10 Strange Wedding Traditions Around the World

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Flinging raw rice and breaking a glass underfoot to the shouts of “Mazel Tov!” may seem like strange ways to celebrate a marriage, at least if you’re not used to American customs. Even the American bridal tradition of wearing an all-white wedding dress is seen as very odd in other parts of the world. Bizarre as some U.S. wedding traditions may be, they certainly cannot take the (wedding) cake for overall wedding weirdness. Those honors go to these 10 strange wedding traditions around the globe.


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There are many strange wedding customs around the world, including the tradition of a bride wearing white.

Photo credit: © Melinda Nagy/Dreamstime.com

10. Blackening of the Bride and Groom (Scottish)

Tar and feathers, anyone? For Scotland’s tradition of blackening of the bride, which has expanded to now include the groom, absolutely anything goes. This includes tars, feathers, pillow stuffing, molasses, dirt, rotting food, sour milk, flour, smashed garbanzo beans, sushi — you name it and you got it, you can certainly pile it on. The blackening takes place prior to the wedding, which at least spares the tux and wedding dress, but any time or location is fair game. Once blackened, the lucky newlywed-to-be is paraded through the streets or tethered to a tree as said “friends” announce the wedding. Blackening supposedly prepares the person for any humiliation that life has yet to bring, as nothing could be as humiliating as being blackened.

 

9. Breaking Dishes (German)

Hurling plates is typically something you do after you’ve been married a few years, unless you’re from Germany. The wonderful tradition of breaking dishes, also known as the Polterabend, actually takes place prior to the wedding at the rehearsal dinner. Tradition says the more dishes you break, the more good luck the new bride will receive. This counts double if she’s lucky enough to get a brand new set of china as a wedding gift. After the fray, the bridge and groom join forces to sweep up the mess, a gesture that ensures nothing will ever get broken in their home again … unless the groom is one to tinker with electronics.

 

8. Keep Your Feet on the Floor (Irish)

Irish legend has it that the bride must keep her feet on the floor while she’s dancing with the groom to ensure little fairies enamored by her beauty won’t kidnap her. The quick and clever fairies are always chomping at the bit to get their hands on beautiful things, and lore says the bride has long been a prime target. Irish legends throughout the ages abound with tales of fairies stealing brides, although it’s not clear where the brides end up and if the destination is better than where she planned to spend her honeymoon.

 

7. Passing A Rolling Pin (Polish)

How many Polish people does it take to pass a rolling pin? It depends on how many people are at the Polish wedding! The tradition is pretty much what it sounds like, as people stand in a circle and pass a rolling pin from one person to the next, but there’s a catch — no hands are allowed, and each person must grab and then pass the pin along using only their legs. While it is not immediately evident what the tradition means or why people do it, it is evident it would be great video to capture and retain for future generations to enjoy.

 

6. Charivari (French)

Never mind the sweet, soulful serenade from a loved one — this French tradition instead involves a noisy, annoying serenade by friends and family members of the newlyweds, brought to them on their wedding night. Folks gather outside the couple’s home and bang on pots, pans and other makeshift instruments in an attempt to create the most discordant, boisterous and ear-shattering display of cacophony ever known to man. To show their “thanks,” the couple is expected to invite the revelers in for food and drinks. In the distant past, a community would organize a charivari to show disapproval of an inappropriate marriage, but today it’s used mainly to annoy newlyweds. The custom is still practiced in the United States in Cajun culture.

 

5. Balaka (South Korean)

If a guy in South Korea has feet that reek like fish, it could mean he’s a fisherman … or it could mean he just got married. South Korean tradition dictates friends of the groom beat the bottom of the groom’s bare feet with a fish on the night of his wedding. This is after they tie him up, of course, so he can’t run away. While no one is sure why this is done, it can really hurt. This counts double if folks include the tradition of using canes to beat the groom’s feet in between lashes with the rancid fish.

 

4. Ransom of the Bride (Russian)

Grooms in Russia better pay up if they want to see their bride, a must in the ransom of the bride tradition. The bride’s family members block the pathway to her home while they challenge the groom to a series of riddles, questions or ridiculous feats. If he answers or performs correctly, he’s allowed to move one step closer to his wife-to-be. Sometimes, the family members will bring out another woman, or even a man wearing a wedding veil in good humor for the groom. While the tradition began as a full-fledged performance of folk theater and remains all in fun for many, in some regions it has evolved into a way to bully the groom out of dowry money.

 

3. No Bathroom Breaks … For Three Days (Tidong tribe, Northern Borneo)

Can your bladder really explode? Folks who follow a marriage tradition in Northern Borneo put this question to the test. Newlyweds in the Tidong tribe must stay in their home for three days — without a single bathroom break. That means no No. 1, no No. 2, and probably not much loving during this three-day period. The background of this tradition is extremely hazy … as is the feeling people probably get after not relieving themselves for half a week.

 

2. Marrying A Tree (India)

A groom who is tall and strong is easy to come by for some women in India. That’s because tradition says certain females must first marry a tree before they can tie the knot with their real husband. Women who have the ill fate of being born when Saturn and Mars are both under the astrological 7th house are known as Manglicks. And Manglicks are supposedly cursed to have their marriage end in their husband’s death. The answer? Marry a tree. Folks following the tradition then cut the tree down, thus supposedly removing the curse, before the real ceremony begins.

 

1. Inspecting a Baby Chick’s Liver (China)

Personality, lifestyle, education, background or other factors don’t give a hint if a marriage will succeed or fail for the Daur people of China. They base their happy-marriage predictions on the liver of a baby chick. As the couple is about to set their wedding date, the two share a knife to slice open a chick to inspect its liver. A healthy liver means they can set a date and the marriage will flourish. A bad liver means setting a date at that moment would doom the union. Thus the couple keeps slaughtering chicks until they find one with a suitable liver that ensures a bright future — as long as you’re not the chicken.

Written by

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated humor books, hundreds of published articles, poems, illustrations, a weekly radio show and column, a full line of wacky artwork and numerous awards.

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