5 Unusual Wedding Traditions in the World

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PolterabendMost weddings in the United States are pretty predictable affairs, with a few traditions that seem to crop up at almost every ceremony. There’s the unity candle, the exchange of rings, the recitation of vows, perhaps a reading from Corinthians 13, and then the couple exchange their first kiss. There are some truly unique (and some quite unpleasant) wedding traditions around the world, however, that go a little stranger than just lighting a candle together. Which of these wild traditions will you add to your wedding day?

Germany: Polterabend

To celebrate the wedding, drive away evil spirits end assure a harmonious marriage, guests to some German weddings bring the couple new dishes as a wedding gift. But the crockery and cookware isn’t to fit out the new couple’s kitchen: the dishes are smashed, beaten, and stomped to bits. The sound is supposed to drive away evil spirits, and perhaps it serves to get any dish-smashing violence out of the new couple’s system before they begin their life together.

Sweden: Kissing Feast

Most wedding-goers are familiar with the tradition of clinking glassware at the reception to compel the new couple to kiss. But in some parts of Sweden, the wedding couple doesn’t get to have all the fun. Whenever the bride or groom leaves the table, the one left seated gets rushed and kissed until his or her spouse returns. It’s a tradition that could lead to a lively reception, but potentially a very short marriage.

Scotland, China, Kenya: Bride Abuse

In the U.S., the bride is treated like a queen in the lead-up to her wedding day. Her every need is catered to, and her bridal party takes great pains to shield her from any additional stress before and during the ceremony.  Not so in Scotland, where the tradition of “blackening the bride” is supposed to toughen up the bride against possible adversity in married life. The bride is doused with all manner of disgusting stuff: tar, spoiled milk, rotten fish, mud, and flour. What could married life offer that could be worse?

In China, the groom doesn’t dump gross-smelling stuff on his bride; he just picks up a bow and shoots her with three arrows (the arrows don’t have heads, so they at most leave a bruise rather than a mortal wound). He then breaks the arrows as a symbol of his eternal love for his new bride. There’s no word on why he couldn’t just break the arrows without shooting them first.

Among the Masai tribe in Kenya, it’s not the groom visiting indignities on the bride: it’s the bride’s father. He “blesses” his daughter’s new marriage by spitting on her head and her breasts. She then must leave the village with her new husband without looking back, lest she be turned to stone.

India: Marrying a Tree

Women in India who are born under certain unfortunate astrological conditions are called “Mangliks.” Legend has it that the first person a Manglik marries will die an early death. To get around the curse, Mangliks will have a wedding ceremony in which they marry an inanimate object, most commonly a tree. The tree takes on the Manglik curse, freeing the woman to marry her groom without sending him to the cemetery.

Indonesia: No Bathroom Breaks for Three Days

After the wedding in Indonesia, it is traditional for the couple to go three days and nights without–well, to put it delicately, without moving their bowels. The couple is supervised by friends and family to make sure they don’t break the rule and only allowed a little bit of food and water to make sure things stay where they are. The ordeal is supposed to lead to a happy marriage full of healthy babies, but we’re willing to bet you’ll take your chances without three days of constipation.

Wedding Ceremony Traditions and Rituals

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Sand CeremonyAlmost every part of a wedding ceremony and reception is based on traditions or rituals that date back several decades; and sometimes even centuries. Everything from the bride wearing a vale to the groom wearing his boutonniere on his lapel is steeped in old tradition, so nearly everything you know and love about a wedding is like a living homage to generations that have passed. However, some traditions and rituals seen at a wedding are much more obvious to discern from otherwise random trinkets and practices, and most of these happen during the ceremony. If you’re interested in adding a wedding ceremony tradition or ritual to your special day but don’t know quite where to start, here’s a list of a few popular choices from a variety of cultures that you could easily borrow for your wedding.

Lighting a Unity Candle

This tradition is very popular in Christian wedding ceremonies, particularly Catholic. How it works is the bride’s parents light one candle while the groom’s parents light another candle, and then the bride and groom use these two candles to light one large candle that is theirs to share. By conducting this ritual, it is symbolic of the joining of two families where you can’t separate the two flames from each other ever again.

Sand Ceremony

Similar to the unity candle ritual, a sand ceremony is when each person has a flask of sand that is different in color. Simultaneously, each person will pour their sand into a third, larger, flask so that the sand is combined in a completely random pattern. It is said that once the two flasks of sand are combined together, there is no way to separate them from each other; which is an obvious metaphor for marriage. This ritual is particularly popular for non-religious ceremonies and for couples that are “in tune” with Mother Earth.

Jumping the Broom

This tradition dates back to early American history when it was illegal for two African-American slaves to get married. They would take a broom, decorate it with ribbons, and each person would jump over it to symbolize their commitment to the other person. Many couples choose to do this ritual still today as a way to honor their ancestors.


Handfasting is a very common practice where the hands of each person are bound together by a ribbon. This tradition dates back to England during the medieval times, but many couples still perform this either before or after they exchange their wedding rings. It’s not quite as dramatic these days, but nevertheless the tradition remains.

Rose Presentation

This popular tradition involves both the bride and groom giving a single rose to their mothers during the ceremony. It is supposed to be a sign of love, respect, and gratitude, and usually the rose is either white or red and each mother will carry it with her during the ceremony and reception.

Medallion Presentation

When a partner from a couple is being married for a second time or more and has children from the previous marriage, the new stepparent will occasionally offer each child a small gift such as a medallion, necklace, or other piece of jewelry to symbolize the joining of a new family unit.