World Wedding Customs

  • German Betrothal Customs

     


    German betrothal customs include a woman's penny collection to buy her wedding shoes A German daughter saves up coins for all her life until she can buy her wedding shoes after her betrothal. Photo courtesy Flickr.

     

    Though a German betrothal begins when a man proposes, many German women prepare for their marriage long before this. For example, a young German maiden saves her pennies all her life until a man proposes marriage. Then, she uses those pennies to buy her wedding shoes.

    Meanwhile, if her parents follow with ancient traditions, upon her birth they plant a number of trees in her honor. When a suitor pledges marriage, they cut the trees down and sell them to provide her dowry.

     

    A Promise is Made

    Today, German betrothal begins with an exchange of gold bands worn on the fourth finger of their left hands. These engagement rings serve as a pledge of their plans to marry. During the ceremony, they transfer the bands to the fourth finger of their right hands.

    Right away, the couple is dubbed the bride and the bridegroom. Traditionally, their families and friends consider them practically married. The rings serve as a binding promise.

     

    The Banns

    Once a date for the wedding is announced, they arrange for a reading of the banns. I've actually come across this custom in other European betrothal traditions.

    The Banns is a formal announcement, typically made three Sundays in a row at the couple's local church. Some parishes require a reading of the Banns three times over the course of three months prior to the wedding.

    In the case where the bride and groom hail from different parishes (church neighborhoods or towns), the Banns must be read in both churches, as well as in the church in which the ceremony will take place.

    Traditionally, the Banns offered members of the community to come forward with legal reasons to halt or postpone the wedding. Although I see no lists of reasons a person might propose to halt a wedding, I can imagine a few.

    Perhaps the bride has lied about her age and someone comes forward with proof that she fails to meet the legal age requirement. Perhaps the groom habitually proposes, and Banns for another of his supposed weddings were read in a different parish church.

    I know, a bit morbid and out of character from my usual posts. I can jest because typically the reading of the Banns provides a wonderful opportunity for the community to celebrate the couple. It is far more likely that people will come forth with blessings, gifts, or invitations to parties than to try to stop the wedding these days.

    The Inviter

    After the reading of the Banns, the couple designates an official Inviter. I picture the Inviter as a sort of jolly jester who walks from home to home personally inviting neighbors, friends, and family members to the wedding.

    He wears a plain hat and a jacket adorned with ribbons. He also carries a special stick decorated with colorful ribbons and flowers. The couple's friends and neighbors do their part by taking a ribbon from his stick and pinning it to his hat. Then, they invite the Inviter into their home for a good stiff drink.

    Sometimes the inviter reaches his limit before finishing his rounds. In this case, he either completes his rounds the next day, or the remaining neighbors and friends understand that the invitation extends to them, as well.

    On the eve of the wedding, the Inviter serves as the emcee for the reception. In many ways, his role mimics the role of the best man in American weddings.

     

    Polterabend, a German Betrothal Party!

    A German betrothal includes a very special party which takes place the night before the wedding. Finding its roots in more superstitious times, originally the polterabend ("noisy evening") provided a means for well wishers to scare off evil spirits.

    As such, the party includes a lot of raucous noise. Invitations to this German betrothal party are implied and spread by word of mouth. Throughout the evening, people show up to enjoy a feast provided by the bride's relatives.

    Attendees bring their own pots, pans, and crockery. Throughout the evening, the bride wears a myrtle crown, which she may wear on her wedding day, as well.

    After the feasting and the drinking, at around midnight, the partygoers take their pots, pans, and crocks and throw them violently against the door. Thus, the night of noise ends, with the evil spirits fleeing far away as the bride and bridegroom work together to clean up the atrocious mess.

     

    Two Final Traditions

    During the final weeks before the wedding, some of the bride's and groom's friends prepare a special fundraiser for the couple. They gather photos and stories of the couple's early lives, as well as fun stories of their dating and betrothal periods.

    These friends put together a special newspaper featuring photos, articles, and other tidbits about the bride and groom and their relationship. During the reception, they offer this newspaper for sale to raise funds for the couple's honeymoon.

