Old World Traditions


Want to add a little something extra to your wedding? By incorporating a custom from another country into your nuptials, you can honor your own cultural heritage or begin a new family tradition. Or maybe you just always wanted to know where the money dance came from… Africa: Jumping the Broom
While the custom of a bride and groom jumping over a broom is believed to have many origins, the symbolism of sweeping away the old and beginning a new life together still rings true today. The ritual can be included in your wedding ceremony just after your vows, or as the bridal party first enters the reception area. Ceremonial brooms can be purchased at ethnic stores, but many brides choose to decorate their own. You might also consider having your wedding guests help. Place a basket of different colored ribbons by the broom and have each guest tie on a strand as they enter the ceremony or reception.Belgium & Scotland: Wedding Handkerchief
In both countries, families pass down an embroidered handkerchief worn tucked inside the wedding dress bodice as the bride walks down the aisle. Each bride stitches her name, her groom’s name and their wedding date (sometimes along with a small picture or symbol) on the cloth. The handkerchief is then taken by the newest bride, framed and hung in her new house for all to see. Nothing like that to be passed down to you? Why not start the tradition? It might seem bare with only your name and date, but think how much your great-great-great grandchildren will enjoy it. In 200 years, they’ll walk down the aisle with a little remembrance of your glorious day tucked in their gown for good luck!
Bermuda: Plant a Tree
In Bermuda, newly married couples plant a tree to symbolize their union. Especially if you already have a house, it’s a nice reminder that through the years, as the tree grows, so does your love! Your future children might thank you for the shade or the swings you can hang from it, and Mother Nature will surely appreciate it.

Czechoslovakia: Rosemary Wreath

Czechoslovakian brides wear a wreath made of rosemary to symbolize their loyalty, love and wisdom. If you or your groom is of Czech descent but you already have a headpiece that doesn’t include rosemary, why not add a few sprigs to your bouquet or his boutonniere?

France: Silver Goblet

In ancient France, newlyweds drank a toast from a two-handed silver goblet that was passed down through the family. Even if you’re not French, you might consider purchasing a special goblet or set of glasses to be passed down in your family. Future brides will thank you!

Greece: A Crown of Flowers

During ceremonies in Greece, both the bride and the groom are crowned with a wreath of flowers by the groom’s godfather. If your groom isn’t keen on this, but you don’t have your headpiece selected yet, you might consider incorporating flowers into your hair as a nod to your Grecian ancestors.

Holland: Evergreen Canopy

Family and friends throw a pre-wedding party for engaged couples in Holland during which they sit under a canopy of evergreen. You can include this Dutch tradition in smaller ways in your own wedding. As a symbol of your everlasting love, add sprigs of evergreen in your bouquet, your groom’s boutonniere, or the table centerpieces.

India: Henna and Handprints

The joining of hands is an important symbol to Indian couples. Newlyweds have their hands decorated with designs using henna dye, and usually leave their handprints on the outside door of their new home for good luck. You and your loved one can continue this tradition at your home by setting your handprints in a new walkway, a garden stone or a wall plaque. Handprint kits — now very popular for capturing the prints of new babies — can be found at local craft stores and some baby retailers.

Ireland: Lucky Lace

The luck of the Irish is well-known, so even if your family tree is less-than-green, you might include some of the wedding traditions they use in Ireland. New Year’s Day is considered an extremely lucky day on which to be wed. Irish lace sewn into the bride’s gown is also thought to bring good fortune; as is a horseshoe hung over their newlyweds’ front door. And Irish wedding bands, Claddagh rings (sometimes used as friendship rings in America) are still very popular; the heart, crown and hands symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship.

Italy: Flowers for the Road

Instead of old cans or shoes or shaving cream, Italian wedding guests decorate the front grill of the car the newlyweds will drive with flowers to symbolize the road to a happy marriage.

Jewish Tradition: A Luxurious Bath

In Orthodox Jewish tradition, the bride is given a ritual bath, called mikvah, often made up of rainwater. Every bride could take a cue from this tradition and pamper herself before the ceremony with a relaxing bath. And for extra luck, add a bit of rainwater!

Mexico: Silk and Hearts
Some Mexican couples are joined during the marriage ceremony by a white silk cord around their shoulders. After the ceremony, the guests form a heart-shaped circle around the newlyweds, who take their first dance inside the ring of love. You can incorporate white silk or hearts as a motif in your wedding to give it a south of the border flair.

Poland: The Money Dance

The money dance — when guests take turns dancing with the bride in exchange for small amounts of money — began in Poland. Legend has it that the custom began as a way for friends and family to help a poor farmer come up with a suitable dowry for his daughter. Today the money dance (also known as a “dollar dance”) is typically used to help the newlywed couple finance their honeymoon.

Romania: Candy Wishes

Wedding guests in Romania shower the newlywed couple with nuts and candy to symbolize prosperity. Place bowls of candy-covered nuts around your wedding reception tables to ensure your guests enjoy the same.

Scotland: Heather for Luck

In Scotland even today, it is traditional for the groom and his wedding party to have boutonnieres of white heather. The rugged flower that covers the Scottish hills is worn for luck and an longlasting union that can weather any storm.

Spain: Orange Blossoms

Spanish brides often embroider a shirt for the groom to wear on their wedding day. They themselves walk down the aisle adorned with orange blossoms and a mantilla, a light scarf of lace worn over the head and shoulders. Depending on the time of year, orange blossoms make a lovely addition to any bouquet… especially significant for the Orange County bride!

Sweden: Sweet-smelling Herbs

In ancient days, brides in Sweden carried a bouquet of herbs, a good luck omen thought to keep trolls away. The groom also got into the act, having a twig of thyme sewn in his clothes. Any herbs added to your bouquet or your groom’s boutonniere will not only make an attractive addition, but a sweet-smelling one as well!

Wales: Gifts of Myrtle

Brides in Wales give their attendants gifts of myrtle. If the flower blooms, it’s said to foretell another wedding. As an updated twist, why not add some of the white or rose-colored flowers to your bridesmaids’ bouquets? If the myrtle works, you might soon be a matron of honor.

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