The word wedding evokes a host of images — white dresses, roses, tuxedos, modest dancing, cake, a reading of vows, ring exchanges — but these images are born of mainstream western culture, and there are billions of people who celebrate romantic love in different ways.
In Greece, groomsmen traditionally take the title literally by grooming the groom-to-be, according to Brides.com, which documents wedding traditions from across the globe.
According to the same article, in Jamaica, the bride-to-be walks in front of neighbors and peers, forced to ignore negative comments unless there are too many, in which case she is made to go home in shame and change her appearance. In Cuba, men who dance with the bride are expected to pin money to her dress — cash for the honeymoon, of course.
In Mongolia, couples customarily catch a baby chicken and cut it open until they find the liver, again according to Brides.com. In China, brides change dresses three times but they must be careful not to stain them, however. It is also customary that the bride and her close female relatives weep for hours, even days, before the ceremony.
Romanian brides are often playfully abducted by friends and family who demand silly gestures and small gifts — namely alcohol — from the groom. Hindu brides born under a certain astrological period are cursed to experience early widowhood. The curse is broken when the woman first marries a tree and chops it down.
In Scotland, the Bride and Groom are covered with alcohol, trash, silly string, ash — anything to make a mess really — by friends and family on the day before their wedding in a tradition called a blackening, according to Buzzfeed.
In some communities in Indonesia and Malaysia, the Bride and Groom are expected to spend three days cooped up in the same house without using the bathroom even once, according to Huffington Post. The couple is monitored by friends and family and is given minimal food and drink. The tradition is considered to ward off bad luck.
The night before the wedding day, many German brides have friends and family over. The guests are on a not-so-secret mission, though, to destroy any porcelain in the house. The couple is supposed to clean up the porcelain together as a symbol of working together to triumph. Imagine being grateful for people breaking your personal collectibles.
It’s not just the small details and traditions that vary from community to community, however. Different religions celebrate weddings and practice margins in completely different ways, and some spiritual paths don’t acknowledge marriage, weddings or romantic relationships at all.
According to the Emily Post, a family-run institution that promotes and educates people about etiquette, Muslim weddings often don’t have a specific religious leader officiate. Hindu weddings can last for multiple days, often spanning a whole weekend in western societies.
Jewish weddings are very similar to Orthodox Christian weddings, consisting of a reading of vows, an exchange of rings, a bridal veil and a religious leader officiate. Traditional Buddhist weddings often incorporate periods of meditation, poems, and offerings to the Buddha.
Modern Pagan and Wiccan weddings are called Handfastings and offer a unique view of romantic partnerships. In a handfasting, couples can be of any number or gender and are common in open and fluid relationships, although several Wiccans have closed relationships.
In Handfastings, partners often commit to each other for a year and a day and then reevaluate the relationship when that time passes. Other handfastings are set on an indefinite time. According to ThoughtCo, Handfastings are sometimes performed by priests and priestesses but are often performed by a Justice of the Peace or a Unitarian minister if the union is to be considered legal. Handfastings often incorporate deities of love and can be conducted similarly to a Wiccan ritual, with the officiate casting a sacred circle for the ceremony to be practiced in.
As often seen in Handfastings, Queer and Polyamorous relationships are constantly redefining what weddings and marriages look like in their own cultures across the globe. In some places, queer and polyamorous unions have always been normal, and in others, these unions are still illegal. In other cultures, romantic relationships may not be commonly monogamous and aren’t structured with lifelong commitments and specific roles like often seen in mainstream marriage.
There are infinite ways to define and celebrate romantic love, and none of these ways should be shamed so long as the union is informed, of age and consensual. So love who you love and let love guide your union!