Archive for the ‘International Traditions’ Category

New York City reaped $259 million of economic benefits from same-sex marriages in the first year of the law allowing the practice, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

At least 8,200 gay-marriage licenses were issued, accounting for more than 10 percent of the 75,000 wedding licenses issued in New York City in the past year, Bloomberg and Quinn said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism office, and the city clerk’s office.

New York became the sixth and most recent state to legalize gay marriage a year ago after Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure into law. More than 200,000 guests have since traveled from outside of the city to attend same-sex wedding receptions, and more than 235,000 hotel room nights were booked at an average daily room rate of $275, according to the mayor’s statement.

“Marriage equality has made our city more open, inclusive and free — and it has also helped to create jobs and support our economy,” Bloomberg, 70, said at a news conference in Lower Manhattan.

Bloomberg has focused on tourism to diversify the city’s economy beyond Wall Street, with employment in leisure and hospitality growing more than 100,000 in 10 years to 362,400 in June, according to the state Department of Labor.

‘NYC I Do’

The city attracted a record 50.5 million visitors in 2011, and Bloomberg has a 2015 goal to draw 55 million people, add 30,000 jobs and increase the industry’s economic impact to $70 billion from $48 billion last year.

NYC & Co. began the “NYC I Do” marketing campaign after the same-sex marriage law passed, with a goal to make the most populous U.S. city the top wedding and honeymoon destination for couples globally.

In addition to New York, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, according to Freedom to Marry, a New York- based national advocacy organization.

Sixth State

This year, the legislatures in Maryland, New Jersey and Washington state passed same-gender marriage laws that haven’t taken effect. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill, while opponents in Maryland and Washington have November ballot measures challenging the laws.

Quinn, 45, who with Bloomberg lobbied the Legislature to approve same-gender marriage, benefited from the law when she wed her partner, attorney Kim Catullo, 45, on May 19 at a ceremony attended by the mayor, Cuomo, and U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“What you can’t quantify is just the joy that has happened in New York City,” Quinn told reporters. “What better thing could government do than pass laws that make people equal, repeal laws that say some of us are unequal, and give families the opportunity to have that once-in-a-lifetime moment when a father can walk his daughter down the aisle.”


The Persian wedding ceremony despite its local and regional variations, like many other rituals in Iran goes back to the ancient Zoroastrian tradition. Zoroastrianism was the religion of Parsi nation (Persians) before the introduction of Islam to the country, 1400 years before present. Zoroastrians believe in a single god, an all-wise creator who is supreme “Ahura Mazda” also known as Ormuzd, and they are dedicated to a three-fold path, as shown in their motto: “Good thoughts, Good words, Good deeds”. Though the concepts and theory of the marriage have changed drastically by Islamic traditions and Koran, the actual ceremonies have remained more or less the same as they were originally in the ancient Zoroastrian culture. In modern Iran the marriage ceremony is more a symbol of their rich ancient culture than religion, even though it has been influenced by religion to some extent.

For Iranians marriage is considered to be an event, which must be celebrated not quietly but with glory and distinction. It is the most conspicuous of all the rituals and must be celebrated in the presence of an assembly, which can bear witness to the event.

In the ancient times, the musicians playing at marriage gatherings used drums to announce the marriage to the people of the town or village. The group that gathered for the marriage was called the assembly “Anjoman” for the queenly bride.

Traditionally, both the bride and the bridegroom would dress in white with wreaths of flower on their necks, something similar to the Hawaiian Lei. These wreaths of flower are still worn in modern wedding ceremonies in Pakistan (which used to be part of the great Persian Empire), but it is eliminated from the Iranian wedding ceremony. The color white is a symbol of purity, innocence and faithfulness. Today most modern Iranian couples follow the western dress code and style.

There are two stages to a Persian marriage. Most often both take place on the same day, but occasionally there could be some time between the two. The first is called “Aghd”, the legal process of getting married, when both the bride and bridegroom and their guardians sign a marriage contract. The second stage is “Jashn-e Aroosi”, the actual feasts and the celebrations, which traditionally lasted from 3 to 7 days.

