Wedding traditions

From Academic Kids

Wedding traditions vary greatly between cultures, social classes, regions, and even towns.

Contents

Italian customs

At the start of a typical Italian wedding reception, the bridal party and the rest of the guests are separated for an hour and served cocktails. The food during cocktail hour is served in a buffet setup.

At the conclusion of cocktail hour, the guests will gather in the main dining room. The bridal party is introduced as couples, lining up as they come into the room to form what will become a pathway for the bride and groom. The newlywed couple is introduced with much fanfare and they take their first dance, with the bridal party following soon after, who are then ultimately joined by the rest of the guests.

Afterwards, everyone is seated, speeches are made by friends and family, and everyone champagne toasts the wedded couple.

Food is plentiful during most weddings, and Italian custom is no exception. Between courses, the MC will encourage dancing and play various games.

After the bulk of the courses have passed, it is time for the cake cutting, which ushers in the dessert course. In Sicilian customs, the dessert course is often presented as a Viennese Table, a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, (etc) are presented in great quantity with much celebration. This is often called Vienna Hour.

After dessert, more dancing commences, gifts are given, and the guests eventually begin to leave. As the guests leave, they hand envelopes of money to the bride and groom, who return the gift with a wedding favor, a small token of appreciation.

United States customs

A Christian or mainstream wedding and reception follow a similar pattern to the Italian wedding. Customs and traditions vary with part of the country, ethnic group, social group, and so on, but components include the following:

  • The bride's family sends engraved invitations to the wedding guests, addressed by hand to show the importance and personal meaning of the occasion.
  • Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day.
  • A wedding ceremony takes place at a church or other favorite location, such as an attractive outdoor venue.

At the wedding reception following the ceremony, sometimes at the same location but sometimes at a different venue:

  • The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
  • Usually snacks or a meal are served while the guests and bridal party mingle.
  • Often the best man and/or maid of honor toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes; sometimes other guests follow with their own toasts. Champagne, sparkling cider, or nonalcoholic carbonated drinks are usually provided for this purpose.
  • If dancing is provided, the bride and groom first dance together. Often further protocol is followed, where they dance first with their respective mother and father, then possibly with the maid of honor and best man; then the bride and groom rejoin while the parents of the bride and groom join the dance and the best man and maid of honor dance together; then other attendants join in; then finally everyone is entitled to dance. Dancing continues throughout the reception. Music is sometimes provided by a live band or musical ensemble, sometimes by a disc jockey with stereo equipment.
  • In some cultures, the money dance takes place, in which it is expected and encouraged for guests to pin money onto the young bride and groom to help them get started in their new lives in a new household. In other cultures, this would be considered vulgar.
  • The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter--often a special silver keepsake cutter purchased or given as a gift for the occasion--and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake. They then entwine arms and feed each other a bite of cake.
  • In some social groups, the bride and groom smear cake on each other's faces at this time. In other social groups, this would be considered vulgar.
  • The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder to the assembled unmarried women; the woman who catches it, superstition has it, will be the next to marry. In some social groups, the process is repeated for unmarried men with the groom tossing the bride's garter for the same purpose.
  • Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.

Wedding gifts

Originally, the purpose of inviting guests was to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in the bride and groom's joy and celebration. Gifts for the bride and groom are optional, although most guests attempt to give at least a token gift of their best wishes. Some brides and grooms and families feel that, for the expense and effort they put into showing their guests a good time and to wine and dine them, the guests should reciprocate by providing nice gifts. No etiquette book or rule condones this belief.

The couple often registers for gifts at a favorite store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of preferred or needed household items, usually including a favorite pattern for china, for silverware, and for crystalware; often including linen preferences, pots and pans, and similar items. With older brides and grooms who might already be independent and have lived on their own, even owning their own homes, they sometimes register at hardware or home improvement stores. This is intended to make it easy for guests who wish to purchase gifts to feel comfortable that they are purchasing gifts that the newlyweds will truly appreciate.

Etiquette rules prohibit the bride and groom from soliciting gifts, which would preclude them listing their place of registry, for example, in their wedding invitations. Guests are supposed to ask for this information if they want it; however, many couples do include the information in their invitations with the intention of making it more convenient for guests.

African-American customs

See Jumping the broom.

Romanian customs

See Lautari (a group of gypsy musicians).

Chinese customs

Although Chinese wedding customs vary from providence to providence, and from region to region, there are some basic and common themes in the traditional Chinese wedding.

Both the bride and groom are usually dressed in red, as red is the color of celebration and good fortune. The bride, with a red veil or large embroidered hankerchief over her head (much like the Western custom of a white wedding veil), and is lead by the groom to where the parents are seated.

