Wedding season is here again, and with it comes non-stop action and excitement for brides, grooms, and everyone else that’s a part of such a momentous occasion – not to mention many wedding traditions!  If you’re a bride to be, you’ve probably glanced over many a wedding magazine, and Pinterest is probably your new best friend.

However, wedding planning is often as exciting as it is draining. One thing that might help when it feels like you’re running out of ideas is exploring wedding traditions from other cultures. Random as it may seem, cultural traditions can help give you inspiration for your own wedding, especially regarding what meaning and mood you’d like it to embody.

The cross-cultural wedding traditions on this list will make any girl swoon – from sweet well-wishes to the couple from guests to a literal knife dance (yes, really), there’s a little bit of inspiration here for every kind of couple. 

1.  Henna night, Turkey

[Image description: Bride is celebrated during henna night.] via Shutterstock
[Image description: Bride is celebrated during henna night.] via Shutterstock
During a Turkish henna night, known as Kina Ginesi, the bride has henna placed on her hands prior to leaving her mother. The bride wears a velvet dress and a veil and is surrounded by her female friends and family members.

While the bride sits and has her henna done, the other women sing sad songs around her. The idea is to make the bride cry before she leaves home, and once the women succeed, they each put henna on the bride’s hands and then on the hands of the bride’s mother and other guests.

While this tradition may be seen as sad to some, it commemorates the beautiful bond between a mother and a daughter.  As someone who is super close to her mom, this one gives me the feels for sure!

2. The couple’s entrance, Assyrians

[Image description: Assyrian wedding entry with woman and man seated on chairs.] Via Unsplash
[Image description: Assyrian wedding entry with woman and man seated on chairs.] Via Unsplash
I might be biased when I say this, but Assyrians really know how to throw a wedding. My favorite part of an Assyrian wedding has always been the entrance by the couple – not only is it a beautiful site to see, but it’s so much fun!

Prior to the couple entering the hall, families, and friends gather near the entrance doors. As the couple proceeds into the hall, family members and friends dance and sing in front of the newlyweds. Women often wave their yalikhta or dancing veil around the happy couple, and the touching moment displays the happiness of the couple’s family and friends for their union.

3. Zaffe, Lebanon

[Image description: Man and woman dance in the Lebanese wedding tradition.] via visualizepictures
[Image description: Man and woman dance in the Lebanese wedding tradition.] via visualizepictures
I’m not even Lebanese, but I don’t have to be to love this tradition. Typically, the zaffe takes place at the respective homes of the couple. Drums are played, zaffe dancers perform, and friends and family partake in the celebrations.

Both the bride and groom dance around the drummers, with family and friends joining in. It’s a fun and celebratory tradition that’s guaranteed to get the party started at any wedding.

4. Knife dance, Iran

[Image description: An Iranian knife dance takes place] via Fiona Hall Photography
[Image description: An Iranian knife dance takes place] via Fiona Hall Photography
There’s everybody else’s version of cutting the wedding cake, and then there’s the Iranian version. Known as raghseh chagoo, this tradition begins when a female family member or friend begins dancing to a Persian tune whilst holding the cake knife in her hand.

In true Iranian fashion, the women dance gracefully despite having to hold a knife in their hands throughout the routine. The couple then has to give her money in the hopes of earning the knife.

The woman may accept the money and then proceed to give the knife to another woman. This continues until a female relative or friend feels the bride and groom have earned the knife. It’s a unique way of celebrating the cutting of the cake and is super fun to watch.

5. Kanyadaan, India

[Image description: A bride’s hand is seen being placed on top of the groom’s hand.] via Giphy.
As a daughter, the thought of being given away is an emotional one. In Indian culture, the Kanyadaan is the process of the father giving away his daughter. During the Kanyadaan, the father of the bride takes her right hand and places it on top of the groom’s right hand. This act is the way the father asks the groom to treat his daughter as an equal partner.

After the hands are placed on top of one another, the mother of the bride pours holy water on top of both hands. As people chant during the ceremony, the water soaks through the bride’s hands and into the groom’s, signifying unity.

6. The wishing tree, the Netherlands

[Image description: A Dutch wedding tree, filled with wishes] via Shutterstock
[Image description: A Dutch wedding tree, filled with wishes] via Shutterstock
Some cultures have a wedding guestbook signed by well-wishers that couples can have as a keepsake, but the Dutch go above and beyond in this respect. In the Netherlands, there is no wedding book. Instead, there is a tree that guests adorn with well-wishes for the bride and groom.

Friends and family of the couple write down their well-wishes on small note cards or leaflets, while the tree is typically placed adjacent to the couple’s table.

After the notes are written and collected, they are given to the couple to read aloud, after which the couple ties the notes onto the tree with colorful ribbons. It’s a lovely way of wishing the couple a lifetime of happiness from the people that matter most to them.

7. Releasing doves, Philippines

[Image description: A couple holds a pair of doves.] via Shutterstock
[Image description: A couple holds a pair of doves.] via Shutterstock
Throughout history, doves have been symbols of peace, so it should be no surprise that they are often released during weddings. In Filipino tradition, the bride and groom release a pair of doves, one male, and one female.

This is seen to symbolize unity, prosperity, love, and peace within the marriage.

8. Giving the bride a pair of lovespoons, Wales

[Image description: A pair of lovespoons for a Welsh  couple] via Shutterstock
[Image description: A pair of lovespoons for a Welsh couple] via Shutterstock
The history of lovespoons alone is enough to make you swoon. Historically, lovespoons were carved out by a man and given to the woman he loved, and the spoons would usually be decorated with intricate designs symbolizing the love between the couple. The woodwork was also important to the father of the bride as it symbolized the groom’s capability to provide for their daughter.

Today, Welsh couples are gifted lovespoons by friends and family. The grooms may also gift these spoons to their brides-to-be before the wedding or in some cases after the marriage. The token of love is not just a display of creativity, but also a beautiful way to express one’s love.

9. Unity bowls of rocks, Australia

[Image description: An Australian wedding ceremony might feature the tradition of a unity bowl.] via Pinterest
[Image description: An Australian wedding ceremony might feature the tradition of a unity bowl.] via Pinterest
Prepare yourself for the waterworks. In Australia, the friends and family of the happy couple fill a bowl with various stones. At first glance, this may seem a bit strange, but the meaning behind the tradition is genuinely touching. The stones vary in color, with each symbolizing the color each family member or friend brings to the lives of the couple.

At the end of the wedding, the couple is given the bowl full of stones. The bowl serves as a symbol of the love and support that the couple has from their friends and family. It’s a lovely way to include your friends and family in one of the most important days of your life and serves as an important reminder of their love and support.

10. Bringing the flames, South Africa

[Image description: A display of a South African fire ceremony] via Shutterstock
[Image description: A display of a South African fire ceremony] via Shutterstock
This tradition is incredibly beautiful and touching. In South Africa, the parents of the bride and the groom carry firewood from their own homes to the home of the couple. There, they begin burning the wood in the hopes of igniting the flames of the new home.

What is important about this tradition is that the firewood that is brought over by the parents is a symbol of the flames from the couples’ childhood homes and the continuation of that warmth and light into their new homes and lives.

In other words, this touching tradition reminds newlyweds that home is not too far away and that the feelings of comfort and security from their childhood homes are with them always.


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Bernadette Lazar

By Bernadette Lazar

Editorial Fellow