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Getting doused in syrup and soot doesn’t sound like an important part of the wedding weekend to most couples. But just as no two couples are the same, no two cultures share the exact same wedding customs — and that’s a lovely thing to remember for couples trying to plan their own unique wedding. Looking for inspiration? Here’s a look at some of the most interesting wedding traditions from around the world.
Brides in Scotland need a different kind of bridal shower: one that involves soap. In this old custom, friends and neighbors would cover the bride and groom in syrup, soot and flour and parade them around town in carts. “The blackening of the bride” is still carried out in some parts of Scotland, usually the day before the wedding. Today, couples are paraded through the neighborhood in pickup trucks.
Bridesmaids have long had a hard time of it in China. Centuries ago, when brides were at risk of kidnapping, bridesmaids had to dress us as decoys to protect the bride from capture. Today, bridesmaids often end up participating in games and stunts designed to make the wedding day a lighthearted affair, including blocking the groom from reaching the bride until he completes a series of tests to prove his devotion.
Some enterprising Bangladeshi youngsters use family weddings as an opportunity to earn a little cash. When the groom and his family arrive at wedding, the bride’s younger siblings and other young relatives block them from entering. The two sides engage in a little mock bargaining before the groom pays a “gate dhora,” or entrance money. The wedding festivities carry on, and the lucky kids split the money.
In Mauritania, being heavy is a sign of wealth and femininity, so girls eat a huge amount of food to gain weight and attract a husband. This custom might sound appealing to Western brides trying to avoid carbs before the big day, but human rights activists say it’s a form of abuse.
It certainly doesn’t sound like a romantic spot, but couples marrying in Moscow flock to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb, which honors Russian soldiers who died in World War II, is a popular spot for couples to visit right after tying the knot. They pay their respects, lay down flowers and take photos at the site before getting on with the rest of the party.
Well, this could get awkward. In Sweden, it’s customary for the bride and groom to kiss each other … and everyone else. At the reception, women (and sometimes a few men) line up to kiss the groom, and the bride gets a lip-puckered lineup of her own.
The dollar dance — in which guests pay a little money to dance with the bride — is a popular tradition in many countries, including the United States, but Cubans take the custom one step further. When a guest finishes a dance with the bride, he thanks her for the honor by pinning money to her wedding dress. By the end of the night, her dress might be completely covered in crumpled cash. Maybe it’s not great for the dress, but this custom sure is great for the honeymoon fund.
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