As a destination wedding photographer myself, there's nothing like the surprise of a new cultural wedding tradition! You would think one would have “seen it all” after 100 weddings in a decade, but I'm constantly spoiled by brides & grooms from different backgrounds around the world introducing me to new beautiful & interesting wedding traditions each year.
The first wedding I ever photographed was on the cliffs of Provence, a Tunisian bride marrying her French groom, celebrating their multicultural wedding with a mixture of Arabic & French traditions plus their own modern approach to wedding planning.
We had a henna party with hookah and traditional dress, a swift & fashionable French civil ceremony in the candy-colored seaside buildings of Villefranche-sur-Mer and then finally a romantic, dramatic, cinematic boat ride to their seaside ceremony officiated by their non-secular best friend dressed in Papal clothing.
I've been honored to photograph & participate in traditional weddings in Morocco (one of which you can see here, which included four days of events and the bride wore seven dresses!) to witnessing the Polish vodka tradition in rural Poland where townspeople can stop & block the newlywed's car until they are gifted a bottle of vodka (yes, this is real!)
This is all to say, it's the unique wedding traditions married together that make weddings so special.
With a decade of experience as a destination wedding photographer, I could go on and on with my favorite traditions but our pals at Be Inspired PR rounded up their esteemed collection of wedding pros to offer their own favorite, unique wedding traditions you may not have seen before…
1. Vietnamese Tea Ceremony
“A traditional Vietnamese tea ceremony is where the groom's family asks the bride's family if he could marry her. Back in the day, you have cows, horses, and gold as dowry to give to the bride's family. During these days, the red trays (Mam Qua Do in Vietnamese) represent the dowry. The red trays are filled with red envelopes filled with cash, fresh fruits with Double Happiness Chinese characters stickers, sweet rice, cookies, Vietnamese jello, Cognac, and a roasted suckling pig.
Guests are dressed in traditional Vietnamese attire called Ao Dai. The bride is usually wearing red or white. Before letting the groom and groom's family in the house, he has to offer money, play games that test his strength to prove to the family that he can take care of the bride and perform various tasks to show that he's the right man for the bride.” -Lizzy Liz Chan of Lizzy Liz Events
2. Zodiac Wedding Planning
“Many Asian weddings are all about avoiding bad luck. There are a lot of superstitions when it comes to the big day! The date and time are typically an auspicious day calculated by Monks based on Chinese Zodiac signs and time of birth or carefully calculated on the Lunar calendar. Typically you would have to avoid January as it conflicts with the Spring Festival and lunar March, July and October as it takes place during the traditional ghost festivals. If there's a death in the family, the wedding is most likely to be postponed for up to a year.” -Lizzy Liz Chan of Lizzy Liz Events
3. Chinese Wedding Door Games
“When it comes to Chinese weddings, most are familiar with the tea ceremony. What's a little less commonly known about are the door games played prior to the tea being served. Traditionally, these games take place at the bride's family home and the groom and his groomsmen will have to win over the bridesmaids and overcome a challenge at every “door.”
In Asia, most homes are apartments, so it’ll start on the street at the gate, then into the main door and then lastly the bedroom door (where the bride is usually hiding and waiting). At each door, there’s a challenge and game. A variety of different games are played; some common ones would be trying bitter foods (representing endurance during bitter times), physical and dance challenges (representing your declaration of love), and questions about how well you know the bride.
If the groom and groomsmen are stumped, they will have prepared red envelopes with money inside to bribe the bridesmaids into letting them see the bride. After getting to the bride, the couple will head together to the groom’s house to do the formal tea ceremony.” -Candice Yen, Milk Events
4. Nigerian Aso-Ebi
“As wedding planners in Los Angeles, we are immersed in a cultural melting pot, and planning multicultural events is our specialty! This year, we were lucky enough to plan a Nigerian wedding and learned so much about the beautiful culture in the process.
