Depending on where you are in the world, there are probably local traditions you’re expected to include in either of the preparation for your wedding or the day itself. You may have already thought about how to include your ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ in your wedding day outfit, or discussed with your dad whether you feel comfortable being ‘given away’. Some traditions, like the stag night in some cultures or henna night in others, are so well-trodden that you probably won’t have given them a second thought; whereas some, like the color that the bride wears, are in most cases carried on for no real reason other than that they’re traditional.
But I’ve been reading about some of the lesser-known traditions involved in weddings around the world, and I’ve found some that – in my humble opinion – would make great additions to any wedding, wherever you are, and can easily be recreated without being insensitive to a different culture. Read on to get some ideas!
#1 Pittsburgh weddings involve thousands of cookies
No-one’s really sure how Pittsburgh cookie tables started – some people believe it started with the city’s Italian and Eastern European immigrant communities; but tell that to a Greek Steelers fan and they might disagree with you. But for whatever reason, no traditional (Christian) wedding reception in Pittsburgh is complete without a huge table of cookies. And we’re talking a lot of cookies – like, thousands. Traditionally they’re homemade, but many modern couples have the cookie table catered. And sneaking some cookies to take home with you is such a big part of the tradition that it’s not unusual for the couple to provide takeout boxes for this very purpose.
If you and your intended are not really cake people, you could substitute a multi-tiered stand of cookies for the traditional wedding cake. Or you could put out a table of cookies for your guests to nibble on when they arrive, or during another lull in the proceedings. Or you could distribute cookies as wedding favors! The wedding cookie possibilities are endless.
#2 In China there’s a gambling break in the middle of the day
If you’re invited to a traditional Chinese wedding reception, you’ll usually see two different times on the invitation. The first is the ‘greeting time’, when the bride, groom and their families will receive you at the venue; the second is the time that the reception or banquet will actually begin, and it might be two or even four hours later. The restaurant hosting the reception may provide poker or mahjong to entertain the guests in the meantime.
This tradition – the gambling part – is actually becoming less common among Chinese couples in the US, and will often be swapped out for a cocktail party. But to be honest, I think it’s a great idea. It’s hard to avoid those stretches of empty time in a wedding – the ceremony’s over, it’s too early to eat – which is part of the reason why people end up drinking too much. If you’re looking for a way to entertain your guests during the day, there are worse ideas than setting up some gambling opportunities. You could even opt for a low-cost, up-to-date version of this by setting up a virtual gaming table: encourage guests to bring their own devices, get online and play live casino games while the bar staff at your venue keep them topped up with drinks and snacks. It’s the Vegas wedding experience, but classy!
#3 Bermudian wedding cakes are topped with a tree
In Bermuda, there are traditionally two wedding cakes – one for the bride, one for the groom – and at least one is topped with a small cedar sapling. The sapling symbolizes the couple’s flourishing relationship and how their love will grow over time. According to custom, the couple will take the sapling to their new marital home and plant it in their garden, where it will grow throughout their married life.
This is a beautiful, simple way to represent the love and joy of a new marriage. The choice of a cedar tree is particular to Bermuda as that tree has a special association with the island, but you could put your own twist on this with any number of plants. You could use a cutting from a bay tree, or perhaps a sprig of lavender; or even top your cake with a simple acorn and plant it when you get home.
#4 Traditionally, Italian brides wore green the day before their wedding
There are any number of traditional customs involved in an Italian wedding, and many of them have found their way into other cultures. But one that might be less common nowadays is that the bride would spend the night before the wedding at her parent’s home; and for good luck, she would be sure to wear green.
Green is lucky in a number of different cultures, so why not rock a green dress, outfit or even an entire theme for your rehearsal dinner, hen night or whatever pre-wedding tradition you’re embracing?
#5 Latinx weddings involve ‘sponsors’
Outside of the usual wedding party, a traditional wedding for many Latin American couples will involve sponsors, otherwise known as ‘padrinos y madrinas’ (literally godfathers or godmothers): older friends of bride and/or groom who may or may not contribute financially to the wedding, but will definitely be around to offer support and advice, both to make sure the wedding itself runs smoothly and to help guide the couple into married life.
This is such a great idea. Not that I think you should start asking random relatives to fund your wedding, unless that’s usual in your culture, but – whatever your background, it could head off so many potential problems with your wedding and marriage if you have a trusted aunt, uncle or family friend you can go to for advice. Explain this tradition to someone in your life and ask if they’d be willing to take on this role for you: I can almost guarantee they’ll be flattered and delighted to help.