is about to begin.


  • Traditionally, the village bride and her wedding party always walk together to the church. Leading the procession: a small girl strewing blossoms along the road, so the bride’s path through life will always be happy and laden with flowers.
  • Brides sew a good luck charm, such as the silver horseshoe worn by royal British brides, to the hem of their wedding gown.


  • The groom presents the bride’s father with a tabua- a whale’s tooth, which is a symbol of status and wealth.


  • Brides wear golden crowns. After the wedding, unmarried women dance in a circle around the blindfolded bride, waiting for her to place her crown on someone’s head. It is thought that whoever she crowns will be the next to wed.
  • The bride and groom have seats of honor at the reception. The bride holds a sieve covered with a silk shawl; when the guests slip money into the sieve, their names and the amounts given are announced to those assembled by a groomsman.


  • During the rein of LousXVI, the bride gave her bridesmaids her fans, decorated with mythological paintings, as wedding presents.
  • Many couples drink the reception toast from an engraved two-handled cup (the coupe de mariage) as did newlyweds from days past. This cup will be passed on to future generations.


  • To mark their bethrothal, a couple give eachother gold bands, worn on their left hands. Throughout their engagement, the couple are referred to as bride and bridegroom.
  • During the ceremony, when the couple kneel, the groom may kneel on the bride’s hem to show that he’ll keep her in line. The bride may step on his foot when she rises, to reassert herself.


  • The koumbaros, traditionally the groom’s godfather, is an honored guest who participates in the wedding ceremony. Today, the koumbaros is very often the best man, who assists in the crowning of the couple (with white or gold crowns, or with crowns made of everlasting flowers such as orange blossoms, or of twigs of love and vine wrapped in silver and gold paper), and in the circling of the alter three times. Other attendats may read Scripture, hold candles, pack the crowns in a special box after the ceremony.
  • To be sure of a “sweet life”, a Greek bride may carry a lump of sugar in her glove on wedding day.


  • Dutch families used to plan a party prior to the wedding. The bride and groom sat on thrones under a canopy of fragrant evergreens. One by one, the guests came up to offer their good wishes.
  • Dutch weddings traditionally include heavy eating, including a sweetmeat called “bridal sugar” and spiced wine called “bride’s tears”.


  • The couple exchange bethrothal rings. The groom also gives the bride a bag of coins: the bride gives the groom either three or seven handkerchiefs (believed to be a lucky number).
  • Guests dance with the bride at the reception, and give her a few pence in exchange for a kiss.


  • The wedding cake indigeous to Iceland is kransakaka. It consists of rings of almond pastry of various sizes piled on top of one another to form a pyramid. Swirls of white icing decorate each ring and fine chocolates or decorative candies fill the hollow center.


  • The groom’s brother sprinkles flower petals ( to ward off evil) on the bridal couple at the end of the ceremony.
  • To banish evil spirits, a coconut may be held over the couple’s heads and circled around them three times.


  • During an engagement period that may last for years, many ceremonies involving gift exchanges that bring the two families together and strenghen their ties.
  • A Javanese bride is secluded after the marriage blessing and is visited by an angel, which stays with her throughout the six-day ritual that blends Muslim customs wiht local folklore.


  • When this country was called Persia, the groom bought the wedding dress, ten yards of sheeting to wrap around his bride.
  • Happily married women hold a sheer cloth over the head of the wedding pair during the ceremony. Later, the women scrape crumbs from two beautifully decorated sugar cones, known as kalehghand, over the couple’s heads for luck.


  • The traditional wedding cake of the Emerald Isle is a rich fruitcake. In true Irish spirit, the recipe is laced with brandy or bourbon.
  • A lucky horseshoe is given to the bride and groom to keep in their home.


  • Ribbons signify the tying together of two lives. A ribbon is tied across the front of the hurch door to symbolize the wedding bond.
  • Wedding guests have for centuries tossed confetti (sugared almonds) at the newlyweds. Sometimes, these decorate each place at reception tables- pretty little porcelin boxes or tulle bags called bomboniere, which are personalized with the couple’s names and wedding date- to symbolize the sweet (sugar ) and bitter.


  • Slices of dark wedding fruitcake laced with rum are mailed to all friends and relatives unable to attend the reception (almonds) in life.


  • On her wedding day , the bride and her family visit the groom’s house. Traditionally, she wears a triangular band on her head, known as the tsunokakushi, or horn cover, to hide the horns of jealousy, which supposedly all women posess.


  • Ducks are included in the wedding procession because ducks mate for life
  • The groom once traveled to the bride’s house on a white pony, bearing fidelity symbols- a gray goose and gander (fowl that mate for life).

Latin America:

  • Padrinos and madrinos are the wedding sponsors, who promise financial and spiritual aid. There may be several sponsors, a pair for each wedding part (e.g. music, food, church).


  • The groom’s gifts to the bride are delivered to her home by costumed children in a noisy procession, carrying lavish trays of food and currency folded into animal or flower shapes.
  • Each wedding guest is given a beautifully decorated hard-boiled egg, a symbol of fertility.