One of my favorite elements of the day is Aso-Ebi, which directly translates to “family clothes.” Nigerian couples choose specific colors for the bride’s side and the groom’s side to wear and communicate this in advance of the wedding day. Our clients chose pink for the bride's side and white for the groom's side and the guests did not disappoint. The result was a sea of pink and white over the whole part and it was fabulous. From the first time I met this couple, they explained to me that the guests and their attire were just as much a part of the decor as the flowers. The importance of “dressing to impress” is not taken lightly at a Nigerian fete and it was such a fun process to be a part of.” -Brooke Avishay of Orange Blossom Special Events
5. Black Wedding Broom Tradition
“At many Black weddings just before the newlyweds walk back down the aisle for the recessional, a bridal party member places a broom in front of them and they hold hands and jump over it together!” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
6. Hindu Ponkhavu
“Cultural weddings are filled to the brim with tradition, and Hindu weddings are no exception. We had the honor of witnessing and planning these joyous occasions this past October for our clients who made the decision to host their intimate Hindu ceremony at the family's private property with their larger sequel celebration later in 2021.
One of my favorite parts is how the groom has a series of celebrations and traditions before the bride ever enters the scene, one of these being the Baraat and Ponkhavu. This is where the groom and his family arrive at the wedding and the groom is treated to a ritual welcome called the Ponkhavu by the bride's mother. The bride's mother marks the groom's forehead with kumkum, a sacred red powder signifying good luck, and gives him a coconut to signify fertility. The groom then holds this coconut while she places a set of clay bowls on the floor for the groom to step on, crushing it into many pieces, symbolically demonstrating that he has power to overcome all the obstacles that the couple may face in their married life.” – Epoch Co+
7. Lebanese Pre-wedding Parties
“There are many amazing traditions at a Lebanese wedding including pre-wedding parties with traditional musicians at both the bride and groom's homes, zaffe dancers at the reception and cutting the cake with a sword!” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
8. Polish Sharing of the Salt & Wine
“A Polish tradition occurs in the morning at the groom's house and they also do a blessing called “sharing of the bread salt and wine” where the parents had a tray of all those things and then did a blessing with all parents together.” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
9. Jewish Ketubah
“At Jewish weddings, the guys are in one room and the girls in the other – the girls do Tora readings and sit calmly with no drinks and then the men take shots and tell stories about the groom, and then the men parade and sing the groom into the bride's room to sign the Ketubah.
They also do the 7 circles where the bride circles the groom 7 times once she gets to the end of the aisle, breaking of the glass and the blessing of the challah.” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
10. German Wedding Blessings
“A German father of the bride's toast had traditional German blessings in it and they printed how to say them and what they meant on the back of the menus so that during his toast, he asked guests to turn their menus over and join him in the German blessing and toast. It was really cute!” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
11. Bermuda Wedding Cakes
“A Bermuda wedding tradition includes displaying gold and silver cakes. The gold cake (traditionally pound cake) is meant to symbolize wealth and prosperity, while the silver wedding cake (traditionally fruit cake) represents wishes for a fruitful marriage for the happy couple.” -Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
12. Hindu Baraat
“I have planned quite a few Indian Weddings and there are some really fun traditions that happen on the day of the wedding. One of my favorites in particular is the baraat. This is a celebratory wedding procession for the groom involving live music and dancing right before the ceremony with all the guests. The groom typically leads everyone to the ceremony site where him and his family greet the bride's family. It's such a magical and joyful time to watch everyone dance and celebrate right before the bride and groom say “I Do”.” – Kari Dirksen, CEO + Lead Planner of Feathered Arrow
13. Iraqi Zaffa
“In traditional Iraqi or Middle Eastern weddings, the couple is escorted into their reception by a “Zaffa” which is essentially a hype crew with musicians, dancers, drummers, and the like. Guests join the couple on the dance floor (likely with a traditional dabke dance to follow) and soon enough close family will lift up the couple and encourage a kiss! It's loud, it's fun, full of joy and so fun to watch!” -Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss
14. Hawaiian Lei Exchange
“Traditionally, leis are exchanged by the couple during a Hawaiian ceremony to symbolize their love. This groom's mother placed his lei on his shoulders before the ceremony to honor his heritage and connection to family.” -Stephanie, Cape Cod Celebrations
Looking for more wedding traditions to incorporate in your wedding plans? Here are 11 unique & beautiful traditions for your wedding ceremony.
These tips were gathered by Be Inspired PR, a PR + Social Media Agency for wedding, wellness & lifestyle clients. With over 10+ years of experience, we’re here to take our clients to the next level! Find oodles of stylish wedding inspiration on their Instagram & Pinterest.