This weekend I had an opportunity to go to two Belgian weddings. Coming from a culture, where wedding is one of the strongest rituals, I thought this will be an interesting opportunity to see how other nations are treating the subject. And so, here is what I learned.
In Belgium wedding consists of 3 to 4 parts. First two are the ceremony itself in the town hall and/or church if you are religious. Then you organize a reception that lasts for couple of hours where you invite people that you are “supposed to invite” (because it is polite). There you have some drinks and snacks and you toast to the young couple. Then, later in the evening, the big party begins, where you invite your close friends and family and maybe some of your very close colleagues. That one goes till the time it ends (whenever that would be). This part of the evening can be a dinner, it can be dancing, it can be singing, it can be everything that would be suited for a party.
I had a chance to be in the 3rd part of one marriage and the 4th of the other one. It was a new lesson to me to learn that here you don’t have any rituals that you have to go throug as a new couple. Here you organise a party.. As any other party would be, just this time the reason is that 2 people got married. And it was weird for me that in both of them I did not feel like being in a marriage.
Of course, I was not in any other part of the two marriages and most probably I have a bit distorted view on the subject but then again, our reality is as we see it, no? 🙂
And you can clearly understand why it is strange to me because in Latvia wedding traditions are quite different. There are no different parts of the wedding for different people – if you are invited to the wedding, you go to all of it (maybe it has changed now, but at least couple of years ago it was still the same). You start by going to the church or to the town hall to have the legal part done (in Latvia also church can take care of the legal part of the marriage) and then the journey starts. Yes, it is a journey, indeed.
The wedding procedures include different trials for the young couple. One of the trials ‘gate of honor’ which is erected by the invited or even uninvited guests in the path the young couple must walk. It was believed that the bigger the gate of honor, the better conjugal life of the couple as the redemptions paid or completed prevent the problems in family.
On their way to a wedding banquet the groom and bride are tested through performing daily housekeeping activities. Usually the groom is required to chop the firewood and the bride is asked to wash a dirty doll. Besides, the groom shall carry the bride over the path of towel with a plate hidden under it. Going over the plate it shall be broken in many pieces. The more pieces the more luck, richness and fertility in the conjugal life.
It is also a custom to kidnap the Latvian bride at her wedding reception, and the groom has to pay a ransom by means of drinks or song to rescue her.
The culmination of the traditional wedding is “mičošana” or “tuckering” when the crown of the bride is taken off and the headdress of a wife – a kerchief or a tucker is put on. Afterwards the bride’s crown is put on the head of one of the unmarried female relatives or friends. Sometimes it is done blindfolded, guessing the next couple to be married.
After the tuckering the young couple is accompanied to bed while singing songs – usually the young couple slept in a granary.
A lot of the wedding customs were derived from the times of our ancestors and a lot of them are inspired from other
countries. For instance, the Russian tradition of putting a padlock on a bridge and throwing the key in the water, is a symbol of unbreakable love. This ritual has now become very popular among young couples. Another widely known tradition, which you will see nowadays at almost every wedding in the Baltics, is throwing the brides bouquet to the single women, whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to get married.
Each country has its own traditions – some of them are still strictly followed, to keep the marriage as strong as possible, some are already forgotten and some are mixed in with a modern twist, but make no mistake a Latvian wedding is an unforgettable event.
More on Latvian wedding traditions:
Belgian wedding traditions: