Our Favorite Wedding Traditions From 50 Cultures and Religions Around the World
We're inspired by the beautiful diversity seem among the many wedding traditions around the world. While weddings represent the start of something new, they're also a chance to honor and acknowledge a couple's background and the upbringing and family members that brought them to where they are. As such, rituals and traditions are often a part of most wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions, no matter what religion or culture the couple identifies with. Weddings are also often a blending of cultures and a chance for to-be-weds to find ways to pay homage to multiple cultures on their big day.
"A wedding is about two families merging and celebrating the various cultures, traditions, and heritage that they have grown up with," says wedding expert Jaclyn Watson. Jaclyn has over 14 years of wedding experience as the principal planner of Jaclyn Watson Events, a wedding planning company based in New England.
Maybe you're attending a friend's wedding and want to know what cultural wedding traditions to expect from weddings in different cultures. Or maybe you're getting married and are looking for ways to infuse your personal heritage into the wedding. Perhaps you're just curious in general about unique wedding traditions and weddings in different cultures around the world. Whatever your interest in weddings from different cultures, we've rounded up our favorite wedding traditions from around the world for you. The customs and rituals seen at weddings around the world are as beautifully diverse as the many countries, cultures and religions that practice them, as you'll see below.
Cultural and Religious Wedding Traditions to Know:
Arab | Armenian | Black and African-American | Cambodian | Catholic | Chinese | Colombian | Congolese | Cuban | Dutch | Eastern European | Eastern Orthodox | Ethiopian | Egyptian | Filipino | French | German | Ghanaian | Greek | Hawaiian | Hindu | Indian | Irish | Italian | Jamaican | Japanese | Jewish | Korean | Latin American | Lebanese | Libyan | Mexican | Moroccan | Muslim | Native American | Nigerian | Norse | Pakistani | Persian | Polish | Protestant | Puerto Rican | Romanian | Russian | Scottish | Spanish | Swedish | Thai | Turkish | Vietnamese | Other Traditions to Know
1. Arab Wedding Traditions
Wondering what to expect at a traditional Arab wedding? Most weddings across the Arab world, including North Africa and the Middle East, are Muslim and follow Islamic practices and traditions. The zaffe is one of the most festive Arab culture wedding traditions—it's a lively processional that involves dancing and drumming.
2. Armenian Wedding Traditions
Weddings in Armenia are grand affairs focused on family. From the onset, the family is often involved with the proposal known as Khosk-Arnel which generally takes place at the bride's family's home. During this, the groom's family will arrive to the bride's home with treats and everyone sips tea together to celebrate the couple's engagement. Throughout the rest of the wedding, family remains central to the celebration.
3. Black and African-American Wedding Traditions
Black and African-American weddings are steeped in rich traditions and often represent a mix of customs with African roots and those that honor the history of perseverance many couples' forebears fought for. Two especially notable traditions are the jumping the broom tradition and the libation ceremony. The jumping the broom ritual, which takes place at the end of the wedding ceremony, involves the couple jumping over a broom that's been laid on the ground in front of them as a way of sealing their marriage. Meanwhile, a libation ceremony is a wedding custom with West African roots that is a ritualistic pouring of a liquid as a way of honoring ancestors at a couple's wedding. While the ritual is a chance to esteem ancestors, there's also space for couples to customize the ceremony by selecting whatever beverage they want for the occasion.
4. Cambodian Wedding Traditions
Cambodian and Khmer weddings are rich with cultural influences. Most of the weddings in Cambodia are Buddhist and span across three days. One unique and notable Cambodian wedding tradition is known as Gaat Sah. It is a ceremony in which a few strands of hair are cut from the to-be-weds' heads as a symbol of saying goodbye to their old life and embracing their new marriage.
5. Catholic Wedding Traditions
Weddings in the Catholic church are very structured, liturgical events. Holy Communion and the recitation of The Lord's Prayer are two especially important elements of a traditional wedding mass within the Catholic church.
6. Chinese Wedding Traditions
Many of the wedding traditions practiced in China and at Chinese weddings deal with bringing good luck to the wedding while also paying honor and respect to the elders who've come before the couple. The color red and the double-happiness symbol are both considered auspicious and are generally threaded throughout much of a Chinese wedding as a way of bringing good luck to the wedding day.
A traditional tea ceremony typically takes place during a Chinese wedding. As part of this ritual,, the couple will serve tea to their parents are a sign of honor and respect. It is a time-honored tradition and a meaningful way for couples to thank their parents for all they've done for them. In return, parents generally give the couple red envelopes with money as a wedding present and a reciprocal show of appreciation.
