Asian weddings have a rich history of traditions that have been practiced for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Asian wedding customs can be intricate and of course you want to get them right.
We already know that each Asian country has its own set of incredibly diverse social customs and traditions. These traditions stem not only throughout their daily lives but to special events as well. One of the most important, of course, is the union of two individuals in marriage. Wedding customs in Asian countries are distinct and in most cases very beautiful. Join us as we explore the traditions celebrated on Asian wedding days.
Japanese – Sake-Sharing Ceremony
The traditional Japanese ceremony is a Shinto ceremony, though many Japanese in America celebrate weddings with a Buddhist ceremony. Regardless of religious rituals, most Japanese also include a cultural sake-sharing tradition at the wedding, popularly called san-san-kudo — san means “three,” ku means “to deliver,” and do means “nine.” This ritual dates back to a time when sharing sake created a formal bond as strongly as a handshake did in Victorian times. Using three flat sake cups stacked atop one another, the bride and groom take three sips each from the cups. Then their parents also take sips (for a total of nine sips), cementing the bond between the families.
Chinese ceremonies are historically simple compared to other Chinese wedding elements. (In fact, the wedding ceremony was seen more as a way to announce the wedding, which was then followed by the banquet.) During the ceremony, the bride and groom would stand at the family altar, where they would pay homage to heaven and earth, the family ancestors, and the kitchen god, Tsao-Chün. Tea, usually with two lotus seeds or two red dates in each cup, would be offered to the groom’s parents. Finally, the bride and groom would bow to each other — completing the ceremony.
The traditional Korean wedding is held at the bride’s family home. Vows are taken in a ceremony called kunbere: Bride and groom bow to each other and seal their vow by sipping a special wine poured into a gourd grown by the bride’s mother.
A few days after the ceremony, the couple visit the groom’s family for another wedding ceremony, the p’ye-baek. Here the bride offers dates and chestnuts — symbols of children — to the groom’s parents, while sitting at a low table filled with other symbolic offerings. The parents offer sake in return, and as a final gesture they throw the dates and chestnuts at the bride, who tries to catch them in her large wedding skirt.
In the United States, the p’ye-baek is most often held at the reception, with the bride and groom in full Korean costume. It is usually a family-only affair, hosted by the groom’s side. The throwing of dates and chestnuts is the highlight. Family members also offer gifts of money in white envelopes to the bride.
South Asian Wedding
Indian weddings are traditionally multi-day affairs, and involve many intricate ceremonies, such as the painting of the hands and feet of the bride called a mehndi. Garlands are presented to guests of honor instead of corsages, and lots of flower or rose petals are thrown for good luck.
The wedding is typically divided into three parts: pre-wedding, main, and post-wedding. The pre-wedding includes all the preparations and a party the night before where each side of the family can meet each other and dance and have fun. A Pandit, who has selected the day of the wedding based on the bride and groom’s horoscopes, conducts a prayer with family members to provide the couple with a happily married life.
The wedding altar (mandapa) is built the day of and the groom is welcomed by his future mother in law where his feet are then washed and he is offered milk and honey. His sister in law will attempt to steal his shoes and if she succeeds, the groom must pay her to get them back. An Indian groom typically wears a turban with a veil of flowers to protect him from evil spirits.
The parents give the bride away, but they do not eat before the wedding to remain pure for the occasion. The bride’s saree is tied to the groom’s scarf to symbolize the union of the souls. During a similar ceremony, a cord is tied around the couple’s necks to protect them from evil and they are typically tied by elders of the bride and groom.
In Indian weddings, the Mangala Sutra is tied around the bride’s neck instead of exchanging rings. The mangala sutra is a cord with two gold pendants and is tied in three knots by the groom to symbolize the bonding of the two souls for 100 years. This necklace lets others know that the bride is married.
One fun ceremony is called mangal pheras. This is when the bride and groom circle the sacred fire four times to represent dharma, artha, kama, and moksha and they run to their seats—whoever gets there first will rule the household.
Traditionally the groom’s family pays for the wedding and the grandparents act as the primary witnesses or sponsors. The bride’s gown is often custom made and both the bride and groom wear white. It is bad luck for the bride to try on her dress before the wedding day and to wear pearl jewelry, which is considered a bad omen. The groom wears a sheer, long-sleeve button-up shirt (barong tagalog) that is worn un-tucked over black pants with a white t-shirt underneath.
As in Spanish weddings, the groom presents his bride with 13 gold pieces as a pledge of his dedication to his wife and the welfare of his children. These are carried in by a coin bearer who walks with the ring bearer. A white cord is draped around the couple’s shoulders as a bond of infinite marriage and veils of white tulle are draped on the bride’s head and groom’s shoulders to symbolize two people clothed as one.
Another tradition that symbolizes the unity of the couple is the lighting of a unity candle by two separate candles held by the bride and groom to represent the joining of the two families and invoke the light of Christ. The bouquet is not tossed and rather offered to a favorite saint, the virgin, or on the grave of a loved one.
Knives and other sharp objects are not considered good gifts because they will lead to a broken marriage. Raindrops are lucky because they bring prosperity and happiness, and when the rice is tossed at the newlyweds it represents the rain. The groom should always arrive before the bride; otherwise it will be bad luck.
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