I recently became engaged and I am fully immersed in planning a late summer wedding. I am breaking a few of the modern-day American wedding traditions by having a small, family-only ceremony at a winery and trading out the standard sit down dinner and dancing reception for a more intimate cocktail party reception, we are even having our dog walk down the aisle. I appreciate big, beautiful weddings, but for me and my fiancé, it was important to have a smaller wedding with our nearest and dearest. Thankfully, our families supported our non-traditional plans, but it got me thinking a lot about wedding traditions.
Globalization Partners International (GPI) has teams around the world, and one of my favorite things about working for GPI is having the opportunity to learn about my coworkers' cultures. So, I thought it would be interesting to research the wedding traditions of a few of my coworkers' countries: Argentina, Egypt, Greece, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States. The wedding traditions of each of these countries are rich and unique, and too numerous to list in one blog. But, I would like to highlight some of the traditions I found most interesting.
Weddings in Argentina are often vibrant affairs, with emphasis placed on celebrating late into the night at the reception; with food, dancing and alcohol. A pre-wedding tradition I discovered through my research is the way the rings are presented. The wedding rings are exchanged at the engagement, rather than at the wedding. The rings are worn on the right hand until the ceremony, where they are then blessed and moved to the left hand. An interesting alternative to an engagement ring and exchanging wedding bands at the ceremony.
I am very close with my parents and have chosen to ask them both to escort me down the aisle. In fact, I am even having my dad officiate the ceremony. So, the role of the family in Argentine weddings is something I can relate to. In Argentina, the couple walks down the aisle together, escorted by the bride's father and groom's mother. Bridesmaids and groomsmen are not typically a part of the ceremony as family members play a larger role.
Egyptian weddings are filled with vivid colors, modern and historical traditions, familial obligations and celebratory events that can span many days. But, one of my favorite customs still practiced by some brides-to-be in Egypt is laylat al-hinna, the henna party.
According to Aramco World, the night before the wedding, the bride is joined by her female family members and friends for the henna party. Powdered henna is mixed with water or tea to make a paste which is then applied to the hands and feet with toothpicks, syringes or stencils, creating stunning designs. The henna designs are believed to bring good luck to the bride's new life.
My knowledge of Greek wedding traditions comes solely from the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." While, in my opinion, this is a hilarious movie, I was certain it didn't quite paint the whole picture of Greek weddings. So, I decided to look elsewhere for additional information.
An article by Worldly Weddings states that in Greek wedding customs, the number three plays a huge role in the ceremony. It is a symbol of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is an important piece of the Greek Orthodox religion and is incorporated in the wedding ceremony. Many of the rituals are repeated three times, such as the exchanging of the rings and walking around the alter three times, which represents the couples' everlasting journey.
The number three is also visible in Japanese wedding customs during the, san-san-kudo, or sharing of sake, which is still performed today. Worldly Weddings calls this "the heart of a Japanese wedding ceremony and takes the place of the vows." In this sharing of the sake, the groom, then the bride take three sips of sake from three different sake cups. Next, they share the sake with the family, first the groom's father and mother and then the bride's father and mother. This ceremony represents the new family bond and shows respect for the parents.
A beautiful and ornate tradition that can be seen in Japanese weddings is the construction of one thousand paper cranes. Japanese legend claims that cranes live long lives, and the addition of the paper cranes to the wedding represents longevity, fidelity and good fortune.
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and because of this, Catholic rites dominate most Filipino weddings. The bride wears a veil made of sheer, white material taken from her gown. The veil is draped over the bride's head and the groom's shoulders. It covers them both to signify their union and their dedication to always protect each other.
A cord is placed over the veil on top of the bride and groom. The cord can be made of silk, coins, flowers or designed like a rosary. The cord is looped into a figure eight to symbolize the infinite loyalty to each other, as well as their promise to live their lives as one.
The United States is a land of immigrants, and as such, there are myriad wedding traditions adopted from the cultures and religions that make up the people of the United States. Presently, people in the US consider everything from extravagant weddings with grand churches and swanky receptions to small private weddings in the mountains or on a beach to trips to city hall to get married by the Justice of the Peace common practices.
A majority of weddings in the United States will have similar rituals like engagement rings presented at the proposal and wedding bands exchanged at the ceremony, bachelor and bachelorette parties, a rehearsal dinner the week of the wedding for the wedding party, and some type of ceremony with a reception following to celebrate the happy couple. Some are traditional and some a very unique.
The world is made up of many people from many different countries with various cultures and religions. Weddings are a reflection of what the couple believes, where they live and what their heritage is. The language of love can be spoken many different ways and illustrated with different customs and rituals. Understanding and learning about traditions around the world, can help you better relate to someone from another country and give you an insight into why they do the things they do. This is especially important in this global world where you may find yourself a guest at a wedding of a couple with a vastly different culture than your own.
GPI specializes in understanding cultures and practices around the globe and can help advise anyone who may be interested in entering into a new marketplace. Perhaps you are a wedding company looking to go global? Or a tourist destination looking to expand your wedding offerings around the world? Let GPI help you explore the opportunity and see how your company may benefit from everything from translation services for documents, such as menus and marketing material, to SEO for your website.
Further Cultural Correctness and Localization Resources
You may also find some of the following articles and links useful:
- Creating Culturally Customized Content for Website Translation
- Translation Tips for Direct Marketers
- Chinese Culture and Travel - Part I
- Chinese Website Content key to growing Chinese Tourism
- Bill Gates Handshake: A kiss is just a kiss AND a handshake is just a handshake
- eLearning Localization: Multicultural or Multiple Cultures?
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About the Author
Global Digital Marketing Manager. Natalie was born and raised in the state of Montana, USA where she graduated from The University of Montana with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Her international experience includes two summer programs, one at The European Business School in Germany and the other at The University of Brescia in Italy. She studied a variety of global business subjects including international business, trade, culture and language. Key projects for her undergrad studies included meeting with executives from large corporations such as Lufthansa, Opel, and The European Central Bank as well as working with the design team on the marketing plan for the 2015 World Fair in Milan, Italy. She has a range of global event management experience including organization of the Annual Mansfield Conference on the Middle East and the China Town Hall meeting series. Her hobbies include yoga, cooking, reading, being outdoors and traveling.More Content by Natalie Williams