The ceremony takes place in a specially decorated room with flowers and a beautiful and elaborately decorated spread on the floor called “Sofreh-ye Aghd”. Traditionally Sofreh-ye Aghd is set on the floor facing east, the direction of sunrise (light). Consequently when bride and bridegroom are seated at the head of Sofreh-ye Aghd they will be facing “The Light”.

By custom Aghd would normally take place at bride’s parents/guardians home. The arrival of the guests, who are to be witnesses to the marriage of the couple, initiates the wedding ceremony. Traditionally the couples’ guardians and other elder close family members are present in the room to greet the guests and guide them to their seats. After all the guests are seated the bridegroom is the first to take his seat in the room at the head of Sofreh-ye Aghd. The bride comes afterwards and joins the bridegroom at the head of Sofreh-ye Aghd. The bridegroom always sits on the right hand side of the bride. In Zoroastrian culture the right side designates a place of respect.

The spread that is used on the floor as the backdrop for Sofreh-ye Aghd was traditionally passed from mother to daughter (or occasionally son). The spread is made of a luxurious fabric such as “Termeh” (Cashmere: A rich gold embroidered fabric originally made in Cashmere from the soft wool found beneath the hair of the goats of Cashmere, Tibet, and the Himalayas), “Atlas” (Gold embroidered satin) or “Abrisham” (Silk).

On Sofreh-ye Aghd, the following items are placed:

  • Mirror (of fate) “Aayeneh-ye Bakht” and two Candelabras (representing the bride and groom and brightness in their future) one on either side of the mirror. The mirror and two candelabras are symbols of light and fire, two very important elements in the Zoroastrian culture. When the bride enters the room she has her veil covering her face. Once the bride sits beside the bridegroom she removes her veil and the first thing that the bridegroom sees in the mirror should be the reflection of his wife-to-be.
  • A tray of seven multi-colored herbs and spices “Sini-ye Aatel-O-Baatel” to guard the couple and their lives together against the evil eye, witchcraft and to drive away evil spirits. This tray consists of seven elements in seven colors:
    1. Poppy Seeds “Khash-Khaash” (to break spells and witchcraft)
    2. Wild Rice “Berenj”
    3. Angelica “Sabzi Khoshk”
    4. Salt “Namak” (to blind the evil eye)
    5. Nigella Seeds “Raziyaneh”
    6. Black Tea “Chaay”
    7. Frankincense “Kondor” (to burn the evil spirits)
  • A specially baked and decorated flatbread “Noon-e Sangak” with blessing “Mobaarak-Baad” written in calligraphy on it. The writing is usually with either saffron “Zaffaron”, cinnamon, Nigella seeds, or glitters. This symbolizes prosperity for the feasts and for the couple’s life thereafter. A separate platter of this flat bread, feta cheese and fresh herbs are also present to be shared with the guests after the ceremony, to bring the new couple happiness and prosperity.
  • A basket of decorated eggs and a basket of decorated almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts in the shell to symbolize fertility.
  • A basket of pomegranates and/or apples for a joyous future. Pomegranates are considered heavenly fruits and apples symbolize the divine creation of mankind.
  • A cup of rose water extracted from special Persian roses “Gol-e Mohammadi” to perfume the air.
  • A bowl made out of crystallized sugar “Kaas-e Nabaat/Shaakh-e Nabaat” to sweeten life for the newly wed.
  • A brazier “Manghal” holding burning coals sprinkled with wild rue “Espand” a popular incense. Wild rue is used in many Zoroastrian ceremonies, rituals and purification rites. It is believed to keep the evil eye away and bring on plenty of health.
  • A bowl of gold coins representing wealth and prosperity.
  • A scarf or shawl made out of silk or any other fine fabric to be held over the bride and bridegroom’s head throughout the ceremony by various happily married female relatives (mostly bride’s close family members).
  • Two sugar cones “Kalleh Ghand” made out of hardened sugar to be used during the ceremony. These sugar cones are grinded together above the bride and bridegroom’s head (over the scarf held above their heads) throughout the ceremony to shower them in sugar (symbolizing sweetness and happiness).
  • A cup of honey to sweeten life. Immediately after the couple is married they each should dip one pinky finger in the cup of honey and feed it to the other one.
  • A needle and seven strands of colored thread to figuratively sew up the mother-in-law’s lips from speaking unpleasant words to the bride! The shawl that is held above the couple’s head throughout the ceremony is sewed in one corner by the needle and threads.
  • A copy of Koran “Ghoraan-e Majid” (the Moslem’s holy book) opened in the middle and placed on the spread. This symbolizes God’s blessing for the couple. Traditionally “Avesta” the ancient Zoroastrian holy book was present during the ceremony and readings were made from it. Eventually Koran replaced Avesta after Iran became a Moslem nation.
  • A prayer carpet/kit “Jaa-Namaaz” spread open in the center of Sofreh-ye Aghd to remind the couple of importance of prayer both at blissful times and times of hardship. This prayer kit includes a small rug “Sajjaadeh” to be spread on the floor at the time of prayer, a small cube of molded clay with prayers written on it “Mohr” and a strand of prayer beads “Tasbih”.
  • An assortment of sweets and pastries to be shared with the guests after the ceremony. The assortment usually includes: Sugar coated almond strips “Noghl”, Baklava (a sweet flaky Persian pastry “Baaghlavaa”), Mulberry-almond paste made in the shape of mulberries “Tout”, Rice-flour cookies “Noon-Berenji”, Chickpea-flour cookies “Noon-Nokhodchi”, Almond-flour cookies “Noon-Baadoomi”, and Honey roasted almonds “Sohaan A’sali”.

