Weddings

55 Amazing Wedding Traditions Around the World

From whipping feet to sawing logs, smashing bells to stealing shoes (and a month of sobbing before the wedding day!), there's some weird and wonderful wedding traditions around the world - these are our favourites

Wedding traditions around the world

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: from these four traditional tokens to not seeing the bride in her wedding dress before the big day, weddings are bursting with customs and superstitions that couples believe will ensure a long, happy life together. And they aren't just limited to weddings in the UK.

Across the world, every culture has its own unique and beloved wedding traditions that range from the sweet to the truly bizarre. French couples must drink from a toilet bowl, while Congolese newlyweds are forbidden to smile. In Romania, brides are kidnapped and must be ransomed back by their husband, while in India the bride's family do the same - but to the groom's shoes. And in South Korea, poor grooms can barely get their feet back in their shoes after they've been whipped with a stick. 

Some are funny, some are pretty gruesome, but all of them have their roots in wishing good fortune, fidelity and fertility to the newlyweds. Here's our pick of some of the sweetest and wildest wedding traditions around the world.

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To Good Luck and Long Lives

Wedding traditions around the world

1. In Greece, brides should hide a sugar cube in their glove to ensure a sweet life and place a gold coin in their shoe for prosperous finances. The groom gets a less sticky end of the deal with a piece of iron in his pocket to ward off evil spirits. It's also considered good luck to have an odd number of guests at a Greek wedding. 

2. We'd never heard of this one before, and it definitely sounds like something a mum made up the spot. Apparently if you find a spider lurking in your wedding dress, it's good luck. We'll hold our breath on this English tradition.

3. Hands up if you love chocolate and Champagne? Hands up if you'd drink it from a toilet bowl? Yes, it's a tradition in France for friends of the couple to put leftover food and drink in a (clean) toilet bowl or chamber pot then force the newlyweds to drink 'La Soupe'. The leftovers have been replaced these days with chocolate and fizz, but the toilet bowl is still a very key part. It's meant to give the couple strength for their wedding night.

4. Ouch! Egyptian women pinch the bride on her wedding day to bring the marriage good luck.

5. If you like baths, take after the Moroccan tradition where women bathe in milk to purify themselves before the wedding ceremony.

6. Congolese couples are not allowed to smile during their entire wedding day. Not during their photos, vows, dancing, nothing! If they do, it means they aren't serious about marriage.

7. The falaka or bastinado ceremony in South Korea is hard to beat for weird wedding traditions. The groom's friends and family hold him down and whip the soles of his feet with a stick or dried fish while asking him trivia questions. It's meant to test his strength of character and strengthen his memory.

Wedding traditions around the world

8. Bulgarian couples MUST step into the church right foot first for good luck.

9. Like peas? Let's hope you live in the Czech Republic. Couples are showered with peas or lentils instead of rice as confetti. It's meant to enhance fertility - as is the custom of placing a baby on the couple's bed to bless them with children.

10. A pine tree or lilies of the valley are planted outside of the newlyweds' home in Holland as a symbol of fertility and luck. It symbolises a love that blossoms every spring.

11. Speaking of trees, if you're a Hindu woman born during the astrological period when Mars and Saturn are both under the seventh house, you'll have a quarrelsome marriage and should prepare for early widowhood. To break this curse, the bride has to first marry a tree and then cut it down. 

12. The Scottish aren't ones for making it easy: in the past, the bride and groom were taken out the day before their wedding, soaked through with alcohol, then covered in treacle, feathers, flour and ash by their loved ones. Apparently this humiliating ritual kept the evil spirits away – and we can only imagine how long it took to scrub that concoction off.

13. If you're after something much nicer, Mexican couples will drape a lasso, or lazo, of rosary beads and flowers around their shoulders in a figure of eight while exchanging vows. This infinity symbol symbolises how long they want the marriage to last and the joining of the couple.

Wedding traditions around the world

14. The Yoruba tribe in Africa have a tradition called the Tasting of the Four Elements. The couple get a literal taste during their ceremony of four flavours that represent the stages in a marriage. A slice of lemon for sourness to represent the disappointments they will face; a sip of vinegar for bitterness they must overcomes; cayenne pepper for heat to show the spice and passion and their relationship; and a spoonful of honey for the sweet joy in marriage. Tasting they all shows the couple will be able to overcome anything.

15. In Norway, the bride must wear an ornate silver and gold crown on her head that has small charms on it. When she walks, the tinkling sound of the charms is supposed to ward off those pesky evil spirits.

16. Shoes feature heavily in good luck traditions, and in Sweden the bride places a gold coin from her father and a silver coin given by her mother in each show to give lifelong good fortune and prosperity. 

