Cultural Weddings Essay

A wedding is the marriage rite in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of wedding vows by the couple, presentation of a gift, and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or leader. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers or readings from Scripture or literature also may be incorporated into the ceremony (Wedding, 2012).

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Weddings, like any other major life event, can bring out the best and worst in all of us: generosity, creativity, humor, as well as jealousy, control, and even boredom. Weddings are a huge lavish thing in all cultures. They are bringing not only two people together, but families from both sides together. This can be a stressful and at times just not worth it for the bride or the groom.

Psychology has taught me to look deeper into the differences in different cultures and their weddings.

They can be so similar, but so different at the same time and there is a reason for most of the differences when it comes to different cultures and their place in the world (Besnette, 2000). Wedding traditions around the world vary according to nationality, country, and religion. One of the different cultures I studied was the Indian culture in India. Though traditions may be similar, the meaning and practice behind them vary greatly. India’s Weddings are coupled with many traditions and beliefs. They perform a many ceremonies leading up to the actual wedding ceremony itself.

For a long time it has been a custom for India to arrange their children’s marriages. The parents would normally choose their child’s husband or wife to be. Unlike for Americans, who they base their marriage life on how they feel; Indians base it through the class status of their families. Freedom in America is lavishly enjoyed, as long as it doesn’t trespass on other’s rights. In India, the government is given more authority to restrict the independence of the people, since their decision is more attached in their constitution (People, 2012).

Though in America we marry out of love, the first act before a couple unites in India is the arranging of marriage by their parents. The belief in India is that parents are to look out for their daughter’s best interest. The parents choose a groom for their daughter, who will look out for her best interests just like her parents. In India it is customary for the parents to unite the couple. Upon approval from the potential bride and groom then they begin to prepare for the ceremonies. The couple then has a Mangni, the engagement ceremony; the priest officiates over this service.

It is traditional for the groom’s family to arrive at the bride’s home with gifts for their daughter-in-law (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). The couple has to send out a posting of banns. This is an announcement of the intended matrimony between the bride and groom. The banns are published three weeks prior to the ceremony to give the community a chance to object if there are any restrictions. During the wedding ceremony the priest also gives those gathered for the service a chance to object (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). Two days before the ceremony the bride is given an Uptan celebration.

This is the beautification of the bride tradition. They mix powdered sandalwood and dried herb into a paste with jasmine oil. The paste is applied to the brides face, arms, legs and feet. The process can take up to eight hours to apply and even more time to dry. The art is detailed in actual drawings upon the body in the form of a skilled craft of artwork. While the paste dries they begin the Mehndi ceremony. The ladies sing to the rhythm of a small drum, traditional wedding songs during the ceremony. The bride may not leave the house until her wedding day.

She is also forbidden to meet with the groom again until the wedding day (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). Then it is time for the Shagan, or the custom of blessing the couple with gifts. Shagan is the practice of welcoming the bride into the groom’s family. Blessing the bride with gifts is a way of showing acceptance of her into the family. The groom’s family brings gifts in the form of clothes, jewelry, and bangles for the bride. The bride’s family in return presents the groom with gifts of clothes and jewelry. The bride’s family distributes gifts as a gesture of thanks.

They show their appreciation, to the groom and his family for taking in their daughter. Then they begin celebration of the couple with music. Family and friends sing to the beat of the small drum. The Shagan ceremony is usually hosted in two separate ceremonies one, by the bride’s family and the other by the groom’s. Once the Shagan ceremony is wrapped up, the families begin to prepare for the wedding ceremony. The wedding is given at a traditional Christian Church in India (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). A lot of things are similar like getting married in a church is traditional in America too, but not always the norm.

Americans get married everywhere. Whether it’s outside in a vineyard or it’s on the pitcher’s mound of a baseball stadium. I think Americans do what they feel would make their wedding the most amazing and not go by all the traditions of religion or culture to make them happy. The wedding is performed during the week, late afternoon. Most wedding ceremonies in India are performed during the week. Wednesday is the traditional day for weddings; it is considered the most auspicious. Weddings are never conducted on the weekends. Sundays are considered the Lord’s day; Saturdays are days of rest (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012).

