Young Haitians socialize in groups and do not usually begin dating until their late teens. Young people often develop friendships that later turn romantic with the children of their parents’ friends. Others form relationships with classmates or acquaintances. Group activities usually include participating in study groups, watching soccer games, celebrating birthdays, and attending school fairs and church activities. Once adulthood is reached and education is completed, a young Haitian focuses on getting married. It is a tradition that men usually initiate the dating process. Even if the woman loves the man she must refrain from declaring it to him in order to not to be seen as a bad woman. Haitian women are very conservative and resilient.
When dating, the man will visit the woman at her home to become familiar with her parents and family members. Couples go out to dance clubs, to movies, or to other social events. Once a couple has been dating for a few years, a proposal is expected. A man traditionally askes a woman’s father for permission to marry her, but where there is little relationship between the woman and her biological father, a man may ask the mother or the mother’s husband. Today, asking permission is less common. Most parents do not play a big part in dating or marriage anymore, but they expect their children to choose spouses from respectable families with a social status similar to their own. The minimum legal age for marriage is 15 for women and 18 for men. Early marriage is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. In rural areas, a couple will not officially marry until they can afford a big wedding.
The best man and maid/matron of honor can take center stage with the couple on their wedding day. They can escort the bride and/or groom down the aisle, they are seated with the bride and groom at the end of the aisle for the ceremony and they sign the marriage license. Just as in other western weddings, these roles are quite important, but in Haiti, the reasons behind their importance might be a bit different.
Witnesses (who will later sign the marriage license) are seated behind the groom.
More often in the countryside, there are no formal wedding invitations. Rather, guests are invited by word-of-mouth.
Again, more in rural areas, the groom leads the bride to the church followed by her bridesmaids and wedding guests.
Wedding party members do a practiced rhythmic walk of varying degrees down the aisle.
The ceremony, depending on location, can last up to 3 hours! It may include songs from multiple church choirs (if it’s held in a church) in addition to a full sermon from the presiding pastor.
The marriage certificate is signed during the ceremony.
There are other couples (usually children and/or adolescents) dressed like a bride & groom (just not as fancy) who enter before them. There are also prince/princess or king/queen who enter before the bride. This is indicative of the economic status of the couple or whomever is paying for the wedding.
Tables at the reception are generally only prepared/arranged for the bride, groom and witnesses (sometimes the bridesmaids are included).
Reception food is prepared (in abundance) by family members.
The wedding cake is not cut at the reception but is taken to the couple’s home where they enjoy it with each other a few days after the ceremony.
Gifts are given at the reception, but cash gifts are considered a faux-pas.
Couples often live together and have children before they are married until they save enough money for the wedding and wedding reception. Typically, urban couples have a church wedding followed by an evening reception where rice, beans, meat, salads, cake, champagne, and soft drinks are served. Receptions are usually held in private homes, where guests eat, dance, and socialize until late in the evening. Formal polygamy does not exist, but married men usually have many girlfriends and children out of wedlock. This is often attributed to the desire for a son to continue the family line. Women are expected to remain faithful to their husbands and are chastised if they are not. In rural areas, a man's partners acknowledge each other and may even cohabitate.
A Zulu girl will let her father know she is ready to marry and her father will make it public. When the girl finds a suitable husband, negotiating starts.
Lobola is a combination of items presented to the family of the bride by the groom as a symbol of appreciation.
After lobola is paid, the families settle on a date for the wedding. This process is called ukubona izinkomo.
The bride’s family will go home and start the wedding preparations.
The bride’s clothes are stowed in a kist, box coffin, along with her husband’s gifts.
A ceremony called umncamo follows during which the bride’s family slaughters a goat and burns incense to inform the ancestors that their daughter is about to become a member of another family and needs their protection.
On the day of the wedding the bride’s mother will give her daughter a blanket to cover herself as she leaves her home and she is not permitted to look back as she heads towards the groom’s home. She is then expected to stay with the groom’s family for a certain period of time after the wedding.
The marriage will be valid as long as a marriage certificate is obtained from Home Affairs or from the Priest of the church.
All members of the community are then invited to the groom’s residence where the bride and groom change into traditional garments. The bride wears a leather skirt called isidwab and her head, breasts and shoulders are covered. Her legs and arms are beautifully decorated with red and white ocher designs. Bags of pebbles are tied to her ankles to enhance the rhythmic effect during dancing. She also wears a veil made of beads and fig leaves. Oxtail fringes are tied to her elbows and knees and a goat’s fringe is worn around her neck. Throughout the ceremony the bride carries a knife to symbolize that she is a virgin. The groom wears material that covers his hair, shoulders, buttocks, ankles and wrists.
The couple performs a traditional wedding dance.
Afterwards everybody goes home to eat. Both families slaughter cows and exchange certain parts of the meat. Traditional food and sorghum beer made by the groom’s family is served.
After much feasting the bride’s mother-in-law will rub butter fat on the skin of her new daughter in law at the end of the ceremony. This symbolizes the acceptance of her new daughter-in-law.
During the engagement, Scottish brooches (Luckenbooth) are given as tokens of love and they are usually made of silver and engraved with two intertwined hearts. If the couple pins it to the blanket of their first born it will bring the family luck.
Right foot forward is the correct procedure a bride should follow when exiting her house on her way to the wedding.
A sixpence-british coin- in the bride's shoe has long been a tradition in Aberdeenshire and Angus.
A sprig of white heather hidden in the bride's bouquet is a popular good luck token in the Scottish Borders.
The ‘wedding scramble’- as the bride steps into the car, her father throws a handful of coins for the children to collect.
Feet-washing is a custom. The bride sits on a stool while an older, married woman washes and dries her feet.
Bridegrooms are more reluctant to do this because it involves sitting in a tub of water while his legs are smeared with grease, ash and soot.
The bride is traditionally “given away” by her father.
Whether a civil or religious ceremony, Scottish wedding rites include the traditional exchange of rings between the couple.
The customary kiss to cement the union usually takes place after this.
As they leave the church, a custom in the south of Scotland is for the couple to be creeled.
After this, the couple, along with their guests, would customarily have been led by pipers to their reception venue. The pipers would have inspired everyone to dance along the way.
The Scottish Wedding Reception-
A Scottish wedding reception is a major celebration which involves lots of singing, dancing, eating and drinking.
Of course, there will be traditional Scottish dance. This may be a fully organised and professionally run céilidh, or be run by a set of willing and musical family members.
That romantic “first dance” of the party will also have this communal slant, as the dance of the Grand March is the traditional opening dance. The bride and groom take to the floor first, marching to the sound of the bagpipes. As they march, the maid-of-honour and best man then join them, then each set of parents, followed by all the guests in turn, until everyone is involved in the dance!
"Will you marry me?"
Blackening the bride
Blackenings are a ritual performed very occasionally with great gusto on the night before the wedding. The unlucky groom-to-be is captured by his friends and is stripped to the waist before bound and 'blackened' with feathers, treacle, soot and flour! He is then noisily paraded through the village by his friends who endeavour to make the experience as embarrassing as possible. In some parts of Scotland, this can happen to the bride too!
Which was the most interesting?
Which was the most unexpected?
Which one was the most bizarre?
Which wedding tradition would you be willing to go through?