7. Colombian Wedding Traditions
Get ready to dance at a traditional Colombian wedding. La Hora Loca, or "the crazy hour," is a festive time of revelry that typically takes as part of the Colombian marriage culture. Another Colombian wedding tradition of note? Mantilla veils are a typical element of Colombian wedding dress.
8. Congolese Wedding Traditions
When she tied the knot recently, content creator and member of The Knot's Most Influential Weddings crew Tanya Marie Zielke infused her nuptials with Congolese wedding traditions as an homage to her heritage. "As a biracial Congolese-American and Anthony, my husband being Mexican-American, we incorporated elements into the wedding to honor our roots. I am the great-granddaughter of Mwant Yav Ditend and past Emperor of the Lunda Tribe in The Democratic Republic of Congo," explains Zielke. "My family from back home came to the wedding to give me a traditional royal blessing during the reception. They walked us singing a traditional Lunda song and showered us with blessings and money dance. All of our wedding guests joined in and it was beautiful."
In addition to including a traditional blessing and money dance in the wedding, Zielke used fashion to pay tribute to both her cultural heritage as well as the many other cultures present at the nuptials. "I invited guests that have a cultural background to wear their traditional wear. It was beautiful to see that represented. We had guests come from all over the United States, Europe, and Africa."
9. Cuban Wedding Traditions
Cuban weddings, and wedding traditions in Cuba, are filled with beauty but are typically secular in nature. Following changes brought about during the Castro regime, many traditional Cuban weddings integrate very few religious elements. The menu at a traditional Cuban wedding is absolutely tasty—rum drinks and dulce de leche desserts may be on deck.
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10. Dutch Wedding Traditions
Many traditions seen at weddings in the Netherlands involve food. To start, weddings in Holland have a historic tradition known as Bruid Suikas which is a sweetmeat often consumed at the bride's home before the big day. Then, at the wedding, a bowl filled with brandy and raisins is generally passed around between wedding guests while singing and merriment ensue.
11. Eastern European Wedding Traditions
Many countries in Eastern Europe, such as Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are predominantly Orthodox and generally incorporate traditions inspired by the Orthodox church. Additionally, while weddings are generally thought of as festive, cheerful occasions, many Eastern European cultural weddings focus on the somber, serious side of aging and entering adulthood that goes along with weddings.
12. Eastern Orthodox Wedding Traditions
The crowning is one of the most central parts of a traditional Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony. During this ritual, the priest will place crowns, connected by a white ribbon, upon the couple's heads to symbolize their unity.
13. Ethiopian Wedding Traditions
Traditional weddings in Ethiopia are incredibly diverse, but there are still many mainstay rituals and customs that are often associated with Ethiopian wedding culture. Notably, a tradition known as the Shimagelay may take place on the morning of the wedding as a blessing of the betrothal.
14. Egyptian Wedding Traditions
Egyptian wedding traditions are rich in culture and history. This is no surprise given the long history that has built and influenced the modern-day country with the 14th largest world population. From a special wedding ring tradition to tasting wedding reception food, ranging from stews to salads, the cultural wedding traditions at Egyptian nuptials permeate every part of the celebration.
15. Filipino Wedding Traditions
Weddings in the Philippines and between Filipino couples often include two especially notable traditions: the cord and veil ritual and the exchange of 13 coins, known as arras. The cord and veil custom represents the couple's oneness in marriage while the coins are a symbol of their commitment to provide for each other throughout their married life.
16. French Wedding Traditions
At traditional weddings in France, it is fairly uncommon to see bridesmaids and groomsmen as part of the event. While a couple may have close friends present to support them on the big day, there generally isn't a designated wedding or bridal party. Additionally, decadent French food, from macarons to croquembouche, is a big part of the country's festive wedding celebrations.
17. German Wedding Traditions
Traditional weddings in Germany are known for a variety of distinct rituals. Firstly, polterabend takes place on the night before the wedding where people will break porcelain as a raucous, yet celebratory, way of ushering in the big day. The couple will clean up the broken pieces together as a way of showing they can work together to accomplish a shared goal. Baumstamm sägen is another distinctively German wedding tradition where the couple will saw a log together at the wedding as a way of showcasing their teamwork as a couple.
