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Preparing for the photographs, at a wedding at Thornbury Castle, England
Preparing for the photographs, at a wedding at Thornbury Castle, England

A wedding is a ceremony that celebrates the beginning of a marriage or civil union. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. In some countries, cultures and religions, the actual act of marriage begins during the wedding ceremony. In others, the legal act of marriage occurs at the time of signing a marriage license or other legal document, and the wedding is then an opportunity to perform a traditional ceremony and celebrate with friends and family. A woman being married is called a bride, a man called a bridegroom, and after the ceremony they become a wife and a husband.

Nuptial is the adjective of "wedding". It is used for example in zoology to denote plumage, coloration, behavior, etc related to or occurring in the mating season.


  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Wedding types and kinds
    • 2.1 Double wedding
    • 2.2 Destination wedding
    • 2.3 Weekend wedding
    • 2.4 White Wedding
    • 2.5 Military wedding
    • 2.6 Civil wedding
    • 2.7 Same-sex wedding
    • 2.8 Church wedding
    • 2.9 Jewish wedding
  • 3 International wedding customs
    • 3.1 Common elements in wedding customs across cultures
      • 3.1.1 Wedding clothing
      • 3.1.2 Music
        • Western weddings
        • Chinese weddings
        • Jewish weddings
    • 3.2 Asian customs
      • 3.2.1 Arabic customs
      • 3.2.2 Bengali customs
      • 3.2.3 Chinese customs
        • Cantonese customs
      • 3.2.4 Filipino Customs
      • 3.2.5 Indian customs
        • Rajput customs
      • 3.2.6 Japanese customs
      • 3.2.7 Malay customs
      • 3.2.8 Pakistani customs
      • 3.2.9 Russian customs
    • 3.3 European customs
      • 3.3.1 French customs
      • 3.3.2 Italian customs
      • 3.3.3 Polish customs
      • 3.3.4 Romanian customs
      • 3.3.5 Scottish customs
      • 3.3.6 Handfasting
    • 3.4 North American customs
      • 3.4.1 United States customs
        • Wedding gifts
        • African-American customs
    • 3.5 African customs
      • 3.5.1 Wedding traditions
      • 3.5.2 Pygmy wedding traditions
  • 4 Religious aspects of marriage
    • 4.1 Detailed viewpoints of various religions
    • 4.2 Religious customs
      • 4.2.1 Hindu customs
      • 4.2.2 Jewish customs
      • 4.2.3 Quaker customs
      • 4.2.4 LDS customs
  • 5 Gallery
  • 6 See also
    • 6.1 Wedding traditions
    • 6.2 Ceremony aspects
    • 6.3 Related travel
    • 6.4 Religious aspects
    • 6.5 Related events and social processes
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


Most weddings contain wedding vows and a proclamation of marriage, usually by the officiant. Most weddings also involve wearing traditional clothes (i.e., kilts, white gown, red sari, etc.). A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception.

Other elements may include music, poetry, prayer or scripture. Some elements of the traditional Western wedding ceremony symbolize the bride's departure from her father's control and entry into a new family with her husband. In modern Western weddings, this symbolism is largely vestigial.

A wedding carriage in Bristol, England
A wedding carriage in Bristol, England

The common element in a wedding is the assumption of husband and wife roles as well as the roles of the future parents. The wedding is a special moment that marks the beginning of a new generation, a new family and a life together. This moment is recognized with traditions, ceremonies and rituals including engagement and wedding ceremonies.

When it comes to planning a wedding people often honor traditions, even if they do not fully understand their origin or meaning. Every culture cherishes its own wedding traditions and superstitions. Some of those are closely followed even by those who are normally not superstitious.

The figure of a bride in white is an important element of the ritual of marriage. However, new designs of gown are available so brides today may find themselves attracted to designs that do not look traditional. The symbolism behind the wedding dress, however, has not changed.

Wedding types and kinds

Double wedding

A double wedding is a single ceremony where two affianced couples rendezvous for two separate weddings. Typically, a fiancé with a sibling might plan a double wedding with that sibling. In the Philippines, however, a double wedding between two siblings within the same year is considered bad luck and is called sukob.

Destination wedding

A destination wedding is any wedding in which the engaged couple and/or a majority of their guests travel to attend the ceremony. This could be a beach ceremony in the Caribbean, in Las Vegas or a simple ceremony in someone's back yard.

