Prior to the arrival of the Normans, Irish marriages were governed by a set of complex rules known as the Brehon laws and generally only entailed a one-year agreement. The wedding ceremony itself was apt to take place in the bride's home or outdoors, in a location of spiritual significance. Great care was taken to avoid the attention of the 'fairy folk' who were thought to enjoy causing mischief for the bride. Decisions such as who, when and how to marry were often heavily influenced by superstition and many of these beliefs have survived to the present day, at least in poetry. Today, the Republic of Ireland is predominantly Catholic and the wedding ceremony reflects this tradition. Early beliefs are still incorporated though, and an Irish bride will often carry a porcelain horseshoe down the aisle. The horseshoe should then be hung, with the ends pointed up, over the newlyweds' front door to bring luck. Stag and hen (bachelorette) parties are also common. Like Germany, Ireland claims an ancient connection to the modern honeymoon. The 'mi na meala,' or 'month of honey,' refers to the first lunar month after the wedding. Friends and family presented the newlyweds with enough mead (honey wine) to last through the month of honey, along with special goblets to toast each other.
Early Roman brides wore garlands to insure fertility, and the crumbs of the cake broken over the bride's head were eagerly gathered up as good luck tokens. Other Italian traditions include: the bridal veil, originally worn to ward off evil spirits; ribbons tied at the church or reception, representing the bond of marriage; the wedding Mass; the buste, a satin bag carried by the bride which is filled with gifts of money by wedding guests; tossing the bouquet; and releasing white doves into the sky. Confetti, candy-covered almonds symbolic of the bitter and sweet in marriage are either tossed at the departing newlyweds, or given to guests as favors in tiny mesh bags.
In the past, kola nuts and drinks were traditional elements of an Ivory Coast wedding celebration. Today, fine European liqueurs and schnapps have become more commonplace. Other past traditions include: paying a brideprice, the groom providing a trousseau, and a cleansing ritual for the bride. Today, men and women are free to choose each other, and often live together before they marry.
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