When the bride and bridegroom are both seated the marriage ceremony begins. Usually the Moslem priest “Mullah” or other males with recognized authority such as a notary public will be the master of ceremony and perform the legal part of the ceremony. The bride and the bridegroom have each a marriage witness. Usually older and married males are chosen amongst close relations to stand as witnesses. The ceremony consists of preliminary blessings, questions to the witnesses, guardians and the marrying couple. Finally the ceremony is solemnized by giving some prayers for the newly wed couple and signing of a legal marriage contract.

After the preliminary blessings and a few words about the importance of the institution of marriage, the master of ceremony confirms with both the parents or guardians that they indeed wish to proceed with the ceremony and there are no objections. Then the master of ceremony asks the mutual consent of the couple. First the bridegroom is asked if he wishes to enter into the marriage contract, then the bride is asked the same question. Once the bride is asked if she agrees to the marriage, she pauses. The question is repeated three times and it is only at the third time that she will say yes. To make the bridegroom wait for the bride’s answer is to signify that it is the husband who seeks the wife and is eager to have her and not the other way around!

During the reading of the marriage contract, all the unmarried ladies are asked to leave the room. There exists the belief that a girl should only hear the marriage ceremony’s readings for her own marriage or her chances for marriage might be ill-fated! Nowadays the single ladies do not seem to be too worried about finding a husband and getting married, because most of them stay in the room to witness the ceremony.

During the service married female relatives of the couple (mainly the bride) hold over the couple’s head the fine scarf. Two different actions take place at the same time. Two pieces of crystallized sugar shaped like cones are rubbed together, a symbolic act to sweeten the couple’s life. In the second act two parts of the same fabric are sewn together with needle and thread to symbolize sewing mother-in-law’s lips together. The ceremony is reminiscent of the ancient traditions.

Once the bride has said yes to the proposal, the master of the ceremony pronounces the couple husband and wife and asks for God’s blessing to be with the couple in their lives together. The bride and bridegroom place the wedding bands on each other’s hands and feed each other honey. Afterwards the couple, their guardians, witnesses and master of ceremony sign the documents.

Traditionally after the ceremony while the bride and groom are still seated the bride is showered with gifts, usually expensive jewelry, and all she receives is hers. The bridegroom does not receive many gifts. He only receives one gift from the bride’s parents/guardians. When all the gifts are presented to the bride the wedding ceremony is officially concluded. Generally after the ceremony the bride and bridegroom and the guests move to the location of the wedding celebration party “Aroosi” and celebrate the occasion by playing laud cheerful music, dancing and consuming some lavishly prepared food.

