Chicks Getting Hitched: Global wedding traditions


If you want to make your wedding ceremony unique and memorable, add an element other than the traditional exchanging of vows and rings. For inspiration, look to your own family’s history, borrow traditions from another culture or make up something new that reflects who you and your wife are as a couple. Here are some traditions from around the world that you can use to put a meaningful stamp on your marriage ceremony.

Tie the knot – literally

In an ancient custom know as handfasting, the wedding officiant wraps ribbons or ropes around a couple’s wrists to symbolize their commitment to one another. Handfasting has Pagan roots and also has ties to many European cultures. Traditional Celtic handfasting uses 13 ribbons, each in a different color to represent different virtues like passion, strength, balance, happiness and romance. Put a modern-day (and gay) spin on this old tradition by using rainbow-colored ribbons and assigning your own meaning to each.

A truly special toast

We’re all familiar with the Jewish wedding tradition of stomping on the glass to symbolize the fragility of relationships and new beginnings. I like that one, but there’s a less popular Jewish custom called Birkat Hamazon. A family member says a blessing over two glasses of wine, and then pours from each glass into a third glass which the newly-married couple then drinks from. If you’re not religious, have a friend or relative make a meaningful toast instead of saying a prayer over the two glasses, and then take a swig from your “unity glass” with your new wife.

Bittersweet love

Let’s face it – any real and enduring marriage is not going to be champagne and roses every day for the rest of your life. There will be challenges, arguments and hard times. So, why not embrace that reality right from the start by incorporating a “tasting of the elements” into your wedding ceremony? In this African tradition, the couple tastes four symbolic flavors – lemon (sour), vinegar (bitter), cayenne (hot) and honey (sweet) – to demonstrate that they can not only celebrate happy moments together, but also get through tough times as a couple.

Fun twists on the unity candle

How many weddings have you been to where the couple takes two separate candles and simultaneously lights a third to symbolize their unity? That’s nice and all, but it is way overdone. Many couples are now modernizing the unity custom by mixing spices or sand instead of lighting a candle. I even read about one couple who had their family members place different colored marbles in a jar and then mixed them together to symbolize the blending of the families. If your chosen “family” includes several close friends, include them as well. I think a pretty jar of multi-colored marbles is something you can keep in your home as a sweet reminder of your wedding day – and it will last long after the boring, old unity candle has burned out.

Look to the stars

Most couples choose their wedding date based on when the venue they want is available, which I completely understand. If you want an anniversary date that has more meaning, consider the ancient Chinese custom of having an astrologist choose your wedding day. Traditionally, an astrologist or fortune teller would choose a date based on the engaged couple’s birthdates, zodiac signs and other factors. For a DIY version of this custom, just consult the Chinese calendar to determine a date that will be good luck for you and your fiancé. I love this tradition for lesbian couples because many of us will have to choose two wedding dates – one on which we get legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage and a second where we have a wedding reception in our hometown. So if your “astrologically-approved” date doesn’t fall on a weekend or on the day your venue is available, then get legally married on the date determined by the stars and have your big party when it’s convenient.

What is the most memorable custom you’ve seen at a wedding?

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