Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue – the wedding traditions we honour in the UK range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and we’re not alone. From the outfits that are worn to the rituals performed, Luxury London discovers the ceremonial nuances found across the globe
We're all guilty of the occasional cry at a wedding. An emotional day, coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, is guaranteed to reduce even the hardiest of guests to a sniffle. A friend of mine went to one ceremony that was so moving, even the cake was in tiers (sorry). But at a traditional wedding in the Sichuan province of China, the act of sobbing discreetly into a handkerchief is only the half of it. Instead, starting one month before the main event, a bride will cry for one hour every day. As the big day draws closer, female relatives and friends will join in with this soggy ceremony, until every woman is bawling. It would be safe to presume that at this point the groom would have a rather bad case of misgivings – a fair assumption given that his impending nuptials have, quite literally, reduced everyone to tears – but the weepy tradition is in fact one of joy, said to symbolise the start of a happy marriage.
In Britain, we are far too reserved for such an open display of emotion, instead preferring to reveal our feelings through the medium of drinking, often undertaken at a stag or hen party. Similar acts of liberation are performed across the globe, with the US favouring bachelor and bachelorette parties and the Australians a boozy buck’s night. France reigns as the cheerful champion with enterrement de vie de garçon, which translates to ‘the burial of life as a boy’, while in Germany wedding guests come together the night before to celebrate with Polterabend – a custom during which old porcelain
is broken, an act that is said to bring good luck.
Scottish tradition sees the happy couple covered in alcohol, treacle, ash, feathers and flour to ward off evil spirits
Finding fortune and avoiding a lifetime of adversity produce an array of unusual – and often superstitious – acts around the world; in the UK, it’s seen as bad luck for the groom to see the bride’s dress before the wedding, while in the Philippines it’s considered disastrous if the outfit is tried on the day before. In Italy, Sunday is believed to be the luckiest day on which to be betrothed, and heaven forbid the bride should wear gold on the day of her wedding. Scottish tradition sees the happy couple covered in alcohol, treacle, ash, feathers and flour to ward off evil spirits, while Kenyan brides are spat on by their father to avoid jinxing good fortune.
As if the whole affair wasn’t stressful enough, Italian couples must face a series of challenges en route to the ceremony to put their marriage skills to the test; tasks include calming a crying baby and undertaking a series of household chores. Similarly, German newlyweds will saw a log in half in front of their guests in a ceremony known as Baumstamm Sägen. In Romania, the bride’s family will pretend to kidnap her, and her husband-to-be must win her back through romantic gestures and bribes involving drinks and money.
When it comes to the bride’s dress, a traditional white affair, although often striking, seems to be one of the more simple ensembles out there. Colourful gowns and heavy embellishment are abundant across the globe, making the ivory frock made famous by Queen Victoria appear somewhat demure in comparison. Red is the colour traditionally favoured by Indian and Chinese brides; both types of design, while vastly different, are equally stunning, with gold embroidery woven onto a scarlet background.