    The final act of a traditional German betrothal is the conveyance of the bride's trousseau to the bride's new home. This act signaled the beginning of the wedding.

    In more modern times, the trousseau arrives at the church just before the ceremony. Wedding attendants arrange the trousseau for public display. Originally, the trousseau and dowry were one and the same. Putting it on display demonstrated the wealth and status of the bride's family. Often, guests at the wedding added more gifts for the bride on her special day.

  • The Chinese Wedding Feast

    Chinese wedding feast decorations. Chinese wedding feast decorations. Photo courtesy Flickr.

     

    The Chinese wedding feast is perhaps the most important aspect of the Chinese wedding day. Typically, the parents of the bride and groom hold separate feasts. The bride's family holds the feast ahead of the wedding. The groom's family hosts the feast that follows the ceremony.

     

    The Nuptial Chamber

    Prior to joining their guests at the wedding feast, a Chinese bride and groom retreat to their nuptial chamber. For these first few moments alone as husband and wife, the couple sits on their bed together.

    In some regions, it is customary for the couple to drink wine from goblets tied together by a red string. After a sufficient time has passed, the couple make their first entrance into the banquet hall.

     

    A Chinese Wedding Feast

    While the bride and groom enjoy their moments alone, their wedding guests file into the banqueting hall. On entering, they sign the wedding scroll (or guest book) and hand red envelopes filled with cash to wedding attendants.

    In front of the guest offering the envelope, the attendant opens it and counts the cash. They write the amount down so the couple will know how much to offer at the guest's future wedding. It is customary for the couple to offer a sum greater than what was given.

    Once everyone assembles and finds their seat, the wedding emcee announces the first entrance of the bride and groom. Typically, the groom offers a welcome speech which begins the service of a nine-course meal.

    While the guests eat, the bride and groom visit tables, greet their guests, and then retire to their rooms to change clothes. They return in new outfits after the third course, and again after the sixth course.

    Sometime just before dessert is served, the bride and groom offer a toast to their guests. The best man might also offer a toast at this time. Next the bride and groom visit each table. Each group of guests rises and drinks a toast to the couple. After visiting each table, the bride and groom leave the banquet hall once again.

    The couple changes their clothing once more, as the guests finish dessert. As soon as the dessert plates are cleared, the Chinese wedding feast ends. The bride and groom, as well as their close family members, assemble in the foyer outside the hall. One by one, the guests file out, shaking hands with the couple and their families. In addition, each guest has a photo taken with the couple, and the bride may hand out sweet treats.

     

    After the Feast

    One final ritual takes place on the evening of a Chinese wedding. At the end of the night, friends and family fill the bedroom. The youngest guests are encouraged to jump on the bed. Encouraged to make as much noise as possible, this bedlam discourages evil spirits from roosting in the room.

    Older friends play tricks on the couple, enjoying one final opportunity to keep the party going. The couple then shares another glass of wine. In some regions, the groom drinks of the 'flesh cup,' after which he holds the wine in his mouth. He then passes the wine from his mouth to his wife's, who swallows it for both of them.

    Staying as long as possible, the couple's friends tell ribald jokes, share stories, and enjoy ribbing the couple as much as possible. The couple finally cuts a lock of each others' hair, symbolizing the unity of their hearts. Eventually, their guests leave.

    The next morning, the bride awakens early to pay honor to her new family ancestors at the altar. Afterwards, she is introduced formally to her new family members. Each person offers her a small gift, and her husband's parents anoint her with a new title that places her in their family's ancestral hierarchy.

    Three days after a Chinese wedding, the bride and groom visit the bride's family home for dinner. From this visit onward, she is treated as a guest by her family.

  • Chinese Wedding Ceremony Customs

    A Chinese wedding begins as the bride exits the seddan chair outside her groom's home. A Chinese wedding begins as the bride exits the seddan chair outside her groom's home. Photo courtesy Flickr.

     

    Prior to a Chinese wedding ceremony, the bride and groom engage in several customs. These include the capping ceremonies, the groom's journey to obtain the bride, and the bride's journey to the groom's home. Chinese wedding ceremonies are relatively simple compared to these elaborate pre-wedding preparations.

