More Than One Big Day: A Glimpse at the Weddings of Other Cultures
Updated: May 12
Today's blog is a guest post by Kimberly Lakenen, Woodland Events Intern and owner of It's the Little Things Events.
When we meet with couples, we like to make sure they know we are here to take care of them because the wedding day can be a long one. It's important to stay hydrated, well fed, calm, and collected.
But imagine if your wedding went on for two, three, seven, or more days! I can only dream of the day I have the opportunity to plan a week long wedding celebration! In preparation for that, I researched the cultures that actually throw celebrations this big, just to be ready when it comes.
Vietnamese Wedding (2 - 3 Days)
The shortest celebration in today's list, a Vietnamese wedding still requires multiple ceremonies and typically a span of 2 - 3 days.
The celebrations begin with the groom asking permission to receive the bride. Once the permission is granted, the procession to receive the bride begins, followed by a procession to the groom’s house, a second ancestor ceremony, and finally, the banquet party.
While he is receiving the bride, the groom and his family often carry boxes covered in red cloth full of gifts for the bride's family to represent the groom's wealth.
For the ancestor ceremony, the bride and the groom will pay respect to their ancestors and then serve tea to their parents in return for marriage advice.
The banquet is the time for the new bride and groom to make rounds to each table to express their gratitude during a 7 - 10 course meal. In a modern banquet, the bride usually wears three outfits: a modern western wedding gown, another western dress, and finally a traditional dress.
Indian Weddings (~3 Days)
Indian wedding celebrations last an average of three days. On the first night, there is a ceremony at home with only the couple, bridal party, and close relatives in attendance. This is called the Ganesha Puja.
On the second day, there is a mehendi ceremony. This is usually held at the bride's home and she, along with her female friends and family members, will all have intricate henna patterns drawn on their hands and feet.
This is followed by the Sangeet, where every wedding guest is invited for an introduction of the couple’s families, mingling, meals, and performances. Basically, it's like a huge step up from an American groom's dinner. On the same day, you may see the Haldi ceremony where a paste of haldi (turmeric) is applied to both the bride's and the groom's bodies before their wedding. The haldi (turmeric) holds a special place of honor because it is known for its healing properties. Note: this ceremony is known by different names in different cultures and regions like ubtan, mandha, tel baan, etc.
Finally, the last day is the main ceremony. Although it consists of many elements you'd find in an American wedding, like a cocktail hour and reception, it also has a grand opening called a Baraat (groom’s procession) where the groom arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse or elephant to the beat of an Indian drum and a parade of dancers. In modern celebrations, the groom may ride in on a luxury vehicle and may be surrounded by smoke bombs or showered in flower petals, or the bride may even be the one processing.
Following the Baraat, the bride and her family will greet the groom and the couple will receive floral garlands to wear around their necks to symbolize their acceptance of each other.
African Tunisian Weddings (7 days, 7 nights, 7 separate events!)
Day 1-2: The bride and all of the women in the family prepare the bride's belongings and iron all of her clothes in preparation for the next day, when she will move into her new house. Once she arrives, the women will help the bride store these belongings and move in.
Day 3: Hammam Day! The bride will be given a ritual steam bath and perhaps a massage. All of the mothers, sisters, and friends of the bride form a musical procession on the way to the event and take care of the bride in a festive atmosphere.
Day 4-5: The henna ceremony is split in a two day event. In Tunisian tradition, henna brings good luck and happiness to the bride on her big day. The second day is the harkous ceremony, where the same women decorate the bride's body with different designs.
Day 6: The outia, another ceremony dedicated to the bride. At this ceremony, the bride and all of her guests wear their traditional outfits, but the bride can switch out and wear as many dresses as she wants, sometimes more than four gowns!
Day 7: Finally, the wedding day arrives and family and friends come together and share in the couple's happiness!
Pakistani Weddings (1 - 2 Weeks)
In a Pakastani wedding, there are just too many things to celebrate to cram everything in a few days, so these wedding events can last one or two weeks (or even longer)!
Much like the Indian and American cultures, things begin with pre-wedding functions like an engagement party, but is then followed up by the Dholki, Mayun, Ubtan, and Mehndi before the long awaited wedding day.
Taking things one step further from morning after brunch, Pakistanis have several post-wedding events like Valima and Chauthi. Every event gets its own dress, food selection, and spread of desserts.
Dholki: Held one to two weeks before the three day wedding ceremony, this is essentially where the guests gather to practice songs and dances for the upcoming mehndi ceremony for the wedding. The women closest to the bride and the groom usually choreograph the dances and perform them.
Mayun: At this ceremony, the bride is dressed in yellow and wears almost no makeup. After this ceremony, the bride isn't allowed to see her groom until the day of the wedding.
Mehndi: Just like the Indian culture, this is where the bride is decorated in henna. This takes the form of a bridal shower but in a much more colorful and lively way.
Ubtan: The bride is covered in ubtan, which is a powdered mix of herbs and natural ingredients to make them shine like a trie goddess from head to toe.
Baraat: The baraat is entertainment for all. Arguably the most important, and undeniably the most fun part is when the groom's shoes are hidden by the bride's sisters and cousins and is only returned In exchange for some cash. Much like the Indian celebration, the groom makes a grand entrance.
Nikah: The main wedding day is often less eventful than the others, but obviously just as important!
Valima: The night after the wedding, there is a feast to celebrate the consummation of the marriage and is essentially as large and elaborate as the wedding reception itself.
Do you know of any other cultures that traditionally celebrate a wedding for multiple days in a row? Let us know in the comments below!