Unique Wedding Traditions from Around the World

In Western Europe, many couples signify their wedding vows through a tradition called Celtic Handfasting during which the couple's hands are tied together.
In Western Europe, many couples signify their wedding vows through a tradition called Celtic Handfasting during which the couple's hands are tied together.

10. Celtic Handfasting (Western Europe)

The tradition of Celtic Handfasting is thought to be ancient, having come from the Celtic tribes that were spread across Europe before Christianity became the dominant religion of the continent. Since then, handfasting has been practiced over generations, with the modern term coming from late medieval times. It derives from the Old Norse word hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by joining hands. Today, contemporary Celts, neo-pagans, and others interested in alternative marriage ceremonies have adopted the tradition. Current handfasting involves binding the hands of the couple in public, usually with ribbon or cord, in order to symbolize their marriage vows.

9. The Dance of the Crown (Finland)

At celebrations during a Finnish wedding, it is often customary to “dance” the crown off of the bride's head. The bride is blindfolded and surrounded by the unmarried women at the event, who form a ring and dance around her. The bride then takes off the crown and places it on the head of the nearest girl she can reach, who is then destined to be the next women to be betrothed. This dance continues until all girls in the ring have worn the crown. The bride's head is then covered with either a linen, scarf, or silk cap.

8. La rôtie (France)

In the rural Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France, a post-wedding ritual involves a group of unmarried men and women locating the newlywed couple after they have escaped from the wedding reception and retired to the bedroom. They will break into the room with a chamber pot filled with a mixture of various food and drink called La rôtie. The couple will then be tipped out of bed and served the concoction in the pot, which everyone will then drink. This ritual is meant to symbolize the day-to-day intimacy of married life and the rural nature of the area.

7. Krevati (Greece)

The Krevati (bed making ceremony) is an old Greek wedding traditional usually done days before the wedding. Everyone gets together to help prepare the couple's marital home for their new life together. A few married women will make the bed for the marital night, which is considered the most important part of the preparation. The groom will then need to approve the final look of the bed. Once the bed is made with the matrimonial sheets, money is tossed on the bed to symbolize future prosperity. Rice is then thrown on it to symbolize putting down roots. Lastly, a young boy or girl, depending which the couple wants first, is rolled on the bed. The couple must then wait until their wedding night to sleep there.

6. Passing Gates (Poland)

Passing gates is a wedding tradition in Poland that is now usually only done in small towns and villages. When the couple leaves to go to church, they can be stopped by “gates.” These are set up by friends, neighbors, or members of the wedding party who block the road. In most cases, they have to pay the blocker with a bottle of wedding vodka. Sometime, there will also be an additional challenge for the couple to complete. Once the gate is open, the couple can continue on their journey to church for the wedding ceremony.

5. Dansul găinii (Romania)

The Dansul găinii (chicken dance) usually takes place at a restaurant where the banquet begins following the official wedding at the town hall and religious ceremony at the church. The newlyweds will start dancing a waltz once all the guests have arrived and have been greeted. Following this, the chefs perform ”Dansul găinii.” They dress up a roasted chicken, decorate it, and then dance with it. Meanwhile, the best man negotiates the chicken’s price with them.

4. Tea Ceremony (China)

In a traditional Chinese wedding, the tea ceremony is one the most important events, with the earliest written record of them coming from the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It includes very formal introductions of the bride and groom to each other's families. In modern times, most newlyweds decide to have just one ceremony for both sides together. It is meant to act as a symbol of purity, stability, and fertility. During the tea ceremony, everyone should have organized positions, with the order of serving being very important, showing that the newlyweds respect their seniority. Traditional serving etiquette is expected to be followed along with a proper tea set. The decoration of the room and dress for the ceremony must also be suitable for the occasion. Following the drinking of the tea, gifts will be presented to the bride and groom usually in the forms of red envelopes with money in them. Sometimes jewelry will also be presented as a gift.

3. Jumping the Broom (US)

Some believe that jumping the broom originated from the Ashanti Empire (1670-1902) in what is modern day Ghana. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often, but not always, jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony. Others believe that it originated solely in the mid 19th century as a practice in antebellum slavery in the United States in order to recognize which slaves were married. Following emancipation in the United States, it slowly fell out of practice among African-Americans but made a resurgence following the publication of Alex Haley's book "Roots" and its TV mini-series in the late 1970s. At the end of their wedding ceremony, the newlywed couple will jump over a broom, either together or separately.

2. Saber Arch (Brazil)

If the groom is a military officer, the roles of the groomsmen are given to swordsmen from the Sword Honor Guard. Generally these men are friends that have served with the groom in the military. Their role includes forming the tradition saber arch, which is when their swords are raised to form an arch for the married couple and guests to walk under as they leave the building that the wedding ceremony took place in.

1. Kransekage (Norway)

The (tower cake) is a traditional Norwegian delicacy that is usually eaten on special occasions, like weddings. The cake takes the form of a series of rings that are layered on top of each other, stuck together with white icing, and decorated with ornaments like flags. In the center of the rings, small treats or a bottle of alcohol are usually placed. The newlyweds fed each other a piece of the cake and then put pieces of it on a tray. They then made their way around the room, offering a piece to each of the guests as it means good luck for them is everyone tastes it.


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