Weekend wedding

A weekend wedding is a wedding in which couples and their guests celebrate over the course of a weekend. Special activities, such as spa treatments and golf tournaments, may be scheduled into the wedding itinerary throughout the weekend. Lodging usually is at the same facility as the wedding and couples often host a Sunday brunch for the weekend's finale.

White Wedding

Main article: white wedding

A white wedding is a term for a traditional formal or semi-formal Western wedding. This term refers to the color of the wedding dress, which became popular in the Victorian era and came to symbolize purity of heart and the innocence of childhood. Later attribution suggested that the color white symbolized virginity.

Military wedding

A military wedding is a ceremony conducted in a military chapel and may involve a Saber Arch. In most military weddings the groom will wear a military dress uniform in lieu of a tuxedo, although most military formal wear is rather similar to tuxedos. Some retired military personnel who marry after their service has ended sometimes opt for a military wedding.

Civil wedding

A civil wedding is a ceremony presided over by a local civil authority, such as an elected or appointed judge, justice of the peace or the mayor of a locality. Civil wedding ceremonies may use references to God, but generally no references to a particular religion or denomination. They can be either elaborate or simple. Many civil wedding ceremonies take place in local town or city halls or courthouses in judge's chambers.

Same-sex wedding

A same-sex wedding or is a ceremony in which two people of the same sex are married or civilly united. This may be an official and legally recognized event, or, in places that do not allow same-sex marriage, it may simply be a symbolic ceremony designed to provide the opportunity to make the same public declarations and celebration with friends and family that any other type of wedding may afford.


A church wedding is a ceremony presided over by a Christian priest or pastor. Ceremonies are based on reference to God, are frequently embodied into other church ceremonies such as Holy Mass. Customs may vary widely between denominations.

Jewish wedding

A Jewish wedding is a ceremony presided over by someone who can read Hebrew and knows Jewish law, usually, but not necessarily, a rabbi. The rabbi recites the two wedding blessings, reads out the ketubah, and recites the seven blessings, or Sheva Brachot. Today, a second Rabbi or another honored guest is given the privilege of reading the ketubah, and seven other people are given the honor of reciting the blessings. The ceremony concludes when the groom breaks a glass underfoot.

International wedding customs

Common elements in wedding customs across cultures

A number of cultures utilise the western custom of a bride wearing a white dress. This tradition came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception, the white dress did not indicate virginity, which was symbolized by the face veil). Within the ‘white wedding’ tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate for a second or third wedding of a widow or a divorcee.

The custom of exchanging rings may be the oldest and most universal symbol of marriage, but the origins are unclear. The ring’s circular shape represents perfection and never-ending love. The ring gains even greater symbolism with the inclusion of a precious stone.

The rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony and symbolize the love, faithfulness and commitment of the marriage union.

The wedding is often followed by a reception during which the rituals include toasting the bride and groom, the newlyweds' first dance as husband and wife, cake cutting, etc.

Wedding clothing

  • Qipao or Hanfu, Chinese traditional formal wear
  • Batik and Kebaya, a garment worn by the Javanese people of Indonesia.
  • Barong Tagalog, an embroidered, formal men's garment of the Philippines.
  • Kimono, the traditional garments of Japan
  • Sari, Indian popular and traditional dress in India
  • Ao dai, traditional garments of Vietnam
  • Morning dress, men's formal dress
  • Kilt, male garment particular to Scottish culture[1][2][3]
  • Kittel, a white robe worn by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The kittel is worn only under the Chupah, and is removed before the reception.
  • Topor, a type of conical headgear
  • Tuxedo
    • Black tie, indicating dinner jacket in the UK
    • White tie, indicating evening dress in the UK
  • Sherwani, a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia
  • Wedding crown, worn by Scandinavian brides
  • Wedding veil
  • Wedding dress


Western weddings

Music often played at western weddings includes a processional song for walking down the aisle (ex: Wedding March) and reception dance music.

