A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, presentation of a gift (offering, ring(s), symbolic item, flowers, money), and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or leader. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is sometimes followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers or readings from scripture or literature are also commonly incorporated into the ceremony.
- 1 Common elements across cultures
- 2 Traditional wedding garb
- 3 Wedding music
- 4 Religious aspects of weddings
- 5 Wedding types
- 6 References
Common elements across cultures
A number of cultures have adopted the traditional Western custom of the white wedding, in which a bride wears a white wedding dress and veil. This tradition was popularized through the wedding of Queen Victoria. Some say Victoria's choice of a white gown may have simply been a sign of extravagance, but may have also been influenced by the values she held which emphasized sexual purity. Within the modern 'white wedding' tradition, a white dress and veil are unusual choices for a woman's second or subsequent wedding. The notion that a white gown might symbolize sexual purity has been long abandoned, and is criticized by etiquette writers like Judith Martin as distasteful.
The use of a wedding ring has long been part of religious weddings in Europe and America, but the origin of the tradition is unclear. Historians like Vicki Howard point out that belief in the "ancient" quality of the practice are most likely a modern invention. "Double ring" ceremonies are also a modern practice, a groom's wedding band not appearing in the United States until the early 20th century.
The wedding is often followed by a reception, in which the rituals may include toasting the newlyweds, their first dance as spouses, and the cutting of a wedding cake.
Traditional wedding garb
- Cheongsam or Hanfu, Chinese traditional formal wear.
- Batik and Kebaya, a garment worn by the Javanese people of Indonesia and also by the Malay people of Malaysia.
- Barong Tagalog, an embroidered, formal men's garment of the Philippines.
- Kimono, the traditional garments of Japan
- Sari, Indian popular and traditional dress in India
- Dhoti, male garment in South India
- Dashiki, the traditional West African wedding attire
- Áo Dài, traditional garments of Vietnam
- Morning dress, western daytime formal dress
- Ribbon shirt, often worn by American Indian men on auspicious occasions, such as weddings, another common custom is to wrap bride and groom in a blanket
- Kilt, male garment particular to Scottish culture
- Kittel, a white robe worn by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding. The kittel is worn only under the Chupah, and is removed before the reception.
- Topor, a type of conical headgear
- Evening Suits
- White tie ("evening dress" in the UK; very formal evening attire)
- Sherwani, a long coat-like garment worn in South Asia
- Wedding crown, worn by Scandinavian brides
- Wedding veil
- Wedding dress
- Langa Oni, traditional two piece garment worn by unmarried Telugu Hindu women.
- Various works for trumpet and organ, arguably the most famous of which include the Prince of Denmark's March by Jeremiah Clarke as a processional, the "Trumpet Tune" by Henry Purcell and the "Trumpet Voluntary" by John Stanley as recessionals.
- Selections by George Frideric Handel, perhaps most notably the "Air" from his Water Music as processional and the "Alla Hornpipe" as recessional.
- The "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin by Richard Wagner, often used as the processional and commonly known as "Here Comes the Bride". Richard Wagner is said to have been anti-Semitic, and as a result, the Bridal Chorus is often not used at Jewish weddings.
- Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is an alternative processional.
- The "Wedding March" from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, used as a recessional.
- The "Toccata" from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony for Organ No. 5, used as a recessional.
- Segments of the Ode to Joy, the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Religious aspects of weddings
Many Christian faiths emphasize the raising of children as a priority in a marriage. In Judaism, marriage is so important that remaining unmarried is deemed unnatural. Islam also recommends marriage highly; among other things, it helps in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Bahá'í Faith sees marriage as a foundation of the structure of society, and considers it both a physical and spiritual bond that endures into the afterlife. Hinduism sees marriage as a sacred duty that entails both religious and social obligations. By contrast, Buddhism does not encourage or discourage marriage, although it does teach how one might live a happily married life and emphasizes that marital vows are not to be taken lightly (see separate article for details).
Different religions have different beliefs as regards the breakup of marriage (see divorce). For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes that marriage is a sacrament and a valid marriage between two baptized persons cannot be broken by any other means than death. This means that civil divorcés cannot remarry in a Catholic marriage while their spouse is alive. In the area of nullity, religions and the state often apply different rules. A couple, for example, may begin the process to have their marriage annulled by the Catholic Church only after they are no longer married in the eyes of the civil authority.
Customs associated with various religions
Most Christian churches give some form of blessing to a marriage; the wedding ceremony typically includes some sort of pledge by the community to support the couple's relationship. A church wedding is a ceremony presided over by a Christian priest or pastor. Ceremonies are based on reference to God, and are frequently embodied into other church ceremonies such as Mass.
Customs may vary widely between denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church "Holy Matrimony" is considered to be one of the seven sacraments, in this case one that the spouses bestow upon each other in front of a priest and members of the community as witnesses. As all sacraments, it is seen as having been instituted by Jesus himself (see Gospel of Matthew 19:1-2, Catechism of the Catholic Church §1614-1615). In the Eastern Orthodox church, it is one of the Mysteries, and is seen as an ordination and a martyrdom. The wedding ceremony of St Thomas Christians, an ethnoreligious group of Christians in India incorporate elements from Hindu, Jewish and Christian weddings.