17. The people of Sweden also have a kissing tradition where any time the bride or groom leaves the table to use the bathroom, anyone and everyone of the opposite sex can steal a kiss from the newlywed left behind. Let's hope you're not the jealous type. 

18. As for bathroom practices, it's this one in Borneo that's really making us wince. Indonesian couples spend the first three days of their marriage confined to their home together - quite nice so far - except they aren't allowed to use the toilet! It's meant to strengthen their bond (because nothing says love like a UTI).

19. In Thailand, wedding guests tie white strings, known as sai sins, around the bride's wrists for luck. If she can wear them for three days, even better fortune will come their way!

Wedding traditions around the world

20. You may argue among yourselves who has the biggest mouth, but there's a way to test that in Russia. Newlyweds share a sweetbread called karavay which is decorated with a wheat ear-shaped wreath for prosperity and two interlaced rings for faithfulness. The puffier the bread, the happier and richer the newlyweds will be when they taste it.  And whichever of the couple takes the biggest bite without using their hands is considered to be the head of the family.

21. With sore dancing feet, we bet there's many a couple that wish they could sneak out their wedding reception early. But in Venezuela, there's even more reason to! It's good luck for the newlyweds to sneak off from the party before the end without being caught. It's also good luck for the guest that first realises they're gone.

22. Supposedly, Saturday is the unluckiest day to marry according to English folklore. Wednesday is considered the "best day" to marry, while Monday is for wealth and Tuesday is for health.

23. And did you know why summer weddings became so popular in the UK? It dates back to the 16th century when most people had their annual bath in May so they were still smelling pretty sweet by June. Luckily the bride could carry a bouquet of flowers to hide her body odour if she'd started to ripen - hence why brides carry a bouquet today.

24. German couples are presented with a log after their wedding, which they must saw in half as a team. It's believed to show their ability to overcome tough obstacles together.

25. The poor Germans aren't just sawing through a whole tree trunk. The night before the wedding, the guests will traditionally break loads of porcelain outside the bride's house to bring the couple's marriage luck in a custom called Polterabend. The couple have to take care of cleaning all the shards of porcelain up, helping them learn to get through any hardships in their marriage. 

Wedding traditions around the world

26. In Spanish Catholic weddings, the couple share 13 coins known as arras or unity coins which represent Jesus and his twelve apostles. The coins symbolise good fortune in the marriage ahead. 

27. We all know that the best man began as a sibling or clansman who would stand to the right of the groom, armed and ready to fight anyone who tried to steal the bride during the ceremony. But the best man has a very different job today. In Greece, the best man or koumparos comes armed with a razor and shaves the groom's face. After this, the groom's new mother-in-law feeds him honey and almonds. 

28. Each jewel has a symbolic meaning which can spell triumph or troubles for your marriage if it features in your engagement or wedding ring. Sapphire traditionally mean marital happiness and aquamarine represents martial harmony, both ensuring a long, happy marriage. However, a pearl is said to ring bad luck as its shape mirrors a tear.

29. You've got to have a lot of trust in your soon-to-be husband in China. The groom must shoot his bride with a bow and arrow (importantly the arrow doesn't have a head!), collect the arrows and then break them during the ceremony. Supposedly this ensures their love lasts forever.

30. In fact China has a wealth of unusual traditions. In the Sichuan province, brides schedule an hour of crying into their day for at least a month before the wedding. After 10 days, the bride's mum joins her for an hour of sobbing each day, and 10 days after that, Granny joins in; by the end of the month all the females in the family are crying with the bride. Known as Zuo Tang, which means Sitting in the Hall, it's actually meant to be an expression of joy - and brides can be punished if they don't cry hard enough.

31. After the wedding ceremony in Guatemala, the wedding party head back to the groom's house. Outside is a white ceramic bell filled with rice, flour and other grains that represent abundance and prosperity. It's the groom's mum's job to smash the bell to shower best wishes on the couple.  

32. Ceramic factories must love a wedding as there's some smashing going on in Armenia too! The newlyweds will balance lavash flatbreads on their shoulders to ward off even spirits, and when they enter the wedding reception, they'll break a plate for good luck. The couple will then be fed lavash and honey by the groom's mum.

33. Irish folklore says that evil fairies will come and steal the bride away if she doesn't keep one foot on the floor at all times while dancing.

Wedding traditions around the world

34. Never work with animals, but what about inviting one to your wedding? In Niger, wedding guests gather round a trained camel to watch it dance to a drumbeat at the reception. In the Philippines, the newlyweds release a pair of white doves into the air to represent a harmonious life.

