Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Customs and Traditions
FromAround the World

  • Jumping the Broom—The couple makes a public declaration of their love and commitment, then jumpsover a broom to the beat of drums. (This originated in the time of slavery when African-Americans couldnot legally marry; it has now come to represent setting up a new home.)
  • Cowrie shells are sometimes worn in bridal necklaces, adorning gowns, jackets, and head-pieces. Whileused as currency in the South Pacific and Africa, for this purpose, cowrie shells symbol-ize fertility,beauty, and power.
  • Brides often crown their veils with myrtle (considered there to be the flower of life).
  • The bride embroiders her name on a hand-kerchief and carries it throughout her wedding day. It isthen framed and kept until the next female relative marries.
  • Wedding cakes are topped with a tiny sapling. The bride and groom then plant the tree at their home.
  • Unmarried siblings of the bride and/or groom dance to a special song wearing extravagantly decoratedor colored socks (a French-Canadian tradition).
  • On the wedding day, both the bride and groom’s houses are decorated in red.
  • It is considered preferable to marry on the half-hour rather than the hour. (Life together begins on theupswing, as the hands of the clock will be moving up, not down.)
  • Brides change gowns after the feast, and typically four to five different dresses are worn throughoutthe day.
  • Brides traditionally receive pocketbooks filled with gold jewelry (bestowing status) from femalerelatives.
  • The parents, couple, and relatives will stand in a line near the door when it is time to leave,thanking guests on their way out (as opposed to Western receiving lines).
  • From an old English rhyme comes the tradi-tion of the bride wearing something old, something new,something borrowed, and something blue.
  • Another English custom places a ring in the wedding cake, so that the finder will have happinessthroughout the next year.
  • Brides will often sew a good-luck charm (sometimes a small horseshoe) into the hem of their weddinggowns.
  • The groom gives a gift to his bride's father (often a tabua, or whale’s tooth) whichsymbolizes wealth and status.
  • The last dance at the reception is called the Weaning Waltz. Women and children can dance with thebride and groom separately for a moment only, whisking them around the floor. The bride and groom canonly be reunited at the end of the dance.
  • For the reception toast, the bride and groom drink from an engraved two-handled cup.
  • The bride wears shoes paid for with saved pennies.
  • While she carries salt and bread in her pocket to ensure bounty, her groom carries grain to ensurewealth and good fortune.
  • The best man or groomsman steals the bride away from the reception and takes her to a local pub forchampagne. The groom, once he finds them, must then foot the bill.
  • The bridal party carries ivy to symbolize end-less love.
  • The bride may carry a lump of sugar in her glove to ensure a sweet life.
  • A diamond ring is thought to protect its wearer from fire, snakes, illnesses, thieves, and otherevils. It is valued more for these mag-ical powers than for its beauty.
  • Sweets (representing a sweet life), eggs (fertility), and money (prosperity) are included intraditional Indian wedding cere-monies.
  • At the end of the ceremony, the groom’s brother will toss flower petals over the cou-ple to ward offevil spirits.
  • Brides often braid their hair both for good luck and to retain "sacred female powers."
  • For the ceremony, men wear kilts rather than tuxedos.
  • Green is considered an unlucky color at weddings.
  • Traditional Claddagh rings are often exchanged. Named after a fishing village in Galway, westernIreland, the ring is often passed down from mother to daughter. It is worn with the crowns facing inward(toward the wrist) for engagement/betrothal, and outward (toward the nail) for marriage.
  • Irish Wedding Blessing—This prayer can be in its traditional format or rewritten.
  • A traditional menu includes Irish soda bread, corned beef, and cabbage.
  • A traditional cake contains fruit (the top layer is saved until the christening of the first child).
  • Irish Wedding Bells—The couple rings these bells after the ceremony. They then keep these bells closeat hand in their new home.
  • In ancient Israel, blue ribbons were worn in the bride's hair to represent fidelity.
  • Sunday is considered the luckiest day to marry.
  • An Italian bride wears a veil to hide from evil spirits. The later tearing of the veil is consideredgood luck.
  • Early Roman brides carried bunches of herbs (often including rosemary) to symbolize fidelity,fertility, and to ward off malevolent spirits.
  • A ribbon is tied to the front of the church door, symbolizing the union of two lives.
  • Candy-covered almonds are tied in mesh bags and tossed at the couple after the ceremony.
  • Good-luck foods at the reception include twists of fried dough powdered with sugar and Italianwedding candy.
  • The traditional reception meal has 14 courses, closing with a slice of wedding cake and espresso.
