There are virtually as many culturally-specific bridal customs as there are countries in the world. Listed below is but a small sampling of such traditions, some of which are still observed and some of which have ceased to be common practice over the passage of time.
In Armenia, it was once customary to release two white doves during the wedding ceremony in order to symbolize love and happiness.
Wedding cakes in Bermuda were once multi-tiered fruitcakes which included a small Cedar tree on top. The tree was later planted and thought to grow in unison with the love between bride and groom.
During the marriage ceremony of the Wawanga of East Africa, a he-goat is killed and a long strip of skin sliced from its belly. The strip is cut lengthwise and placed over the bride's head so that it rests upon her shoulders. The pronouncement which accompanies this custom is made by the bridegroom's father or elderly male relative and includes the words: "...if you leave us for any other man, may this skin repudiate you, and may you become barren."
It is believed in England that if on her way to the church, the bride should pass a chimney sweep and receive a kiss, then this will be a lucky omen. The chimney sweep himself receives a monetary gift for his services, which often leads to many an enterprising sweep picking up a few extra pennies by being in the "right place" at the "right time." Another English tradition dictates that it is unlucky for the bride to use her married name prior to the wedding. Another old English custom was to place a ring in the wedding cake. The guest who found the ring in their slice would be assured of happiness during the coming year. In the Yorkshire area of England, a plate holding wedding cake was once thrown out of the window as the bride returned to her parental home after the wedding. If the plate broke, then the future of the couple would be a happy one. However, if the plate remained intact, then the couple's future would be grim.
In both Holland and Switzerland, a pine tree, symbolic of fertility and luck, was once planted outside the home of a newlywed couple.
In Ireland, it is traditional for the bride and groom to incorporate the ringing of the "Irish Wedding Bell," which is then kept close at hand in their new household. Whenever an argument or difference of opinion arises, the wedding bell is brought out in order to remind the couple of their solemn wedding vows. It is also customary for each male member of the wedding party to wear a kilt for the bridal ceremony. An Irish wedding typically ends with the groom seizing and carrying off his new wife...a custom which harks back to the ancient capturing and/or kidnapping of a bride. Most Irish brides carry a small horseshoe in their bouquets (or sometimes a tiny one sewn into the hem of their wedding gown) for luck. This custom is centuries old and dates back to a time when iron (the metal from which horseshoes are made) was considered a good luck charm. Traditional Irish wedding cakes are fruitcakes. This type of rich cake is believed to symbolize blessings for wealth and prosperity. The top layer is customarily saved for consumption until the celebration of the christening of the couple's first child. It was once the custom in Ireland to tie a laying hen to the bed on the first honeymoon night to encourage fertility.
In Italy, the groom's tie is often cut into small pieces and then sold to the guests who attend the reception. The money earned is used to finance the honeymoon. Another Italian custom is to decorate the front of the bridal car to ensure the newlyweds happy travels throughout their life together.
It is an old Japanese custom for ducks (or a goose and gander) to be included in the wedding procession. Since these birds are believed to mate for life, they are symbolic of fidelity. By custom, the religious Japanese wedding ceremony is conducted by a priest, takes place at a shrine, and is held in the style of Shinto (the ancient indigenous "way of the gods" faith of the people). During the ceremony, the couple (who dress in traditional kimono) are purified and partake of sake (traditional rice wine). Customarily, the groom reads the words of committment. Finally, symbolic offerings are given to the kami, ancient objects and spirits of worship. Even today, a small percentage of Japanese weddings continue to be arranged and it is traditional for Japanese brides to change their attire several times throughout the course of the wedding day.
In Poland, it is customary for guests to pay for the privilege of dancing with the bride. The money earned is used to finance the honeymoon.
In Scotland, it was once a tradition for the bride to "walk with the Sun," which meant that she proceeded from east to west on the south side of the church and then circled the church three times "sunwise" for good luck. According to custom, the bride wears a tartan sash over her gown fashioned from a plaid which matches that of the groom...since this is the Clan into which she is marrying.
In South Africa, it was once tradition for the parents of both bride and groom to carry a spark from the hearths of their own homes in order to start the fire in the home of a newlywed couple.
One early American custom was for the bride to pin a small pouch to her wedding petticoat. This pouch contained a small morsel of bread, a piece of cloth, a sliver of wood and a single one-dollar bill. These items were believed to guarantee sufficient food, clothing, shelter and money for the future couple.