     

    The Bride's Arrival

    The Chinese wedding ceremony really begins when the bride and groom nearly arrive at the groom's home. As the procession comes into view, family members and friends set off firecrackers to scare off evil spirits.

    Someone lays a red mat on the ground in front of the bride's sedan chair. This protects her feet from touching the bare earth on her special day.

    To enter the home, the bride must step over a lit stove placed at the threshold. Again, the fire ensures that any evil spirits trying to cling to the bride will remain outside the home.

    Finally, the bride is greeted by attendants who perform the final protection rituals, including placing a heap of rice in a sieve near her, shining light upon her with a mirror, and laying out special talismans for prosperity.

    After all the rituals are observed, the groom finally approaches to lift the heavy red veils to reveal his bride's face.

     

    Chinese Wedding Ceremony

    At this point, the bride and groom proceed to the family altar. Before the altar, they pay respect to Heaven and Earth, their ancestors, and the Kitchen God.

    They might say a special prayer, or recite a special verse of poetry to each other as a vow. Next, they bow to each other. This may end the Chinese wedding ceremony, or they may finalize it by drinking from the same wine goblet and eating sugar molded into the shape of a rooster.

    The most important part of the evening follows the ceremony.

     

    The Tea Ceremony

    Before the wedding feast begins, the groom's family members sit around the table for the Tea Ceremony. The bride brews Tsao Chun, a special tea for the occasion. She pours tea for every member of her groom's family, beginning with the eldest member.

    Before pouring the tea for her groom's parents, she places two lotus seeds and two red dates in the bottom of their coups.

    To show their approval for the bride, each family member drinks the tea. At the end of the ceremony, they offer the bride and groom a red envelope filled with money and/or jewelry.

    From here, the couple visits the marriage chamber and watches with pleasure as small children jump on the bed and eat the treats left by the good fortune woman. Finally, it's time for the wedding feast.

  • Traditional Chinese Brides Wear Red


    Chinese brides wear a red dress and a phoenix crown upon their heads. Chinese brides wear a red dress and a phoenix crown upon their heads. Photo courtesy Flickr.

     

    Chinese brides and grooms wear rich red silks and sensuous black silks. Bridal jewelry trends in green and white jade, as well as glittering gold, and natural pearls.

     

    A Brief Word About Wedding Rings

    Engagement rings and wedding rings are not traditional jewelry exchanged before and during a Chinese wedding. However, modern Chinese brides sometimes opt for diamond engagement rings. Also, couples may wear wedding bands, particularly if they live in the United States.

     

    Chinese Brides Wear Red

    Chinese brides who follow traditional customs will wear a red silk dress. Depending on which region she hails from, she will wear either a sleek high-collar dress (cheung sam) or a two-piece jacket and skirt set (hung kwa).

    On the bride’s dress or suit, the phoenix, along with peonies and chrysanthemums, is intricately embroidered on the fabric. The phoenix is the noble feminine beast, representing the bride. Peonies and chrysanthemums represent good fortune and prosperity.

    Upon her head she wears the Phoenix Crown. Fashioned from gilded silver and adorned with pearls and kingfisher feathers, this filigree headband again symbolizes the strong feminine power the bride brings to her marriage.

    As a Chinese bride leaves her home, she carries a hand fan. Somewhere en route between her house and her groom’s house, the bride drops the fan.

    On her way to the groom’s house, the bride also wears veils of red silk. These heavy layers of silk protect her from seeing evil or bad omens as she travels in the open between her family home and her marital home.

     

    Chinese Groom’s Attire

    A traditional Chinese groom wears a robe of deep blue silk embroidered with a dragon. The dragon is the most noble masculine beast and represents the masculine power the groom embodies.

    Over this, he wears a black silk jacket. Upon his head, he wears a black silk hat with red tassels. He might also adorn his hat with a red sash. He can also choose to wear the sash tied around his waist or draped over one shoulder.

    The color red is the predominant color for Chinese brides because red is the color of happiness, good luck, and prosperity. Some modern Chinese brides choose to wear a white wedding dress for the ceremony. Later, they might change into a white or red ball gown. Still later, they might don a going away dress for sending off their guests.

