Wedding ceremonies can definitely look bizarre from the outside. From tossing a bouquet of flowers into the air to smashing a glass under a shoe, there are all sorts of interesting rituals involved that can make someone not familiar with the local traditions feel a bit puzzled. The one thing all wedding customs share is that they all have some type of meaning to the cultures of the people getting married. Learning about your own traditions can be interesting, but there is something even more rewarding in dedicating time to learning about unfamiliar customs from other parts of the world.
If you have an interest in wedding customs, now is a great time to expand your horizons. Explore these international traditions and learn something that will make you smile.
Customs On the Skin
Across the Middle East and parts of Asia, henna has been used as a dye in all sorts of customs and traditions. For brides throughout this region, henna plays a crucial part in various activities related to the wedding. It is common for young women to host “henna parties” before a wedding, which is similar to the traditional American bachelorette party in some respects. The women gather together to celebrate the bride with a party that involves food, dancing, and drinks. They will also draw temporary henna tattoos on the bride and other guests.
The beautiful and intricate designs drawn on the skin are worn with pride as a representation of the love shared between the friends and family. Some brides will wear these exact same henna designs on her wedding day; others will hire photographers to take pictures at the henna party to commemorate the event. Though common in the Middle East, these customs have spread outward and can be found in communities across the world.
Bring in the Happy Couple
All cultures have some variation of introducing the married couple after the official ceremony has ended and the reception and celebration are about to begin. In America, for example, the bridal party will often be announced by an emcee before the reveal of the new Mr. and Mrs. Another interesting custom comes out of Lebanon, where a dance called the zaffe is conducted. This dance is also done in anticipation of the couple’s entrance, often by a group of professional dancers instead of wedding-party members.
There are variations on the zaffe all around the Middle East and surrounding areas. In Saudi Arabia, where men and women celebrate the event in separate halls, the dance might be conducted twice by two separate troupes of dancers. However, this is often the only time of the night when the bride and groom are seen together by the guests. Instead, the bride spends much of her time with her female guests, who are allowed to wear more extravagant garb than normal due to the segregation of the wedding and lack of need for religious coverings.
A Quick Dip in Some Skim
Weddings can be stressful. In Morocco, some customs help brides-to-be take rest and self-care routines to another level. The Moroccan milk bath is an old tradition and one that may date back to the days of Cleopatra. On a symbolic level, the bath is meant to purify the woman and her body. On a scientific level, the fat of the milk softens the skin and helps to relieve tension. Flowers and other fragrant items are added to the bath to create an aromatic experience that allows for a bit of true serenity.
Wedding customs around the world might vary wildly, but all center around celebrations of love. Whether you’re planning for your own nuptials or simply curious to learn more about the weird and wonderful habits of the human race, there are plenty of interesting tidbits to discover.