Published February 11, 2011
I Do's Heard Around the World
Marriages in different cultures
Joi Ong

Ah, love. When we, as American students, think of the (oftentimes dreaded) four-letter word, certain images come to mind: a couple holding hands, exchanging kisses in the moonlight. And then, there’s the wedding. Yes, marriage, the act of committing yourself to a single person for the rest of your life. In every country, in every culture, the sentiment is exactly the same. However, while we may have a pretty resolute image of the Big Day in our heads, our American wedding traditions may seem laughable and downright strange to people of other cultures.

Joi Ong


Before a German wedding, the bride-to-be will sometimes be “kidnapped” by her bridal party. It is the groom’s duty to find her, generally in a pub or nightclub. The night before the actual wedding, an informal party known as a polterabend is thrown. Wedding guests bring plates for smashing, which the bride and groom must clean up themselves. This tradition is supposed to bring good luck to the happy couple. At the reception, generally the evening of the wedding, songs are sung and a “newspaper” detailing the wedding is distributed. The wedding night itself is often full of harmless pranks such as filling up the entire hotel room with balloons.


In a typical Mexican wedding, the bride is clothed in classic white, and she may don a slim short-sleeved jacket or bolero over her gown. This is often in the ornate flamenco style. The groom may choose to wear a matador’s outfit instead of the traditional tux. During the ceremony, the couple is wrapped in rosary beads in a figure eight wound around both of their necks to represent their new unification.

In another tradition, the groom will gift his bride 13 gold coins as a symbol of his everlasting trust and devotion. At the reception, guests who wish to dance with the bride must pin a monetary offering to the bride’s dress.

Joi Ong


During a Hawaiian wedding, the reverend will say a prayer the Hawaiian Wedding Blessing before the ceremony. A popular choice for the first dance is the famous Elvis tune, “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” which is usually sung after the ceremony. The bride will don what is called a holoku, a billowing white dress, instead of an elaborate gown. In lieu of a veil, she will wear a garland of tropical flowers around her head and one behind her ear. After the ceremony, the bride and groom are congratulated with leis worn around their necks.


As a predominantly Judaic country, Israel’s wedding customs often follow this religious tradition. One difference between Jewish and Christian weddings is that the bride and groom are escorted down the aisle by both of their parents. The ceremony generally takes place under a small canopy or chupah. The rabbi performing the ceremony recites a blessing over a cup of wine. Then a ketubah, or wedding contract, is signed and read aloud by the rabbi. At the end of the ceremony, the husband symbolizes the start of the couple’s life together by crushing a sheet of glass underneath his shoe. At the reception, traditional Jewish dances are performed, including “Hava Nagila,” and the bride and groom are hoisted into the air on chairs. Due to their religious roots, these traditions are also common in other largely Jewish countries.

Joi Ong


Hindu weddings are often elaborate events. What we in America might consider ostentatious is completely acceptable in Indian culture. The bride wears a ruby red or pink sari, the traditional wedding color. The wedding begins days before the actual ceremony.

At the bridal shower, the bride’s family dyes the bride with henna tattoo ink and mustard oil. On the wedding day, the bride’s family gathers around her, showers her with rice and touches her feet. The bride and groom are tied together using seven different knots in a length of rope. During the reception, they are then blessed by a Hindu priest with ancient Vedic hymns. At the end, the bride’s father “donates” her to her new husband.

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