It is always interesting to study the history of weddings of different cultures. One can find that some of the old traditions have been carried forward to the current weddings.

In Italy, to this day marriages are not performed during Lent and Advent in May or August. Sunday was declared the best day for the marriage and June was (and is) considered the ideal month to marry. This is based on the Roman goddess Junio, representing safety of home, marriage, and childbirth.

In some families the marriages were arranged by the families of the bride and groom. A male relative of the groom would visit with the father of the intended bride and ask for her hand in marriage. Sometimes a matchmaker was used to carry a message to the intended bride’s family. Once an agreement between the families was reached, the couple was declared engaged. The prospective bride was expected to immediately start gathering clothing (even for her future husband), furniture, and other items for the home. This became known as the bride’s ‘trousseau’. If the engagement ring contained gold it was not to be worn until she received the gold wedding band as it was seen as bad luck to wear gold without being married.

In olden times a great deal of the Italian wedding traditions consisted of warding off evil spirits. The groom would be sure to have something iron on his person to ward off the evil eye. The wedding veil was for the purpose of warding off evil spirits they may try to attack the bride and tearing the veil after the ceremony was considered good luck. The bride was not to have a complete bridal gown until the wedding day. It was to remain incomplete until she walked down the church aisle. Presumably a final stitch was made somewhere on the dress at the entrance of the church. The groom would wait at the front of the church and present the bride with a bouquet of flowers and herbs, to ward off the evil spirits.

At other times the groom would pick the bride up and walk her to the church. In this case a log and a saw would be placed in their path and they had to saw it into two pieces to show their union. If the bride walked to the church, without the groom, the local people often put things in her path such as a broom, beggar, crying baby. How she handled these items showed if she would be a good wife, mother, would be kind, etc.

In the ceremony the groom stood to the right of the bride, thus freeing his sword hand, just in case someone tried to steal his bride. Ten witnesses were required to make the ceremony official; hence the need for a large bridal party. They were dressed like the bride and groom to confuse the jealous spirits. The bride carried (and still does in most weddings) a silk or satin purse for guests to deposit their money gifts in as a way to help with the expenses. Another way money was raised was by the best man cutting the groom’s tie into pieces and selling them to guests at the wedding.

Following the ceremony the bride and groom were pelted with almonds (in mesh bags), three for children and five to seven to promote fertility. In ancient times a loaf of bread was broken over the bride’s head to represent fertility. At the end of the wedding the bride and groom broke a vase or glass into pieces with the number of shards representing how many years they would be married. Mothers-in-law sat at a table and kept a record of the repayment of favors or money which needed to be witnessed (this is still done in some of today’s ceremonies)

Most of the ceremonies started with mass in the early morning, followed by music and dancing throughout the night. Food was, and is, a large part of the wedding. Thirteen or more courses were ordinarily served (a large meal is still served at today’s weddings); this represented the union of the couple and their families.

It’s amazing how many wedding traditions still remain even though they may have evolved somewhat to reflect today’s society. Incorporating traditions based on heritage is often a good way to honor the old while celebrating the new.

The Ndebele wedding is celebrated in three stages, this can take several years. The first stage is Labola for the bride; this is paid in instalments of both money and livestock. The second stage is a two-week sequestration of the bride during which time other women teach the bride how to be a good wife and the third stage is completed when the bride has her first child.

The groom to be sends a letter to the bride’s family to request a date for the Labola negotiation. He then has to purchase a sheep; some blankets, a broom and a few clothes for the girl’s family. The grooms parents then visit the brides parents and pay the Labola, after this they take the girl to the boys family to get to know him and his family.

Preparation for the wedding day will include writing up a guest list and sending out of the invitations, this happen two weeks before the wedding day. Food is bought and cooked the traditional way this will include ‘mielie pap’ (traditional maize meal) meat and salads, fruit, sweets and cake are served as dessert on the day.

The official ceremony will take place in a church, family members will be present for this so that they can witness the couple saying their wedding vows and the placing of rings on each others fingers. After the church ceremony the couple will change into traditional clothes and go with the guests to the girls home to eat. After they have finished to eat the couple will sit at a table, which has been especially decorated for them. Everyone present will talk to the couple and give them gifts.

The groom will then thank the guests where after they will go to his home. The oldest boy in the family will be there together with all the parents and grand-parents to give the girl an Ndebele name.

 

Indian Weddings don’t symbolize mere marriage; the nuptial bond symbolizes loads of commitments, shared responsibilities and promises for life. The weddings in India are full of vivid events and rituals that continue for several days. Around 300-1000 people attend the weddings and the scale of wedding is thus so large that it seems that not just the two individuals get married but the two families. A majority of the wedding customs and traditions are similar in Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains.

The prospective groom’s parents approach the bride’s parents to ask them for the hand of their daughter to get her married to their son. If the bride’s parents agree to the proposal, the parents invite the Hindu priest to match the horoscopes and if the horoscopes agree, they ask the pundit to tell them a suitable date for the marriage.

The parents of the bride visit the groom’s house to formalize the wedding and perform the Tilak Ceremony. On the following day “Byaha Hatth” ceremony takes place and the unmarried girls apply a paste of turmeric, sandalwood and rose water to bride and groom at their homes. Till the wedding day, both the bride and the groom are not allowed to come out of their homes.

On the wedding day, the bride wears a red colored sari and the groom wears a sherwani companied with a pyjama or salwar and wraps angrakha around his neck. The groom and male members of the groom’s family wear pink turbans.

The groom rides on a horse and is accompanied by his baraat (procession) to the venue of the wedding. They receive a warm welcome from the bride’s side. The bride is escorted to the wedding hall by her close friends or sisters. Then both the bride and the groom perform garland ceremony and head on towards the wedding feast.

As per the timing suggested by the Hindu purohit, the Circumambulation of fire is done to finalize the marriage and then the bride’s parents do the kanyadan. The bride departs with the groom and is welcomed by her mother-in law holding a thali of Aarti. Several customary games are played during the evening hour. On the next day at night, a reception party is held by Groom’s side and a large number of guests are again invited to attend the feast.

The wedding is said to be officially over with the Reception party but after the wedding, the couple is invited for lunch/dinner at the relatives’ homes for the first time after their marriage. This is done to open their way for visiting the relative’s homes.