Voyage of Vows

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From birthdays to the Summer Solstice to weddings, traditions are celebrated every day all over the world. In “The Joy of Family Traditions” (Celestial Arts, 2008), Jennifer Trainer Thompson describes their significance and offers creative ways to celebrate them. And she brings bridal fervor to the forefront in her autumn section, breaking brides out of their bubbles with traditions from many different cultures. See what she discovered:


In their highly symbolic weddings, Chinese brides begin by bathing the night before in pomelo-scented water to ward off evil spirits. Customs on the wedding day include tossing melon candies to guests to throw away bad habits; bringing an apple to the ceremony to symbolize peace and tranquility; and lighting firecrackers to scare away mischievous spirits.


It turns out that two turtledoves can almost double for another special day. In Korean weddings, the bride and groom are each given a carved wooden duck, which they then display beak-to-beak somewhere in their home. This sign of love also is a test for tension – when couple’s argue, they turn their ducks away to display their anger.


In Jewish ceremonies, a rabbi reads seven blessings while the bride and groom sip consecrated wine under the chuppah, a canopy. The groom then stomps on the wine glass, breaking it as a symbol the Second Temple’s destruction and the fragility of marriage. The couple also signs a beautifully rendered ketubah, or marriage contract, to later display in the home.

Eastern Orthodox

In these traditional weddings, three isn’t a crowd – it’s a special, symbolic number used throughout the ceremony. The priest blesses the rings three times (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost), three prayers are said and the priest leads the couple around the altar three times.


Think not seeing the bride before the wedding is hard? In Muslim ceremonies, the bride and groom remain separated from the ceremony through the feast that follows. The bride remains heavily veiled until after the meal, when she leaves to put on gifts of jewelry and then returns to sit unveiled next to her husband.


These ceremonies can vary from a few hours to an all-day affair. With the bride in a beautiful red sari with gold embroidery, the couple receives advice and blessings, chants mantras and completes the rite of Seven Steps for health, strength, happiness, good fortune, children, longevity and friendship.


The Sikh ceremony is called a “blissful union,” symbolizing the uniting of souls. The service often takes place in the morning and involves garlands placed on the bride and groom by their parents, which are exchanged between the couple. Four verses from the Holy Book are read and sung.


In these unforgettable fiestas, the rings and arras (thirteen coins that represent a prosperous union) are blessed and exchanged after vows. The bride and groom wear a lazo, a single garland that is draped around their shoulders.

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