WoW Blog

World Wide Weddings | Traditions from around the globe

Posted By Victoria WoW May 30th, 2013

It wasn't so long ago that Victoria BC held the reputation for being one of the least culturally diverse cities in Canada. But in 2013 this is most certainly a myth. Among the multitude of ethnicities represented in our community, Southern Vancouver Island is home to people whose origins include Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Mexican, African, Vietnamese, Slovak, Portuguese, Aboriginal, Greek, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani, Ukrainian, Persian, Argentinian, and many more.

And while we often consider ourselves united as Canadians, our unions - as in, our wedding celebrations - are where we love to showcase our diversity. Cross-cultural marriages are no longer the exception to the rule, and for weddings, the rulebooks are being thrown wide open.

WoW spoke to our upcoming Showcase Sponsor team to find out what cultural traditions they have experienced, and the symbolism behind these customs. Here is what they shared with us.

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue | British, Israeli

Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in your shoe

Our most recent WoW event was dubbed "Something Old, Something New", which was extracted from a rhyme that is familiar to many of us. For Krista Clarke, Convention and Catering Manager at the BW Premier Prestige Oceanfront Resort, this was a tradition that she grew up with and has seen it replicated in many weddings. She decided to investigate into the origins of the rhyme, and she discovered that the rhyme originated in Victorian times in Britain, but the customs have been adapted from around the world.

  • Something old refers to the friends a family of the couple who have experienced long, happy marriages, and will remain close to the couple. Incidentally, this is represented by the garter ritual, which is given to the bride by a happily married woman in the hope that her happiness would be passed on to the new bride.
  • Something new symbolizes the newlyweds' happy and prosperous future.
  • Something borrowed is often lent by the bride's family and is an item much valued by the family. The bride must return the item to ensure good luck.
  • Something blue originated in ancient Israel where the bride wore a blue ribbon in her hair to represent fidelity.
  • A silver sixpence in your shoe was to ensure prosperity in the couple's married life. Instead of a silver sixpence, which are hard to come by these days, brides put a lucky penny in their shoes.

You were always wondering, and now you know…

Cord of Infinity | Filipino

Filipino weddings are rooted in Catholic tradition, and the ceremony itself contains several symbolic customs that bestow luck, prosperity and fertility on the bride and groom. A white decorative silk cord called a yugal is placed over the couple’s shoulders in the sign of infinity (a sideways figure-eight). It symbolizes everlasting fidelity and signifies that they walk the world as equals.

Red Thread of Fate | Chinese, Japanese

Adrienne Jopp, owner of The Paper Suite describes a tradition she adores: "One of my favorite myths is the one of the Red Thread of Fate, although not specifically about weddings it about love and being with your soul mate."

The red string of fate, also referred to as the red thread of destiny, is an East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend and is also used in Japanese legend. According to this myth, the gods tie a red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another. The two people connected by the red thread are presumed to become lovers, and remain connected regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but may never break.

Bangle Ceremony | Sikh

Hardip Johal of Magic Moments Decorating describes a pre-wedding practice in which she has taken part for Sikh weddings: the Bangle or Chuda ceremony. She explains that "the bride is expected to keep her wedding bangles on for a straight month and a half before the wedding." In this beautiful ritual, the bride's maternal uncle dips the bangles in milk and water, symbolizing fertility, and places them on his niece's arm. A red thread is also tied around her wrist, which is believed to ward off evil spirits. Another red thread...curious...

Henna | Sikh, Hindu, Muslim

Hardip also adores the henna ritual associated with weddings in India, Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East. In Sikh tradition, Hardip explains with a smile: "When a bride gets married, she has henna applied to her hands and feet. If the stain that remains is really dark, it supposedly means your mother-in-law will love you. If the stain is light, your mother-in-law won't come to love you. Clearly a myth."

In Hindu tradition, the application of henna to the bride's hands and feet is part of a pre-wedding ritual known as a mehndi party. The bride and her female friends and family members gather to have the elaborate designs applied. The longer the henna is left on the skin, it is believed, the longer and stronger the marriage will be.

