Photo credit: Douglas Martell.

Japanese – The bride is painted white from head to toe
Japanese wedding customs typically fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies, and modern Western-style weddings, but in either case, a couple must be legally married with official government documentation before the ceremony is held. More commonly the two styles are combined into what is called a “contemporary Japanese wedding”. In this ceremony, the Japanese bride-to-be is painted pure white from head to toe in order to declare her maiden status to the gods. The bride wears a white kimono and an elaborate headpiece covered with many ornaments to invite good luck, while the Japanese grooms wear black kimonos. Throughout the reception, both bride and groom change two to three times for dramatic entrances, transitioning from their traditional Japanese attire to their Western-style attire. After their last change of costumes, a candle service is performed, where the newlyweds light a candle from the table of the parents to light the candles placed on their guests’ table around the room and finish at their own table where they light what is called the Memorial Candle. As the reception ends a flower presentation ceremony will take place, which is where the newlyweds will present flowers to their parents as a display of respect and appreciation.

Chinese – A matchmaker selects a lucky day to celebrate
In traditional Chinese marriage customs, the marriage is initiated by a series of three letters: a request, an acceptance and a confirmation. During this process, six steps are taken. First is when a single male’s parents find a potential daughter-in-law. Then, a matchmaker would determine compatibility according to Chinese astrology. The bridegroom’s family arranges for the matchmaker to present the betrothal gifts such as food, cakes, and religious items to the bride’s family. The two families then arrange a wedding day considered lucky and auspicious. The final ritual is the actual wedding ceremony where the wedding procession begins from the bride’s home to the groom’s home. The couple pays respect to the family deities, to deceased ancestors, the bride and groom’s parents and other elders, and finally to each other. The wedding banquet afterward is sometimes considered more important than the actual wedding itself due to the symbolism of presentation to the family through ceremonies such as serving of wines or tea to parents, spouse, and guests.

Vietnamese – Seeking ancestors’ blessing
On the day of a Vietnamese wedding, the groom, his family and friends bear elaborately decorated lacquer boxes, covered in red cloth to represent the wealth that the groom’s family will bring to the bride’s family. During what is known as the “permission ceremony,” the bride and groom burn incense sticks, asking for permission from the ancestors to bless them. The couple then thanks the parents and then bow to each other. Next, the bride and groom serve tea to their parents, and several speeches are given about marriage and family. A candle ceremony is held, symbolizing the union of two people into one life. In modern weddings, brides usually change into three different gowns during the reception, composed of the Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress to be worn during dancing, and a third traditional Áo dài or long dress, made of silk to be worn during the traditional table visits to personally thank the guests for coming. Elaborate feasts are prepared, often several courses. Vietnamese wedding traditions about food are largely symbolic, usually representing happiness or fertility.

Filipino – Symbolic binding rituals
The first ceremony in Filipino weddings is the “pamanhikan”, where the groom and his parents visit the bride’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. In a tradition called “paninilbihan,” the groom-to-be is expected to run errands or help with house chores to gain the approval of the bride’s parents. Before the American influence of the white wedding dress, brides wore their best dress in a festive color or even a stylish black to celebrate a wedding. For men, some grooms wear the traditional Filipino barong tagalog, an embroidered shirt made from silky pina or jusi. In pre-colonial days, a wedding ceremony lasted three days, where on the third and final day, the priest pricks the chests of both bride and groom and draws blood as they join their hands. The priest then serves them cooked rice and a drink of their blood mixed with water. Binding their hands and necks with a cord, the priest declares them married. The groom then gives the bride 13 coins or “arrhae”, blessed by the priest, as a sign of his dedication to his wife’s well-being and the welfare of their future children.

Korean – Intricate wedding attire
Traditionally, Korean weddings were held in the bride’s yard or house where the groom traveled by horse to the bride’s house, and after the ceremony would take his wife in a palanquin (cart) to live in his parents’ house. The customary dress for the bride’s attire includes a chogori (short jacket with long sleeves) with 2 long ribbons, which are tied to form a knot called the “otkorum”. A chima, a skirt wrapped highly around the waist is worn, and boat shaped shoes make of silk with white cotton socks complete the bride’s outfit. Marriage symbols in the Korean ceremony include wedding ducks, which symbolize a long and happy marriage and cranes are traditionally worn on the woman’s sash, representing a symbol of long life. In larger cities, luxury hotels will have ‘wedding rooms’ specified exclusively for wedding ceremonies, and today, many couples have a more ‘Westernized’ ceremony with tuxedo attire and white wedding gown in a chapel.

Cambodian – Holy wristlets symbolize the union
The traditional Khmer wedding is a long and colorful affair. Formerly it lasted three days, but in the 1980s it more commonly lasted a day and a half. Buddhist priests offer a short sermon and recite prayers of blessing. Parts of the ceremony involve ritual hair-cutting, tying cotton threads soaked in holy water around the bride’s and groom’s wrists, and passing a candle around a circle of happily married and respected couples to bless the union. After the wedding, a banquet is held. Newlyweds traditionally move in with the wife’s parents and may live with them up to a year, until they can build a new house nearby. In one custom, the groom carries the bride’s scarf, symbolizing that he is from afar and is marrying into her family. The couple’s magnificently decorated garments are a sign of respect to their parents and parents-in-law, both of who offer their blessings to the couple. A final prayer is made to monks for a blessing towards a successful union and a happy life together.

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