18. Ghanaian Wedding Traditions
Ghanaian wedding traditions begin with a meaningful prewedding engagement ceremony and don't wrap up the minute the reception concludes—there's also often a postwedding ceremony that's observed. When it comes to the main event though, Ghanaian cultural wedding traditions include lots of gift-giving and a festive money dance during the wedding reception.
19. Greek Wedding Traditions
Traditional weddings in Greece and between Greek couples often follow the rituals set forth by the Greek Orthodox church. As such, Greek wedding ceremonies will customarily include the crowning and the couple will sip wine from the common cup.
20. Hawaiian Wedding Traditions
Traditional Hawaiian weddings often begin with the blowing of the Pū, a tropical conch shell trumpet, to start the wedding. From there a chant known as "Oli Aloha" will further usher in the wedding ceremony. During a Hawaiian wedding, the couple will often exchange leis and also participate in a ritual known as Pili ā nai kealoha where their hands are tied together by the officiant.
21. Hindu Wedding Traditions
Traditional Hindu weddings are extremely ceremonial and ritualistic and the beautiful customs practiced at Hindu weddings aren't limited to the wedding day alone, but begin prior to the ceremony with practices such as the mehndi, sangeet and haldi ceremonies.
A mehndi party is a prewedding event at Indian weddings where the bride and bridal party will get henna applied to their skin in intricate designs. While some modern couples don't practice all the historic Hindu wedding rituals, the application of henna is still widely practiced at Hindu weddings.
An additional item of note, mandaps mandap is the structure under which a Hindu wedding ceremony takes place. While the rituals that take place under the mandap carry meaning, even the structure itself is extremely significant as it represents the couple's home.
22. Indian Wedding Traditions
While the majority of weddings in India are Hindu, not all Indian couples exchange Hindu nuptials—Jain, Sikh and Muslim weddings are also common in India. Many traditional non-Hindu Indian weddings will still feature things like mandaps and the inclusion of turmeric, like Hindu weddings, however, something the meaning for inclusion and the names of the specific rituals differ from their Hindu counterparts.
23. Irish Wedding Traditions
Traditional Irish weddings are filled both with many rituals and with many superstitions. From the inclusion of "something blue" to Irish lace as part of most wedding dresses, each element of an Irish wedding is chosen with meaning and care. Weddings in other Celtic cultures, like Scottish and Welsh weddings, may also often include traditions similar to those seen at Irish weddings.
Handfasting is a notable ritual that is part of traditional Irish wedding culture. While handfasting is most common at Irish and Celtic wedding ceremonies, many modern non-Irish couples also choose to bring the custom into their own weddings. The custom involves tying the couple's hands together during the ceremony as a symbol of their unity and bond in marriage.
24. Italian Wedding Traditions
Cue the confetti—traditional weddings in Italy and between Italian couples are all about celebrating la dolce vita (the sweet life). Good food, like mille-foglia as a wedding cake, and lots of dancing are key elements of Italian weddings.
25. Jamaican Wedding Traditions
Much like Italian weddings, traditional Jamaican weddings are filled with good food and lots of dancing. Notably, rum cake often makes an appearance at weddings in Jamaica and between Jamaican couples.
26. Japanese Wedding Traditions
Traditional weddings in Japan and between Japanese couples are highly reverent, traditional affairs with lots of structure and ceremony. Couples will often select their wedding date based on what day will be the most auspicious and then host a daytime wedding without any dancing.
27. Jewish Wedding Traditions
While breaking the glass is one of the most recognizable Jewish wedding traditions, it's just one of many rituals often included in a Jewish wedding. Additionally, chuppahs are the altar structures under which Jewish weddings take place. The structure represents the couple's home and has four corners and must be covered.
28. Korean Wedding Traditions
While traditional weddings in South Korea and between Korean couples are filled with meaningful traditions, they're also fun and festive. Notably, the tradition of pye-baek is an entertaining element that involves the bride catching chestnuts in the skirt of her hanbok as the groom throws them at her.
29. Latin American Wedding Traditions
While traditional weddings across Latin America have their own nuances and things that make them unique, many of the traditions celebrated in Latin America carry some similarities to each other. One especially festive tradition is La Hora Loca, which is Spanish for Crazy Hour, and marks a time of lots of dancing and merriment at the wedding reception.
The arras tradition is the exchange of coins that takes place at many Latin American weddings as well as at Spanish weddings and Filipino weddings. The custom represents the couple's commitment to providing for each other in their marriage.