  • A “lasso” a very large rosary, is wound around the couple’s shoulders and hands during the ceremony to show the union and protection of marriage.
  • Guests at many mexican weddings gather around the couple in a heart-shaped ring at the reception, perhaps before the first dance.


  • As in other Muslim countries, five days before the wedding, the bride has a ceremonial bath, then is painted with henna swirls on hands and feet, an adorned with makeup and jewels by other women.
  • Before becoming guardian of her hearth, the Moroccan bride circles her marriage home three times.


  • Two small fir trees are set on either side of the door to the couple’s house until they are blessed with a child.
  • The folk bridal costume is not complete without sterling silver jewelry and a gold and silver crown edged with small silver spoon-shaped bangles, whose tinkling sounds were thought to ward off evil spirits. The bride “dances off” this crown at the wedding feast.


  • The bride’s family strings hundreds of brightly colored lights around the house in anticipation of the wedding.
  • The bride leaves her family to join her husband’s family with the Holy Koran held over her head.


  • A white silk cord is draped around the couple’s shoulders to indicate their union.
  • A bell- shaped cage housing white doves (symbolizing peace) is a favored wedding decoration. At a well-timed moment, the bride and groom pull on ribbon streamers to release the birds,a send-off into their new lives.


  • Reception guests customarily buy a dance with the bride by pining money to her veil or tucking bills into a special bridal purse to build a honeymoon fund.
  • Luck comes ot the bride who drinks a glass of wine at the celebration without spilling a drop.

Puerto Rico:

  • A bridal doll, in a dress that replicates the bridal gown, is placed on the head table at the reception. It might also be placed on the cake table if the wedding cake is decorated with flowers and colors that echo the bride’s gown. The doll is used because of little momentos called “capias” that are attched to the doll. During the reception, the bride and groom will walk to each person to thank them for their presence at the nuptuals and for their well wishes. Each person is pinned with a capia.


  • Guests toss sweets and nuts at the new couple to wish them prosperity.
  • Girls begin making things for their trosseau as young as age six. The trosseau is carried by a cart drawn by oxen to the annual “maiden market” on June 29; the families camp on a mountain.


  • Wedding guests don’t only give presents-they get them! The bride gives friends and relatives favors of sweets. They give her money after the wedding.
  • After the couple are crowned in a Russian Orthodox ceremony, they race to stand on a white rug. It is believed that whoever steps on it first will be the master of the household.


  • The bride wears a dress of tapa cloth made from mulberry bark.
  • The bride wears fresh flowers and a mother-of-pearl crown.


  • Friends carry on an old good-natured custom:they wash the feet of both the bride and groom, preparing them to set off on a new path.
  • The sword dance, similiar to an Irish jig ot a Highland fling, is usually performed at a Scottish wedding gathering.


  • The groom gives thirteen coins (the giving of monedas or arras) to the bride, symbolizing his ability to support and care for her. During the ceremony, she carries them in a special purse, or a young girl carries them on a pillow or handkerchief.
  • Wedding guests dance a sequidillas manchegas at the reception, uring which each guest presents the bride with a gift.


  • The bride may place a silver coin from her father I her left shoe; a gold coin from her mother in her right shoe, so she’ll never do without. Her shoes are unfastened- symbolizing easy child-birth in the future.
  • Swedish wives wear three wedding rings: for betrothal, for marriage, and for motherhood.


  • A pine tree, which symbolizes luck and fertility, is planted at the couple’s new home.
  • After vows, the bride’s floral wreath, which symbolizes her maidenhood, is removed and set afire by the mistress of ceremonies. It’s considered lucky if it burns quickly.


  • On the morning of the wedding, the couple go to feed the monks (who have taken the vow of poverty), in order ot obtain a blessing.
  • An old custom, still practiced in rural areas, is to have an older couple prepare the bridal bed and leave behind lucky talismans- such as bags of rice, sesame seeds, coins and a tomcat- to wish both fertility and happiness.


  • A mock capture of the bride is carried out at wedding receptions to remind everyone present of the many times their homeland was invaded.
  • Instead of cake, Ukranian couples share korovai, a sacred wedding bread decorated with symbolic motifs that represent eternity and the joining together of two families.


  • The mother of a Vietnamese groom visits the bride’s home on the wedding day to deliver betel ( a plant used to pay respect) and pink chalk ( the color chosen to wish for a rosy future).
  • There are two wedding celebrations, one party given by the bride’s family and the other by the grooms.


  • Here, and throughout the British Isles, the bride gives her attendants cuttings of myrtle (symbolizing love) for her boquet. According to custom, if the plant roots and blossoms, they will marry soon.
  • Attendants race home form the ceremony with news of the marriage; first to arrive wins a pint of ale.

West Indies:

  • The traditional rum-flavored wedding cake is covered with a fine white table cloth. Guests pay for a lucky peek.
  • Guests are served curried goat and white rice .


  • The bride’s female relatives prepare the food, including small sweetened friters, which promise a sweet life for the newlyweds and all who partake.
  • The whole community is invited to join the celebration. Playing music to “gladen the bride and groom” is a sacred duty, and professional musicians. Performers and guests take turns with the instruments.

(Worldwide Wedding Customs are fromĀ BRIDE’S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE, Berkley Publishing Company New York,NY . January 1994)