Cultural insight: What to expect at an Asian or African wedding!Sharon Stephens
As you will see, many common features are present in wedding ceremonies all over the world, such as the involvement of family and their contribution to ensuring the wedding can happen and that it will be blessed. This support is invaluable and allows the couples to step into marriage together with as much ease as possible!
Starting off in China, when the couple become engaged it is tradition for the groom’s family to present the family of the bride with the gift of a whole roast pig. Brides wear red with decorative phoenix symbols all over for good luck and the groom wears a black silk jacket over a robe embroidered with a dragon. It is also common to set off loud firecrackers during the wedding, in order to ward off evil spirits.
In Japan, unlike here, purple instead of white is the preferred bridal colour. Weddings are most commonly Shinto or Buddhist. During a Shinto wedding, natural spirits called kami, are summoned by the couple to ask for their blessing. At a Buddhist wedding you will likely see the exchange of two strings of beads, then interwoven to symbolise the unification of two families.
In Indonesia, weddings are huge, sometimes with more than 1000 guests in attendance at the reception. Astonishingly, tradition dictates that the bridal couple greet each guest one by one, in a long line, before the celebrations can begin!
Following the Hindu cultures is commonly considered bad luck, as in western countries, for the bridal couple to see each other before the wedding. It is also interesting to know that during the ceremony in India, the bride’s parents will wash the bridal’s couple feet with milk and water to purify they future together, and also the couple would hold in their hands grains of rice, oat and green leaves which stand for wealth, health and happiness.
In Korea the bridal couple must meet a fortune teller (kung-hap) before they get married in order to ensure that they are meant to be together and to bless them with good luck and a bright future together.
Despite many Filipino weddings being Catholic nowadays, in the past a traditional wedding celebration could last as long as three days! Every day would have been full of ceremonies and on the third day the couple would have announced their love for one another three times and had their hands bound together with a chord – only then would the priest have declared them married.
Taking a look at Africa, it is important to remember the significance of family and tribal heritage because these are deeply valued.
With more than 1,000 cultural units, Africa is amazingly varied in its examples of cultural traditions. Furthermore, the different religions across the continent create a mix of ancient traditions and influences; including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism.
Looking at some aspects of culture in more detail, not many people know that girls in Africa are trained from an early age to behave as perfect wives; this even includes a secret language that the young bride can use to talk to other married women to ask for advice without their husbands suspecting.
In many areas a wedding is considered a transitional ceremony between childhood and adulthood and there are still many arranged marriages. Girls are sometimes promised for marriage even before they are born (as is the case in Somalia, for example).
In general, some wedding ceremonies can last days and it is often possible to see many couples getting married at the same time.
Moreover is important to know that divorce is very rare in African marriages. In fact, families, and sometimes villages, will usually try and help the couple to work through their problems. It’s common in many cultures to find a special totem dedicated to reminding couples that differences of culture or tribe must be overcome in order to have a successful marriage.
Some other interesting facts: In Somalia men are allowed to have more than one wife as long as he can support them. In Sudan (and other places around the Nile) men reimburse the family of their wife with sheep and cattle when the woman leaves home.
Are you aware of any other interesting wedding traditions? Please do share them with us! In the mean time to find out what languages we work with, please click here. And remember – cultural differences make us special and more interesting so be open to new experiences and traditions that you might encounter around the world!