Traditions From Around the GlobeLion dances, weed bouquets and henna tattoos -- a look back at some of the most interesting cultural wedding traditions.
Wedding Traditions in Italy
When: In bygone Italy, wedding festivities kicked off in the morning, ideally on a Sunday. Regional Italian folklore dictated that couples should never marry (or leave for their honeymoon) on a Friday or Tuesday, or they'd be bound to have loads of bad luck, while Saturdays were reserved for widows getting hitched to husband number two (or three, or four...).
Attire: In addition to a white gown, the blushing bride's face would be hidden beneath a veil -- a symbol of her virginity and to protect her from unruly spirits. Tearing the veil, however, was considered good luck. (Why? Just use your imagination.) Meanwhile, the groom lugged a piece of iron (preferably a small one) in his pocket to ward off evil spirits.
Activities: Italian brides and grooms made their way to the chapel on foot. In some regions, it was considered bad luck for the groom to turn around once he stepped foot outside his house on his wedding day (no backing out now!). Just in case, he'd be accompanied to the ceremony by a group of friends who would run back for him if he'd forgotten something. After the wedding ceremony, the couple would shatter a vase -- doing their best to pulverize it, since the number of broken pieces represented the number of years they'd be happily married. Villagers might also set up a log for the newlyweds to saw through with a double-handed saw -- representing how they would work together in their new partnership.
The Food: Even hundreds of years ago, food was an essential part of an Italian wedding. Course after course of antipasti, calamari, pasta, fish, pork and more were accompanied by a liqueur or wine. Guests could always count on having some wanda, bow ties of fried dough dipped in powdered sugar that symbolized good luck. Confetti -- sugar-covered almonds (or Jordan almonds, as we know them) representing the bitter and sweet parts of life -- served as a snack or, yes, as something to throw at the newlyweds as they made their exit.
The Music: The bride and groom would lead their guests in a jaunty circular jig called the tarantella. Legend has it that this springy dance could save victims from poisonous tarantula bites.
Added Perk: Money -- and lots of it. To help with the expense of the wedding, guests would place cold, hard cash in a satin bag called la borsa carried by the bride.
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Wedding Traditions in China
When: It all depended on the astrologer. Chinese couples consulted a fortune-teller to find a favorable date derived from their birth dates.
Attire: For centuries, Chinese brides wore the traditional qipao, a bright-red silk dress with intricate gold embroidery. These loose, high-necked, long-sleeved gowns fell all the way to the ground -- revealing only the bride's head, hands and toes. At the reception, the bride often changed gowns several times throughout the night to show the opulence of her family.
Activities: On the morning of the wedding day, the groom and his groomsmen would make their way to the bride's home. There, the bridesmaids would give the groom a hard time -- forcing him to negotiate (with money) his way into the house. Once the ladies were satisfied with his offerings, they would deem him worthy of entering, and he would join the bride's parents for tea (served by the bride) as a parting ritual.
The Food: Weddings were a great excuse for families to flaunt their wealth, making a 10- to 12-course banquet a regular occurrence at a traditional Chinese wedding. Shark fin soup was a luxurious staple -- which, at upwards of $100 a bowl today, could drain anyone's bank account quickly. Other delicacies included bird's nest soup (yes, made from real swifts' nests) and a whole fish, which was served because the word for fish, yu, sounds similar to the word for abundance.
The Music: At more elaborate weddings, the couple and their guests would enjoy a performance called the lion dance, in which performers dressed as powerful felines swayed to the beat of drums, gongs and cymbals to scare away evil spirits.
Added Perk: After the wedding feast, friends and family would follow the couple into their bedroom, making as much noise as possible and taunting them -- all in good fun, of course. Guests tried to stay in the room for as long as they could before the privacy-starved couple kicked them out.
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