Weddings Around the World

Anush Yepremyan

After watching a ton of American movies, I always wanted to experience an American wedding in person. I just wanted to see how accurately the movies portray the traditions of the celebration. The movie that I think of most is “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” with Julia Roberts. It’s a movie from my childhood and I wondered if this is what American weddings were like.

This year, I had the chance to attend two American weddings. It was so exciting to be part of it. I was not in the wedding, but someday I hope to be. My favorite parts of an American wedding were the ceremony, the best man’s speech and the first dance with the groom and parents. They were such touching moments.

I also loved the idea of having bridesmaids and groomsmen. In Ukraine, they call them witnesses, and usually it is one person from each side of the family. Many people there are now adopting the tradition of having bridesmaids and groomsmen.

In Armenia, the groom’s family brings magnificently wrapped gift baskets to the bride’s family the night before the actual wedding. Usually, they put gifts of wedding shoes for the bride, a veil, perfume, flowers, a box of chocolates, and of course, Armenian cognac (brandy), which is considered to be a beloved drink of Winston Churchill and a luxury gift.

Prior to the ceremony, it is a custom to put some money in the bride’s shoe and then let her put it on to bring good luck. It must be uncomfortable to have something in your shoe. Personally, I prefer a different shoe tradition. The bride’s single ladies write their names on the sole of her shoe, and once the women get married, the bride has to cross their names off.

During the reception, when the groom is occupied with the guests, the bride may be kidnapped for a short period of time. In order to bring her back, the groom must do three things that he dislikes the most. What would you not do for your beloved one, right?

For example, my aunt got married here in the USA and she had an American-Armenian wedding, which was great fun. My uncle, being American, did not know that this custom would be included in the wedding. He had to eat fresh tomato, cheer for his least favorite football team and dance and sing at the same time. It was hilarious.

In Ukraine and Russia, the groom has to come to the bride’s house first, where close friends and family are gathered, and “buy out the bride.” This is considered to be the most important wedding custom and ritual. To do this he has to put in a lot of effort. The bride’s family and friends are going to reject him until he offers incentives such as gifts, money, jewelry or a few seconds of humiliation. This is the perfect opportunity to pick on a groom. Sometimes, the grooms are forced to do silly activities such as dance, guess the riddle, etc. If the groom does a great job and impresses the bride’s family and friends with the bridal ransom, he may see his wife-to-be.

I find it fascinating how weddings, while being one of the most universal traditions in the world, can be celebrated in so many different ways by various cultures, making someone’s “special day” even more special.