Living in the Toronto area, you will most likely be attending the weddings of friends, colleges, and relatives of cultures outside your own. Toronto is also the mixed-union capital of Canada, and so your own wedding ceremony may cultural and religious traditions of your spouse that are different than your own.
There are commonalities between wedding ceremonies across the globe, and regardless of cultural and religious practices, weddings are a day of celebration and smiles. (Unless you are celebrating a Congolese wedding, in which case the bride and groom are not to be caught smiling as smiling denotes lack of seriousness).
Before the Ceremony
At Chinese weddings, before the ceremony, there is an ancient tradition of the bridesmaids “refusing” to surrender the bride to the groom. In ancient times, the bridesmaids would not relent until the groom had given them enough hongbao, the lucky red envelopes filled with money. Modern Chinese bridesmaids participate in a form of this called chuangmen. Sometimes this is more traditional, and the bridesmaids bar the door to the bride and demand hongbao to be slid under it, gleefully shouting “Not enough!” at the groom until he satisfies them. Other times, the bridesmaids choose to make the groom perform tasks, such as pushups, eating spicy food, or singing sappy love songs to prove his dedication to his bride. Eventually, they do relent.
The Sock Dance
In many parts of Canada, there is a tradition called “the sock dance” that has been embarrassing older unwed siblings of the bride and groom for generations. If a bride or groom gets married before an older sibling says their own “I do” then the older sibling must wear ridiculous, hand-knit socks adorned with bells (usually made by a grandmother), stand in the middle of the dance floor, and dance a jig. The dance is often done to a piece of Canadian folk music and while the song plays and the older sibling (or siblings!) dance, guests toss money at them which is then collected and gifted to the bride and groom as part of their wedding present — the more over-the-top the socks, the better.
Veiling the Bride
If it is your first time at a traditional Jewish ceremony, you will be taking part in the Bedecken which translates to the veiling of the bride. While this tradition had fallen out of fashion for a time, it is having a resurgence and has always remained popular in the Orthodox community. The bride, flanked by her mother and the groom’s mother, sits on a throne-like-chair surrounded by other women in attendance. The groom is escorted by his father and the bride’s father, as well as the rabbi and other men celebrating with them, to go and see his bride for the fist time. Once reaching the throne, the groom checks to make sure his bride is the right person, then he veils her for the ceremony.
There are two Jewish stories that this ceremony alludes to. The first is Rebecca veiling herself before meeting Isaac, as a sign of modesty. The second is when Jacob’s father-in-law Lavan tricks him into marrying his daughter Leah instead of his intended bride Rachel by veiling Leah in her place. Just to be safe, modern grooms “check” that their bride is the right one.
All the Single Ladies
While many brides toss the bouquet at the end of the night, German brides do something a little bit different. At midnight, they have Schleiertanz, which translates to the veil dance (Schleier meaning veil, Tanz meaning dance). The bride’s veil is snatched away, and the couple is made to dance underneath it. When the music stops all the unmarried ladies go for the veil and try to rip off the biggest piece. Whoever manages to get the largest piece of the veil is said to be the next bride. Some brides do not want to watch their veil get destroyed, and so either opt for a “stand in” veil or instead guests throw money on top of the veil which is then gifted to the couple
I Do, I Do, I Do
If you are attending a Persian Muslim wedding ceremony, then you will want to be aware of this tradition. Persian grooms will ask their bride three times if they consent to be married. The first two times the bride will refuse him, with a no. Do not worry or interrupt the ceremony with a gasp, this is a traditional reply, and on the third request the bride will say yes.
There are variations on this tradition throughout the Muslim world. While some brides give an outright no the first two times they are asked, others will remain silent instead, and members of the audience will call out excuses as to why she is not speaking. As long as the third request is answered with a yes, the wedding goes on as planned.
Wedding ceremonies around the world have unique traditions that are important to the couple and their families. Living in Toronto, you will likely get to participate in many of them, and see how they make a wedding day and ceremony that much more special.
by Kate Eadie