Weddings are one of the most universal traditions on the planet yet they are celebrated differently by everyone, individually and culturally.
Tying the knot in any culture comes with a list of various rituals and traditions and, family dynamics aside, there are many more things to consider and prepare for, especially here in South Africa.
With our 11 official languages, chiefs, dominees and gogos to consider, it can be a tough task marrying two cultures without offending Aunty Mabel.
Despite the umpteen different cultures or religions you may have to incorporate into your ceremony, it is important not to forget to showcase your own personality
After all, it is ‘your’ day and it is exactly your differences, and similarities, that brought you together that should now be celebrated – for instance, playing your favourite song and teaching Chief Nkomu how to do the shuffle, or giving personalised chocolates as wedding favours instead of the traditional bag of sugar-coated almonds.
And you don’t have to do it all at the ceremony and reception
After an open, honest chat with the family, consider spreading out the different traditions.
You could plan the ceremony around the bride’s heritage and turn the reception into a celebration of the groom’s.
Or, host the bachelor or bachelorette party incorporating an element from each other’s customs. It’s the perfect occasion to try umqombothi (beer), used to celebrate the homecoming of young men in Xhosa culture, or the Lebanese tradition of zaffe, a rowdy escort of music, dancing and shouting by the groom’s friends and family.
For the bride there could be the Japanese ritual of pouring saki to reaffirm friendships or the time-honoured tradition of giving ‘something borrowed, something blue’.
A little more challenging is serving a traditional meal, because in many cases the menu is limited by the venue, so if a customised menu is not possible, try incorporating signature drinks like saki at a Japanese reception or chai instead of coffee at an Indian wedding.
Traditional Norwegian wedding cakes are made with bread and cheese, and Russian couples share a sweet wedding bread called korovai which is decorated with wheat for prosperity and interlocking rings for faithfulness – or you could just go with what’s currently on trend.
Traditional Norwegian wedding cakes are made with bread and cheese, and Russian couples share a sweet wedding bread called korovai which is decorated with wheat for prosperity and interlocking rings for faithfulness
Another way to respect a different culture – for example, the Jewish tradition – is to send a two-sided invitation, with one side written in Hebrew and the other in English. Couples are favouring digital invites these days where guests can RSVP online.
Banqueting manager at BON Hotel Riviera on Vaal, Dumisane Zondo, says they have hosted several multi-cultural weddings specifically between the Christian faith and the Zulu culture, and the dynamic has resulted in some of the most creative and special occasions.
A lovely add-on in the Zulu tradition is when the bride gives out blankets to her new family after the wedding, in a ceremony that is known as ukwaba.
Zondo adds, “My favourite part is the dance-off between the families of the bride and groom.”
Some interesting wedding traditions from around the world
- In Africa, as well as exchanging rings, tradition sees the couple’s wrists tied together by grass or material.
- In China, brides pick not one wedding dress, but three!
- In India, the bride’s family and friends decorate her hands with elaborate designs in henna, called mehndi, before her marriage.
- Bridesmaids – through wearing similar dresses and standing next to the bride – were originally used as ‘decoy brides’ to confuse the spirits who they believed would sabotage the newly-weds’ happiness.
- In Congo, brides and grooms are not allowed to smile throughout the wedding day.
- In the Phillipines, the bride and groom release a pair of white doves.
- In a number of cultures, some sort of leap over a broom is also popular.
But, when it comes to love and weddings, there are no borders, so enjoy the preparation leading up to your ‘I do’, ‘Ngiyavuma’, ‘Je fais’ or ‘Main karata hoon’ and remember to have fun!
Featured Credit Image: Amanda Kopp