People see marriage as a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge irregardless of how the ceremony took place. This concept of marriage hasn’t changed over the years. The notion of marriage as a sacrament and not just a contract can be traced from the writings of St. Paul who compared the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and his church (Eph. v, 23-32). Different cultures are rich with wedding rituals and traditions.
The said practices have some sort of historical and spiritual explanation amongst people with varying traditions drawn from their ancestors. A certain belief was incorporated in their culture which makes every ritual unique from one another. Nonetheless, all of them acknowledge the union of two individuals. One universally known tradition is that of the engagement ring. It is a ring that is given prior to the wedding ceremony which means that two people are engaged and are scheduled to be married soon. This custom can be dated back to the ancient Romans. It is believed that the roundness of the ring represents eternity.
Therefore, wedding rings symbolizes a union that is to last forever. It was once thought that a vein or nerve ran directly from the “ring” finger of the left hand to the heart (Wedding Traditions 2008). The objective of this paper is to review wedding rituals and traditions being practiced by people across cultures. More specifically, we will look into the rich and unique wedding practices observed by the Filipinos, Chinese and Hindus. Moreover, we will study the significance of each wedding ritual for every culture and why it is part of their tradition.
Body of the Paper A wedding ceremony is celebrated in recognition of the union or so-called “marriage” of two people. It may be performed by either a highly-respected religious elder or a government-sanctioned officiator. Marriage generally creates commitment between the individuals involved and also with their extended families in most cases. Throughout history, and even today, families arrange marriages for couples. The people involved didn’t and don’t have much to say about the decision. Most couples didn’t marry because they were in love but for economic contact.
People marry for various reasons—it may be one of the following: public declaration of love, wants to gain legal, social and economic stability, formation of a family unit or legitimizing sexual relations. Some marriages involved a bride price wherein the groom or his family will give money or a present to the brides family; some required dowry where the bride’s family will be the one to offer money and gifts to the groom’s family, few had underwent some sort of dating or courtship for some time, but most of us are generally accustomed to our own traditions (Wedding Traditions 2008).
In this paper, seven wedding rituals across different cultures will be discussed. Egyptian, Korean, Lebanese and Libyan wedding traditions will be reviewed. Specifically, the Filipino, Chinese and Hindu wedding rituals will be studied in details and will be compared. Weddings in Egypt are huge family events irregardless of their social status. Even in this generation, some of them still hold the significance of customs and symbols to the celebration. Al-zaffah is a slow procession performed by the couple’s family and friends. It is accompanies by music until they reach the reception hall.
Also, the henna party called laylat al-hinna is still an important tradition to them. Egyptian weddings are celebrated with a strength that comes from the respect of family bonds. Like other couples, they also wish for a happy married life. In Korean wedding ceremonies, wild geese is used as a symbol of faithfulness. The groom’s father will throw red dates at the bride for fertility and good luck. In addition to that, cotton seeds, red beans and salt are thrown by their neighbors to drive evil spirits away. Three days after the wedding, the bride will be sent to the groom’s house.
There, the bride then crosses a sack of grain and burnt straw to wish for a good harvest. In Lebanese weddings, roses are generally used. The bride then wears bangles and tiara on the wedding day. The new couple will serve ghoraibi to their guests as a symbol of the bride’s purity. Their weddings are inspired by rose petal shaped chocolates and white butter cookies. Libyan weddings ceremonies are Islamic in nature and is generally presided by an imam. At the bride’s house days before the actual wedding ceremony and reception, the marriage contract is already being signed. At the reception, the couple doesn’t eat with their guest.
Rice and candy are showered on the bride. a. Filipino Marriage Gone are the days of arranged marriage (kasunduan) and shotgun marriage (pikot) where individuals, the bride and the groom, had no choice but to obey and comply with their parent’s wishes of them getting married. However, the Filipino style of courtship (ligawan) and suitor’s serenade (harana) have been lost over the years, too. These so-called traditional courtship styles have been reduced to dating. SMS messages and emails are means of communication of single men and women in today’s generation, and Filipinos have their way of adapting to these changes.
Though these rituals have vanished as time passes by, engagements and wedding practices are still pretty much the same. Despite these revolutionizations, the essence of marriage remains in Filipinos—that is having the purest and sincerest intentions, respect for the elders and spiritual devotion. a. 1 Filipino Wedding Customs In early times, Filipino groom-to-be threw his spear at the front steps of his future home, which is said to be a sign that the bride has been spoken for. Nowadays, a ring is used as a symbol of engagement. a. 2 The Engagement
Pamanhikan is an activity done by Filipino families where the groom and his parents visit the bride’s family to ask for her in marriage. In this event, wedding plans are included in the said activity participated by both families. The plan includes the discussion of guest list and wedding budget. Usually, the groom-to-be is seen to run some errands around the bride’s house. Paninilbihan is the tradition where the groom-to-be renders service to his future wife’s family to gain their approval (Celeste, T. 1997). a. 3 The Ceremony The wedding ceremony lasted for three days during the pre-colonial days.
