Going Back to Your Roots: Easy Ways to Include Cultural Traditions in Your Wedding - Wedding Traditions - Wedding Ceremony Ideas - Wedding Planning

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Photo Credits:
Ceremony Decor: Laurie Bailey Photography
Budget-friendly Ideas: Lisa Lefkowitz Photography
Programs: Elizabeth Lloyd Photography
Ceremony Songs: Deborah Coleman Photography
Recessional Songs: Lauren Kinsey Photography
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Tradition 101

Fun Ways to Include Cultural Traditions in Your Wedding

Adding a bit of your heritage to your celebration is a great way to add meaning to this milestone. Here are a few of our favorite cultural traditions and how to work them into your wedding day.

Photo: Elizabeth Messina

Indian Traditions

Have fun with henna. Elaborate henna designs are nearly synonymous with the traditional Indian bride. “In the old days, people didn’t have jewelry to wear to their weddings, so the bride decorated her hands with henna instead,” says Sonal J. Shah, owner of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, LLC. Today, incorporating henna art into the wedding is about both beauty and tradition. “You can turn it into a fun activity for your bridal shower or bachelorette party,” says Shah. “I get a lot of henna tattoo artist requests for cocktail hours, receptions, and prewedding parties. They only charge about $6 a hand. Why not trade in your tarot card reader?”

Bring in the big guys. Give yourselves the royal treatment by including elephants in your theme -- they often represent wealth and royalty in India. “A lot of grooms ride in on an elephant, or you’ll find that brides incorporate elephants into their decor.” Display gold elephant place-card holders and mini-elephant favors on linens in red (symbolizing fertility) and white (representing purity).

Italian Traditions

Share the love. Give your best man more responsibility on your wedding day. Traditionally, he cuts the groom’s tie into little pieces, which are then sold to guests as wedding keepsakes. Historically, this was done to help raise money to pay for the wedding, but you can choose to ask the best man to hand them out for fun as guests exit the wedding. (Just remember to take your pictures before he starts cutting!)

Drink up. In traditional Italian culture, the best man holds a tray of two different liquors and greets guests as they enter the reception. In preparation for a big toast, a sweet drink is given to the ladies, while the men are handed something rather strong, like a bourbon or whiskey. Ask your maid of honor and best man to serve signature his-and-hers drinks at the start of the cocktail hour.

Chinese Traditions

Pick a lucky date and time. Traditionally, Chinese couples look to fortune-tellers, feng shui experts, and the Chinese calendar (and sometimes their birthdays) to determine the perfect day to say, “I do.” Consider getting married on an even-numbered day and month of the year for good luck. It is also auspicious to marry on the half-hour to begin your new life together on an “upswing,” like the minute hand on the clock.

Host a tea party. The tea ceremony is a formal rite of passage that takes place after the ceremony, or sometimes on the following day. Traditionally, the couple serves tea to the groom’s family, starting with the groom’s parents, then to the other guests from oldest to youngest. “To personalize your tea ceremony,” says Heather Allen, President of Table 6 Productions, “place miniature teacups in little organza bags and hang them from the guests’ chairs. Then they can take their cups home as keepsakes.”

African-American Traditions

Take a leap of faith. If you’re of African descent, jumping for joy after you’ve tied the knot can mean more than you realize. During the days of slavery in the US, African-American marriages were forbidden, so to symbolize their love and commitment to one another, they “jumped the broom” instead. It’s said to symbolize “sweeping” away your past life in favor of the new one. To have some fun with this, have a custom broom designed with your monogram and wedding date. Then, after your big kiss, hold hands and jump across it together. Have your guests sign the broom in lieu of a guest book, and display it on the wall at your newlywed nest.

Spice things up. Many African-American couples participate in a ritual tasting at their wedding ceremony. It’s known as “Tasting the Four Elements” (adapted from the Yoruba tradition), and is said to represent the promise to love your partner “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Vinegar, lemon, cayenne pepper, and honey are traditional choices used to represent the bitter, sour, hot, and, of course, sweet parts of life and a new marriage. Doesn’t sound tasty? Swap out these cringe-worthy picks and share a taste of your favorite hot, sour, and bitter candies instead.

Greek Traditions

Think in threes. During a Greek wedding ceremony, couples often exchange wedding bands three times and wear crowns made of gold or flowers that are traded three times. Consider having three flower girls or bridesmaids and using three different types of flowers in your bouquet.

Bring a lucky charm (or two!). Charms are a big part of Greek wedding rituals. Have the groom carry a small piece of iron in his pocket to ward off unwanted spirits, or give out charm bracelets to your bridesmaids as thank-you gifts during the rehearsal dinner. They can wear them during the ceremony.

Irish Traditions

Ditch green for blue. When it comes to wedding colors (especially if you’re Irish!), we know what you're thinking: green, green, and more green. Well, not quite. Historically, an Irish bride would have shied away from that color: Green was thought to attract the attention of the fairy folk who might become fascinated by the bride and create mischief. Blue, which symbolizes purity in Irish culture, is the traditional color for weddings.

Add an equestrian element. During the ceremony, Irish brides traditionally carry a porcelain horseshoe for good luck. To put a modern spin on this ritual, pin a horseshoe pendant to your bouquet, or decorate smaller versions (with your wedding date) as favors for your guests to take home.

Hispanic Traditions

Get your extended family involved. Godparents have a major role in Latino-American ceremonies. They act as guides or sponsors for the happy couple, offering both financial and spiritual support on their wedding day, and throughout their lives. The godparents are responsible for making three bouquets for the wedding -- one is for the altar, another is for the bride to toss at the reception, and the third is for the couple to have as a keepsake.

Show them the money. During many Catholic ceremonies (particularly in Spain, Panama, and Mexico) the bride will be presented with 13 gold coins, called arras, from her groom which have been blessed by a priest and passed through the hands of each guest. The coins represent the husband's ability to financially support his new wife. Small, personalized coins can make great favors, and having one that each guest touched is a sweet memento.

-- Charli Penn

See More: Ceremony Ideas , Culture , Decor , Themed Weddings , Traditions