I was at a colleague’s leaving lunch a few weeks ago when the subject of weddings arose. There were roughly ten of us present, almost all women, from different parts of the world. It was so wonderful to hear about the various wedding traditions from other countries and cultures. As an ‘Afropolitan’ this is one of the many things I love about living in such a vibrant metropolis like London; the ‘world’ is literally on your doorstep – ready and willing to enrich your life but only if you’re open to engage with others who are ‘different’ to you. (Disclaimer: I am no authority on any of these matters so would suggest you have a good research online or better still, find someone from the various cultures to share their insights!)
Over lunch I learnt that:
In Holland the siblings and cousins of the bride and groom, gather together beforehand to create original songs, poems and drama sketches celebrating the couple. These are performed at the wedding (pretty daunting!)
In Greece, similar to Nigeria, the newlyweds are ceremoniously adorned with money by guests whilst dancing. The couple are firstly joined by a handkerchief. Money is pinned to this by the parents of the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the wedding party. This is called the ‘Money Dance’, which we Nigerians call ‘spraying’. I also learnt that in the more rural parts of Greece, shots are fired as part of the wedding festivities, which also happens in parts of Algeria too and is supposedly common across the Arab world.
In Columbia, a few nights before the wedding, whilst the bride and her bridesmaids gather together to beautify themselves at a relative’s home, the groom surprises his bride to be by hiring a band to serenade her (isn’t that beautiful?!). This ceremony is called the Serenata and often turns into a full on party with the couple’s family and friends.
Over the last few months I have been exposed some truly beautiful wedding customs. I recently attended a fusion wedding ceremony incorporating English and Indian traditions. One of the many highlights was the Choora ceremony, usually practised by Sikhs and Hindus and originates from the Punjab, Northern India.
The Choora (bangles) are placed on the arms of the bride by her male relatives (normally the maternal uncle) as a symbol of fertility and newly married status. According to tradition, this is normally conducted on the morning of or a day before the wedding. The bride is expected to wear the bangles -typically made of Ivory- for up to 40 days after the wedding sometimes longer, depending on the instructions given by her mother in law. During this time the bride undertakes little household duties, if she is living in her new extended family household, ‘free’ to enjoy the honeymoon period.
What strikes me about all these traditions is the importance of family and friends and the role they play in celebrating and honouring the newlyweds; almost all the customs are outward displays of their commitment to and hopes for the couple such as prosperity (money) and fertility (Choora bangles). But it also reminds me of the importance of a successful marriage occurring within the context of a community.
I suspect your wondering why the absence of an African wedding tradition? Well this is the subject of another post – namely a traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian wedding!
What wonderful wedding traditions and customs do you know of? Would love to hear from you.