On the first day the couple was brought to the house of babaylan (priest) and will join hands over a plate of raw rice and give blessings to the couple. The priest will then prick the chest of both the bride and groom and draw a little blood on the third day. They then will join hands and proclaim their love for each other three times. The couple will be fed with cooked rice by the priest on the same plate and will give them a drink with some of their blood mixed with water. Binding the couple’s necks and hands with a cord, the priest will then declare them married.
Today, most Filipino weddings are performed as Catholic weddings though some native ritual still remains. Sponsors are special people chosen by the couple to act as their witnesses. Thy can be godparent, counselors or relatives. Secondary sponsors will take charge to some special parts of the wedding ceremony such as the candle, cord and veil ceremonies. Lighting the candle symbolizes the joining of two families and representing Jesus Christ as the light of their married life. Placing the veil over the bride’s head and groom’s shoulder symbolizes that the two individuals are joined or unified.
The cord, which is made of a decorative silk cord called yugal, in a form of figure eight, is placed in the couple’s shoulders symbolizes everlasting fidelity among the bride and groom. Arrhae or 13 coins which are blessed by the priest is given by the groom to his bride as a sign of his commitment, dedication to his wife and future children’s welfare (Filipinafiancevisa. com 2001). b. Chinese Marriage Chinese wedding is a ceremonial rite within Chinese folks wherein marriage is established by pre-arrangement between families. In short, the spouse-to-be of sons and daughters in Chinese families are determined by their parents.
Within the Chinese culture, romantic love is prohibited and a monogamous relationship is common among citizens. Between 402-221 B. B. , Chinese marriage started to become a custom. Though the country China has many geographical as and is filled with extended history, generally there are six rituals to be followed, known as the three letters (request letter, gift letter and wedding letter) and six etiquette (proposal, birthdates, bride price, wedding gifts, arranging the wedding and wedding ceremony). Before modern age, women and not allowed to choose the person they will spend the rest of their lives with.
Marriages were chosen based upon the needs of reproduction and honor as well as the needs of the husband and father-to-be (The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project 2001). b. 1 Chinese Wedding Customs Ancient Chinese believes in destiny. In prehistoric times, the gods tie a red string around the ankles of a man and a woman who will be a couple in the future. The Chinese tradition of determining their destiny is through their parents. The parents of the groom will write the bride’s eight characters which her year month, day and hour of birth and will then be placed in their family altar.
After three days and nothing unfortunate happened in the family, it is a sign that the match is approved. The same ritual is performed by the bride’s family. If the match is granted, the celebration begins (About. Com 2008). b. 2 The Engagement Twelve gifts were exchanged by both parties to seal the couple’s marriage agreement. Chopsticks are famous engagement gift symbolizing the wish for sons. Usually, the family of the groom sends a whole roast pig to the bride’s house. In olden times, the bride’s family will send back the pig’s head and hind portion showing that everything has a beginning and an end.
The wedding announcement in China is done by the groom providing special cakes to the bride’s family for it to be sent to family and friends. b. 3 The Ceremony Firecrackers are used to drive away evil spirits and are fired upon the arrival of the bride to the wedding ceremony. In a traditional Chinese wedding vow, the couple will kneel before an altar with offerings such as roast pig, ducks and chickens decorated with red candles. With cups tied with red strings, the bride and the groom will then sip wine as a sign of their vow. They will then cross their arms, exchange cups and drink again.
The sharing of wine symbolizes the harmony of their married life together. After the event, the bride will serve a cup of sweet tea to each member of the groom’s family (The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project 2001). c. Hindu Wedding Sanskit is the language used for most holy Hindu ceremonies. One of which is the Hindu wedding. Traditionally, Hindu weddings are conducted in this language, thought not always. They have many wedding rituals that have evolved over the years and are different in many ways from the modern western wedding ceremony.
The Hindu marriage ceremonies vary in different regions and according to family traditions. The Hindus give a lot of emphasis and significance to marriages and the ceremonies are very colorful and extend for several days. However, modern Hindu weddings are much shorter and do not involve the traditional ceremony that lasted for days. Also, some of their rituals are being altered. Instead, ceremonies are chosen by the couple’s family depending in their family tradition and class. Therefore, ceremonies differ among various ethnic groups that practice Hinduism.
Generally, the wedding is conducted under a canopy with four pillars and a sacred fire in the middle of the altar which serves as the witness of the ceremony (National Association of Wedding Ministers 2008). c. 1 Hindu Wedding Customs In Old Hindu wedding ceremonies, the whole family participates in the ceremony, from nephews and nieces to the couple’s siblings. Moreover, the mothers of the groom and the bride play a special part of the entire celebration. c. 2 The Engagement The priest visits the bride’s home to recite reading and prayers so as to bless the wedding a few days before the formal wedding ceremony.