Henna is said to have natural cooling properties, and in the hot climates where this tradition originated over 5000 years ago, this was a welcome ritual. Cleopatra was known to decorate her hands and feet with henna.

Sugared Almonds | Italian

If you have attended an Italian wedding, you most likely will have received a gift of sugared almonds. But did you count how many? Traditionally, five almonds are presented in a confection box or wrapped in elegant fabric to represent fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness. The bitterness of the almond and the sweetness of the coated candy exemplify the bitter sweetness of a marriage.

Tea Ceremony | Chinese

In many cultures, tea is the elixir of life. In Chinese culture, the tea ceremony performed at weddings is a sacred tradition that invites the new couple to live a long life blessed with a happy marriage, good fortune, healthy children, and wise elders.

The new couple serve tea to one another's parents, symbolizing the introduction of new members into their respective families. Traditionally, a "Good Luck Woman", someone who herself has been blessed with a long life and happy marriage, shelters the couple with a red umbrella to protect the couple from evil spirits. In exchange the newlyweds are presented with "Li Shi money" wrapped in red envelopes, which represents the prosperity they need to thrive.

Horses and their Shoes | Hindu, Sikh, British

Sharon Rai, owner of Sharon Rai Hair & Makeup Artistry, came across a curious tradition that she knew very little about. "I did a wedding last year, that the bride had a horse shoe with her bouquet. When I asked what it was for, she had said it was a British tradition. The horseshoe symbolized luck." Apparently the horseshoe must never be turned upside down, or your luck will fall away.

Horses are revered around the world as symbol of fertility. In Greek folklore, the horseshoe represents a crescent moon, a sign that the couple will be blessed with many children. In customary Indian ceremonies, the groom arrives at the wedding accompanied by a horse and his family members in a procession known as baraat. Evidently the fertility of the horse is believed to encourage fertility for his new bride.

Sweet Blessings | Persian

Like many cultures, food is an intrinsic part of any wedding celebration. In Persian tradition, the marriage ceremony is concluded when the bride and groom feed one another a little taste of honey from their fingertips. This custom is said to invite sweetness into their marriage. The guests at Persian weddings are offered a bounty of sweet treats such as noghl (sugar-coated almond strips), baklava, tout (mulberry almond paste), noon-berenji (rice flour cookies), noon-baadoomi (almond flour cookies), and sohaan a'sali (honey roasted almonds).

Seven Steps to a Happy Marriage | Hindu

According to Sharon Rai, whose origins are Hindu, the Saptapadi or Seven Steps Ceremony is the most sacred of her culture's wedding rites. The bride and groom take seven steps around the Holy Fire, and then share their vows with one another. When the Saptapadi has completed, the groom applies sindoor (red vermillion) to the part in his new wife's hair, symbolizing the mark of the married woman. This marking is also known as bindi. The red dot placed in the area of the third eye, traditionally worn by women, represents a connection to the divine, as well as love, honour and prosperity.

Experience firsthand the most important rites of a Hindu wedding ceremony, including being adorned with sindoor, at the next WoW Event: "Tony and Tajinder's Wedding." This is the first mock wedding to be staged by the Victoria's wedding experts, and will celebrate the blending of cross-cultural traditions. Be prepared to be "WoW'ed by the Sea", as the ceremony and reception will take place at the stunning BW Prestige Oceanfront Resort in Sooke.

Event Details:
Tuesday, June 11th

BW Prestige Oceanfront Resort
6929 West Coast Road Sooke, BC V9Z 0V1

WoW Members are encouraged to bring a "date": a business owner who has not had a chance to experience a WoW Event. Guests are welcomed free of charge to this high profile event.


Informal networking begins at 9:30am
Wedding ceremony begins promptly at 10:30am

Please dress as if you were attending an Indian wedding: Indian-inspired attire or saris, bright colours, scarves. This is a great media opportunity for Women of Weddings, so come prepared to pose for the camera. Watch your inbox for more details!


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