By Heather Cole – Bekker’s Catering | Expert Advice
We have all heard “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” everyone knows about the bouquet and garter toss and that you need to save the top of your cake for the first anniversary. Here, in our spectacularly diverse and multicultural city, I have had the great fortune of experiencing all sorts of fun cultural wedding traditions! I thought that sharing some of these wonderful traditions and the stories behind them would be a great topic for this article.
Even if you don’t regularly visit the country of your ancestors, or participate in cultural activities, bringing in a bit of “who you are” to your nuptials can be a fun way to get to know more about yourself and to share with your spouse-to-be. Or, conversely, if you don’t have any cultural traditions of your own, it can be a great experience to adopt some! Your wedding is your own, and there are always ways to make it more personal and enjoyable for you and your guests.
You may have heard the term “jumping the broom,” but do you know where it comes from? The tradition’s roots originate in Africa, though the specifics are a bit muddy. It is said that broom jumping comes from an African tribal marriage ritual of placing sticks on the ground representing the couple’s new home together; I have also heard it said that the spray of the broom represents all of us scattered and the handle represents what holds us together. Today “Broom Jumping” is a ritual, handed down from generation to generation to remind us of a time when some people’s weddings were not legally sanctioned. During slavery, couples sought the legitimacy of marriage by jumping over a broom and into the bonds of domesticity. This small ritual was a legal and bonding act connecting them with the heritage of the homeland and giving legitimacy, dignity and strength to their unions.
Chinese wedding traditions are many, as well as being lovely. There is typically a tea ceremony prior to the “American” ceremony, in which the bride serves tea to her parents and new in-laws as a sign of respect. In recent years, it has become more popular for both partners to also help pour the tea. Modern Chinese women typically wear three dresses: one for the tea ceremony, one for the “American” ceremony, and a third for the reception. Red is a prevalent color in any traditional Chinese wedding; it represents celebration and prosperity and is a “lucky” color. It is also traditional to have a large multi-tiered cake, which represents the ladder to success, which the couple will climb together; the first cut is made from the bottom of the cake to symbolize the beginning of the journey.
Indian weddings traditionally span multiple days. There is a pre-wedding, a main wedding and a post-wedding celebration. The pre-wedding is a big party where all the family members of both partners can meet, dance, and have fun! The day of the wedding is traditionally chosen by a “Pandit” who bases his decision on the horoscopes of the couple, and he will also conduct a prayer with family members to ensure the couple’s happy future. There are many fun activities that take place, some of which include: the painting of the bride’s hands and feet with intricate and beautiful henna designs, the groom’s sister-in-law will attempt to steal his shoes and if she succeeds he must pay her to get them back, the bride’s Sari is tied to the groom’s scarf to symbolize the union of their souls, and my favorite, the “Mangal Pheras” is when the couple circle the sacred fire four times and race to their seats- the winner rules the household!
Last, but not least, I thought I’d include some Italian traditions in honor of my lovely Italian friend who just got engaged! In Italy, Sunday weddings are the luckiest, and if the bride wears green the night before the wedding they will be lucky together. In Northern Italy it is traditional for the groom to pick out and deliver the bride’s bouquet as his gift to her. The groom carries a piece of iron to ward off the evil-eye from envious friends; ironically enough, his friends are also all supposed to kiss his bride to make him jealous. The “Tarantella” – the dance of the spider – is a traditional Italian wedding dance. The groom traditionally cuts his tie into many pieces and sells them to his guests to pay for the band. The bride carries a pouch to collect envelopes of money from her guests as payment to dance with her. However, one of the oldest traditions is the giving of candy-covered almonds, which represent the bittersweet nature of marriage, and are given in groups of 5 or 7 which are lucky numbers. At the very end of the event, the couple breaks a vase or glass, and the number of pieces represents the number of years they will be happily married.
Cultural traditions can be a lot of fun, regardless of your culture or that of your partner-to-be! Do some research, find some traditions that speak to you, and incorporate them into your wedding! At the very least, you and your spouse-to-be will have a great time learning about another culture, or becoming more connected with your own! There are no rules for weddings, find what you love and do it! The root of all weddings, and all wedding traditions is love, and that is what we gather to celebrate.