Ancient Wedding Traditions from Around the World

Posted on April 12, 2017

We're thrilled to introduce you to our Wedding Collection. The Wedding Collection is comprised of entirely customizable rings—and as your relationship grows, so can they. Add SK rings to commemorate anniversaries and other milestones, and we'll link them onto your wedding bands. In honor of the legend-and-mythology inspired collection and the notion of custom, we wanted to share with you a bit about the history of marriage—and to give you word of some bizarre wedding traditions from around the world. 

Most pieces in our Wedding Collection are named after figures of ancient mythology—and most mythological lore, as we know, is quite fantastical. Many "real," modern, non-fictional stories and traditions are, you'll soon learn, just as fantastical. 

Historical Links: Developments in Marriage

The first recorded marriage contracts and ceremonies date back to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. Marriage was, at first, a means of preserving power, forging alliances, attaining land, and having children.

In ancient Rome, marriage, though a civil affair, was governed by imperial law. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the church courts took over and redefined marriage as a holy union.

For most of human history, the notion of love played a minimal role in marriage. Love, it was believed, is a fragile emotion; marriage should be a strong union.

During The Enlightenment, when the importance of "the pursuit of happiness" became popular, many advocated marrying for love rather than wealth or status. This trend was augmented by the Industrial Revolution and by the growth of the middle class during the 19th century. In Ancient Greece, love was always honored—especially when between men—but inheritance was valued above feelings: A woman whose father died without male heirs was often forced to marry her nearest male relative, even if she was currently married. 

Horses, Kimonos, and Secret Exits: Bizarre Global Wedding Traditions

Games of Rome: After Ancient Roman weddings, the bride and groom returned back to their separate houses. The groom’s friends would then charge, by horse, to their friends' wives' home—but the bride’s friends had laid obstacles all over the road to her house, like straw ropes tied between trees, which were meant to knock people off their horses. Those who managed to get to the bride’s house had to recite poetry and sing songs through the door to the bride and her friends, who were inside—and if the bride and her friends were the first to run out of songs to reply with, the door had to be opened. The following day, the bride would finally be able to go to her husband’s home, and both parties would continue to engage in celebration. 

Rough Love: In Belarus, friends of the groom would—as a game—force him, with mildly brutal action and words, to be affectionate towards his new wife. 

Nonsensical: In 19th Century Netherlands, it was believed that “those who do not like cats will not get handsome wives.”

Spooky, Elaborate, and Symbolic: In China, there was a bizarre practice called “ghost marriages.” To keep unmarried deceased relatives from being lonely in the afterlife, family members married them off. The two were united in a graveside ritual, and the new in-laws kept in touch afterward. For more "normal marriages," future husbands will shoot their future brides with a bow and arrow several times, then collects the arrows. During the ceremony they break the arrows to ensure that their love lasts forever. Chinese brides will walk down their aisles in slim-fitting, embroidered dresses called Qipao, or Cheongsam. They then change into a more formal ball gown for their receptions, and late at night change into cocktail dresses.

Oceanic: In Fiji, men present their soon-to-be fathers in law with whales teeth 

Lessons in Resilience: In Germany, to prove that by working together a couple can handle any troubles that come their way, their wedding guests throw porcelain dishes on the ground—and the brides and grooms clean the piles of shattered porcelain. 

White Out: In Japan on the day of a wedding, brides partake in a traditional Shinto ceremony and wear white from head to toe—including makeup, kimono and hood to denote her maiden status, including a hood, which hides the "horns of jealousy" that she may feel towards her mother-in-law

Tough Crowd: In Jamaica, the villagers line up in the street to take a look at the bride. Many of them will shout out negative comments—and the brides will then go home and try to improve their appearance before their weddings.

Unsupported: In Kenya, new father in laws will spit on the brides as the Masai brides leave their weddings with their new husbands. The purpose of this ritual is not to tempt fate by being too supportive of the newlyweds.

Cleanser: In Indonesia, the day before a wedding, mothers pour water on their sons who are soon to be married, as part of a traditional cleansing ritual. Indonesian wedding ceremonies are a continuous, three-day affairs, and the brides and grooms are required to spend the first three days of their marriage together, at home. 

Mirror Images: In Turkey, grooms place a Turkish flag in the ground of his home the day of the wedding and then place objects like vegetables and mirrors are placed on top of their flag to signify that their wedding ceremony has begun.

Venezuelan "French Exit": In Venezuela, newlyweds leave before their parties are over—and it's considered to be good luck to be the guest who notices that the pair have departed. 

Love Carvings: Welshman once carved spoons from wood, with symbols like keys, which were meant to signify the keys to his heart, and beads, which represented the number of children he hoped for, and gave the carved spoon to his beloved. Welsh brides have bouquets that include myrtle—an herb that symbolizes love—and gives each of her bridesmaids bits the plant. It's thought that when a bridesmaid plants it, she can be the next bride. 

Formaldehyde: In Mongolia, couples who want to set their wedding dates must first kill a baby chicken and dissect it in order to find a "healthy liver."

Reverse Thievery: Russian must go to their future bride's parents' home on the morning of their wedding to prove his worth by either giving gifts to the parents—or symbolically "paying a ransom" for their daughter, or by humiliating himself by dancing for the parents until they allow him to stop.

Tattoo Culture: In India brides cover their bodies with Menhdi, or, henna tattoos, which can eliminate the need for any other accessories. Couples also partake in a ceremony "Joota Chupai" or "hiding the shoes"—while walking to the altar, the groom is required to take off his shoes. Once they're off, everyone from his side of the family is expected to protect the shoe from the family of the bride, as they attempt to steal them—which is simply a bonding activity. 

Back Pains: In French Polynesia, after a wedding, relatives of the bride can lay side-by-side, face down on the ground, and the bride and groom will walk over them as though they are part of the carpet.

Logging: German couples cut logs in half with saws to symbolize their ability to overcome obstacles. 

Initiation Ceremonies: In Scotland, people engage in an activity called "blackening of the bride" in which the groom and bride are captured by friends the day before their ceremony, and covered in things like molasses, ash, flour, and feathers. They're then paraded around town. The Scottish believe that this ceremony wards off evil spirits.

Allowed Cheating: In Sweden, every time the bride or groom leaves the table, anyone at the wedding is allowed to steal a kiss from their new wife or husband. 

Broomstick Games: In Africa, slaves were not permitted to marry in America—and so they would make a public declaration of their love and commitment by jumping over a broomstick, to the beat of drums. 

Almost like Kissing: French couples at their wedding receptions would frequently drink from a two-handled, engraved cups, called coupes de marriage

Glass and Satin: Italian couples would shatter vases after their wedding ceremonies. The number of broken pieces represented the number of years they'd be happily married, so they'd try their best to smash the vases thoroughly. At the receptions, brides would carry satin bags, la borsas, for their guests to place envelopes of money in—a tradition called the buste. Male guests could place money in the purse in exchange for a dance.

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