Throwing rice, stuffing cake in your spouse’s mouth, flinging garter belts into the air ― these are just some of the strange traditions associated with American weddings. But as we’ve discovered, the U.S. isn’t the only place where bizarre nuptial rituals are considered the norm. It’s important to note that these traditions are not necessarily observed by every couple in their countries of origin, nor are all of them still practiced today.
Let’s begin in Scotland, home to an interesting custom known as ‘blackening the bride’. Prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride-to-be is pummeled with curdled milk, fish guts, rotten vegetables, and other types of refuse. Blackening has been practiced for centuries as a way of preparing the bride for the routine shame and humiliation she’ll face during her marriage.
But if you think blackening is filthy, the French tradition of Le Soupe puts it to shame. Once the bride and groom have retired, the bridesmaids collect all of the leftover food and drink from the reception and dump it into a large chamber pot (which we can only hope has been washed). They will then barge into the couple’s bed chambers and force both man and wife to consume the entire concoction.
On the other hand, some wedding traditions focus on being sanitary. In some parts of Indonesia, the bride will customarily wash her husband’s feet in front of all the guests ― after he has stepped on a raw egg. Cleanliness is also important for weddings of the Tidong people in nearby Malaysia, although participants go about achieving it a little differently. For up to 72 hours prior to the ceremony, the bride and groom are prohibited from going to the bathroom. This is made possible through fasting and minimal water consumption ― but just to ensure there aren’t any cheaters, both the man and woman will be guarded by relatives for the entire period.
Contrary to the notion that wedding days ‘are all about her’, many cultures honor traditions that American brides might object to. For the Massai people of Kenya, for instance, it’s customary for the father of the bride to spit on her face and breasts, and in some cases her entire family will hurl insults at her throughout the ceremony. Sounds harsh, but there’s a good-natured motive behind this: the relatives are merely expressing their sadness at seeing her go and symbolically (if not subtlely) hastening her departure from her childhood home.
But what’s a little phlegm compared to full-on kidnapping ― even if it’s just for fun. In Germany, the groomsmen will abduct the bride-to-be in the dead of night, take her to a local tavern, and wait for her heroic suitor to come “rescue her” by buying everyone a round of drinks. Bearing in mind that the local municipality might have more than one watering hole, locating the bride can be an hours-long process.
In some cultures, the wedding ceremony may take on a more hostile tune than us Yanks are accustomed to ― though it’s still all in good fun. In Ukraine, the couple might burn an effigy of their matchmaker at the reception as preemptive revenge for all the pain and misery they are destined to experience as a married couple. South Korean grooms might feel a slippery sensation as the soles of their feet are pummeled with raw fish by guests at his reception. And in parts of India, the bride’s family will square off against the groom’s in a massive game of keep-away ― using one of the groom’s shoes.
Finally, there are wedding traditions that are just downright bizarre no matter how you spin it ― and one custom from Greece might just take the cake, or circular cookie as it were. During the ceremony, the bride will nab a pre-pubescent boy and seat him on her lap, where she will place an edible biscuit ring around his neck and slowly nibble it off. Only when the ring has been broken can the youngster return to the kid’s table and act like nothing weird just happened.
Have you been to a wedding outside the U.S. that was unusual, fascinating, or both? Tell us about your experience!