This different from in American, where we mostly get married on Saturday or Sunday because it is the weekend and is better day during the week to attend a wedding celebration. The ushers are present to assist the guests on which side of the church to sit. When the ceremony is ready the groom takes the traditional place at the altar nest to the Best Man. It is customary for the mother’s brother to receive the bride at the entrance of the church. The uncle then hands the bride over to her father. The father is to lead the bride into the church, preceded by three priests, the flower girls and then of course the bridesmaids.

They still play the traditional song ‘Here Comes the Bride’ while the attendees stand, until the bride is handed over at alter to the groom (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). I don’t like that there were so many priest involved in the Indian wedding. I mean really how many priests does it take to many one couple? I know that was petty of me to say anything, but I found it unnecessary to have three of them there to assist in the wedding. I didn’t know that they also played ‘Here Comes the Bride’ in an Indian wedding. It seems strange and out of place for an Indian wedding, but that’s just my opinion.

The couple kneels at alter while family and friends recite meaningful poetry to them. Once this has concluded the priest begins the service. It is then customary for the Best Man to pass the wedding rings to the priest for his blessings. The couple then exchange vows in the language that they choose. Public displays of affection, such as kissing, is not performed in India After the exchange in vows the couple proceeds to the vestry, along with the priest and their parents to sign the church register. Then it is time for the reception which is usually hosted by the bride’s family (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012).

I thought that a kiss would be customary for the event, but in India it is frowned upon. I love that America doesn’t have a petty rule like that. I think the kiss signifies the couple’s union to every that is attendance. I actually cry at weddings when the couple finally kisses for the first time as one. The ceremonies are concluded with the Vidai or bridal send off. This is when the groom and his family take the wife to their home. The bride is to leave home and retreat to whatever city or country the groom chooses. Before they leave, they go to the bride’s home where the couple have prayers offered and receives blessings.

The bride then departs with her lingerie, wedding gifts in a decorated car (Indian Wedding Rituals, 2012). I’m not a fan of the groom choosing where his bride should live. I find that so old world and they need to get up on the times and be equal in the decision. Just like I’m not for arranged marriages at all. I think that is the dark ages shining through after thousands of years and it is barbaric and just unnecessary. The second culture I studied was the Japanese culture. A Japanese wedding ceremony is an elaborate ritual interwoven with Japanese culture & tradition.

It is usually small & private. In Japan, the Shinto ceremony is the standard. Some Japanese-American couples choose to combine East and West. Christian, Buddhist, or Shinto style are all wonderful options. Today in Japan, many couples have to decide between having a traditional Japanese wedding or a more modern Western wedding. Both weddings are rich in culture and still have a distinct flair of Japanese tradition instilled in them (Wedding Culture, 2012). The traditional Japanese wedding takes place in a Shinto shrine, due to the fact that Japan’s largest religion is Shinto.

These traditional wedding ceremonies are small and usually private, with only family and close friends present. In these traditional wedding ceremonies, the bride wears a white wedding kimono dress called shiro-maku, meaning white and pure. Her hair is styled in a style called bunkin-takashimada and decorated with decorations called kanzashi ornaments. She also wears a white wedding hood called a tsuno kakushi. In some weddings, she is painted white from head to foot to signify her purity. The grooms in these traditional wedding traditions wear a montsuki kimono.

He also wears a short overcoat called a haori, which is decorated in the family crest, and pleated pants called hakama (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012). In American the bride wears a customary white wedding gown and the men wear a black suit or tuxedo. This is traditional to show that the bride is pure just like the Japanese culture. Though, in American it isn’t always a white gown that the women wear. It is a chose and a lot of women chose the white traditional gown to walk down the aisle in. The traditional wedding ceremony is performed by a Shinto priest.

The families of the couple face each other during this ceremony, unlike in Western weddings where the couples face each other. The Shinto priest begins by purifying the couple and then performs the vows. This is called by the tradition called san kudo, in which the couples drink nine cups of sake, symbolizing the union of the couple. Families and guests also drink sake to represent the bonding or coming together of the two families. Then the ceremony closes with the symbolic offerings of small tree twigs called sakaki to the Kami. During this ceremony, the music is performed by flutes by musicians called gag a ku.

