Connecting with Cultural Wedding Traditions

Cultural Answers to Questions of Modern Day Wedding Planning:

The art of planning a wedding comes in the creative ways couples find to showcase who they are. The celebration is all about the bride and groom, and the details incorporated in the design can be a great way to share their personalities with their guests. I wanted to share with you one of my favorite ways to add meaning to your celebration and make your day unique. One slightly unexpected, seemingly incorrect word: Tradition. Stay with me.

Every culture has its own special wedding traditions. If you or your fiancé have heritage you are particularly proud of, including cultural wedding traditions on your wedding day is an incredible way to honor the culture itself and that piece of the two of you.

Many modern traditions actually have counterparts in cultures from around the world. For example, in modern America the traditional day to hold a wedding is Saturday, while Saturday is considered unlucky in other cultures. And many traditions are shared across cultures, though they may have different names and vary slightly, like the tradition of “tying the knot,” which is practiced around the world. Cultural traditions bring a unique flair to your celebration and even offer interesting solutions to modern day problems by being different while holding special meaning to you and your fiancé.

A few years ago, I saw a ceremony that included the Irish handfasting ritual. It was stunning, and I knew I wanted to incorporate that tradition in my own wedding. I didn’t know the cultural origin, I just knew that the ceremony meant something special to me as I watched the bride and groom clasping hands and having beautiful ribbons tied around their wrists in a crisscross pattern to create an infinity symbol. Once I started planning my wedding with my wonderful fiancé, Kyle, I dug deeper into the cultural meaning of the handfasting ceremony. Kyle has always been proud of his Irish heritage, and now the handfasting ritual that so moved me years ago will not only be present in my wedding ceremony but will honor my fiancé’s culture.

Traditions are carried through generations because they are so full of meaning. The meaning of a tradition can come from the way it belongs to a cultural heritage or its meaning can come from the significance the practice has for an individual. So whether you identify with a particular culture or just the ritual itself, the important thing is that you find traditions that mean something to you. Maybe you studied abroad and have a special connection to the country you lived in, maybe you grew up hearing stories from your family about the country they came from, or maybe you will read about one of these traditions and feel an incredible and inexplicable connection to the meaning captured within the tradition. Whatever the case may be, I hope you feel inspired by hundreds of years of tradition as you imagine your own wedding day.

 

Before the Wedding

Some couples choose to have their weddings on Fridays or Sundays to save money. This is a difficult decision as couples consider multiple factors involved in choosing a wedding date. If you are considering having a wedding not on a Saturday, you might like to know that according to the Italian culture, Sunday is the best day to get married as it means increased luck, fertility, and prosperity for the bride and groom.

Bridal Fashion

One of the current trends in wedding style is for the bride to wear flowers or a floral crown in her hair. The style adds some romance and whimsy to a wedding look. This is, in fact, an old Irish tradition. In the Irish culture, brides wore wildflowers in their hair and carried the blooms in their bouquets. It symbolized feminine power and luck.

Wildflowers Wildflowers

Left– Photo via Bridal Musings Right-Photo by Shane O’Neil of Aspect Photography via Green Weddings Shoes

Have you considered wearing a wedding gown that isn’t the traditional white or ivory? Well, in Ireland it was traditional for brides to wear a blue wedding dress instead of white. The color blue symbolized purity. So, if you are a bride wanting to add some color to your wedding day, you can stand out with a little bit of blue and still keep with tradition.

Blue Dress Blue Dress

Left-Dress by Lazaro via OneWed   Right-Photo by Lorenzo Agius via Green Wedding Shoes

Floral Design

A Welsh tradition is for the bride to carry myrtle in her bridal bouquet. This beautiful ritual is still practiced by the royal family. Myrtle symbolizes the love of the marriage. Myrtle can be incorporated into bouquets of all styles and colors to create an elegant design with a more significant meaning.

Photo by JR Magat via 100 Layer Cake

Another option for adding cultural meaning to your floral design is the Spanish tradition of carrying orange blossoms in the bridal bouquet. In Spain, orange blossoms are a symbol of happiness and fulfillment, since orange trees were said to blossom and bear fruit at the same time.

The Wedding Ceremony

In Italy, sometimes the groom walks the bride to the church before the ceremony as the entire bridal party follows behind. What a great way to share even more of your special day with each other. If you are doing a first look, a rather new tradition in which the bride and groom take some time before the ceremony to see each other for the first time just the two of them instead of when the bride walks down the aisle, consider then an Italian procession to the church with your fiancé and your bridal party. It will be the last walk you take together before being married, so why not make it significant?

Some couples don’t want to deal with the stress of choosing and organizing a bridal party of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Instead of the typical bridal processional, consider having an Argentinian processional. In Argentina, the father of the bride and the mother of the groom escort the couple down the aisle and stand beside them throughout the ceremony. This could be extended to both the bride and groom’s father and mother to include family more meaningfully in the wedding ceremony.

Parents of the Bride

Photo by Tyler Branch via Green Wedding Shoes

To add to your wedding ceremony, you may consider completing the African ritual of tying the knot. African brides and grooms had their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass to symbolize and confirm their marriage commitment. In Mexico, this tradition is called a Lazo Ceremony and is practiced by the bride and groom having a rosary or white ribbon draped around their necks during their ceremony to symbolize their everlasting love and new union.

The Reception

If you are debating between hiring a band or a D.J. for your wedding celebration, you may want to consider the Cuban culture. Traditionally, Cuban wedding receptions are filled with live music and joyful dancing to celebrate the community of loved ones that have come together for the couple and to add a flavor of fun and energy to the affair.

Live Music

Photo by Anushé Low via B.Loved

Not everyone likes cake, and there are many options for desserts at your wedding reception. In England, fruitcake is the traditional wedding dessert. These delicious desserts are made with raisins, nuts, cherries and other scrumptious ingredients combined to add a touch of meaning and culture to your celebration.

Fruitcake

Cake by Vegan Treats, Photo by Katch Silva via Green Wedding Shoes

Every family has special traditions and sentimental items that they cherish, and the perfect way to make your wedding meaningful is to include a cultural element in your wedding celebration. It doesn’t even really matter if you can trace your family back to a particular culture, it only matters that the tradition means something to you, reflects your personality, makes a memory, or gives you a special feeling on your special day. When planning the details of your wedding, just have fun, be creative, and be true to yourselves. Your wedding should be a reflection of who you are as a couple, and all the little things will come together to tell your incredible love story.

 

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