Music played at Western weddings includes:

  • The "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, often used as the processional and commonly known as "Here Comes the Bride" - Note: Richard Wagner is said to have been Anti-Semitic[4], and as a result, the Bridal Chorus is often not used at Jewish weddings.[citation needed]
  • Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is often used as an alternative processional.
  • The "Wedding March" from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, often used as a recessional.
  • The "Toccata" from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5, also used as a recessional.
  • Segments of the Ode To Joy, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, sometimes make appearances at weddings; its message of unity is suitable for the occasion.
  • At wedding receptions, Der Ententanz, a 1950s Swiss Oom-pah song known more commonly in America as The Chicken Dance, has become a popular part of the reception dance music.
  • Bridal march
    The Bridal Chorus from Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin
  • Problems playing the files? See media help.

Chinese weddings

Chinese music plays an important role in creating a happy, friendly environment during the wedding ceremony. A band of musicians with gongs and flute-like instruments accompanies the bride parade to groom's home. Similar music is also played at the wedding banquet.

Jewish weddings

At traditional Jewish weddings, a solemn, wordless tune is sung as the groom and then bride walk down the aisles. Chabad tradition is to sing a special tune composed by their founding Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the tune is comprised of four stanzas corresponding to the four worlds of kabbalistic cosmology, and is only sung at solemn occasions[5]. During the recessional, lively Hebrew songs are sung by the guests, who escort the couple from the chuppah.

Asian customs

Customs vary throughout the Asian continent.

Arabic customs

Arabic weddings vary depending on the country and religion of the bride and groom. Although Christian weddings in the Arab World bear clear similarities to Western weddings, the Muslim weddings in the Arab countries are influenced by Muslim traditions. Muslim weddings (pre-arranged or not) start with a Shaikh and Al-Kitab (book) for the bride and groom. The groom may or may not see his bride until the wedding day. Men and women in wedding ceremonies and receptions are segregated affairs, with areas for both men and women. An old tradition, now rarely observed, involves the women at the ceremony symbolically mourning the loss of the bride by doing the "wedding wail". The bride's dress is an ornate Caftan, and the bride's hands and feet are decorated in intricate lace-like patterns painted using a henna dye. Customarily women guests do not show their hair, shoulders or legs; and all guests at a Mosque remove their shoes on entering. Guests may give gifts to the bride and groom. However, these are all the old traditions; Arabs, nowadays, have Western-like weddings, but still preserve most Arab customs and traditions.[citation needed]

Bengali customs

Main article: Bengali wedding

Bengali wedding refers to both Muslim wedding and Hindu wedding in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common cultural rituals in marriages across religion among Bengali people.

Chinese customs

Main article: Chinese marriage
See also: Chinese tea culture and Red packet

Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens.

Cantonese customs
Main article: Cantonese wedding

Most Cantonese wedding rituals follow the main Chinese wedding traditions. Although some rituals are unique to the Cantonese people.

Filipino Customs

Customs and superstitions regarding marriage in the Philippines vary. Some examples are:

  • The groom usually wears the Barong Tagalog during the wedding, along with the male attendants, though nowadays the wealthy opt to don Western attire such as a tuxedo.
  • Sukob: weddings held within the same year by two siblings, usually sisters, are frowned upon as it is regarded as bad luck.
  • Some hold it that the wedding rings dropping to the ground is a portent of bad luck (this is usually said to the ringbearer to ensure that the child is careful in handling the rings).
  • Money, in the form of paper bills, is sometimes taped or pinned to the groom and bride during the reception.

Indian customs

Main article: Indian wedding

Indian weddings are very bright events, filled with ritual and celebration, that continue for several days. They are not small affairs, often with 400-1000 people attending (many of whom are unknown to the bride and groom). Although most marriages are arranged, some couples in urban areas are having love marriages.

Rajput customs
Main article: Rajput wedding

Rajputs - one of the major Hindu Kshatriya groups from India - traditionally had their own typical rituals of marriage as it is one of the most important functions of life. It is relation which is created for seven generations between the two families of the Bride & the Groom. It comprises a ceremony each for the TILAK (engagement), the BAN (starting of the wedding ceremony, MEL the community feast, the Nikasi is the departure of the Bridegroom party for the wedding, Sehla & Dhukav reception of wedding party at the Brides place be her parents. Solemnisation of wedding Sat Fere.

Japanese customs

Traditional Japanese wedding customs (shinzen shiki) have given way to the "Western Style Wedding" in recent years. The Japanese have long tried to emulate and improve upon Western tradition. To that end, a Japanese western style wedding is held in a chapel, either in a simple or elaborate ceremony, often at a chapel within a hotel. Typically, much like in Western culture, the bride, or shinpu, and groom, or shinro, get their own changing rooms within the chapel, as does the bride's father and any other important guest who requires such a room. There is also a room to hold the reception afterwards.

