FOR BETTER OR WORSE
23 surprising love and marriage customs of the world
We celebrate love and marriage customs.
1 Wife-carrying World Championships
Each year competitors in the village of Sonkajarvi, Finland, partake in this bizarre sporting event. With wife or partner slung over the shoulder, participants get stuck into a variety of challenges and the winner receives the partner’s weight in beer.
2 Graveside Weddings in Russia
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located at the Kremlin, is Moscow’s top destination for wedding parties, who snap photos and drink champagne while the bride and groom pay their respects by laying flowers at the grave site.
3 Whale’s Tooth Gifts
Think you’ve got it hard, shopping for that perfect wedding gift? In Fiji it’s common practice when asking for a woman’s hand in marriage for the man to present his soon-to-be father-in-law with a tabua (whale’s tooth). Because, let’s face it, it’s not real love unless you have to dive hundreds of metres beneath the ocean and go toe to fin with the world’s largest mammal.
4 Step Inside a Courting Hut
Think you had cool parents growing up? Think again. In a revolutionary parenting style, some African tribes provide their daughters with ‘courting huts’ to entertain potential suitors away from the parents’ gaze in order to find their one true love.
5 Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy
Step back in time into the greatest love story ever. Each year thousands flock to Verona’s Casa di Giulietta, a 13th-century house believed to have belonged to the Capulets (never mind that they were all fictional characters), to add their amorous graffiti and notes of adoration to the courtyard walls where once fair Juliet was wooed by her Romeo.
6 Ladies’ Choice at Gerewol Festival
In an annual courtship event called the Gerewol Festival, the men of the Wodaabe in Niger dress up in elaborate costumes, put on make-up and dance and sing in a bid to win a bride. At the end of the performance, the women do the choosing.
7 Tragic Myth of Imilchil Marriage Festival
Set against the mystery and romance of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, legend tells the story of two starcrossed lovers forbidden to see each other. The heartbroken couple drowned in their own tears, forcing their families to reconcile and establish what’s now known as the Imilchil Marriage Festival. Each year feasting, flirting and frivolity are the backdrop for local tribespeople to socialise and potentially meet their future partner.
8 Henna Tattoos
In Arabic and African communities, Swahili women adorn themselves with intricate henna patterns before a wedding. Signifying the bride’s beauty, womanhood and worth, the most elaborate designs are desired. Aside from their aesthetic delights, these tattoos represent an empowering, sensual quality in Swahili culture, as the design often conceals the groom’s initials in a secret spot on the bride’s body.
9 My Big, ‘Rich’ Greek Wedding
Greek weddings are known for their ebullience. A wonderful tradition is the couple’s first dance, when guests pin money to the bride’s and groom’s clothing, leaving them twirling about the floor entwined in decorative (and, expensive) paper streamers.
10 Mount Hagen Sing-Sings
Papua New Guinea tribespeople paint their bodies and don elaborate and colourful costumes and come together to display their different cultures in a show of music, song and dance called a sing-sing. These large gatherings also provide an opportunity to meet a potential mate.
11 Eloping in Scotland
When the Marriage Act of 1753 made it illegal for persons under 21 to get hitched in England and Wales without parental consent, young sweethearts crossed the border to Scotland where the law didn’t apply. As the first village over the border, Gretna Green became the favourite spot for eloping couples. To this day, some 5000 couples visit each year to tie the knot or reaffirm their vows.
12 Love Spoons in Wales
This adorable Welsh tradition gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘spooning’. The beau presents his lover with a meticulously carved wooden spoon to demonstrate his intent and ability to provide for her.
13 Love Padlocks in Italy
Inspired by Federico Moccia’s book and film I Want You, many people began attaching their own love padlocks to the Ponte Milvio in Rome. In what is now a worldwide
phenomenon, couples attach the padlocks and throw the key into the river as a symbol of their unbreakable love and commitment to one another. However, in Paris and other places, these trinkets have become so numerous as to be a nuisance, and have to be removed.
14 China’s Bridesmaid Blockade
As if the wedding day wasn’t stressful enough, when the Chinese groom comes to fetch his bride, he’s confronted by a barrage of bridesmaids blocking his entrance. After demanding red envelopes of money, the bridesmaids (and sometimes even the groomsmen) subject the groom to a series of games and physical tasks – he is forced to sing and subjected to teasing to prove his love.
15 White Day in Japan
On Valentine’s Day in Japan it’s the women who buy chocolates for the men. But never fear, ladies: one month later it’s White Day, when the chaps have to splash out for the girls if their feelings are mutual – and they are expected to spend three times as much.
16 The Bride Doll
This simple and sweet Puerto Rican tradition sees a bride doll draped in charms and placed at the head of the top table of the wedding reception. Towards the end of the celebrations, the charms are handed out to the guests as tokens of gratitude.
17 Ghadames Date Festival
As the date harvest comes to an end in Ghadames, a Berber town in the northwest of Libya, locals f lock to the World Heritage–listed old quarter to relish in their fruitful harvest. As the festivities progress, many wedding ceremonies are held as well as coming-of-age celebrations for young men.
18 Tree’s the One for Me
Some unlucky girls in India are born during the astrological period when Mars is in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th or 12th house of their lunar chart. What’s so wrong with that, you ask? Basically, it means they are cursed. Known as Mangliks, they are traditionally believed to have an unhappy union if they marry a non-Manglik or even bring an early death to their husband. The remedy? Have the Manglik first symbolically marry a banana or peepal tree to nullify the effect.
19 Korea’s Monthly Valentine’s Day
Why have one day when you can have 12? In Korea they don’t just celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 – in fact, the 14th day of every month
holds romantic significance. With days for singles, days for friends and days just to hug, there’s something to celebrate no matter what your relationship status.
20 Bachelor and Spinster Balls in Rural Australia
A cherished Aussie tradition, B& S Balls offer a rare opportunity for youngsters in rural areas to socialise. Notorious for heavy drinking, dangerous stunts and casual sex, these parties were originally intended for young people in isolated rural communities to meet a partner, but the focus has increasingly become about having a good time and meeting up with old friends.
21 France’s Toilet Tradition
In a weird, wonderful, yet utterly gross fashion, French newlyweds were made to drink the leftover alcohol from their wedding party out of a (brand-new, unused) chamber pot. Thankfully, this custom no longer exists in its entirety, but you may come across the bride and groom supping on chocolates and champagne served out of a chamber pot.
22 Salty Bread to Inspire Romantic Dreams
In a celebration of the feast of St Sarkis, the patron saint of young love, unmarried Armenian women eat a piece of salty bread in the hopes of inducing a prophetic dream about the man they’ll marry. Not to be taken too seriously, the idea is that the man who brings you water in your dream is your future husband. It’s also a kind of bonding ritual that allows the women in the family to share and interpret each other’s dreams.
23 TV Dating in India
India is a country where marriage is revered, so advertising prospective suitors and singles in local papers and online is commonplace, but a new Hindi-language channel is taking it one step further. Shagun TV channel features a glitzy show that is basically teleshopping for singles.