If you thought that avoiding the bride in her wedding dress before the big day was strange, wait until you hear about some of these rituals observed by people around the world. In many cultures, weddings are much more than beautiful clothing and delicious food — they involve traditions integral to the ceremony, and to the future happiness of the bride and groom. From smashing dishes in Germany to shooting at the bride with a bow and arrows in China, there exist some very unusual wedding practices around the planet. Here are the seven most fascinating wedding traditions from around the world.
1. The Blackening
In Scotland, the night before their wedding, the bride and groom are captured by their friends, bound, and “blackened,” i.e. covered in soot, custard, molasses, and flour before being paraded around town. It goes without saying that the prenuptial tradition involves a fair amount of booze. Although it may not exactly sound like anyone’s dream wedding preparation, there is a method to the madness. According to Scottish tradition, the blackening is supposed to ward off evils before the couple gets married. According to The Scotsman, the tradition still goes on today in Orkney, Aberdeenshire, Angus, and Fife, and is experiencing a revival all over the country.
2. Kidnapping the bride
Something that would get you arrested in many countries is actually common practice in Romania. Wedding guests kidnap the bride from her own wedding ceremony, and hold her “hostage” in a nearby venue or hotel room. Then, the groom must barter for her return, either with bottles of wine or a public declaration of love. In a world where weddings are largely predictable affairs, a little mock kidnapping certainly adds some drama and excitement.
3. Smashing dishes
If you’re planning on marrying a German on their home turf, don’t spend too long picking out china patterns. In a common ritual called Polterabend, guests gather in front of the bride and groom’s home the night before the wedding and smash dishes, pots, and other breakables. When everything is properly broken, the event often turns into a small, informal party. The shattering dishes are supposed to bring good luck to the happy couple.
4. Shoe thievery
In India, the groom having cold feet just before he ties the knot is pretty much tradition. On his wedding night, when the grooms enters the room where the ceremony will take place, he removes his shoes at the door and women from the bride’s family steal them and carry them off. The groom’s side of the family is then tasked with finding the hidden shoes. If they can’t be located, the groom must barter for them with money, sweets, or other gifts, since he is not allowed to leave without his shoes. The shoe-stealing is meant to symbolize the blending of the two families, and shows how they’re ready to share a lifetime of laughter and fun together.
5. No bathroom allowed
Most newlywed couples look forward to their honeymoon for months (and sometimes their wedding night for years), but for the people of the Indonesian Tidong tribe, it’s a little more complicated than jetting off after the party for some romantic alone time. For three days and nights after the wedding, many honeymooners are housebound, watched over by friends and family, and not allowed to use the bathroom. To make this remotely possible, they’re given minimal food and drink. According to tradition, upholding these restrictions will bring a happy marriage with healthy babies, while failure to do so brings bad luck, infidelity, or the untimely death of future children.
6. Crying in advance
For the Tujia people of China, starting a full month before the wedding, the bride cries for one hour every day. Ten days later, her mother joins in, and the grandmother 10 days after that. By the end of the month, every woman in the family is part of this cry-fest. The ritual is not, however, a show of sadness. The communal crying is meant to be a show of solidarity, and an expression of joy as the bride prepares to begin her new life. A bride’s failure to shed tears is considered a sign of poor breeding, and could result in the harsh judgment of her community. The ritual was most popular during the early 17th century, though it’s still practiced by many Tujia families today.
7. Shooting the bride with arrows
Some women dream of being pierced by Cupid’s arrow, but this probably isn’t what they had in mind. This tradition of the Chinese Yugar people calls for a groom to shoot his bride with three arrows — no, they don’t have arrowheads, and there’s no need to have the hospital on speed dial. Afterward, the groom breaks the bow in half, collects the fallen arrows, and breaks them, too. According to custom, this ensures everlasting love.