A traditional Japanese wedding ceremony
A traditional Japanese wedding ceremony

Before the ceremony, there is a rehearsal. Often during this rehearsal, the bride's mother lowers the veil for her daughter, signifying the last act that a mother can do for her daughter, before giving her away. The father of the bride, much like in Western culture, walks the bride down the aisle to her awaiting groom.

After the rehearsal comes the procession. The wedding celebrant will often wear a wedding cross, or cana, a cross with two interlocking wedding rings attached, which symbolize a couple's commitment to sharing a life together in the bonds of holy matrimony. The wedding celebrant gives a brief welcome and an introductory speech before announcing the bride's entrance. The procession ends with the groom bowing to the bride's father. The father bows in return.

The service, or kekkon shiki, then starts. The service is given either in Japanese or English, or, in some cases, a mix of both. It follows a traditional Protestant ceremony, relaxed and not overtly religious. The opening hymn is usually the Japanese version of What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Part of 1 Corinthians 13 is read from the Bible. After the reading, there is a prayer and a short message, explaining the sanctity of the wedding vows, or seiyaku. The bride and groom share their vows and exchange rings. The chapel register is signed and the new couple is announced. This is often followed by the traditional wedding kiss. The service concludes with another hymn and a benediction.

Malay customs

Main article: Malay wedding

A Malay wedding ceremony spreads over two days, beginning with the akad nikah ceremony. The groom signs the marriage contract and agrees to provide the bride with a mas kahwin(dowry). After that, their hands are dyed with henna during the berinai besar ceremony. The bride's hair is also trimmed or her eyebrows shaped by a beautician known as the mak andam.

Pakistani customs

Main article: Pakistani wedding

A Pakistani wedding typically consist of four ceremonies on four separate days.

Russian customs

Main article: Russian wedding

A traditional Russian wedding lasts for at least two days and some weddings last as long as a week. Throughout the celebration there is dancing, singing, long toasts, and a lot of food and drinks. The best man and maid of honor are called witnesses, “svideteli” in Russian. The ceremony and the ring exchange takes place on the first day of the wedding and on this special day many events take place. Throughout the years, Russian weddings have adopted many western cultures, including bridesmaids and flower girls.

European customs

Customs vary throughout the European continent.

The Western custom of a bride wearing a white wedding dress, came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception and the hackneyed jokes of situation comedies the white dress did not actually indicate virginity, which was symbolized by a face veil). Within the "white wedding" tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate in the second or third wedding of a widow or divorcee. The specific conventions of Western weddings, largely from a Protestant and Catholic viewpoint, are discussed at "White wedding."

A wedding is often followed or accompanied by a wedding reception, at which an elaborate wedding cake is served. Western traditions include toasting the couple, the newlyweds having the first dance, and cutting the cake. A bride may throw her bouquet to the assembled group of all unmarried women in attendance, with folklore suggesting the person who catches it will be the next to wed. A fairly recent equivalent has the groom throwing the bride's garter to the assembled unmarried men; the man who catches it is supposedly the next to wed.

A modern tradition is for brides to wear or carry "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" during the service. It is considered good luck to do so. Often the bride attempts to have one item that meets all of these qualifications, such as a borrowed blue handkerchief which is "new to her" but loaned by her grandmother (thus making it old).

French customs

In smaller French towns, the groom may meet his fiancée at her home on the day of the wedding and escort her to the chapel where the ceremony is being held. As the couple proceeds to the chapel, children will stretch long white ribbons across the road which the bride will cut as she passes.

At the chapel, the bride and groom are seated on two red velvet chairs underneath a silk canopy they called a carre. Laurel leaves may be scattered across their paths when they exit the chapel. Sometimes small coins are also tossed for the children to gather.

A traditional French wedding celebration at Château de Hattonchâtel
A traditional French wedding celebration at Château de Hattonchâtel

At the reception, the couple customarily uses a toasting cup, called a Coupe de Marriage. The origin of giving toast began in France, when they literally dropped a small piece of toast into the couple's wine (to ensure a healthy life). They lifted their glass to "a toast", as is common in Western culture today.

