All over the globe, people rejoice at the thought of a wedding. Wherever they may come from and whatever religion they may practice, people tend to view weddings in the same way – that is, as beautiful and joyous events that celebrate love and unity. What is more, they often wish the newlyweds the same things: a lot of happiness, fortune, prosperity, and love. However, despite these similarities, the idea of a wedding conjures up different images in people’s heads as different cultures celebrate the day in different ways.
Taking a case in point, everyone has heard of the Western wedding custom where a bride throws her bouquet over her head and towards her unmarried friends. The woman who succeeds in catching the bouquet is then believed to be next in line to get married. Although this particular tradition cannot be seen in weddings around the globe, different versions of it exist in different cultures:
Who will be the next bride?
Instead of throwing their bouquets, brides in Greece write the names of their closest unmarried friends on the soles of their wedding shoes. At the end of the night, the brides check to see which names have been erased; the women whose names can no longer be seen are the ones who will get married next.
Similarly, brides in Brazil write the names of their unmarried friends on the hems of their wedding gowns. It is believed that this will bring them luck and help them find their soulmates.
Although wedding cakes are important in all weddings, they are especially important in Peru as they can point to the future brides. Instead of having a plain cake, Peruvian brides and grooms have a wedding cake with ribbons draping down the sides. Each one of the ribbons is attached to a certain charm and only one is attached to a ring. The guest that pulls the ribbon with the ring is believed to be the next to walk down the aisle.
Nonconventional wedding cakes
Many people envision a two or three-tier wedding cake with a bride and groom cake topper when they think of a traditional cake. However, brides and grooms in Norway have the Scandinavian kransekake (wreath cake). Instead of two or three tiers, the kransekake consists of 18 or more concentric rings of cake layered on top of one another, forming a tall and steep cone shape.
At their wedding, the bride and groom lift the top layer and count how many rings remain attached to the top piece. The number of layers stuck to the top indicates how many children they will have in the future.
Interestingly, the French have a similar wedding cake called croquembouche. Also in the shape of a tall cone, the croquembouche is made of small profiteroles. Considering that each guest is served 3-4 profiteroles, one can imagine just how tall this cake can be at large weddings.
Tasting not only the sweet but also the sour
When two people tie their lives together, they vow to have and to hold one another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. In other words, they accept that there will be difficulties and that married life will not always be sweet.
In several African countries, namely Nigeria, Niger, and Benin, the bride and groom prepare for both the good and the bad by “tasting the four elements” at their wedding ceremony. As part of this ritual, newlyweds taste a lemon for sourness, vinegar for bitterness, cayenne for heat, and honey for sweetness.
Similarly, the mother of the groom in Bulgaria feeds the newlyweds with two pieces of round bread. The first piece is dipped in salt (representing the difficult times in a marriage) and the second piece is dipped in honey (symbolising the sweet moments). Taking this ritual beyond the bride and groom, the mother also gives two pieces to the maid of honour and best man, who are expected to stand by the newlyweds during both the good and the bad.
Who will be the head of the household?
The round bread is quite an important element in Bulgarian weddings as the bride and groom also use it to tell who will be the head of the household. To do so, the newlyweds first stand back-to-back and hold the round bread above their heads. They then pull downwards at the same time, splitting the bread into two. Whoever breaks off the bigger piece will be the head of the household.
A somewhat similar custom is observed in Russian weddings, where a decorated sweetbread called karavai is used to tell who will be the head of the household. More specifically, the newlyweds both take a bite of the bread without using their hands. The one who bites off the bigger piece will be the head of the family.
Although these are just a few customs from the countless wedding traditions observed around the world, they all show just how different and yet similar we all are.