  • Chinese Engagement + Wedding Festivities

     

     


    Chinese Engagement Festivities Include the Bride's Journey Chinese Engagement + Wedding Festivities include the Bride's Journey to the Groom's House. Traditionally, they make the journey in a heavily adorned bridal sedan or bridal carriage. Photo courtesy Flickr.

     

    A Chinese engagement begins after the betrothal gifts are exchanged. Once the wedding date is set and the invitations are sent, the couple enjoys several pre-wedding engagement festivities.

     

    Retreating to the Cock Loft

    Traditional Chinese engagement includes the ritual called Retreating to the Cock Loft. During the three days prior to the wedding, the bride lived in seclusion in a special room apart (traditionally the cock loft) from the rest of her family. During this time, her dearest friends attend her.

    The Chinese bride spends this time singing laments with her friends, mourning her departure from her family. She might even curse the groom’s parents, and possibly even her own. This mourning period prepares her for the big transition of leaving her family’s home to live with her new husband.

    She finally emerges on the night before the wedding, prepared to say farewell to her family. At this time, she might honor her parents with gifts and expressions of gratitude for the life they’ve given her to this point.

    She also spends time at her family altar, expressing gratitude and saying goodbye to her ancestors who live at the altar.

     

    Installing the Bridal Bed

    In the meantime, the groom follows the custom of appointing a ‘good luck woman’ to install the bridal bed. This woman of good fortune is one who has many children and a happy marriage.

    To begin this ritual, servants install a brand new bed in the couple’s new bedroom. Next, the woman of good fortune moves the bed into position and makes the bed using brand new bedding, including pink or red bedsheets.

    She then lays plates of persimmons, dried longans, lotus seeds, red dates, and pomegranate leaves on top of the bed. She also places peanuts, oranges, and other fruits atop the bed. Additionally, she places two red packets upon the bed covers. Next, she lights a pair of bedside lamps to ensure the birth of sons.

     

    Hair Dressing & Capping Rituals

    The morning of the wedding begins with the hair dressing and capping rituals. The bride begins her morning with a bath at dawn, the water infused with pummelo to ward off evil influences. The citrus oils from the fruit also smooth and soften her skin in preparation for her wedding cosmetics.

    After emerging from the bath, the bride dresses in brand new undergarments and sits before the family’s good fortune woman. Two lit dragon-and-phoenix candles sit on either side of her. Dragons represent male energy, phoenixes female. These candles symbolize the unifying of the male and female energies.

    During this ritual, the good fortune woman combs and styles the bride’s hair. Prior to this day, she has worn her hair in the style of a young maiden. From here on, she will wear her hair in the style of a married woman. As the good fortune woman combs and styles her hair, she speaks words of wisdom and blessing over the bride.

    Meanwhile, at the young man’s home, the groom dresses in a long gown, red shoes, and a red sash with a red ball on his shoulder. He kneels before the family altar, and his father joins him. Standing behind him, his father places a cap adorned with cypress leaves upon his head.

    Next, the groom bows before the tablets of Heaven and Earth. Then he bows to his ancestors. Finally, he bows before his parents and other family members. His father then removes the red ball from his sash and places it upon the bridal sedan chair. It is now time to proceed to his bride's home.

     

    The Procession to the Bride’s Home

    Accompanied by friends and family, and holding the hand of a child, the groom leads the procession to the bride’s home. Fireworks, gongs, and drums accompany the procession, alerting surrounding neighbors and villagers of the happy occasion. This noise also discourages evil spirits from hanging about.

    Traditionally, a group of attendants carrying lanterns and banners, as well as musicians and even a dancing unicorn, preceded the sedan chair in the procession. The sedan chair itself was decorated in red silks and fresh flowers.

    Upon arriving at the bride’s home, her attendants and representative stop him from entering her home. In order to gain passage, they expect him to perform tricks and stunts and haggle with the ladies. Here, he orders his representative to offer ang pau, red packets of cash money. Finally, the parties reach an agreement and the groom enters the bride’s family home.