Some couples choose to serve a croquembouche instead of a wedding cake. The dessert is a pyramid of crème-filled pastry puffs, drizzled with a caramel glaze.

At a more boisterous wedding, tradition involves continuing the celebration until very late at night. After the reception, those invited to the wedding will gather outside the newlyweds' window and bang pots and pans. They are then invited into the house for some more drinks in the couple's honor, after which the couple is finally allowed to be alone for their first night together as husband and wife.

Another practice that is becoming more common at wedding celebrations is "beheading" a bottle of champagne with a sabre made for the occasion. It was started as a way for the Hussars (under Napoleon's command) to celebrate victories and exhibit their horseback skills: they would "behead" the top off a bottle of champagne while on horseback. Legend has it that the skilled horsemen would ride at a full gallop while brave women held up bottles of champagne. The sabre must strike the neck of the bottle at exactly the right angle (champagne bottles have over 100 pounds of pressure per square inch).

This practice spread throughout France as a way to celebrate special occasions. Decorative replicas of these special sabres can be purchased from artisans in Lyon, France (the French capital of cutlery).

Italian customs

At the start of a typical Italian wedding reception, the bridal party and the rest of the guests are separated for an hour and served cocktails. The food during cocktail hour is served in a buffet setup. During the cocktail time, the bride and the groom usually take their time to shoot photographs in a proper setting.

At the conclusion of cocktail hour, the guests will gather in the main dining room. The newlywed couple is introduced with much fanfare and they take their first dance, with the bridal party following soon after, who are then ultimately joined by the rest of the guests. Afterwards, everyone is seated, speeches are made by friends and family, and everyone champagne toasts the wedded couple.

Food is plentiful during most weddings, and Italian custom is no exception. Between courses, the MC will encourage dancing.

After the bulk of the courses have passed, it is time for the cake cutting, which ushers in the dessert course. In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a Venetian Table, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) are presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Venetian Hour.

After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. In Southern Italy, as the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation.

Polish customs

Polish weddings are festive and traditional. The wedding celebrations may continue for two or three days. The engagement is also an important custom. In the past, the engagement ceremony was organized by the future groom as a formal family gathering, during which he asked his chosen lady to marry him. In the recent years this official custom has changed and today an engagement is much more personal and intimate. An elegant dinner party afterwards is still a nice way to inform the closest family members about the couples' decision to get married.

In some regions of Poland the tradition to invite the wedding guests in person is still upheld. Many young couples still devote their time, and accompanied by the parents visit their family and friends to hand them the wedding invitations personally.

According to the old tradition a groom arrives with his parents at the house of a bride just before the wedding ceremony. At that time both parents and parents-in-law give a young couple their blessing. The couple enters the church together and walks up to the altar followed by two witnesses and the parents. In Poland it is quite unusual for the bride to be walked down the aisle or to have bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The couple is assisted by two witnesses, a man (usually grooms' side) and a woman (usually brides' side) who are either family members or close friends.

The Polish bride traditionally wears a white dress and a veil. The groom, on the other hand usually wears a fitted suit with a bow tie and a boutonnière that matches the brides' bouquet. During the ceremony wedding rings are exchanged and both the husband and wife wear them on their right hand. When they leave the church the guests toss rice or coins at the married couple for good and prosperous future together. Right after the ceremony the closest family and all the guest form a line in the front of the church to congratulate the happy newlyweds and wish them love and happiness. As soon as the married couple leave the church they get showered with rice for luck or guests drop coins at their feet for them to pick up.

Once all the guests have showered the couple with kisses, hugs and flowers everyone heads to the reception. It is a very popular custom in Poland to prepare "passing gates" on the way to the reception for the newlyweds, who in order to pass have to give the "gate keepers" some vodka.

The married couple is welcomed at the reception place by the parents with bread and salt. The bread symbolizes the prosperity, salt stands for hardship of life, the parents wish the young couple that they never go hungry and learn how to deal with every day hardships together. The wedding party lasts until the last guest leaves, usually until morning.

Romanian customs

Main article: Lăutari

Lăutari are musicians performing traditional songs. The music of the lăutari establishes the structure of the elaborate Romanian peasant weddings. The lăutari also function as guides through the wedding rituals and moderate any conflicts that may arise during what can be a long, alcohol-fueled party. Over a period of nearly 48 hours, this can be very physically strenuous.

