Traditional wedding rituals are highly popular among the migrant communities living abroad. It may also seem that wedding traditions and wedding customs of certain cultures are even preserved and followed by the couples living abroad better than in their home countries. Traditional wedding ceremonies and some unique customs and rituals are often used as a part of the celebrations in the UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and other countries with strong diaspora communities.
Traditional wedding ceremonies are often mixed with the classic wedding celebrations and add up some cultural flavour and elements of entertainment especially for the culturally mixed guests. Obviously the wedding planners, vendors including photographer and videographer have to keep in mind the specifics of the traditional weddings and be prepared for the various unexpected events that may happen during the day.
As a wedding photographer at a traditional wedding, you should always be prepared for the extraordinary moments, and discuss the process in full details with the couple, wedding planners, parents and other participants in advance. This always helps to stay focused and avoid missing any elements that are important from the traditional and cultural perspective.
Jewish Wedding Rituals
Jewish ceremonies are very atmospheric and emotional. This can be seen in all parts of the wedding day. The attention is not only driven to newly-weds, but to their intimate families as well. This can be seen in ceremonial parts as a Walk to the Chuppah, which both groom’s and bride’s parents do with their children. Then both parents from both sides after walking down the aisle stand next to the bride and groom under the chuppah during the ceremony.
When the ceremony is about to get finished the groom will be invited to break a glass, stepping on it. There is plenty of symbolism in this tradition: some people think it represents the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, others believe it shows that union can hold not only joy and happiness, but hard times as well.
Of course, I cannot forget about Mazel Tov!
Shouting “Mazel tov!” is definitely the most famous Jewish wedding tradition. After the official ceremony is over and glass was solemnly broken, all the guests will shout “Mazel tov!” This phrase has a similar meaning to “best wishes” or “good luck”. Mazel tov can be used in daily life but weddings are definitely the best place to say it.
As a Jewish wedding photographer my favourite part is Hora and Mezinke – traditional celebratory dance. Most of the times guests are divided by their sex and dance in different groups. I always advise having two photographers for these kinds of events, as it is literally impossible to photograph all the fun, but also is a pity to miss it in the photographs. Both bride and groom will be seated on the chairs and will be lifted by their support groups with a white cloth napkin. It’s impossible to describe all the fun, so I recommend seeing it with your own eyes.
Chinese Traditional Wedding
Since the day I was introduced to Traditional Chinese Wedding, I fell in love with this country. I have never been to China before but wedding traditions have about the country and people so much.
It is easy to notice that red colour is the key in the wedding colours’ palette. Red means good luck, happiness,success, good fortune and, of course, eternal love. That’s why primarily all wedding symbols are red: bridal wedding dress, accessories, wedding invitations, gift cards and presents.
Chinese bridal gowns are called qipao and usually are decorated with traditional golden flowers, symbols of wealth and prosperity. Grooms wear a black silk coat with embroidered golden dragon.
The funniest part of a chinese wedding is door games for a groom. If you are a chinese wedding photographer, you might have seen everything in your life. I would skip these details so you could be impressed with the chinese sense of humour. But definitely get prepared for the worst before the first look.
But the most important part of a wedding is the Chinese Tea Ceremony. It symbolizes the best wishes for pure love and marriage happiness. Jing cha is a Chinese name, that literally means, ‘to respectfully offer tea’. Bride and groom kneel to serve tea to their parents, grandparents and other relatives and to get their blessing.
Indian Wedding Traditions
An Indian wedding ceremony may last for five days or even more due to the rich traditions and symbolism.
Indian wedding photographer should note that many rituals have developed since the traditional times, and are different from Western ceremonies. Modern Indian weddings have a lot of differences as there are many regions throughout India, and wedding elements and rituals can be tailored by the bride and groom and their families based on their own local traditions and backgrounds.
Hindu wedding traditions prevail in India. They include several key ceremonies taking place before the wedding:
- Misri – this is the name of the typical Hindu ring ceremony. Misri takes place several days before the wedding. The ceremony takes seven married women to draw the sign of Lord Ganesha in red powder spread above a bowl of rock sugar. Bride, groom and their parents pray and then exchange flowered garlands and gold rings in the presence of a priest. The groom’s parents will place in the bride’s lap a basket of fruit or other gifts to welcome a new woman into the family, then feed your family with misri (rock sugar) confirming the engagement and promising a sweet life ahead.
- Mehendi is the next ceremony which takes place the day before the wedding. The concept is about a ladies-only afternoon tea. During this hindu wedding ceremony the patterns are drawn with mehendi (henna) on the hands and feet of the bride. These symbolise ties with the future husband. This ceremony often merges with Sagri, also known as the “acquaintance party”, where the groom’s female relations visit the bride with the gifts and flowers.
- Nav-Graha Puja is performed by the priest on the day before the wedding at the houses of bride and groom. This features a prayer to the Gods of the “nine planets” and blessings to the couple.
- Then the priest performs Ghari Puja which is a series of prayers combined with offerings of wheat, coconut, betel nuts, rice and spices symbolising prosperity. Both mothers wear their wedding traditional dresses and walk to the doorways of the houses with the special pots filled with water on their heads. Then these water will be cut with a knife to kick off evil spirits, while the relatives and friends adorn the parents with flowers and money. Next stage of the hindu wedding photographer should expect is where the bride and groom put on old clothes which will be torn off with excitement by the family members. This means the end of the single lives of the couple.
- Sangeet – is the next hindu wedding ceremony which is a joyous night time party held in the evening before the wedding. This is a great opportunity for all the family and friends to enjoy the spirit of a special moment with music, dancing and Indian traditional food.
Hindu Wedding Day Rituals
The traditional wedding day starts with the Haldi ritual during which the bride is cleansed at her home with the turmeric powder. Next is the Swagatam ceremony where female relatives of the bride assist her with putting on a traditional wedding sari. At this time the groom also goes through the Haldi ritual and gets dressed in his wedding attire at his home before coming to the bride’s house. On arrival he puts his right foot gently over the bride’s one to show support and protection he will provide. Then, the groom is invited inside the house and his feet are washed in milk and water. Afterwards, the couple proceeds to the location where the wedding is held. In traditional times the couple would have been ridden in an ornately decorated horse-driven carriage.
The next ceremonial rituals of the hindu wedding include Pratigna Karan, Shila Arohan and Laja Horma. Same as the previous rituals, these represent an outstanding hindu wedding photography opportunity with a huge variety of moments and emotions to be captured by the photographer. For example, during these rituals the bride must drop an offering of puffed rice over the sacred fire. Then Lawan Phere blesses and legalises the union of when the bride walks around the sacred fire four times, touching a stone on each turn which represents the ability to overcome any problems in the future.
This is followed by the Saptapadi (seven steps ceremony), which involves a ceremonial knot to be tied between the bride’s sari and groom’s scarf. The thread that has been blessed also ties the right hands of the couple. The bride turns to the north and takes seven steps reciting seven mantras about the abundance of food and noble life in the future of a newly created family. Saptapadi mantras can also describe physical and mental strength, spiritual strength and blessings, happiness, the welfare of all living things, bountiful seasons, and a life of understanding, loyalty, unity and companionship as well for the peace in the whole universe.