Author: Inka Piegsa-Quischotte

10 Unique Wedding Ceremonies Around the World

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April 29th of  2011 will see the wedding of the year, if not the decade: at long last Prince William and Kate Middleton will tie the knot. Of course, being who they are, they have no choice in the matter of the venue or the ceremony. Westminster Abbey in London is where Kate walk down the aisle and millions of people all over the world will watch.

Given the possibility of having it their own way, the royal couple may have opted for one of the ceremonies which mark weddings in these ten countries, some of them quite exotic. Here’s a look at some of the wedding traditions celebrated all over the world.


Bride and groom in Japan come together either by a love match or through an arranged marriage. The ceremony itself is an extremely elaborate and extravagant affair and in modern-day Japan is a combination of western style marriage and traditional Shinto ceremony, often held in a Shinto shrine located in a hotel where the entire festivities ,including dinner and reception, take place. Photographs play a great role and so does the dressing of the bride who has to change outfits several times during the ceremony.

Bride and groom arrive at a beauty parlor where the bride is often painted white from head to toe to symbolize her virginity. She then wears a kimono, wig and has a choice of two head dresses: either a white hood or a tsunokakuski which covers the ‘horns of jealousy’ and is also a symbol of her obedience. The Shinto priest conducts the ceremony, which consists of several parts and requires the bride to change kimonos. The three most important parts are the speech of the go-between, the drinking of the nuptial cups of sake and finally the ceremonial  lighting of a candle. Prior to the religious ceremony the couple has  to be married by signing civil documents.

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Tying the knot for the Maasai starts long before the wedding day. It’s not really surprising that the courtship and marriage ceremony are drawn out,  as divorce is not an option. When a young man takes an interest in a girl, he gives her a chain. Some time later, he assembles several women of his own age to bring his future mother-in-law a drink of alcohol. Again some time later, a drink of alcohol is brought to his future father-in-law, who drinks it and asks the young man to make his intention clear. That stage passed, he is then allowed to bring the family of his future wife gifts, which accumulate and represent the wife’s dowry.

When finally the wedding day arrives, the groom brings the bride’s price: three cows – all black – and two sheep. The male sheep is slaughtered and its fat is used for the bride’s head and wedding dress. Her head is shaved and the fat is applied. She then puts on her wedding dress and beautiful bead decorations and is lead from her kraal to her husband’s where she spends the next two days in the house of her mother-in-law. After that, her head is shaved again and finally, bride and groom are husband and wife.

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Depending on region and religion, wedding customs and ceremonies in India vary greatly. However what they all have in common is that they are lavish affairs and symbolize more the social coming together of two families than the union of two individuals. Prior to the wedding day, Byaha Haath, a ceremony of purification, is celebrated. Bride and groom are attended by seven unmarried females who apply a paste made from sandalwood, turmeric and rose water to the couple’s face, hands and feet. The couple are not allowed to leave home after that until their actual wedding day.

The exchange of vows is of course the crucial part. The bride sits on the right side of the groom until the vows are made. The right side is the place for strangers and acquaintances. After the vows, she moves to the left side of her husband, who has made a rather long list of promises to care for and look after his wife.

Special clothes are worn to the wedding and in Rajput, the groom, who is veiled, arrives on horseback. Given that weddings are a highly social affair, it often happens that hundreds or even thousands of guests appear, many of whom can even be unknown to the couple itself.

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Most Mexicans are Roman Catholics and the wedding ceremony take place within the church. Godparents, madrinas and padrinos, play an important role in the tradition. The madrina de lazo carries a rope, which maybe a rosary or a wreath made from orange blossoms as a symbol of fertility, and is wound in a figure-eight around the couple’s heads. The madrina de arras holds 13 coins which have been blessed by the priest and which symbolize the joint finances of the couple. The madrina de velacion is a woman of confidence to whom the bride can always turn for help and advice. Other godparents carry wineglasses for the wedding toast.

At the reception which follows the religious ceremony in church, the guests form a heart shaped ring around the newly weds before their first dance. And of course, what never can be amiss from a Mexican wedding is Mariachi music.