Another interesting ritual is the lasso ceremony. It involves a rope being draped around the shoulders of the couple during their wedding ceremony as a way of marking their coming together as one through marriage. Much like arras is also seen at Filipino weddings, the lasso ceremony is similar to the Filipino practice of the cord and veil ritual.
30. Lebanese Wedding Traditions
Like weddings from different cultures, traditional Lebanese weddings are filled with meaningful rituals and customs. There is often a prewedding henna party and a festive zaffa wedding processional on the big day. And it's best to come hungry to a traditional Lebanese wedding as the reception is sure to include plenty of delicious food.
31. Libyan Wedding Traditions
As Libya's state religion is Islam, traditional Libyan weddings are often Muslim and overseen by an Imam. The actual ceremony is very private and usually takes place at the bride's home on a separate day from the festive celebrations.
32. Mexican Wedding Traditions
Like many Latin American weddings, traditional weddings in Mexico and between Mexican couples often include the lasso ceremony and are generally Catholic in nature. Additionally, a mariachi band may be present for musical entertainment.
33. Moroccan Wedding Traditions
Moroccan wedding traditions are filled with meaning and beauty, even before the big day arrives. You can expect a prewedding hammam as well as a henna party. On the actual day of the wedding, there is a unique offering of milk and dates that generally takes place during the ceremony. And the day wraps up with a wedding reception filled with lots of music.
34. Muslim Wedding Traditions
In Islam, weddings are viewed as a couple entering into a contract with Allah. The only main requirement at traditional Muslim weddings is the signing of the marriage contract at the Nikah. Other traditions, like gender separation, vary by Islamic sect and culture.
35. Native American Wedding Traditions
Couples who are members of Native American tribes or descended from Native groups or Indigenous Americans may consider including a custom from their specific tribe in their wedding ceremony. Just like all wedding ceremonies are unique, the rituals seen at Native American ceremonies differ from tribe to tribe.
36. Nigerian Wedding Traditions
With an estimated 371 tribes in Nigeria, traditional Nigerian weddings are not a one-size-fits-all event. However, there are some traditions that are commonly seen across the majority of Nigerian weddings. Traditional attire like aso-ebi and geli is especially common, as is the money spray at the reception.
37. Norse Wedding Traditions
Norse wedding traditions are influenced by the region's Viking heritage. First, expect to clear your calendar on a Friday as most traditional Norse weddings take place on a Friday. Another marriage tradition of note from this culture? Handfasting during the ceremony.
38. Pakistani Wedding Traditions
It's amazing, and beautiful, how varied different wedding traditions around the world are. Pakistani wedding traditions are striking, meaningful and unique—and weddings in this culture may even last up to ten days. Beyond the wedding, the couple's honeymoon, referred to as Shab-i-Zifaf, is also a special and meaningful part of traditional Persian weddings.
39. Persian Wedding Traditions
When thinking about unique wedding traditions around the world, it's important not to overlook Persian and Iranian weddings. At traditional Persian weddings, there is an elaborate spread laid out at the ceremony known as the Sofreh Aghd. It is a table laden with many symbolic items that each bring certain meaning to the nuptials.
40. Polish Wedding Traditions
One unique Polish wedding tradition is the practice of the couple's parents gifting them bread and salt during the wedding ceremony to represent prosperity and bitterness. Additionally, an unveiling sometimes happens during the reception where a group of women encircles the bride and her mother removes her veil to symbolize her entrance into womanhood.
41. Protestant Wedding Traditions
Traditional Protestant Christian weddings differ based on denomination, however, many of them will include the reading of Scripture passages and communion. Some couples may also choose to light a unity candle to mark their coming together in marriage.
42. Puerto Rican Wedding Traditions
Like other wedding traditions and customs around the world, Puerto Rican wedding traditions are beautiful and rooted in rich history. Most Puerto Rican weddings are Catholic and follow protocols set forth by the Catholic church. At the wedding reception, get ready for a lot of dancing and signing.
43. Romanian Wedding Traditions
Romanian weddings often include traditions similar to those seen at Eastern Orthodox weddings and across the rest of Eastern Europe. At Romanian weddings, the bride's hair may be braided and covered with flowers and ribbons for the occasion. And as an exit, wedding guests may throw nuts and sweets at the couple to wish them prosperity in their marriage.
44. Russian Wedding Traditions
Russia has a population made up of 200 different ethnic groups so there's much diversity in Russian wedding traditions. Additionally, weddings have changed significantly since the time of the Soviet Union. Notably, brides often wore red to their weddings during the reign of the USSR, but many modern Russian brides now opt for white. Another distinction of note with Russian weddings? Most couples chose civil ceremonies at city hall.