Once there, the couple then kneels and kow-tows to their parents, and to their ancestors - taking note to bow and kow-tow to all four directions (north, south, east and west). They will also pour tea and serve it to their parents, which then the parents accept and gives the couple a red envelope (or hong-bao) filled with cash. Usually, the mothers will take this opportunity to also give the bride many peices of gold jewlery or heirlooms.

After this ceremony, it is considered that the couple is married, and the family and guests spend the evening feasting and drinking all night long. During this meal, the bride will change her outfit several times; generally a new outfit for each course. This shows her new family, and her guests her wealth and status. Often times, many games will be played during this banquet. Guests give the bride and groom gifts of cash, stuffed in red packets or envelopes.

In more recent years, a new custom has emerged where the wedding guests will escort or sneak into the new couple's room, to play games and pranks. As Chinese custom requires that hosts (in this case, the newlyweds) can not be rude to their guests, and can not ask them to leave - this celebration can last for several hours.

Also see Chinese tea culture, Red packet (or envelope)

Scottish customs

Scotland has historically been a favourite place to get married, due to the fact that in Scotland, parents' permission is not required if both the bride and groom are old enough to legally be married (16). In England it was historically the case that if either was 16 or 17 then the permission of parents had to be sought. Thus Scotland, and especially the blacksmith's at Gretna Green, became a very popular place for couples to elope to, especially those under 18 and usually living in England. Gretna Green now hosts hundreds of weddings a year and is Scotland's third most popular tourist attraction.

A Church of Scotland wedding and reception generally follows a fairly established set of customs and practices although most couples chose to adapt these to their own personal circumstances and preferences. The days of slavishly following etiquette and now largely behind us, although no doubt Granny might disagree.

Typical customs:

  • The bride's family sends invitations on behalf of the couple to the wedding guests, addressed by hand. The couple may send the invitations themselves, especially if they are more middle-aged. The invites will specify if the invitation is for ceremony and/or reception and/or evening following the wedding breakfast at the reception.
  • Guests send or deliver wedding gifts to the bride's family home before the wedding day. Alternatively, the couple may register at department store and have a list of gifts there. The shop then organises delivery, usually to the bride's parents' house or to the reception venue.
  • A wedding ceremony takes place at a church, registry office or possibly another favourite location, such as a hilltop. In this regard Scotland differs significantly from England where only pre-approved public locations may be used for the wedding ceremony. Most ceremonies take place mid afternoon and last about half an hour during which the marriage schedule is signed by the couple and two witnessess (usually the best man and chief bridesmaid.
  • The newly wed couple usually leave the ceremony to the sound of bagpipes.
  • There is a wedding reception following the ceremony, usually at a different venue.
  • The bridal party lines up in a receiving line and the wedding guests file past, introducing themselves.
  • Usually a drink is served while the guests and bridal party mingle. The drink tends to be whisky with a non alcoholic alternative.
  • The best man and bride's father toast the bride and groom with personal thoughts, stories, and well-wishes, usually humorous. The groom then follows with a response on behalf of his bride. Champagne is usually provided for the toast.
  • There is nearly always a dancing following the meal. Usually in Scotland this takes the form of a ceilidh, a night of informal traditional Scottish dancing in couples and groups to live traditional music. The first dance is led by the bride and groom, followed by the rest of the bridal party and finally the guests.
  • The cake-cutting ceremony takes place; the bride and groom jointly hold a cake cutter and cut the first pieces of the wedding cake.
  • Gifts are not opened at the reception; they are either opened ahead of time and sometimes displayed at the reception, or if guests could not deliver gifts ahead of time, they are placed on a table at the reception for the bride and groom to take home with them and open later.
  • A sprig of white heather (Calluna Vulgaris) is usually worn as a buttonhole for good luck.
  • It is the norm for the groom and much of the male bridal party and guests to wear kilts, although suits are also worn. Kilts and Highland dress are often hired for this purpose.

Wedding gifts

Originally, the purpose of inviting guests was to have them witness a couple's marriage ceremony and vows and to share in the bride and groom's happy day. Guests are generally expected to bring a gift of their best wishes.

The couple often registers for gifts at a favourite store well in advance of their wedding. This allows them to create a list of preferred or needed household items, and does tend to reduce the duplication of gifts.

Recent Weddings in Scotland

A selection of well known people who have got married in Scotland recently Madonna (entertainer) and Guy Ritchie (2000); J. K. Rowling (2001); Stella McCartney (2003); Gordon Sumner and Trudie Styler; Ewan McGregor.

Further information

Getting Married in Scotland (http://www.visitscotland.com/aboutscotland/gettingmarried/) Scottish Traditional Wedding information (http://www.siliconglen.com/culture/weddings.html)

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