    Inside, the bride’s family welcomes him to the table. Depending on the region they lived in, the groom might receive a gift of chopsticks and a pair of wine glasses wrapped in red paper. These gifts represent the joy her family feels about the marriage.

    Her family might also serve him soup with a soft-boiled egg, or longan tea along with two hardboiled eggs. In either case, the groom must break the yoke of an egg as a symbol of breaking the ties between the bride and her family.

     

    The Bride Journeys to the Groom’s House

    After eating soup and receiving his gifts, the groom escorts his veiled bride to the sedan chair. Traditionally, the good fortune woman carried the bride upon her back in the sedan chair. Another attendant shaded her beneath a parasol and a third attendant threw grains and beans in her path, ensuring her fertility. Today, several men might be employed to carry the chair through the streets.

    Her attendants are chosen carefully, ensuring that their horoscope signs complemented the groom’s sign. Heavy curtains shield the bride from seeing anything inauspicious. Such sights might include a widow, a cat, or a well.

    Suspended from the back side of the chair are a sieve and a metallic mirror. These devices strained out evil and reflected light in order to protect the bride from evil spirits. Thus protected, the bride makes the transition from her family home to her husband’s home, where the wedding ceremony will take place.

  • Chinese Courtship and Engagement Customs

    A red cord draws a couple together toward Chinese Courtship This rubellite & diamond brooch symbolizes the red cord that draws a couple together toward a Chinese Engagement and Wedding. Click here for more details about this stunning brooch. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.

     

    Chinese courtship begins with a gift from the gods. Soul mates for life, a Chinese man and woman will one day find themselves face to face. However, it takes a lot more than fate, including matchmakers, astrologers, and auspicious dates. Indeed, a traditional Chinese courtship is perhaps one of the most elaborate and ritualized rite of passage in the world.

     

    An Invisible Cord of Red

    On the day she is born, the gods link a baby girl to her intended with a long red cord. This cord, invisible to the human eye, gradually shrinks. As time marches on, the soul mates on either end of this cord find themselves drawn inexorably together until they come face to face.

    This journey of the soul is unavoidable, unbreakable, and undeniable. The gift of the gods ensures that the man meant for her will find her. Of course, human nature compels families to actively participate in helping two lovers find each other. So, when a daughter comes of age, her parents hire a matchmaker.

     

    Matchmaker, Matchmaker

    A matchmaker makes her living acting on behalf of the gods to ensure that Chinese sons and daughter find their soul mates. In a small village, the matchmaker might host a tea.

    She invites all the eligible Chinese youth, young men and young ladies. Like a European debutante ball, the matchmaker’s tea gives the young men and their families the opportunity to meet prospective brides.

    During the event, a young man carries with him a red embroidered bag. To show his interest in a young lady, he leaves his red bag on a saucer to indicate his choice. If the lady feels the tug of that invisible red cord, she takes the bag demonstrating that she accepts his offer.

    In larger villages and towns, matchmakers take a more individualized approach. A young man’s family hires a matchmaker to take a gift to the family of a young lady they choose for their son. The matchmaker acts as liaison, presenting the gifts and returning to the young man’s family with news of acceptance or rejection.

    If the family accepts his proposal, the matchmaker returns to his parents with the young woman’s birth hour, day, month, and year written on a slip of paper. The young man places this slip of paper on the family altar. It remains upon the altar for three days, during which time the family watches for inauspicious omens.

    Such bad omens might include quarrels erupting between the man’s parents, or loss of property. If the ancestors give their blessing, then the family hires an astrologer.

     

    Astrology & Auspicious Dates

    An astrological match, determined using the Eight Characters, is essential for a happy marriage. The Eight Characters include the year, month, date, and hour of the young man's and young woman’s births. These characters place the two on the zodiac calendar, demonstrating their astrological compatibility.

    The young man’s family takes the four characters belonging to the young lady to their astrologer. If the astrologer deems the two a good match, then they deliver his four characters to her family. Her family seeks their own astrologer to determine if he is a good match for their daughter.