45. Scottish Wedding Traditions
What sets Scottish weddings apart from different wedding traditions around the world? Bagpipes are central to traditional Scottish weddings. Additionally, a six-pence in the shoe, as mentioned in the "something borrowed, something blue" rhyme is a mainstay at Scottish weddings.
46. Spanish Wedding Traditions
Fashion is a big part of different wedding traditions around the world, and Spanish weddings are no exception. In line with Spanish wedding traditions, most brides choose to wear an intricate wedding veil known as a mantilla for the big day. Wondering what the wedding party will wear? Actually, Spanish weddings typically don't have bridesmaids and groomsmen.
47. Swedish Wedding Traditions
Looking for the most delicious of wedding traditions and customs around the world? One of the tastiest Swedish wedding traditions is the kransekake wedding cake that is served. As for the main meal, fish or wild game may be served.
48. Thai Wedding Traditions
White thread and water are two things that are especially significant with traditional Thai weddings. During the white thread ritual, the couple will be joined together by a white thread to symbolize their union. As for water, traditionally the couple will receive a water blessing as water is poured over their hands at the wedding.
49. Turkish Wedding Traditions
If you're wondering, "Is Turkish delight part of Turkish wedding traditions?" then you're in luck. In addition to the sweet treat, a Turkish wedding reception menu may include dishes with chicken and barley.
50. Vietnamese Wedding Traditions
Like Chinese weddings, traditional Vietnamese weddings often include a tea ceremony as a way of paying respect to elders. One unique element of a Vietnamese wedding is the processional wherein the groom and groomsmen will come to the bride's home with gifts for the wedding feast to kick off the wedding day.
Other Wedding Traditions Around the World to Know
We just covered 50 different wedding traditions around the world, which begs the question, how many different unique wedding traditions exist around the globe? The United Nations recognizes 195 countries on Earth. Additionally, with 8 billion people alive around the world, many estimates put the number of world religions at 4,000 and the number of spoken languages around the world between 6,000 and 7,000. In short, the world is made up of a beautiful web of varied cultures, religions and people—all of whom celebrate weddings in their own unique ways. Here are some other cultural wedding traditions that we find inspiring.
- American Wedding Traditions
- Argentinian Wedding Traditions
- Brazilian Wedding Traditions
- British Wedding Traditions
- Chilean Wedding Traditions
- Fijian Wedding Traditions
- Guatemalan Wedding Traditions
- Kenyan Wedding Traditions
- Lithuanian Wedding Traditions
- Quaker Wedding Traditions
- Ukrainian Wedding Traditions
Top Cultural Wedding Tradition Tips
Now you know what wedding traditions look like around the world. But, beyond knowing about different wedding traditions around the world, there are a few tips to keep in mind that relate to marriage traditions around the world. "Wedding celebrations are all about sharing with your guests why you are getting married and what you mean to each other," says Watson. "They're also a time when you get to immerse your wedding guests into your customs and rituals fully." Due diligence is crucial during wedding planning to ensure that you practice given traditions respectfully and responsibly. Here are some tips relating to wedding traditions and customs around the world.
It's Possible to Include Multiple Cultures
Incorporating culture into your wedding day doesn't have to be all or nothing. In fact, most weddings are a blending of multiple cultures as a couple enters into married life. As you're planning your wedding, take stock of all the different rituals and cultures you could honor with your wedding. Then, along with your partner, identify which different wedding traditions speak to you and would be most appropriate to infuse into your own wedding day.
Understanding History is Important
Most unique wedding traditions around the world are steeped in years of history and it's important to understand the nuances of a given custom before deciding if it's the right fit for your wedding. Many different wedding traditions around the world have a specific purpose, be it to usher in good luck to the wedding or conversely to keep away bad luck and evil spirits—and not properly researching a custom could potentially lead to practicing it in a way that's disrespectful to the culture from which it originated. A great starting point for nearly newlyweds is family. Chat with family members and future in-laws about your culture and heritage to more fully understand how weddings are celebrated within your family.
Hire Experienced Pros
Hiring wedding professionals who have experience with the customs and rituals of your culture and religion is a good way to ensure the wedding day goes smoothly and the nuances of your chosen wedding traditions are understood and executed seamlessly. Specifically, a wedding planner and officiant that understand the cultural wedding traditions you plan to thread through the big day will do wonders in helping you bring your vision to life.