For as long as couples have been getting married, the rites and customers of their cultures have played a pivotal role in their marriage ceremonies. As time marches forward and families unite, these rituals uphold tradition and are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a couples’ faith and culture.
In fact some traditions which are still incorporated into ceremonies today are believed to be thousands of years old. For example with no beginning and no end, bygone civilisations such as the Egyptians believed rings represented holiness, unity and peace – a belief that still exists in 2014. Likewise Ancient Europeans believed that a lover’s knot was a symbol of love, faith, and friendship and formed a knot out of their hair, woven together and then worn as a ring. But perhaps what’s most amazing is that even our far distant cousins, the cavemen, bound themselves to their partners with a cord of woven rushes as a symbol that their spirits were one, a practice that still takes place in some African countries to this day.
But some of the most wonderful and interesting traditions to have stood the test of time, have come out of mysterious and romantic Asia. From India to Indonesia and China to Japan, the Far East is home to a wonderfully rich diversity of cultures, religions and traditions. Your Wedding uncovers some of the wedding traditions and rituals still prominent in Asia.
Indian weddings can take anywhere from five minutes to several days, depending on region and religious factors. But one thing is for sure, Indian weddings are always very colourful affairs, a trend which is starting to spread into many Western weddings. Before an Indian bride gets married, she and her female friends and family decorate their hands and feet with beautiful designs called ‘menhdi.’ These temporary designs are made from henna (plant dye) and last just a few weeks. The menhdi designs are incredibly intricate and take hours to apply, not including the time the bride must wait for the henna paste to dry and stain her skin. However, turning the occasion into a ‘mehndi party’ makes the process a lot of fun where the girls bond, laugh, dance and sing.
In India and other countries with a Hindu culture it is considered bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other for several days before the wedding. As part of the marriage ceremony the bride’s parents wash the couples’ feet with milk and water as a symbol of purifying them for the journey of their new life together. As part of the ceremony the couple holds in their hands grains of rice, oats and green leaves, signifying wealth, good health and happiness.
Another important ceremony followed in certain areas is the ‘Haldi’ where the bride and the groom are anointed with turmeric paste. All of the close relatives make sure that they have anointed the couple with turmeric a custom which is supposed to bring luck and riches. In certain regions, on the day of the wedding proper, the Bridegroom, his friends and relatives arrive singing and dancing to the wedding site in a procession called ‘baraat,’ and then the religious rituals take place to solemnise the wedding, according to the religion of the couple.
During the celebrations, the couple will exchange flower garlands and toe rings. But before entering the temple, they must go around a sacred fire seven times as this is said to invoke the gods to grant them a happy life. The groom marks the forehead of his wife with a red dot (poddu) and she will only erase it after her husband’s death.
While the groom may wear traditional Sherwani / dhoti or some other local costume, his face is often veiled with a mini-curtain of flowers called ‘sehra.’ In many regions, the bride (Hindu or Muslim) will wear red clothes, never white because white symbolises widowhood in Indian culture. In Southern and Eastern states the bride usually wears a red Sari, but in northern and central states the preferred garment is a decorated skirt and blouse with a veil called a ‘lehenga.’ After the solemnisation of marriage, the bride departs with her husband. This can be a very sad event for the bride’s relatives because traditionally she is supposed to ‘break-off’ her relations with her blood relatives to join her husband’s family.
The red colour plays a key role during the wedding festivities in China . Red is considered to be a h3, lucky colour in China which symbolises love, prosperity and happiness. That’s why everything is red, the bride’s dress, the accessories, the wedding invitations, the presents, the decorations. everything!
Chinese bridal gowns (qipao or cheongsam) are traditionally adorned with elaborate golden phoenixes, chrysanthemums and peonies, symbols of wealth and good fortune. The groom traditionally wears a black silk coat over a robe embroidered with a dragon, and you can expect loud firecrackers at a Chinese wedding to scare off evil spirits.
In most southern Chinese weddings, the bride price is based on the groom’s economic status. The idea of ‘selling the daughter’ or bride is not a phrase that is used often. Therefore, the price of the bride does not tend to be too demanding. Most of the time, the bride price is in the form of gold jewellery, money, or even a roast pig, which is supposed to symbolise that the bride is a virgin. Wedding presents are given by guests who are older than the newlyweds, whilst tea is served by the younger family members.
Japanese marriages are traditionally categorised into two types according to the method of finding a partner: Miai (meaning arranged or resulting from an arranged introduction) and Ren’ai (where the couple met and decided to marry on their own).
A Japanese bride-to-be may be painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the Gods. They will then also wear either a watabōshi (a white hood to cover their head) or a tsunokakushi which is another type of headgear supposed to hide the bride’s ‘horns of jealousy.’
Traditional Japanese wedding customs (shinzen shiki) involve an elaborate ceremony held at a Shinto shrine and the bride may choose to wear an elaborately embroidered silk kimono covered in purple iris-flowers as in Japan purple is the colour of love.
A Pakistani wedding usually consists of four ceremonies on four separate days.
The first function is ‘Mehndi’ in which the families get together and celebrate the upcoming wedding function. On this day, it is customary to wear vibrant colors and the bride-to-be gets her hands painted with henna. Singing and dancing go on throughout the night. The next day is ‘Baraat’ which is hosted by the bride’s family and a large feast is given. The bride’s friends and relatives are also present, and the Baraat event can be considered the ‘main’ wedding event as it is the largest one out of all the events. Then there is the holy ceremony of ‘Nikah’ which is performed by a religious Pastor or Imam, after which bride and groom are declared as husband and wife. The Next day there is a function of ‘Walima’ in which the groom’s family is the host and the bride’s family come over for a big feast.
On her wedding day, the bride-to-be can wear any colour she wants, but vibrant colors and lots of traditional gold jewellery are typical. It is customary for the bride to wear traditional clothes such as a lahnga, shalwar kameez, or sari. These weddings are also typical of the Muslim community in India. After a Pakistani wedding, the couple returns home for a ceremony called the ‘showing of the face.’ Family and friends hold a green shawl over the couple’s heads and a mirror as the bride removes the veil she wears throughout the wedding ceremony. While the newlyweds are busy gazing into each others eyes, the bride’s female relatives make off with the groom’s shoes and demand money for their safe return.
Some Slightly Stranger Wedding Customs:
- – A Tujia bride in China is expected to cry for one hour everyday a month before her wedding. Ten days into the ordeal her mother joins in, and then ten days later her grandmother does the same. By the end of the month every female in the family is crying alongside the bride. Why? Well, it’s actually supposed to be an expression of joy as the women weep in different tones, kind of like a song.
- – In India women born as Mangliks (an astrological combination when Mars and Saturn are both under the 7th house) are thought to be cursed and likely to cause their husband an early death. In order to ward off this curse they must be married first to a tree. The tree is then destroyed and the curse is broken.
- – In Yugur culture (an ethnic Chinese minority) the groom will shoot his bride three times with a bow and arrow before the wedding. Okay, the arrows don’t have arrowheads, but apparently it still hurts! Once the deed is done, the groom will collect the arrows and break them, thus ensuring that they will love each other forever.
- – When a wedding is over in Korea, friends of the groom remove his socks, tie a rope around his ankles and start beating his feet with fish in order to prepare him for his first night as a married man.