    Once compatibility is determined, one astrologer consults both their charts to determine the appropriate date for the official engagement and the dates for the delivery and exchange of various gifts.

     

    Betrothal Gifts Initiate Chinese Courtship

    Following the guidance of the astrologer, the young man offers his betrothal gift to the young lady’s family on the first of the auspicious dates chosen. These gifts, often called Tea Presents, included tea (of course), bridal cakes, pairs of male and female chickens, wine, tobacco, sweetmeats, and sugar. The young lady’s family reciprocates with gifts of clothing and food.

    Several days following the exchange of the Tea Presents, the bride’s family sends the dowry to the groom’s family. While in the past the dowry included functional gifts like a chamber pot filled with fruit, today dowries includes a tea set, bedding, bathroom accessories, the bride’s clothing and jewelry, and possibly even small appliances and furniture.

    Upon completion of these gift exchanges, and armed with the readings from their astrologers, the families consult a Chinese almanac to choose a favorable date for the wedding. At this point, the couple is officially engaged.

    The next step involves sending out invitations to the ceremony and wedding feast. Traditionally, the couple delivered invitations and accompanying “double happiness cakes” in person. Modern couples typically dispense with this tradition, choosing instead to send invitations by mail.

  • Cherokee Wedding Ceremony Customs

     

    Traditional Cherokee Wedding Ceremony Vase Traditional Cherokee Wedding Ceremony Vase

     

    The traditional Cherokee wedding ceremony has been nearly lost in time. No records of a Cherokee wedding ceremony appear in any history books. Cherokee couples have attempted to recreate the sacred ceremony as best as possible. Here I have compiled some of the elements of the ceremony.

     

    Sacred Fire

    As is true for many Native American tribes, fire is sacred to the Cherokees. A Sacred Fire ceremony begins with three separate fires made from the wood of seven different types of trees.

    One large wood pile is prepared in the center, the fire of which will represent both the Creator and the wedded union. One to the south and one to the north, the holy elder lays the wood for two smaller fires which represent the individual lives of the bride and groom before their union.

    The holy man and the assembly sing sacred songs and recite ancient prayers, as he and the bride and groom sprinkle sage, tobacco, corn, and sweet grass over their respective wood piles.

    As they say a prayer, the bride and groom light their respective fires. As their fires begin to burn brightly, the two gently push their smaller fires into the larger wood pile, which soon lights.

    The assembly bursts into song in praise to the Creator as the two fires burn as one with the Creator's fire.

     

    The Basket Ceremony

    Next, the mother of the bride brings her daughter a basket with an ear of corn or a loaf of bread. The mother of the groom brings him a leg of cooked venison, also in a basket. The mothers also bring a blue blanket which they drape over their child's shoulders.

    The blue blankets represent the sorrow of their lives before their union. They also represented the old ways of the individual, personal failures, weaknesses, and sorrows.

    Now draped with the blankets of their individuality and carrying their baskets, they begin to walk to the center of the room, toward each other. Upon meeting in the center, for the first time they look into each other's eyes directly. This act of intimacy remains forbidden during courtship.

    Next, the Cherokee bride grasps the corner of her groom's blanket and gently folds it within her own blanket, as she hands him her basket of corn or bread. This act symbolizes her commitment to keep their home and nurture and support her husband.

    The groom then hands his bride the basket of cooked venison. His act symbolizes his promise to provide for all her needs and protect her from all harm.

     

    Cherokee Wedding Blanket

    After the Basket Ceremony, close relatives step forward carrying a large white blanket. They drape it over the shoulders of the couple, covering over their weaknesses, failures, shame, and sorrows. Now their lives are joined in happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

    The tribe's chief steps forward at this time, declaring, "The blankets are joined." This concludes the official Cherokee wedding ceremony. Some couples choose to add a Wedding Vase Ceremony at this point.

     

    The Wedding Vase

    Take a quick look at the vase in the photo above. You'll see that it has two pouring spouts. At the close of their wedding ceremony, a Cherokee bride and groom attempt to drink simultaneously out of the vase. If they manage to do so without spilling even a drop, they can expect mutual understanding throughout their marriage.

