Wondrous world weddings: a glance at some of the ways people get married

White clothes, bouquet-tossing, cutting the cake: while these Western traditions may come to mind first when thinking of weddings, different cultures and religions have different ways of symbolizing marriage.

Even though weddings are all similar in that they form lifelong connections between people, they have historically been expressions of political alliances and social networks. However, the modern meaning of marriage is typically a celebration of love and unity and a way of connecting families after marriage.

Junior Melina Kannankutty, who attended an Indian wedding with her family, described the dress and ceremonies as the main differences from a Western wedding. Most attendees wore colorful saris or lehengas: long, robe-like dresses traditionally worn in

India that wrap around the body and have different stitchings and patterns like butti motifs.

Kannankutty also noticed the scale of the wedding to be much larger than Western weddings, as it had religious ceremonies known as pujas leading up to it which involved the whole family.

“The thing that stood out to me was how many people were at the wedding,” she said. “I knew our family was big but it was easily upwards of 400 people and at most 100 were friends.”

Religion also played a large role in a Hindu and Jewish wedding sophomore Milan Mishra attended, where he described religious aspects that transitioned into a conventional wedding reception.

“In each part, there were small traditions for the respective religions like tossing marigolds at the end of the Hindu wedding,” Mishra said.

Marigolds, symbolizing the sun and the ideal couple Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi in Hindu mythology, are commonly used in ceremonies and as decorations at Hindu weddings.

“My favorite part about it was probably just seeing a side of the family that I hadn’t in a while by being brought together with the wedding,” he said.

In each part, there were small traditions for respective religions, like tossing marigolds.

— Milan Mishra

Religious and cultural beliefs can seem overly traditional or old-fashioned for some attendees.

For junior Lucy Shaffer, the roles of the bride and groom felt outdated at a Christian wedding she attended with her aunt, even though they were a large part of the ceremony.

“This man wraps the bride’s and groom’s hands together with a ribbon and starts asking questions to the bride such as ‘Do you promise to give your all to your husband, to be faithful and honor your husband as the spiritual head and follow him as you follow Christ?’” she said. “I was opposed to the whole ‘woman giving up her life for her husband’ vows and promises thing.”

Although religious symbols were a major part of the wedding Shaffer attended, she described a less positive experience at the wedding because of her distance from the religion and its traditions.

While different cultures and religions use a variety of symbols and traditions to represent marriage, it’s clear that weddings are a way to celebrate connections between people.

“Indian weddings are truly celebrations of life and love,” Kannankutty said. “They are so colorful and family-oriented.”

Cultural symbols can be a way of expressing positive feelings towards marriage; for example, Chinese weddings are held on certain dates that are seen as lucky and the colors red and gold are used to represent good fortune.

Traditional Finnish weddings have a bride walk with an umbrella over her to symbolize protection and a match to represent a continuous burning of love.

Weddings in all cultures share parallels as they establish a time of celebration, but with different focuses and meanings held by the communities involved.