On the evening before the wedding the groom will come over to the bride’s house and the bride’s family will welcome them with a small ceremony. Sometimes, the bride’s mother will be offering a gift to the groom’s mother. During this activity, the couple is not allowed to meet. If they see each other, it is believed that it will bring bad luck to their marriage (National Association of Wedding Ministers 2008). c. 3 The Ceremony The bride is escorted to the canopy by her maternal uncle. On the other hand, the groom is accompanied by the best man and a young girl whose role is to keep him alert by shaking a metal pot filled with coins.
The entire ceremony is divided into three parts. The Kanyadaan is the first part where the bride’s parents will wash the couple’s feet with milk and water to cleanse and purify them for a new life together. The Hastamelap or known as the joining of the hands, the couple’s hand are joined together. The priest will then chant some verses in their holy scripture then a loop pf white raw cotton will be placed around the couple’s shoulders to symbolize their bond. A small open fire is lit in the center of the place. The bride’s male relatives will be called to lead the couple to walk around the fire.
The number of times that they will walk around the fire will depend on the village they came from. In the southern state of Kerala, couples walk around coconut blossoms instead of a fire. In the couple’s hands are grains of rice, oats and leaves which symbolizes the blessings of good health, prosperity, happiness and wealth. At the end of the ceremony, rose petals are sprinkled to the couple to ward off evil spirits by the groom’s brothers. When the entire ceremony is over, the bride will feed her groom with mouthful of Indian sweets to show her responsibility to cook and take care of him and their children.
In turn, the groom does the same act to show that he will provide her needs as well as for their future family. After the rituals, the relatives are invited under the canopy to place red dots in the couple’s foreheads and sprinkle them with rice grains to wish for a long, happy and prosperous knowledge together (Triveni Wedding Cards 2007). Discussion Marriage has been a very significant event among men and women. It symbolizes the union of two souls as well as recognition of the bonding of individuals in the presence of a minister or a government-sanctioned officer.
In addition to this, wedding rituals have made cultures across nations rich and unique. These rituals exemplify their beliefs and lifestyles which explains some psychological theories. This paper primarily focuses on wedding rituals of Filipinos, Chinese and Hindus. The Egyptian, Lebanese, Libyan and Korean wedding styles and traditions were also reviewed. They differ in a way that is shows or portrays their traditions, however everyone has a common goal and that is to present how two individuals are joined and unified.
That is, the need to express and acknowledge the joining of two souls, in the eyes of God or a government officiator for the recognition to be legalized. Filipino rituals only show how Filipinos value and respect their family’s approval for their soon-to-be spouse and that spiritual cleansing is important as a commitment and devotion to one’s lifetime partner. Valuing family ties can be observed to all Filipinos. Moreover, this concept can be seen in Filipino’s way of living—that they are still attached to their own families though they already have a family of their own.
Chinese, on the other hand, believes in destiny and marriage is pre-determined. Their practices and beliefs show the Chinese way of living. Chinese nowadays are known to bloom in the business field, and from what was discussed in this paper, their marriage also depends on one’s economic stability. In addition to that, their rituals show the wealth of every Chinese family showing their capability to build and sustain a family. Lastly, the rituals of the Hindus show more of their spirituality. Driving evil spirits and wishing for happiness, wealth, prosperity and good health are some of the elements significant in the ceremony.
Their ceremonies are usually colorful which indicates their lifestyle. Also, since family members and relatives play an important role in the festivity, it shows how significant family togetherness is to them. Having seen and discovered various rituals from different cultures, it clearly illustrates the diversity of people’s beliefs and traditions. It appears that every ritual and practices observed in different nations shows a historical, spiritual and psychological background that explains their lifestyles.
Historical in the sense that these practices are drawn from their ancestors and are still practiced nowadays. Spiritual, because they honor and ask blessings from the gods that were introduced in their culture. Moreover, these rituals have specific meaning that will result to spiritual empowerment for the married couple. And lastly psychological, because there are certain reasons why people get married depending on their background and culture, how they choose the person to marry and the effect of their marriage in their future together.
In my own point of view, further studies should be recommended for more explicit explanations of reviewed traditions and practices. In addition to that, results or outcomes should be recorded to analyze the accuracy of certain rituals that are observed. This may be helpful for further developing traditions as to giving more fruitful effects to couples who are soon to be married. In this case, comparison will be avoided to whether what culture is more rich and meaningful; rather respect for every culture’s belief will be promoted.
Though such recommendations may seem tedious as to disrespectfully changing one’s belief and modifying a certain culture, acquiring these ideas may also help elevate people’s lifestyle as well as establishing a more logical and significant culture. References About. Com 2008. Chinese Marriage since 1950s Retrieved on March 14, 2008 from http://chineseculture. about. com/library/weekly/aa112200a. htm Celeste, T. 1997. Filipino Wedding Rites. Retrieved on March 14, 2008 from http://www. snoopydude. com/wedding/filipinowedding. htm Down, J. 2002. Chinese Wedding.
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