After the ceremony, the father of each family introduces their family member (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012). It is customary in America for the father to give the bride away and not to introduce their family member. I find that strange to introduce after the ceremony is complete. I find it strange too, that they all drink so much sake during the ceremony to symbolize the union of the couple. I don’t know why this bothered me, but it did. After the traditional wedding ceremony is performed, the wedding party and the guests engage in celebration.

They perform skits, karaoke, and offer the couple money called goshugi in a festive envelope with the guest’s name on the outside according to the traditional way. Traditional Japanese food is served at these receptions. In most cases, the bride changes clothing twice: first into a red kimono and again into a western-styled gown. This changing of her clothing signifies the bride’s readiness to return to daily life. Female guests usually wear traditional kimono and men wear Western style suits (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012).

In American weddings, the bride sometimes change into a different dress for the reception because it is easier to move around and dance with her guests in a smaller or shorter dress than in the traditional gown that she wore during the ceremony. The men do this sometimes too to be more comfortable. It doesn’t symbolize anything other than to be comfortable. Western style weddings also take place in Japan. More couples are engaging in this type of wedding, mostly because of the high cost of the traditional Shinto wedding.

Although these weddings are dopted from the Western world, they still contain traditional Japanese wedding traditions. The Western style weddings in Japan take place in reception halls. Most reception halls in Japan have miniature Japanese Shinto shrines inside, so the couples can still honor their religious beliefs and vow their marriage to the Japanese God called Kami (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012). This is becoming more popular in the United States too, to have the wedding and reception in the same place to cut costs and to be more convenient.

When I was planning my wedding; I planned to have the reception and wedding in the same building to cut the expense for me and my family and to make it easier for everyone to be in one place and not have to travel to a second location to have a reception. The bride wears a traditional Western style wedding dress. Many brides rent their gowns at wedding boutiques to cut costs. The men wear traditional Western style tuxedos. The Western ceremony is the same as in the traditional Japanese weddings, except for the location and clothing (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012).

I never thought of just renting a wedding gown for a wedding, but now that I have read about that concept, I believe that is a great way to go. I mean you can get what you want without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a dress you will wear once. It seems like a waste of money to me. After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are introduced as husband and wife at the reception. The reception food in these Western style weddings differ from those of traditional Japanese weddings in that the food can be French, Chinese, or Japanese food instead of just traditional Japanese food.

The wedding also includes the Western traditions of the cutting of the cake, dances, speeches, bouquet tossing, exchanging rings, and honeymoons. Typically, no skits are performed, unlike at the traditional Japanese weddings. The bride will also perform the changing of the clothes seen in the traditional Japanese wedding. However, instead of a red kimono and then a Western style gown, she will change into a wedding kimono and then to a party dress (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012). I love that they have a choose on what wedding they want to have, whether it be the traditional one or the symbolic one.

I also enjoyed the fact that the Western style wedding is a lot like that in America. It is exactly like an American Wedding in all the stops are pulled out with the rings, bouquet tossing, and cake. Although the Western styled Japanese wedding still retains Japanese culture in some way, if couples want to truly marry with their cultural traditions, then the traditional Japanese wedding is the best way to do so. However, for many couples this is a problem because of the high costs of a traditional wedding, which includes the expensive renting of the Shinto temple, the kimono and decorations.

So more couples today are choosing the Western style wedding over the traditional wedding as a way to save costs. There is also a trend developing in which the number of couples marrying abroad is increasing. This is making the old and traditional way of getting married in Japan to become obsolete and that may hurt the Japanese culture (A Primer on Japanese Wedding Traditions, 2012). Weddings come in all shapes and sizes so to speak. They can be traditional or not. They can be heterosexual or homosexual in some parts of the world.

They can be arranged or not. They can involve feelings of love or they don’t. All cultures have different ways of coming together as a family or bringing two families together in a ceremony to keep the people of world coming in all aspects of human nature. They bring tears to the eye or they make you so happy you can’t stand yourself. Weddings are beautiful no matter what culture you are observing and I can tell you from experience that they impact your thoughts on the world and love and family.

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