Marriage proposal traditions & customs from around the globe

At times, romance has very little to do with it.

A typical marriage proposal in Australia calls on the man to get down on bended knee in some sort of candle-lit dinner or romantic holiday setting, asking his significant other “Will you marry me?” while presenting her with a sparkly diamond ring. The element of surprise is also crucial. This is a totally foreign concept to other cultures.

As one cousin said to me during a recent visit to Vietnam, “You’ve been together for six months and you don’t have any arguments. Why aren’t you getting married?”

According to Vietnamese tradition, a couple’s engagement is much more than an intimate proposal that takes place when the woman least expects it. In fact, romance has very little to do with it. Family approval is a key factor. In many cases, the marriage won’t even happen without the blessing of both families.

Rather than getting frustrated at my parents’ attempt to meddle, I take deep breaths and remind myself that there are some major cultural differences at play. It also made me curious how marriage proposals take place in other countries.

Marry Me, Marry My Family is the familiar story of multicultural Australians, as they are today- trying to embrace their Australian identity, whilst staying true to their culture, identity and family

Japan
A couple isn’t really engaged until there’s a yunio (Japanese for “engagement ceremony”), which involves a meeting between the families of the bride and groom and the exchange of nine symbolic gifts wrapped in rice paper. Each gift is meant to symbolise particular sentiments and well wishes for the couple, such as longevity, wealth and healthy children.

Family approval is a key factor. In many cases, the marriage won’t even happen without the blessing of both families

There are several types of weddings in Japan. There are those done according to Shintoism, Buddhism and Christianity. One does not have to be a member of certain religion to have that sort of wedding ritual. There are non-religious weddings too. Many weddings are held according to western traditions. Still the precondition to either of mentioned weddings is to get married in the local government office.

Everyone present is first informed what are their duties during the ceremony itself. The group then walks towards the shrine. It is lead by a priest and shrine maidens called “miko-san”. Everything is accompanied by a traditional melody performed by a band.

The happy couple then sits in front of a table next to the altar. The ceremony starts with a speech by the priest. After that he holds “haraigushi” and performs “shubatsu” or purification rite. The priest then says a “norito” prayer which represents a prayer to a Shinto deity and the celebration of the beginning of new life.

“San-san-kudo” (“Three-times-three”) is the name of tradition performed after the mentioned prayer. It celebrates the new union of bride and groom and also the union between two families. Miko-san offers cup of sake to the bride and groom. The groom drinks first and has to drink the whole cup in three sips. The bride does the same. Everything is repeated three times. After that sake is given to parents of both bride and groom. They congratulate to the newlyweds and each other by saying “Omedetou Gozaimasu”.

In the next stage of the wedding ceremony groom reads the commitment document. The bride only signs it. Miko-san then announces the wedding date and names of the happy couple.

The ride and groom then make offering of “tamagushi” to the deity (“kami-sama”) of the shrine. Tamagushi are actually branches of sakaki tree (Cleyera japonica) that is regarded sacred in Shintoism.

The wedding ceremony ends when those present bow twice, clap hands twice and bow once again.

“Kekkon Hiroen” or a wedding reception is held after the wedding ceremony. Formal dressing is common for this party. Inviting cards are sent. It is interesting to mention that if you get the card you are supposed to send one in which you inform the couple if you are arriving or not.

Chile
In Chile, engagement rings aren’t just for the girls. Both the bride and groom to be wear rings on their right hand and swap the rings over to the third finger on their left hand on their wedding day.

India
Arranged marriages aside, Indian couples traditionally become engaged after the bride’s family has formally accepted the groom’s family’s proposal. An elaborate engagement party usually follows.

Indian bride on her wedding day.

Ghana


Traditionally, a groom and a few of his family members would knock on the bride’s family’s door and announce his intentions for marriage. This “knocking ceremony” happens only a week before the actual wedding!

Thailand
In Thai culture, men ask for their future wife’s hand in marriage during a “thong mun”, which means “gold engagement”. Instead of a diamond ring, the prospective groom presents his fiancee with various gifts made from gold.

Greece
In Greek culture, the man must ask the father of the bride for permission to marry. The couple must then attend three counselling sessions with a priest where they’ll receive marriage advice. Once all the blessings are done, there’s typically a huge engagement party involving lots of friends and family.

France
Like other Western cultures, French couples typically get engaged once a man proposes to his partner. However, there’s no diamond ring presented at the time. After the woman says “yes,” and the man has asked for his future father-in-law’s blessing, the couple go shopping for an engagement ring together. The bride to be is then presented with her ring at a small gathering between both families

Scotland
Scottish men looking to marry are traditionally put through their paces during a “Speerin” or “Beukin,” which requires them to accomplish a series of tasks or hurdles set by the father of the bride.

Scottish couple and their bridal party

Armenia
Armenian engagement parties are just as big as the weddings themselves. A priest is called upon to bless the engagement ring and ask the couple to vow their love and devotion for one another. Like the Greeks, Armenians also attend counselling sessions with a priest before getting married.

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Henry Sapiecha

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