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Las Vegas

A Las Vegas wedding must be the quickest and least ceremonial way to tie the knot. All you need is a license, but then you are spoiled for choice with the offer of hundreds of wedding chapels and companies which can arrange gazebo weddings, theme weddings, even underwater weddings, or, for those who  are really in a hurry, drive-through weddings. Depending on your fancy and your budget, you can spend as little as $200 on your big day or you can spend thousands on a unique and truly flashy way to get married.

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Germans tend to be either Catholic or Protestant and the exchange of vows takes place in church  following the civil marriage in the ‘Standesamt’. The bride wears a white gown and walks down the aisle on the arm of her father who gives her  away to the groom waiting for her at the altar with his best man.

Afterwards, a reception is often held in a hotel, with the bride and groom sometimes arriving in a white horse drawn  carriage. Often a chimney sweep turns up as a symbol for good luck, carrying a horseshoe and a four leaved clover. In rural areas, special, elaborate Trachten, or traditional costumes, are kept from generation to generation and worn by the bride instead of the white gown.

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In the Muslim country of Morocco,  the wedding ceremony takes up several days. Habits and customs are changing but five days prior to the wedding, the negaffa, older women who prepare  the bridal chamber and the bride on her wedding day, still play an important role. The bride is given a purifying hammam bath, then her hands and feet are decorated with henna designs, kohl makeup is applied to her eyes and she is dressed in her wedding caftan and jewelry.

Throughout the day, men and women drink and eat at separate locations, until it’s time for the veiled bride to be carried on a platform and on the shoulders of her negaffa to the groom’s home. The mother-in-law lifts the veil and then the bride circles her new home three times before she is allowed to enter.

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The traditional Korean wedding ceremony is steeped in Confucian values. Every gesture and move is strictly regulated and follows a protocol. The ceremony starts with a photo session, often in a beautiful garden, then the bride’s parents move to where the ceremony is to take place and wait at the wedding table for the groom’s party to arrive. The party is lead by what could be called the groom’s best man, who approaches the parents and makes them a gift of a mandarin duck. The groom then moves to the eastern part of the table.; the bride arrives and moves to the western side.

The couple wash their hands, bow to each other and then exchange a drink of wine. After which they bow again and…the ceremony is over. Throughout the short ceremony, both bride and groom are supposed to show no emotions and to move with dignity in the stiff and elaborate costumes they wear.

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Saudi Arabia

Marriage in Saudi Arabia is an important family event  initiated by the elders of the respective families. Once a man has made his choice, he proceeds to send gifts to the woman; she is free to reject if she does not want to go ahead with the marriage. Once price and dowry  have been agreed upon, the bride is prepared much in the same way as in Morocco for her big day. A small religious ceremony takes place before a sheikh and the bride receives lavish gifts of jewelry.

The centerpiece of the wedding ceremony is the dinner. Men and women eat and drink in separate locations and only at the end will bride and groom sit together and share with their guests. The bride will wear traditional clothing along with a white Western-style wedding gown.

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More than in other Muslim countries, a Turkish wedding combines elements of Western-style ceremonies with local religious traditions. Weddings are mostly held in luxury hotels and the bride will wear a white gown, adorned with a red sash, the color for good luck in Turkey. She and her husband-to-be will sit at a special table together with the witnesses, and an official will conduct the civil ceremony.

After that, the bride will often change into beautiful red or purple kaftans. She will be surrounded by females who henna her hands and then she will walk from table to table to receive gifts of gold and money from her guests.

The dinner which, contrary to Morocco and Saudi Arabia, is not taken by men and women separately, is preceded by the dance of the fathers, an important part of the wedding ceremony. Again, money and gold coins are thrown on the dance  floor and collected by the kids to be handed to the couple to help pay for the expense of the wedding.

At the end, a many-tiered wedding cake is rolled in, cut and served and each guest is given a little box with a piece of cake to take home.

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Photos by Rupert Taylor-Price, medicalmission, sHazzam! mexikidsVix_B, Sirius Rust, markku_a, toughkidcst, nidalm.comphotochiel

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