Hindu ceremonies are usually conducted totally or at least partially in Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu scriptures. The wedding celebrations may last for several days (see the previous sub-section on Indian customs) and they can be extremely diverse, depending upon the region, denomination and caste. On the wedding day, the bride and the bridegroom garland each other in front of the guests. Most guests witness only this short ceremony and then socialize, have food and leave. The religious part (if applicable) comes hours later, witnessed by close friends and relatives. In cases where a religious ceremony is present, a Brahmin (Hindu priest) arranges a sacred yajna (fire-sacrifice), and the sacred fire (Agni) is considered the prime witness (sākshī) of the marriage. He chants mantras from the Vedas and subsidiary texts while the couple are seated before the fire. The most important step is saptapadi or saat phere, wherein the bride and the groom, hand-in-hand, encircle the sacred fire seven times, each circle representing a matrimonial vow. Then the groom marks the bride's forehead with vermilion (sindoor) and puts a gold necklace (mangalsutra) around her neck. Several other rituals may precede or follow these afore-mentioned rites. Then the bride formally departs from her blood-relatives to join the groom's family.
- Before the ceremony, the couple formalize a written ketubah (marriage contract), specifying the obligations of husband to the wife and contingencies in case of divorce. The ketubah is signed by two witnesses and later read under the chuppah.
- The couple is married under a wedding canopy (chuppah), signifying their new home together. The chuppah can be made from a piece of cloth or other material attached to four poles, or a prayer shawl (tallit) held over the couple by four family members or friends.
- The couple is accompanied to the chuppah by both sets of parents, and stands under the chuppah along with other family members if desired.
- Seven blessings are recited, blessing the bride and groom and their new home.
- The couple sip from a glass of wine.
- At some weddings the couple may declare that each is sanctified to the other, and/or repeat other vows, and exchange rings.
- In Orthodox and traditional Jewish weddings, the bride does not speak under the chuppah and only she receives a ring. The groom recites "Harei at mekudeshet li k'dat Moshe V'Yisrael"- "behold you are [thus] sanctified to me by the law of Moses and Israel" as he places the ring on the bride's right index finger. The bride's silence and acceptance of the ring signify her agreement to the marriage. This part of the ceremony is called kiddushin. The groom's giving an object of value to the bride is necessary for the wedding to be valid.
- In more egalitarian weddings, the bride responds verbally, often giving the groom a ring in return. A common response is "ani l'dodi, v'dodi li" (I am my beloved's, my beloved is mine)
- In Orthodox weddings, the groom then says:
- "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
- May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth.
- If I do not remember you,
- if I do not consider Jerusalem in my highest joy."
- The ceremony ends with the groom breaking a glass underfoot.
- The couple spend their first moments as man and wife in seclusion (apart from the wedding guests, and with no other person present). This cheder yichud - "the room of seclusion (or 'oneness')" halachically strengthens the marriage bond, since unmarried women are traditionally not alone with an unrelated male.
- The ceremony is followed by a seudat mitzvah, the wedding meal, as well as music and dancing.
- At the conclusion of the wedding meal, Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) is recited, as well as the seven wedding blessings.
In more observant communities, the couple will celebrate for seven more days, called the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) during which the seven wedding blessings are recited at every large gathering during this time.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are from many places and backgrounds with over 14 Million LDS members worldwide, with more that half outside the United States. Because of this, most choose to celebrate in the traditions of their own culture, but are married in LDS temples. Members of the LDS Church believe their Temple marriages (Sealings) are eternal. The LDS church also recognizes civil marriages as legally contracted under local law and are dissolved upon the death of the participants. Temple marriages are performed by those called as sealers with Priesthood authority in temple ordinances. Members must receive recommends from their ecclesiastical leaders to go to the LDS Temple in general, and also interview for a specific recommend to be married to each other. Those that wish to attend the sealing ceremony must be members of the LDS church who have a “Temple Recommend.” Others are welcome in a waiting area inside the LDS temple, and on temple grounds. A LDS Temple Sealing (marriage) is very sacred, generally only immediate family and close friends attend. It is common for extended family and friends to take wedding photos outside the temple, as well as wherever they choose to celebrate. Receptions and larger celebrations after the sealing vary. LDS couples from the United States and around the world often hold large wedding receptions to celebrate their Temple Sealing (Wedding). Usually LDS couples obtain wedding licenses to be married (or Sealed) in the LDS temple. A civil wedding is only performed first if required by law, then couples are sealed in the temple ceremony shortly after. Occasionally LDS members are married civilly if they are not prepared to go to the temple or it maybe required by local law, such as the United Kingdom. They may request an LDS bishop or other church leader perform the ceremony in a chapel, or other location. Members of the church not prepared to marry in the temple must adhere to LDS practices and prepare for a year before they can be sealed in the temple after first getting married. Converts also prepare for a year to be sealed. If a couple already has children, they may accompany their parents to the ceremony so all family members are sealed together. Children who are born to parents who have already been sealed need no such ceremony, as they have been 'born in the covenant.'