Following custom almost certainly dating back at least to the Middle Ages, most lăutari spend the fees from these wedding ceremonies on extended banquets for their friends and families over the days immediately following the wedding.

Scottish customs

Scotland is a popular place for young English couples to get married, due to the fact that in Scotland, parents' permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England it was the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith's at Gretna Green, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland's third most popular tourist attraction.


  • The bride's family sends invitations on behalf of the couple to the wedding guests, addressed by hand. The couple may send the invitations themselves, especially if they are more middle-aged. The invites will specify if the invitation is for ceremony and/or reception and/or evening following the meal at the reception.
  • Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day. Alternatively, the couple may register at department store and have a list of gifts there. The shop then organizes delivery, usually to the bride's parents' house or to the reception venue.
  • A wedding ceremony takes place at a church, register office or possibly another favorite location, such as a hilltop. In this regard Scotland differs significantly from England where only pre-approved public locations may be used for the wedding ceremony. Most ceremonies take place mid afternoon and last about half an hour during which the marriage schedule is signed by the couple and two witnesses, usually the best man and chief bridesmaid.
  • The newly wed couple usually leave the ceremony to the sound of bagpipes.
  • There is a wedding reception following the ceremony, usually at a different venue.
  • The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
  • Usually a drink is served while the guests and bridal party mingle. In some cases the drink may be whiskey or wine with a non alcoholic alternative.
  • The best man and bride's father toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes, usually humorous. The groom then follows with a response on behalf of his bride. Champagne is usually provided for the toast.
  • There is nearly always dancing following the meal. Often in Scotland this takes the form of a ceilidh, a night of informal traditional Scottish dancing in couples and groups to live traditional music. The first dance is led by the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the bridal party and finally the guests.
  • The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake.
  • Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
  • A sprig of white heather is usually worn as a buttonhole for good luck.
  • It is the norm for the groom and much of the male bridal party and guests to wear kilts, although suits are also worn. Kilts and Highland dress are often hired for this purpose.


Main article: Handfasting

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic wedding ritual in which the bride's and groom's hands are tied together — hence the phrase "tying the knot". "Handfasting" is favored by practitioners of Celtic-based religions and spiritual traditions, such as Wicca and Druidism.[citation needed]

North American customs

United States customs

A Christian or other mainstream wedding and reception in the United States follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary but components include the following:

  • The bride wears “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” (See also Ceremonial clothing in Western cultures.)
  • The bride usually wears a white dress.
  • A color scheme is often used so that the invitation matches the bridesmaids' dresses and the table settings.
  • Rice is sometimes thrown at the newlyweds as they leave the ceremony.[1]
  • The bride's family sends engraved invitations to the wedding guests, addressed by hand to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion.
  • Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day.
  • A wedding ceremony takes place at a church or other location, such as an outdoor venue.

At the wedding reception following the ceremony, sometimes at the same location but sometimes at a different venue:

  • The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
  • Usually snacks or a meal are served while the guests and bridal party mingle.
  • Often the best man and/or maid of honor toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne, sparkling cider, or nonalcoholic carbonated drinks are usually provided for this purpose.
  • Clinking silverware against glassware obliges the newlyweds to kiss.
  • If dancing is provided, the bride and groom first dance together. Often further protocol is followed, where they dance first with their respective mother and father, then possibly with the maid of honor and best man; then the bride and groom rejoin while the parents of the bride and groom join the dance and the best man and maid of honor dance together; then other attendants join in; then finally everyone is entitled to dance. Dancing continues throughout the reception. Music is sometimes provided by a live band or musical ensemble, sometimes by a disc jockey.
  • In some cultures, the money dance takes place, in which it is expected and encouraged for guests to pin money onto the young bride and groom to help them get started in their new lives.
  • The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter--often a special silver keepsake cutter purchased or given as a gift for the occasion--and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake. They then entwine arms and feed each other a bite of cake.
  • In some social groups, the bride and groom smear cake on each other's faces at this time.
  • The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women; the woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In some social groups, the process is repeated for unmarried men with the groom tossing the bride's garter for the same purpose.
  • Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.

Wedding gifts

The purpose of inviting guests was to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in the bride and groom's joy and celebration. Gifts for the bride and groom are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some brides and grooms and families feel, contrary to proper etiquette, that for the expense and effort they put into showing their guests a good time and to wine and dine them, the guests should reciprocate by providing nice gifts or cash.