    Most Cherokee couples enjoy a recitation of the Cherokee Wedding Prayer, which honors the three forces of nature - fire, wind, and water - as well as the blessings each brings to the marriage. Finally, members of the tribe perform a Stomp Dance to celebrate the union.

  • Cherokee Wedding Attire & Rings

    Traditional Cherokee Wedding Dress Traditional Cherokee Wedding Dress

     

    For a Cherokee wedding, the bride wears a special style of dress called a "tear dress." The groom wears a ribbon shirt and black slacks. They both wear moccasins. In lieu of rings, the bride and groom exchange gift baskets.

     

    Cherokee Wedding Attire

    The bride fashions her "tear dress" out of cotton or organza. Traditional Cherokee families typically did not have scissors. Thus, they made their dresses out of torn pieces of material. For a wedding dress, the Cherokees favored shades of white and ivory. Of course, upon her feet she wore moccasins, possibly made from white doeskin.

    Her groom wore a red ribbon shirt. A ribbon shirt consists of a formal tunic decorated with ribbons in blue, red, white, and/or green. These ribbons formed a chevron pattern across the chest with loose ribbons hanging down on either side. He finished his wedding outfit with black slacks and moccasins.

    Just before the Cherokee wedding ceremony, a family member draped blue blankets over the bride's and groom's shoulders. These blankets represented the shadow of sadness, weakness, and failures they lived under up to this point.

     

    A Cherokee Gift Exchange

    During a Cherokee wedding, the bride and groom do not traditionally exchange rings. Of course, modern influence has amended this custom. Therefore, many contemporary Cherokee couples do exchange wedding rings during their ceremony. They often choose turquoise for the men and opal for the women.

    During a traditional ceremony, the bride and groom exchange baskets. The groom offered his bride a basket filled with meat and prepared skins. This served as his promise to clothe and feed her all the days of her life. By the same token, the bride offered her groom a basket filled with bread a corn, her promise to nurture and feed him.

     

    Contemporary Cherokee Wedding Attire

    Today's Cherokee bride often chooses white cotton or organza decorated with lace or taffeta. These dresses are made in what we might call an old-fashioned prairie style. She wears doeskin moccasins in white or light brown.

    Her wedding dress must be more elaborate than her daily-wear dresses. In light of this, she might decorate her dress with leather fringe along the sleeves, the waist, and the hemline. This fringe can be mid-length, or it can hang all the way to the ground. She might also wear a native-style beaded necklace.

    For the groom, ribbon shirts remain in fashion, as do black, white, or tan slacks and moccasins. He might also wear a suit with a leather vest or black jacket, but not a tuxedo. It remains customary for the couple to walk together toward the officiant wearing blue blankets on their shoulders.

  • Cherokee Courtship Traditions

    Cherokee Courtship Rituals. Photo by Matilda Flippo, Flikr. Cherokee Courtship.

     

    Cherokee courtship and engagement includes several beautiful customs. It all begins with their version of a Debutante Ball.

     

    The Crane Dance

    For up to three days, the unmarried women of the Cherokee tribes decorated their colorful traditional clothing with feathers. Dressed in the manner of cranes, they proceeded to perform a slow and elegant dance for the single men from surrounding clans.

    The Crane Dance gave the unmarried Cherokee men an opportunity to select a bride from among the young women. When a young man chose a young woman to court, he sent a female representative to speak with the girl's mother.

     

    Cherokee Courtship

    After his maternal aunt (or another female relative) acquired consent from the girl's mother, the young man began preparing his gifts for her family.

    Traditionally, a Cherokee suitor brought an offering of venison to the girl. He was expected to track, kill, and prepare the meat of the deer and leave it outside her door. If she left the meat outside, he knew she showed no interest. On the other hand, if she

    cooked the meat and offered it to him as a meal, she accepted his courtship.

    During their courtship, Cherokee youths met in the evenings near the center of the lodge. Nearby, the adults kept watch over their encounters. Courtship presented a way for the young people to get to know each other better. Once the young man decided to move forward with marriage, he tracked and killed another deer.