Below are several types and styles of weddings. A wedding may include several of these aspects.
A civil wedding is a ceremony presided over by a local civil authority, such as an elected or appointed judge, Justice of the Peace or the mayor of a locality. Civil wedding ceremonies may use references to God or a deity (except in UK law), but generally no references to a particular religion or denomination. They can be either elaborate or simple. Many civil wedding ceremonies take place in local town or city halls or courthouses in judges' chambers.
Eloping is the act of getting married, often unexpectedly, without inviting guests to the wedding. In some cases a small group of family and/or friends may be present, while in others, the engaged couple may marry without the consent and/or knowledge of parents or others. While the couple may or may not be widely known to be engaged prior to the elopement, the wedding itself is generally a surprise to those who are later informed of its occurrence.
A same-sex wedding is a ceremony in which two people of the same sex are married. This event may be legally documented as a marriage or another legally recognized partnership such as a civil union. Where such partnerships are not legally recognized, the wedding may be a religious or symbolic ceremony designed to provide an opportunity to make the same public declarations and celebration with friends and family that any other type of wedding may afford. These are often referred to as "commitment ceremonies."
Officiants at same-sex weddings may be religiously ordained. Many religions and branches of religions, including Quakers, Unitarians, Ethical Culture, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, the Metropolitan Community Church, and the Reformed Catholic Church perform and recognize same-sex marriages, even if the government of their geographic area may not.
Not to be confused with an elopement, a destination wedding is one in which a wedding is hosted, often in a vacation-like setting, at a location to which most of the invited guests must travel and often stay for several days. This could be a beach ceremony in the tropics, a lavish event in a metropolitan resort, or a simple ceremony at the home of a geographically distant friend or relative. During the recession of 2009, destination weddings continued to see growth compared to traditional weddings, as the typically smaller size results in lower costs.
A white wedding is a term for a traditional formal or semi-formal Western wedding. This term refers to the color of the wedding dress, which became popular after Queen Victoria wore a pure white gown when she married Prince Albert, and many were quick to copy her choice. At the time, the color white to many symbolized both extravagance and sexual purity, and had become the color for use by girls of the royal court. Though white no longer symbolizes the same ideas today, the color remains the most popular choice for first time brides in the west.
A weekend wedding is a wedding in which couples and their guests celebrate over the course of an entire weekend. Special activities, such as spa treatments and golf tournaments may be scheduled into the wedding itinerary. Lodging usually is at the same facility as the wedding and couples often host a Sunday brunch for the weekend's finale.
A military wedding is a ceremony conducted in a military chapel and may involve a Saber Arch. In most military weddings the groom, bride, or both (depending on which is a member of the armed services) will wear a military dress uniform in lieu of civilian formal wear, although military dress uniforms largely serve the same purpose. Some retired military personnel who marry after their service has ended may opt for a military wedding.
A double wedding is a single ceremony where two affianced couples rendezvous for two simultaneous or consecutive weddings. Typically, a fiancé with a sibling who is also engaged, or four close friends in which both couples within the friendship are engaged might plan a double wedding where both couples legally marry.
A mass wedding is a single ceremony where numerous couples are married simultaneously.
- ^ a b Otnes, Cele and Pleck, Elizabeth (2003). Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding, p.31. University of California Press, Berkley.
- ^ Judith Martin on Who Should and Shouldn't Wear White to Weddings | wowOwow
- ^ Howard, Vicky (2006). Brides Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition, p. 34. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
- ^ Howard, Vicky (2006). Brides Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition, p. 61. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
- ^ "Kilts: tightly woven into Scots culture". Scotsman. 2005-02-10. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20070202162115/http://heritage.scotsman.com/clans.cfm?id=41882005. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- ^ "The Scottish Kilt". Visit Scotland. http://www.visitscotland.com/guide/scotland-factfile/scottish-icons/. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- ^ Jim Murdoch. "Scottish Culture and Heritage: The Kilt". Scotsmart. http://www.scotsmart.com/info/culture/kilt.html. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- ^ Britannica article: Richard Wagner
- ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Marriage". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 232–233. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
- ^ Making Wedding Arrangements at Holy Spirit Church
- ^ "Guide to the Jewish Wedding". http://www.aish.com/literacy/lifecycle/Guide_to_the_Jewish_Wedding.asp. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- ^ "Nissuin: The Second of the Two Ceremonies". http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Life_Events/Weddings/Liturgy_Ritual_and_Custom/Nissuin.shtml. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- ^ "Understanding the Jewish Wedding". Archived from the original on 2007-09-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20070921063911/http://www.rebgoldie.com/Wedding.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- ^ "Ceremony: Jewish Wedding Rituals". http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-ceremony/articles/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals.aspx. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- ^ "Marriage in Jewish Art". http://www.jhom.com/lifecycle/marriage/art.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- ^ Reuters.com, May 12, 2009 "Destination weddings see growth despite recession", Accessed May 25, 2010
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