Wedding Traditions From Around the World

Add cultural flair to your wedding! Here, six ethnic traditions that will make your wedding an affair to remember.

So, you want to stage a wedding that’s symbolically rich and spiritually meaningful? Look into the marriage traditions of your families’ ethnic background, or borrow some from a faraway land.

We’ve found a few cultural customs that have tons of universal appeal — any of these ideas will turn a same-old, same-old celebration into something spectacular.

Henna Party

indian wedding
Photo Credit: Blue Martini Photography

The day before the wedding, brides from India, Morocco and some Middle Eastern nations gather their female relatives and close girlfriends for a “henna party.” During this intimate ritual, henna, a plant-derived dye mixture, is applied to the bride’s hands and feet in swirling floral patterns. The henna dries into an exotic, red temporary “tattoo” that is said to protect the bride from evil spirits. It might be fun to incorporate henna as part of your bridal shower or luncheon. Note: The dye stays put for a week.

Flower Power

yellow bridal bouquet
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Historically, herbs, flowers and foliage with symbolic meanings have played important roles in weddings around the world. Why not use some of them in your bouquets and centerpieces? For instance, since the Victorian era, rosemary has been considered a symbol of loyalty and remembrance throughout Europe and the U.S. Ivy (the Greeks have been fans since ancient times) and orange blossoms (held dear by brides from Spain) represent eternal love. In Austria, myrtle is a symbol of life and fertility. Meanwhile, marigolds are a staple at Indian weddings, and the Dutch like lavender—it’s a good luck charm.

"Tying" the Knot

handfasting wedding ceremony
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Many Asian couples, as well as folks with a Celtic background, practice a "handfasting," in which the officiant binds or wraps the bride's and groom's hands together (usually with ribbon or cloth) to symbolize the joining of families and the blending of cultures. It can also express the pure, simple beauty of two souls coming together for eternity.

Scarlet Fever

chinese wedding
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In China, India and other Asian countries, the color red symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Some Asian brides wear an elaborate wedding gown of embroidered red silk. Have a traditional white dress? Tie a crimson silk taffeta sash around your waist or wear a dark-red velvet ribbon as a necklace. Or, feature red in your reception décor, using red amaryllis and hibiscus flowers, red paper lanterns or candy-striped table linens.

Vive La Croquembouche!

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Instead of a traditional wedding cake, serve up a croquembouche. This traditional French wedding dessert is a towering stack of profiteroles (cream-filled pastry puffs) that are held together with a yummy caramel glaze. The pastries are insanely delicious; plus, the confection is a feast for the eyes.

Do a Little Dance

hora at wedding
Photo Credit: Jeff Kolodny Photography

At your reception, the dance floor will most certainly be packed. Why not incorporate a traditional folk dance among the typical big band or Motown tunes? If people don’t know the steps, your DJ or band can instruct them. There might even be someone in your family who will be willing to lead and motivate the crowd. Some good ones to try:

The Hora: The Jewish circle dance to the famous, high-energy klezmer tune “Hava Nagila” is all kinds of fun. In it, the newlyweds are hoisted up into the air on chairs and are celebrated as “king and queen.”

The Tarantella: This is a lively, flirty southern Italian group dance that involves linking arms, moving in a circle and whirling and twirling about on the dance floor.

The Hasaposerviko: Get into a Greek frame of mind and learn the popular “butcher’s dance.” “It’s fast, like the hora,” says George Stathos of New York City’s My Greek Wedding Band. “You dance in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, with your arms locked.”