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Cultural Wedding Traditions

Many New Orleans weddings follow the Roman Catholic tradition but have a distinct New Orleans flare. Weddings in the French Quarter often begin with a ceremony at the St. Louis Cathedral. French Quarter weddings often see the bride and groom reach their reception venue by a horse drawn carriage or by leading a “second line” preceded by a jazz band.

As part of the “ribbon pulling” tradition, wedding cakes in the New Orleans area come with ribbons embedded in the icing. A charm is attached to each ribbon of the cake and all the female guests simultaneously “pull” to find out their “fate.” Charms include a ring, a heart, a thimble, a button, a horseshoe, a clover–and sometimes a fleur-de-lis–an anchor, a dime, and also a penny. Each has a traditional meaning–the ring means “next to marry,” the heart means “true love,” the thimble or button means “old maid,” the horseshoe or the clover means “good luck,” the fleur-de-lis means “love will bloom,” the anchor means “hope,” the dime means “wealth,” and the penny means “poverty.”

Another uniquely New Orleans wedding tradition is that of the second line. A second line parade at a wedding signifies the beginning of the life between the bride and groom. The second line band leads the wedding party and guest from the church to their reception venue or it may take place at the reception venue itself. The second line stems from the African American jazz funerals and has evolved to become part of all New Orleans celebrations.

Magnolias, jasmine and gardenias are popular choices for flower arrangements. In keeping with the Southern tradition, weddings in New Orleans always feature a groom’s cake that reflects the groom’s hobby or personality.

Jewish Wedding Traditions

Jewish weddings are full of religious and cultural traditions. The wedding may adhere more strictly to religious traditions depending on the level of religious affiliation. During the procession, both the bride and the groom walk out together accompanied by their parents. The huppah is the canopy under which the kiddushin (wedding ceremony) takes place. Once the couple enter the huppah, the bride circles the groom seven times to signify the seven wedding blessings and seven days of creation.

The ketubah is the Jewish wedding contract read by the rabbi under the huppah after the rings are exchanged. The Sheva B’rachot, or seven blessings, are recited by the rabbi or special guests. At the end of the ceremony, the groom breaks a glass under his foot and signals the beginning of the reception and guests shout Mazel Tov! to wish the couple luck.

Shortly following the ceremony, the couple retreats to the yihud or “seclusion” where they reflect upon their commitment to each other and their new life together. Kosher dietary laws dictate that dairy and meat may not be eaten together. Thus, it is customary for weddings to serve chicken and fish – both symbols of fertility. The most iconic tradition of a Jewish wedding is the hora, the chair dance where the bride and groom are hoisted by the guests in the chair as everyone dances to “Hava Naglia.”

Irish Wedding Traditions

The claddagh ring is a ring with a heart in the center held by two hands and topped by a crown – symbolizing the rule of love and friendship. This ring carries varies meanings in different stages of the brides life. A single woman wears the claddagh on the right hand with the heart facing outward. An engaged woman wears the ring with the heart facing inward. The ring with the heart facing inward and on the left hand signifies a married woman.

Small porcelain or fabric horseshoes are carried by the bride for luck and are often incorporated in their wedding day jewelry. A touch of Irish lace can be incorporated into the wedding dress. It is also common to have pipers in Celtic kilts pipe traditional Irish tunes during the ceremony. At the reception a popular toast reads: “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.” The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.” The Mi na meala or “month of mead” was the couple month long honeymoon where weddings guests would send them off with a brew made of fermented honey for the couple to share for one full moon after their wedding –hence the term “honeymoon.”

Latin American Wedding Traditions

Latin American weddings tend to be large and family-centric. The traditionally Roman Catholic ceremony is celebrated in a church on Saturdays followed by a lively reception. While some Latin American traditions are infused with indigenous cultural customs, most weddings feature a special Catholic mass where the bride and groom receive the sacrament of marriage and are bound together by a large rosary to signify their unity as a couple. The couple selects godparents as their wedding day sponsors and often play a part during the wedding ceremony. Originating in Spain, the groom gives the bride thirteen coins representing Jesus and the twelve apostles, to symbolize the groom’s ability to financially support and care for his bride. The reception is meticulously planned and is filled with Latin music, food and dancing.

Greek Wedding Traditions

Greek weddings, traditionally celebrated with a Greek Orthodox mass followed by a large wedding reception full of native food, music and dancing. The ceremony itself is full of symbolism. The bride and groom are crowned with flowered crowns, or “stefana”, which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by the priest. The koumbara is the person selected to exchange the crown three times over the couples’ heads. The Kaslamantiano is a dance performed in a circle during the reception. Plates are smashed on the floor for good luck. An odd number of candy coated almonds, called koufeta, are shared with guests at the reception. The odd number is indivisible, symbolizing how the husband and wife will share everything and remain undivided.

Asian Wedding Traditions

Pakistani – Traditionally lasting four days, the couple takes parts in several events separately. They do not see each other until the day of their ceremony. The first and second days host celebratory events that involve singing, dancing and henna staining of the bride’s hands and feet. The third day is the day of the ceremony that is celebrated following the Muslim tradition. The fourth day is when the bride and groom host their first dinner as husband and wife.

Indian – Indian weddings span several days and are a grand family affair. Brides are adorned with gold jewelry and wear red or pink saris on their wedding day. Their hands and feet are covered with henna the day before their wedding. While several customs and traditions involving the couple and their families lead up to the wedding ceremony, the garba is the most festive event that takes place the day before the wedding day. The wedding ceremony adheres to the Hindu religious customs.

Vietnamese – Brides tend to wear red or pink wedding dresses as a color of good luck and often wear more than one dress. Reverence to the couples’ ancestors for blessing of the marriage is an important part of the wedding ceremony. Gifts are brought to the bride’s home by groomsmen on behalf of the groom. A lavish reception follows the smaller ceremony

Chinese – Bright red is the auspicious wedding dress color and many brides can change into a few dresses throughout the wedding. While the ceremony tends to be an intimate affair of close family and friends, the reception is a grand affair. A 9-10 course meal is not uncommon and, if the families can afford it, shark fin soup is sure to be on the menu.

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