Marriage is an important moment in the majority of people’s lives. It marks the ultimate commitment any couple can make and exists universally. “Marriage” can come in many shapes and forms, depending on the society. It is often marked by various rituals that are extremely unique to the specific group of people. While different customs dictate how the marriage is conducted and what is expected of the bride and groom, the purpose remains the same. The goal of marriage is to create a serious, even sacred, agreement between two people that indicates their eternal commitment to each other. Marriage acts as a contract that binds the couple together forever, and is intended to never be broken. However, contracts occasionally get broken.

A divorce is the breaking of the marriage, and is one of the aspects of marriage that varies greatly between cultures. Some communities do not allow any divorce, while others have specific stipulations that dictate the divorce. Some populations have very stringent rules for when a divorce can occur, and even who is able to initiate one. While other cultures are much more relaxed and simply charge a variety of fees for dissolving the marriage. Additionally, some people view marriage as an important business agreement and others view it as a spiritual one. Regardless of the individual customs, marriage is always an important undertaking. I believe is is a significant decision for any couple and it can be a great indication of a culture’s values. As a result of its cultural importance and high variability, I thought it would be very interesting to explore how humans tie the knot around the world.

Marriages can range from joyous parties to small and intimate events. The ceremonies are usually dictated by a medley of various rituals. For instance, in China the bride often has three different dresses she wears throughout the event. The first being a traditional red dress symbolizing food luck and fortune. This style of dress is called a Qipao or Cheongsam and is form fitting and sleek . She then changes to a poufy, Westernized white wedding dress. Finally, she will wear cocktail dress for the reception that can be completely personalized to her tastes. Chinese marriages were traditionally arranged by the parents; however, that is much less common now days. Parents still have a huge influence on their children’s marriage though. After the couple is engaged the groom’s parents are expected to send grand gifts to the bride’s family. The groom’s family is also likely to pay for the majority of the wedding. A lot of pressure is also put on the newlyweds to quickly have a child. This shows the emphasis on the family unit.

Traditionally, Indian weddings are bright and festive. They also are known to last 3 days, broken up into specific parts. The first day is an intimate ceremony called ganesh pooja, which is only for very close relatives of the couple. The second day is marked by relatives introducing themselves to each other and mingling. It is called the sangeet. One of my favorite wedding customs also takes place on the second day, in a ceremony called mehndi.  During this time, the bride and her female friends and family paint intricate designs on their hands and feet with henna. While being an aesthetic part of the ceremony, the henna is also believed to be medicinal so its application is intended to relieve stress and fatigue caused by the wedding and the planning. Sometimes the groom has a separate ceremony at the same time as the bride, which has the men apply henna to their hands and feet as well. They often have a much simpler design. Aside from usual Hindu Indian weddings, mehndi painting can also be important in Muslim weddings as well. Finally, the last day is the major wedding ceremony and reception. The bride, groom, priest, and parents are all under a mandap, which is a ceremonial covered structure. This is very similar to a Chuppah used in Jewish wedding ceremonies.


Female henna painted hands right after an Indian Mehndi ceremony.

I believe that marriages are very important parts of human development because they are so very “human”. People are the only organisms that go through such elaborate ceremonies binding themselves to a “mate” for eternity. The ultimate goal of marriage also effects how we develop as people. Most people know marriage is the final relationship goal, and that’s what they are striving towards throughout their lives. I remember being one of those girls that planned their wedding in elementary school, and that had pretend weddings with my friends. I’m sure many kids do thing like as they grow up, and that undoubtedly affects how they develop their views of relationships.

I also think that the gesture of marriage is very sentimental and has a lot of meaning. People vary greatly on their interpretations of marriage, and how permanent they see it, but I take it very seriously. I don’t think it should be rushed into, or forced for the sake of appeasing family members. I think it is the ultimate commitment between two people (of any gender), when they feel they are with their soul mate; a person they know inside and out and are completely happy spending the rest of their lives with. (I know, pretty sappy, haha). I would like to hope I will only be married once in my life, but obviously, unforeseen things can always happen. While many marriages, especially in the west, seem to be ending in divorce, I don’t feel like that is how they were intended to be. I’m an advocate of waiting until you are entirely positive you want to marry a person, before actually committing to it.

U.S. Cultural Fun Fact!!

A common wedding tradition usually practiced in the United States is “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence inside your shoe”. It refers to things a bride should wear on her wedding day to bring good luck to her marriage. This phrase dates all the way back to the Victorian era, but is still commonly practiced by brides in the U.S. Although now, it’s mostly just a fun tradition. Every woman in my family has incorporated some form of his tradition into their weddings, and I think it is very lighthearted and fun.



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