35. Across Asia, wearing robes with cranes embroidered in them symbolises a loyal and faithful marriage. 

36. Dance-offs are big at traditional Zulu weddings in South Africa. The Umabo ceremony takes place at the house of the groom and the bride must leave her own home early in the morning, covered in a blanket and not look back. Her father takes her to the groom's home and she is snuck in through the kitchen. The groom's family then pay a penalty for not noticing her. A cow is ritually slaughtered, the two families exchange gifts and there's a big dance-off between the two sides, symbolising the bride leaving her ancestral home for her husband's.

Money, Money, Money

Wedding traditions around the world

37. On the day of the wedding, an Indian bride's female relatives take part in a ritual called Joota Chupai where they steal the groom's shoes and demand ransom money for their return. 

38. At some Spanish weddings, the groom's friends will take scissors and chop up his tie. The pieces will then be sold to guests to raise money for the newlyweds. The bride can get in on the action too by offering up her garter for the snip. 

39. In Romania, the bride is playfully kidnapped her her wedding by her wedding guests. The guests will keep her hostage until the groom pays a ransom - normally bottles of alcohol, and sometimes as little as a love song for his bride. 

40. There's a similar thing in Russia, where the groom must go to the home of the bride's parents on the wedding morning and pay them a "ransom" to show his worth. He'll use either use, gifts, or simply humiliate himself with a song and dance until the bride's family has had enough. 

41. Bridesmaids in China have a seriously fun job on the wedding morning. They must put the groom through a series of tests called "wedding door games" to prove he's worthy of the bride. Then he pays the bridesmaids off with envelopes of money. Not too shabby a job!

Wedding traditions around the world

42. A Nigerian money dance is a must if you want to claw back some money on your big day. In the Yoruba and Igbo tribes, guests will toss cash over the couples as they dance in what's called a money spray. The wedding party then help them gather it all up! 

43. It's custom in Cuba that every male guest who dances with the bride must pin money to her wedding dress. This is to help the couple pay for their wedding. 

44. Finnish brides traditionally went door-to-door with an older married man to collect gifts in a pillowcase. The man was meant to represent a long marriage.

45. Got an older, unmarried sibling? At French-Canadian weddings, your unwed brothers and sisters will don brightly coloured socks and do a dance for the guests. The guests will throw money at them which is then collected for the newlyweds.

Pre-Wedding Traditions

Wedding traditions around the world

46. You've heard of a cake pop; well what about a cake pull? In Peru, the wedding cake is assembled with layers of ribbon between it to which charms are attached. One of these is a fake wedding ring, and at the reception, each single woman is encouraged to pull a ribbon from the cake. The single lady who gets the ring will be the next to marry. Considering this involves cake and a free ring, we much prefer this to the bouquet toss! 

47. That's maybe better in some people's eyes than this Mongolian tradition. The engaged couple must cut up a chicken, holding the knife together, to find a healthy liver. They keep doing it until they find a healthy one, and only then can they set a date. 

48. Welshmen are known for having big hearts. No wonder when a Welshman fell in love and wanted to propose, he'd carve a lovespoon from wood for his beloved. It would feature a key, to show they had the key to his heart, and beads which symbolised the number of children he hoped for.

49. You've got to really want to propose in Fiji. When a man asks his partner's father or her hand in marriage, he must present his future father-in-law with a whale's tooth. Plus points if you caught it yourself.  

50. Indian, North African and Middle Eastern brides paint henna designs on their hands and feet to protect themselves from the evil eye.

Wedding traditions around the world

51. Welsh brides are pretty good at making sure their bridesmaids get a chance to tie the knot too. The bridal bouquet customarily includes myrtle, a herb that symbolises love. The bride will give a cutting of myrtle to each of her bridesmaids, who must plant it. The first one it blooms for will be the next bride.

52. Forget a quick drink before the ceremony, in Lebanon it's an all out party! The pre-wedding celebration, known as the Zaffe, is a performance made up by a zaffe group, consisting of dancers, singers and drummers in traditional costumes. They lead the guests to the bride's house, where the couple is showered in flower petals, before being escorted to the ceremony with music and drums. Then they'll lead them from the wedding reception to the dance floor before the first dance. 

53. Forget matching bridesmaid dresses! Especially popular in West Africa is the tradition of Asoebi: matching ceremonial fabric that the entire family and close friends of the bride and groom will wear during the wedding. The bride and groom's families will each have their own asoebi making it very easy to tell who is with who!

Wedding traditions around the world

54. Brides in the Western world didn't wear white until Queen Victoria started the trend in 1840. Before then brides wore red or whatever was their best dress. However, this was always the trend in Japan. 

55. And veils came from Ancient Greeks and Romans who thought the veil protected the bride from evil spirits. 

Considering incorporating your heritage into your day? If you haven't found anything on our list, discover our pick of Irish wedding traditions and five African and Caribbean wedding traditions to include in your day

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