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Wedding Traditions Around the World
By Candy Morningway
If you want to learn about a culture, community or religious group, look to its holidays, traditions and rituals. They are direct reflections of both the contemporary and history of a group. Weddings are one of the keenest examples of this. Let us explore some wedding traditions from around the world.
Ever see images of young married couples with their hands bound together? Handfasting is a historical term for “betrothal” or “wedding”. It dates back hundreds of years, and spans several cultures and religions. In some cultures (as in the Scottish Highlands), it was a marriage of a "year and a day". If at the end of the year, the couple found that they were incompatible, and there were no children, they could part. Otherwise, they could agree to remain together, and the marriage then became a legal and lifelong bond. In other cultures, it was a complete, fully binding ceremony from the start. In some remote areas, it was a simply a means of marriage between two people where no "clergy" or other official party was available. In this case, the couple needed only to express their desire to be joined as one, and that was considered a legally binding contract. The binding of hands gives us the expression "tying the knot".
Jumping the Broom
Jumping the broom is a phrase and custom relating to a wedding ceremony where the couple jumps over a broom. Two main groups in history are associated with this custom: the Romani people of the United Kingdom and the African-American communities. This custom leads to the term “broomstick marriage” which refers to a non-legally binding union. The communities who celebrated this tradition in the UK acknowledged it as being as binding as any clergy ceremony. For many African-American communities, there are mixed feelings around this custom as it was used heavily during the slave era to acknowledge when a slave owner had determined two slaves would be matched for breeding purposes. This forced, contrite custom has been reinvented becoming a treasured wedding tradition incorporated into many main stream celebrations as well.
First Nations / Aboriginal Wedding
A First Nations wedding will differ based on the nation or community involved, however, the core values are such that the bride and groom come together to honor the land, their community, their families and each other. They enter into the circle as two individuals, but emerge as a unit of one. As with most weddings, there are great feasts and merrymaking, dancing and music and well wishes for the new couple. During the fur trade era, when Aboriginal women were marrying European men, this was done “a la facon du pays” or “according to custom of the country”. Ceremonies would follow the traditions of the Aboriginal women, however in most circumstances these marriages were not recognized by the European states or church and therefore were dissolved when the fur traders went back to Europe.
An Indian wedding would often last for days starting with pre-wedding ceremonies where rings were exchanged and families bonded through the exchange of gifts; women have a separate ceremony known as the Mehendi Ceremony where their bodies are decorated. Mehandi is one of the sixteen adornments of the bride and her beauty is incomplete without it. The actual day of the wedding would begin with the bride and groom putting flower garlands around each other’s neck to show the bride has accepted the groom as her husband.
Traditional Russian weddings last for a minimum of two days. Dancing, singing, loud, long toasts and an endless supply of food and drink are key. Rings are exchanged on the first day of the wedding. Part of the celebration is the paying of the ransom for the bride, which is often done in a comical fashion by the groom – he must pay the acceptable ransom to be united with his bride. The actual ceremony takes place in a church and is divided into the betrothal (blessing of the union) and crowning (official sign of the union is the placing of the crowns on the heads of both bride and groom).