  • Buste—A tradition where the bride carries a satin bag to her guests, who place envelopes of moneyinto the bag to help pay for the wedding.
  • The religious wedding ceremony is only attended by the couple’s closest family relatives.
  • The bridal party wears traditional kimono attire.
  • Following the ceremony, a reception is held for all guests (from 20-200 on average).
  • Japanese brides will give gifts to their guests, ranging in value from $30-$50.
  • The ceremony is traditionally held at the bride's family home.
  • Ducks are often included in the ceremony (because they mate for life).
  • Prior to the wedding, the groom gives the bride’s mother a wild goose (wooden or live). It symbolizesa promise that he will care for her daughter all his life.
  • A few days after the ceremony, the couple will visit the groom's family for the p'ye-baek (asecond ceremony). It is usually a family-only affair.
  • The couple kneels before the bride’s parents at the reception to ask for their blessings.
  • Afterwards, the bride and groom eat pieces of bread dipped in salt, symbolizing that the couple willnever want for food and will never hurt one another.
  • The groom's gifts to the bride are delivered to her home by costumed children in a lively procession,often carrying lavish trays of food, and money folded into animal or flower shapes.
  • Each wedding guest receives a decorated hard-boiled egg (symbolizing fertility).
  • A very large rosary (known as a lasso) is strung around the couple’s shoulders and hands during theceremony (representing the union and protection of their marriage).
  • During the reception, guests surround the couple in a heart-shaped ring (often before the firstdance).
  • Weddings are often held during the fall, following the harvest (for good luck and prosperity).
  • Sunday is considered the best day to wed.
  • Bright yellow is considered a favored color for weddings (because it is believed to scare away evil),along with green (to bring good luck).
  • Gold is believed to bring wealth and prosperity, so gold coins are often used as jewelry or todecorate bridal headdresses.
  • The wedding party wears folk bridal costumes, complete with sterling- silver jewelry and a gold andsilver crown accented with small silver spoon-shaped bangles. The sound of the clinking spoonshistorically was believed to ward off evil spirits.
  • Brides are given away by both parents.
  • A white silk cord is wrapped around the couple’s shoulders during the ceremony to symbolize andprotect their union.
  • A bell-shaped cage holding white doves is often present during the ceremony or reception. The brideand groom will then pull on ribbon streamers to release the birds, symbolizing the beginning of their newlife together.
  • Friends of the bride traditionally weave her a crown of rosemary leaves (symbolizing remem-brance).
  • Unveiling—While all guests encircle the bride, her mother removes the veil and places it on the maidof honor, who then dances with the best man. She then places the veil on the next bridesmaid, etc. Eachbridesmaid symbolizes an angel bestowing gifts on the couple.
  • At the reception, a doll is placed on the bride and groom's table or the cake table (but only if thecake is decorated with flowers and colors that match the bride’s gown). The doll wears a dressreplicating the bridal gown, which traditionally sports mementos (called capias). The capias are removed and given in thanks to each guest at the reception by the bride and groom.
  • The bride traditionally gives gifts (usually favors or sweets) to her guests.
  • In Russian Orthodox ceremonies, the couple races to stand on a white rug after the final vows. It isbelieved that whoever reaches the rug first will be the master of the household.
  • The wedding couple gives silver serving spoons engraved with their initials and wedding date to bothsets of parents.
  • Friends wash the feet of the bride and groom (preparing them for a new path).
  • The traditional Scottish sword dance is usually performed at the reception.
  • At the end of the event, all guests gather in a circle to sing "Auld Lang Syne."
  • The wedding ring is passed down from generation to generation.
  • Both the bride and groom are walked down the aisle by their parents.
  • Kroje --A traditional Slovakian folk dress often worn at the reception, which is sometimessequined, as sparkles are thought to protect the couple from evil spirits.
  • The groom gives 13 coins to the bride, symbolizing his ability to care for her. The bride thencarries them in a special purse through the ceremony, or they are carried by a young girl on a pillow orin a handkerchief.
  • At the reception, guests perform the Sequidillas Manchegas dance, during which each guestpresents the bride with a gift.
  • The bride wears a silver coin from her father in her left shoe and a gold coin from her mother in herright (so she’ll never do without). Her shoes are unfastened, to symbolize easy childbirth in the future.
  • Swedish wives wear three wedding rings: for betrothal, marriage, and motherhood.
  • Instead of cake, Ukranian couples share korovai, a sacred wedding bread decorated with symbolicmotifs that represent eternity and the uniting of two families.
  • Brides give myrtle to their attendants, which will then be placed in their bouquets to be plantedlater. If the plant grows, it is believed that the attendant will marry.


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