If there’s one universal truth we all share, it’s love. And while everyone fosters various philosophies and beliefs about what it means to be in a relationship, or place different values on marriage, there is no language requirement to express care. Though some of us are lucky enough to have diverse community of friends so we can experience wedding traditions from around the world, the rest of us only get to read about these incredible experiences.
From what brides wear to how they interact with their partners during these all-too-important big days, here are interesting wedding traditions from around the world you’ve probably never heard of.
Spain: It’s traditional to wear a black wedding gown.
We all know how the standard vows go, right? On your wedding day—when you’re overcome with love, affection and hope for your future, ‘until death do we part’ doesn’t seem daunting. In fact, you hopefully aren’t thinking about a funeral on what’s meant to be one of the happiest days of your life. In Spain, however, many brides take those four little words to heart and sport dramatic black gowns in lieu of white ones. The idea here is that the black gown symbolizes how long she will be with her partner and how committed she is to him. Though more modern brides are dismissing this tradition, it’s still common in rural areas and for those who want to adhere to history. Considering Sarah Jessica Parker received plenty of attention for wearing this bold hue, black wedding dresses are more the exception than the rule stateside.
India: It’s tradition to hide the groom’s shoes.
Your days of playing games come to a staggering halt when you’re hitched—or do they? In Indian culture, ‘Joota Chupai’ is a common wedding puzzle and one of our favorite wedding traditions from around the world. As one of the customs in an elaborate, ornate Indian wedding, the goal is to steal the grooms shoes as he makes his way to the mandap, an altar-like structure. Relatives of the bride will snatch them away and then hide them. Once the ceremony has ended, the groom goes on a hunt for his kicks, and if he can’t? He has to pay up to get them back. The point here is to illustrate the bonding of two sides of the family, and how ready the groom is —at any cost—to have his bride.
Sweden and Great Britain: It’s tradition to give the bride gold.
For most weddings, the groom has already given his bride a ring, and during the ceremony, she’ll give him a band. However, in Sweden and in many parts of Great Britain, the lucky engaged lady also receives money from her family, but in a special way. In Sweden, a mother gives a bride a gold coin for her right shoe, while the father gives a silver coin for her right. This way, no matter what happens, she’ll never go without an income. In Great Britain, a bride’s father would slip the silver ring into her shoe—as a way of supporting her marriage and wishing her luck.
Fiji: It’s tradition to give a whale’s tooth.
Finding a whale’s tooth is a pretty rare experience. And what’s even harder to find? The love of your life. In Fiji’s capital and largest city, it’s very common to seek out a whale tooth as a gift to the parents of the bride from the groom’s family. Sort of as a way to ask for permission, it’s more of a symbol of wealth other than anything, but it hopefully gives parents peace of mind knowing their daughter will be cared for. They can also be used at other major events—the birth of the first child or at a funeral—and you’ll see many locals carrying the ones they were given.
Poland, Nigeria, and Greece: It’s tradition to do a money dance.
If you’ve attended a wedding in the states that featured relatives from Poland, Greece or Nigeria, you may have witnessed a money dance. As the name suggests, this is when the couple shakes their “moneymakers” (literally) while guests fork over their cash as a gift for the wedding. In Poland, guests will create a circle around the bride and all take turns dancing with her, and then slipping her money. Depending on how fancy of a celebration it is, a bride may also have one of her friends (or a sister) stand with her and hold onto the cash, and to serve her guests a shot of liquor. In Nigeria, they spray the bride with money, while in Greece, they’ll toss money at the couple as they dance. All of this, of course, is to support the happy twosome in their new life together and create a truly special wedding tradition from around the world.
South Africa: It’s tradition to have a kitchen tea.
Much like a bridal shower in the states, a ‘kitchen tea’ is what it sounds like: a time when friends and family gather to gift a bride everything she needs for her new home. This could include appliances, mixing bowls, china, you name it—but it’s often served with little cakes and all-you-can-stomach tea. While South Africans are known for having rowdy weddings, this is a quieter affair than other countries.