Getting married can be one of the biggest milestones of your life. Complete with starting a new chapter in your life, celebrating with your significant other, and partying all night, tying the knot means being with the ones you love and sharing with them your favorite traditions. Getting hitched often includes tossing the bouquet and having that romantic first dance, however, more couples are looking for more unique ways to celebrate the day. That’s why we are taking a closer look at European customs to make our own and get some serious wedding day inspo along the way.
What we call bachelorette parties, British women call “hen parties”, and let’s just say we are totally up for it. These celebrations are like their American counterparts parties, but often include an afternoon tea, spa day or dinner with the girls. According to this New York Times article, hen parties can even turn into a “weekend-long ritual of love and admiration for the bride given by her friends” topped off with traditional games.
The meal at a British wedding is known as the “wedding breakfast”, though not always served in the morning and not always containing what Westerners would think of as traditional breakfast foods. This tradition goes back to pre-Reformation times in the 1500s when the bride and groom would fast before they married in the morning and would then eat a large meal of wine, cakes, and sweetmeats with friends and family. When the Royal Prince William married Kate Middleton, their wedding breakfast menu consisted of a seafood starter, a lamb roast, and sherry trifle, with accompanying wine for each course.
Wedding Day Parade
One of the coolest French wedding traditions is the wedding parade. Often performed in small villages, the groom arrives at the home of his bride-to-be on the morning of their wedding where together they will walk to the chapel. The procession is lead by musicians and followed by the bride with her father. The guests and family follow behind them with the groom and his mother at the very back of the line. As she is walking, village children stretch white ribbon across the road that the bride must cut as she passes.
French wedding receptions have quite a few differences than other countries. One old tradition is for guests to bring small cakes to the wedding and pile them as high as they can into a tower called the Croquembouche. If the happy couple managed to share a kiss over the pile without knocking the cakes then they would live a life of prosperity. Another French wedding custom is to give 5 dragée’s, a sugar or chocolate covered almond, to each guest at their wedding symbolizing Health, Wealth, Happiness, Longevity, and Fertility.
Good Luck Charms
Italian couples are very superstitious. In many Italian weddings, the bride and the groom will carry small trinkets to bring good luck. Grooms often carry a small piece of iron in their pocket to ward off evil spirits while brides will make a small rip in her veil to welcome good luck. Guests are also encouraged to wear green for luck.
“La Tarantella” (or “the tarantula”) is the way many guests wish the newly married couple good luck. Dancers hold hands and race clockwise until the music speeds up, and then they reverse directions. The tempo and direction continue to change until the group eventually falls down into a raucous pile.
Three days before a wedding, Greeks host a krevati (Greek for bed), which goes back to Ancient Greece, where the bridesmaids or unmarried female family members and friends of the bride come to the couple’s home to decorate the marital bed with things such as rose petals, ribbons, and rice. There are several symbolic elements as well, including putting children and money on the mattress for prosperity and fertility.
The Wedding Crown
One of the most distinctive parts of the Greek ceremony is the “crowning”. Symbolically tying the couple together, the bride and groom are blessed three times by the priest before placing the crowns on their head. Traditional crowns were made of delicate white flowers and evergreen leaves, symbolizing fertility. Orange blossoms and roses were used to signify purity. Olive branches and various herbs such as thyme and basil would be placed in the crown to pay homage to the goddess Adephagia, who revealed the secrets of herbs to the ancient Greeks. Modern wedding crowns are often made of metal, ribbons, and flowers.
Russian weddings feature some pretty crazy traditions, including “kidnapping” the bride for a ransom. During the wedding, the bride’s friends kidnap either her or her shoe while the groom and his friends must pay a real or symbolic price for her return such as cash, champagne or chocolate. The bride is often hidden in a corner and the groom must get through an obstacle course of bribes, pass quizzes and answer questions to get her back.
Historical Photo Shoot
After the ceremony, many Russian couples spend the next several hours taking pictures at their country’s historical sites and iconic landmarks. Some pay their respects to Russia’s World War II soldiers at their grave sites.
Europe definitely takes the cake for most creative wedding traditions. With so many fun and exciting ways to celebrate, we’re totally adding these to our list. Check out part II for even more wedding day practices that will have you booking your next flight abroad.