    This time, he offered the meat to his beloved's parents as a sign of his ability to provide and care for their daughter. If her parents invited him to stay and partake of the meal with the family, their marriage was approved.

     

    The Medicine Man's Blessing

    Cherokee courtship culminated with a blessing from a medicine man. He held the power to pronounce them suitable or unsuitable. In their presence, the shaman performed a tobacco ceremony.  The Cherokee are a deeply spiritual community. They believe in the power of both good and evil spirits.

    The tobacco ceremony served to seek the blessing of the good spirits and to identify and counteract any evil spirits or witchery. The medicine man then performed tests for other afflictions. Finally, he chanted and offered prayers for guidance.

    If he pronounced the two suitable for marriage to each other, the young man's friends took him immediately to enjoy a ceremonial meal. They punctuated their feasting with jokes and hilarious instructions about married life. Of course, innuendos and warnings ensued.

    The young woman also enjoyed a feast with her friends and family. Her family served her favorite foods, and the unmarried ladies served her hand and foot throughout the evening. Decidedly more reverently, the older women offered a different sort of instruction regarding her wifely duties.

    Sometimes, the Cherokee omitted an actual wedding ceremony. In these cases, the man would leave his clan and move into his wife's household. As simply as that, they were married.

    Other times, an elaborate and beautiful ceremony ensued. I'll write about these more elaborate ceremonies in another post next week.

  • A Brazilian Wedding Reception

    Treats at a Brazilian Wedding Reception Gorgeous strawberry dessert served at a Brazilian wedding reception. Photo by Petra Mafalda. Used under commercial license.

     

    We now arrive at our final post in our Brazilian wedding series. A Brazilian wedding reception begins and ends with bem casado - a well-married couple celebrating their nuptials with friends and families.

     

    Bem Casado - Really a Tasty Treat

    While the sentiment of bem casado permeates the entire Brazilian wedding reception, every guest receives an actual dessert treat called bem casado as they leave the reception.

    This represents one of many traditional customs carried out throughout the night. It almost goes without saying that a Brazilian wedding reception includes feasting, dancing, and making merry.

    In between the dancing and feasting, a few rituals take place. For one thing, the best man might take the groom's neck tie and cut it up into pieces. He then proceeds to auction these special nuptial tokens to the highest bidders. He collects the money and safeguards it for the couple to use on their honeymoon.

    Concurrently, a member of the bride's party carries a tray with a pair of golden shoes. She goes table by table, encouraging guests to fill the shoes with cash for the honeymoon. At one time, it may have been customary for the golden shoe to sit on the dance floor. However, it does not happen this way any longer.

     

    The Brazilian Wedding Reception

    To help the guests find their assigned tables, labels with the names of Brazilian cities rest on each table. As the guests find their seats, the bride walks around the tables with a basket full of lembrancinhas (small remembrances/souvenirs).

    Throughout the course of the meal, members of the family and the wedding party make speeches. A drink called caiprinha, made from sugar cane, lime, and sugar, is served along with myriad tasty cakes and treats.

    Meanwhile, the couple exchanges gifts with their parents. Before the wedding day, the bride and groom pick out presents for their parents. In like manner, their parents also bestow them with gifts during the reception.

    Following dinner, the drinking and dancing begins. The most important way for a guest to shower the newlyweds with affection is to have a grand time at their reception.

    The dancing at the "ceremonial," as the Brazilian wedding reception is called, begins with the couple's first dance. This is typically a Waltz.

    During more elaborate receptions, the festivities may be led by a group of professional entertainers. These singers, musicians, and dancers enliven the party with Brazilian samba, often loosening up the mood and filling the room with true Brazilian flare.

     

    The Bride & Groom Depart

    Shortly before the bride and groom depart to begin their honeymoon, the bride may sit down with her closest single friends. These friends might take markers and write their names on the inside hem of her wedding dress. This tradition bestows good luck for love and happiness to her friends.

    She might also line up all the single ladies and throw her bouquet. Finally, the bride and groom leave the party. Upon arriving at their hotel room, the groom lifts his bride and carries her over the threshold, taking care to place his right foot into the room first.

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