The couple often registers for gifts at a store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of household items, usually including china, silverware and crystalware; often including linen preferences, pots and pans, and similar items. With brides and grooms who might already be independent and have lived on their own, even owning their own homes, they sometimes register at hardware or home improvement stores. Registries are intended to make it easy for guests who wish to purchase gifts to feel comfortable that they are purchasing gifts that the newlyweds will truly appreciate. The registry information should, according to etiquette, be provided only to guests who request it. Some couples register with services that enable money gifts intended to fund items such as a honeymoon, home purchase or college fund.

Some guests may find bridal registries inappropriate. They can be seen as an anathema to traditional notions behind gift buying, such as contravening the belief that "one should be happy for what they receive", taking away the element of surprise, and leading to present buying as a type of competition, as the couple knows the costs of each individual item. It may also be seen by some as inappropriate to invite people who do not know either the bride or groom well enough to be able to pick out an appropriate gift.

African-American customs
Main article: Jumping the broom

Jumping the broom developed out West African Asante custom. The broom in Asante and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. 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.

The custom took on additional significance in the context of slavery in the United States. Slaves had no right to legal marriage; slaveholders considered slaves property and feared that legal marriage and family bonds had the potential to lead to organization and revolt. Marriage rituals, however, were important events to the Africans, who came in many cases come from richly-ceremonial African cultures.

Taking marriage vows in the presence of a witness and then leaping over the handle of a broom became the common practice to create a recognized union. Brooms are also symbols of the hearth, the center of the new family being created. Jumping the broom has become a practice in many modern weddings between Black Americans.[citation needed]

There are also traditions of broom jumping in Europe, in the Wicca and Celtic communities especially. They are probably unconnected with the African practice.[citation needed]

African customs

Wedding traditions

Pygmy wedding traditions

Pygmy engagements were not long and usually formalized by an exchange of visits between the families concerned. The groom to be would bring a gift of game or maybe a few arrows to his new in-laws, take his bride home to live in his band and with his new parents. His only obligation is to find among his relatives a girl willing to marry a brother or male cousin of his wife. If he feels he can feed more than one wife, he may have additional wives.

Religious aspects of marriage

In virtually all religions, marriage is a long-term union between two people and is established with ceremonies and rituals. The two people are most commonly a man and a woman, though many societies have permitted polygamous marriages, and same-sex marriage is now acknowledged in some places.

Many religions have extensive teachings regarding marriage. Most Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage; the wedding ceremony typically includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. In the Roman Catholic Church "Holy Matrimony" is considered to be one of the seven sacraments, in this case one that the spouses bestow upon each other in front of a priest and members of the community as witnesses. An argument for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony by Christ Jesus himself, and its occasion, is advanced by Bernard Orchard in his article The Betrothal and Marriage of Mary to Joseph. [2] [3] [4] In the Eastern Orthodox church, it is one of the Mysteries, and is seen as an ordination and a martyrdom. In marriage, Christians see a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. In Judaism, marriage is so important that remaining unmarried is deemed unnatural. Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Bahá'í Faith sees marriage as a foundation of the structure of society, and considers it both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife.[6] Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. By contrast, Buddhism does not encourage or discourage marriage, although it does teach how one might live a happily married life and emphasizes that married vows are not to be taken slightly (see separate article for details).

Different religions have different beliefs as regards the breakup of marriage. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes it is morally wrong to divorce, and divorcées cannot remarry in a church marriage, though they can do in the eyes of the law. In the area of nullity, religions and the state often apply different rules, meaning that a couple, for example, could have their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church but still be married in the eyes of the law because the state disagrees with the church over whether an annulment can be granted in a given case. This produces the phenomenon of Catholics getting church annulments simultaneously with civil divorces, so that they may remarry both legally and sacramentally. The Catholic Church will not, in fact, grant an annulment petition unless the marriage has also been dissolved or annulled under civil law.

