Courtship and Wedding Traditions, Superstitions, and Lore

Courtship and Wedding Traditions, Superstitions, and Lore

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There are many traditions throughout the word related to courtships and weddings. Some represent the times they came from. Others have made their way into modern wedding ceremonies. Here is a selection of courtship and wedding traditions from throughout the world.

From Africa:
This tradition is found in different Southern African cultures. It is called Lobola. Lobola is a tradition whereby marriage negotiations take place. These negotiations determine the price a man will pay for his new bride.

While on the surface it may seem that the man is simply purchasing a wife. However, the Lobola is important as a way for both families to get to know each other. It is interesting to note that the Lobola takes place even when the two families know each other well.

The negotiations first take place in writing not in person. Often times, a representative of the bride’s family such as an Uncle might be involved at this early stage. If this part goes well, the families will meet in person to carry on the rest of the negotiations. The meeting may take two days to complete. Once the price is set, the wedding can take place. The money is paid to the brides family and is then used to set up her new household.

From China:
The colors of red and gold have special meaning in Chinese culture. These colors are seen as representing prosperity and joy. Invitations to the wedding guests are wrapped in these colors. The bride might be given gold jewelry from female wedding guests. Monetary gifts are given to the bride and groom in red envelopes. (This tradition permeates other holidays such as New Years.)

From France:
In many weddings, a toast is given in honor of the lucky couple. People most commonly toast with a glass of champagne. In France the toasting cup is called the coup de mariage. This cup is special in that it is two handled. Usually the cup has been passed down from generation to generation and has been used at other wedding ceremonies. The bride and groom will both drink from this cup during the customary toast.

From Greece:
This tradition dates back to the 3rd Century. Rings were exchanged during the wedding ceremony. Rings were place on the index finger. Why the index finger? It was chosen because it was thought that a vein ran straight from the index finger to the heart. The Greeks referred to this as the “vein of love”.

From Hawaii:
Among Hawaiians, love songs were a part of courting tradition. A young man of age would set out to woo the young woman he desired. Part of the courtship ritual included serenading the young woman at her home.

Alot of times, the young man played instruments such as the nose flute. The nose flute was commonly know as a instrument for lovers. As tradition goes, a young man would go into the forest searching for a certain type of bamboo. He would then make his own nose flute and compose a song to his love on it. If she didn’t like the song, he was given the boot. But, if she approved of his love song, they would then go on to the next step of courtship.

In other traditions, he might also play an instrument called the musical bow. The musical bow was the only stringed instrument in the islands and is also known as the ukeke.

From Ireland:
In ancient times, a bride and groom had to be on the watch for interference from faeries. Faeries loved things of beauty. This made the bride a prime target.

During the wedding dance, the bride cannot lift her feet from the ground. If she does, she might be whisked off to the land of faeries. If her feet are firmly planted, the faeries will have no chance.

From Portugal:
(One of our chatters passed on this story.)
A future bride is given three fava beans (also known as horse beans). One is peeled. The second is half peeled. The third is not peeled at all. The bride to be then places the beans under her pillow before bedtime.

In the morning, she reaches under her pillow and pulls out one beans. This bean foretells what married life will be like. If she pulls out the whole bean that was not peeled, married life will be prosperous. If she pulls out the half peeled bean, she will have an average married life. If she pulls out the completely peeled bean, the married couple is destined to poverty.

From the USA
-Colonial America-
Individuals were allowed to choose who they would marry. However, in well off families, arranged marriages were more the order of the day. Even with those allowed to choose their partner, heavy influence was placed on them by the family to make a good match. The family could approve or disapprove of any suitor set on their daughter’s heart.


Before any young man began a courtship, he had to go to the girl’s father for permission. If the father denied permission, there would be no wedding. If he was deemed suitable, the courtship began. Once a suitable suitor was accepted by the father, the family then pressured their daughter to accept the marriage proposal.

In the case of well off families, the suitor wrote a letter to the father of the bride to be. In this letter, he would state what his earnings were and what he had in the way of property and other assets to bring to the marriage. If the father approved, he would then respond with a letter of his own offering his daughter’s contribution (the dowry). Only after the financial dealings were settled would the courtship begin.

-African American Pre-Civil War Era-
Even though slaves were allowed by their masters to get married, these marriages were not recognized by law. After the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves were often married for a second time in order to be legally recognized.

Also, if a free black and a slave were allowed to marry by the slave’s master, they lived apart until the time that the free spouse could buy the freedom of the slave.

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