It is about that time of year again. Soon Facebook and calendars will be filled with wedding invitations and pictures of elaborate ceremonies. Over the years, many countries have all conformed to a basic wedding structure, but many countries still maintain centuries-old traditions. This week, we look into Europe . . .
German traditions start off with a bang, Polterabend! In their first bit of housekeeping together, German brides and grooms clean up piles of porcelain dishes that their guests smash on the ground to ward off any evil spirits. There is an old saying that goes along with it: “Shards bring luck” (Scherben bringen Glück). This is supposed to make the couple aware that they will have to work together through difficult conditions and situations in life. Typically, this is done before the wedding. A relatively new take on this tradition is the so-called Polter-wedding. In this case, the wedding is combined with the Polterabend, and the smashing occurs in conjunction with the wedding reception.
In Russia, having a big mouth can pay off. Newly married Russian couples share a wedding sweetbread called karavaya. Whoever takes the biggest bite – husband or wife – without using their hands is considered the head of the family. Nowadays this tradition is done more as a funny activity and less as an indicator of who will wear the pants in the family. Another form of the karavaya tradition involves the newly married couple snapping off a bit of karavaya, dipping it into salt to make it really salty, and feeding it to the spouse. This is done with the words “make it too salty for the last time.” There is a saying in Russian “to make something too salty for someone” meaning “to hurt somebody badly.” Thus, the essence of this tradition is that the couple is committing to a quarrel-free marriage. It rings similar to American weddings where the bride and groom take a piece of cake and feed each other.
Bride-Napping is a fun tradition practiced in Romania and several other European countries. Days before the wedding, guests work together to “abduct” the bride, whisking her away to an undisclosed location and demanding a “ransom” from the groom. What is a typical request? A few bottles of beer or alcohol of course. Other options to make the groom work for it are to have him sing a love song in front of the entire party.
These traditions are now all done in a fun spirit and will probably remain that way for many years to come. If you are traveling or moving abroad, look into what fun wedding traditions exist in your host country.