Detailed viewpoints of various religions

  • Ayyavazhi marriage
  • Bahá'í marriage
  • Buddhist view of marriage
  • Christian view of marriage
  • Latter-day Saint view of marriage
  • Hindu view of marriage
  • Islamic view of marriage
  • Jewish view of marriage
  • handfasting

Religious customs

Hindu customs

Main article: Hindu wedding

North and South Indian wedding ceremonies are conducted at least partially in Sanskrit, the language in which most holy Hindu ceremonies are conducted. The local language of the people involved is also used since most Hindus cannot understand Sanskrit. They may have rituals that differ fom the modern western wedding ceremony and also among the different regions, families, and castes such as Rajput Wedding, Aggarwal Weddings, Iyer Weddings and Tamil Weddings. The ceremonies are colourful and extend for several days.

Jewish customs

Main article: Jewish view of marriage

The traditions used in a Jewish wedding vary based on the denomination of Judaism of the people being married. Some of the most common are listed below.

The bride (kallah) and groom (chatan) sign a Ketubah (marriage contract). Originally, the Ketubah detailed the husband's obligations to his wife, and provided for monetary payment to her in case of divorce. Nowadayst the Ketubah can be a decorative keepsake that sets out expectations for both the bride and groom. In Conservative homes it is typically framed and displayed, while in Orthodox homes it is kept hidden away.

The Jewish ceremony generally starts with the bride and groom being escorted to the huppah (Jewish wedding canopy) by both sets of parents. The ceremony takes place under the huppah, and is presided over by a Rabbi. After the vows, seven marriage blessings are read and the groom then smashes a glass with his foot. The bride and groom spend time together alone before the reception, which is traditionally a joyous celebration with much music and dancing.

There are several activities that may take place during the reception:

  • The wedding breakfast.
  • A dance in which the bride and groom hold opposite corners of a handkerchief while they are lifted up on chairs by the guests and whirled around.
  • The Krenzl, in which the bride's mother is crowned with a wreath of flowers as her daughters dance around her (traditionally at the wedding of the mother's last unwed daughter).
  • The Mizinke, a dance for the parents of the bride or groom when their last child is wed.
  • The gladdening of the bride, in which guests dance around the bride, and can include the use of "shtick" -- silly items such as signs, banners, costumes, confetti, and jump ropes made of table napkins.
  • The singing of Aishet Chayil to the bride by the groom accompanied by his friends.

Quaker customs

Main article: Quaker wedding

A Quaker wedding ceremony in a Friends meeting is similar to any other Meeting for Worship, and therefore often very different from the experience expected by non-Friends.

LDS customs

Main article: Celestial marriage

Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), the act of marriage is regarded as an eternal affair. As such, there are two kinds of marriages recognized by the Church, civil marriage and celestial marriage. Civil marriages are those legally contracted under local law and are dissolved upon the death of the participants, while celestial marriages, also known as sealings, bind the participants as husband and wife for all eternity if both are righteous.

Celestial marriages can only be performed by Priesthood authority within a Sealing Room in a dedicated temple. Only members of the LDS church who have a temple recommend may attend an LDS wedding. The wedding is often referred to as a sealing, in which husband and wife are sealed beyond death into the next life. Space is limited in sealing rooms so only family and close friends attend.

The sealing can be performed at the same approximate time as the civil marriage or for a couple civilly married for at least one year. In the latter case, if the couple already has children, they may also accompany the ceremony to be sealed to their parents. Children who are born to parents who have already been sealed need no such ceremony, as they have been "born in the covenant."

Many LDS couples will then hold wedding receptions or open houses after the wedding ceremony in another venue that is open to all family and friends. Some couples choose to recreate a more traditional wedding ceremony, or will simply perform certain traditional acts, such as the throwing of the bouquet, first dance, etc.


Wedding traditions

  • Wedding band (or ring)
  • Wedding invitation
  • Participants in wedding ceremonies
  • Shotgun wedding
  • Tying the Knot

Ceremony aspects

  • Wedding cake
  • Wedding videography
  • Wedding photography
  • Personal wedding websites

Related travel

  • Honeymoon
  • Wedding trip (traveling to meet a bride or groom in an arranged marriage)
  • Las Vegas wedding

Religious aspects

  • Chastity
  • Celibacy
  • Spiritual marriage
  • Traditional marriage movement
  • Major world religions

Related events and social processes

  • Bachelor party
  • Banns of marriage
  • Betrothal
  • Bridal shower
  • Bride price
  • Brideservice
  • Dowry
  • Dower
  • Handfasting
  • Mayian
  • Prenuptial agreement
  • Wedding anniversary
  • Pakistani wedding
  • Shaadi

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