The celebration includes a lavish meal, sometimes with a whole roast lamb as the centerpiece. Jeweled rice “Morrasah Polo” or sweet rice “Shirin Polo” is always served along with many other dishes and an elaborate wedding cake. The celebration, with so much feasting, singing, and dancing, is a day for all to remember. After the guests have gone home, it is customary to give the remaining pastries to those who were unable to come and to those who helped make the day a success. The sugar cones are kept by the bride for good luck.

Before they enter their home, the bride kicks over a bowl of water placed in the doorway. The water spilled on the threshold represents enlightenment, happiness, and purification for their new house. A friendly competition starts with the bride and groom as the bride tries to enter her house while stepping on her husband’s feet. This act makes the bride the boss in the household.

In recent years, the Persian communities abroad have changed and adopted the life-styles of their host countries. The Persian marriage ceremony, however, is so old and can be such a beautiful ceremony that it would be a shame not to enact it.


Africa is a large and varied continent containing some of the oldest civilizations on earth. It is home to a wide diversity of religions and cultures, and this colorful diversity is reflected in its diverse and colorful weddings traditions.

If any one wedding tradition might be said to be indicative of the African continent it would be the importance of family. An African wedding is, more than anything, the bringing together of two people as a single family, or the combining of two families or even the mixture of two tribes into one family unit. The concept of family is one of the unifying ideas of the African continent.

There are more than 1,000 cultural units in Africa and each culture, each tribe has its own wedding and marriage traditions, many of which can trace their origins back hundreds or even thousands of years.

There are also many different religions represented in Africa. Many northern Africans, especially, have been influenced by Muslim traditions, while further south there are more Christian, Hindu, and even Jewish traditions interspersed with more ancient traditions.

In many places in Africa young girls are trained to be good wives from an early age. They may even learn secret codes and secret languages that allow them to talk with other married women without their husbands understanding what is being said.

Depending on which part of Africa you are in, wedding ceremonies can be extremely elaborate, some lasting many days. Often huge ceremonies are held during which many couples are united at the same time.

In Sudan and in other areas along the Nile a man must pay his wife’s family in sheep or cattle for the loss of their daughter’s labor in support of the family. A wife may cost a man as many as 30 to 40 head of cattle. Often it is difficult to pay the family yet still have enough cattle left to support his new wife.

In Somalia a man is allowed to have as many as four wives if he can support them all, and it is not uncommon for a girl to be engaged before she is even born.

Bright festive colors, song, dance, and music are vital elements of many African wedding ceremonies. Common to all wedding ceremonies is the concept of transitioning between childhood and adulthood. In many African cultures children are encouraged to marry as young as 13 to 15 years of age, as soon as they have reached physical adulthood.

Divorce is rare in African marriages. Problems in a marriage are often discussed with both families and solutions found. Often entire villages join in to help a couple find solutions to their problems and keep a marriage from failing.

Marriage is sacred the world over, and that is definitely true in Africa, no matter which region or which culture you come from, and no matter what your religious beliefs. In fact, many cultures have a special totem that is designed to remind a couple that cultural and tribal differences must be allowed for in order to make a marriage succeed.

Wedding traditions in South Africa

Nov 23, 2007 Author: John | Filed under: International Traditions

After the bridal procession into the church, a prayer of dedication will precede the wedding ceremony. After the exchange of vows, a unity candle will be lit. The couple will then be pronounced man and wife, and blessed by the priest.

The twelve symbols of life important in African culture may be administered as part of the wedding ceremony. These are wine, wheat, pepper, salt, bitter herbs, water, a pot and spoon, a broom, honey, a spear, a shield, and a copy of the Bible or the Koran. Each one represents a different aspect of the love and strength which unites two families.

The wedding feast which follows the ceremony is traditionally known as the Karamu.

In South Africa, to mark the start of the newlyweds life together, the bride’s and groom’s parents would traditionally carry a fire from their hearths in their homes to the home of the new couple, where a new fire would be lit.

Wedding traditions in Egypt

Nov 15, 2007 Author: John | Filed under: International Traditions

As in the past, many weddings in Egypt are still arranged, and the tradition of the groom’s family proposing to the bride is often practiced.

Just before the marriage vows begin there is a musical wedding march called the Zaffa. There is traditional Egyptian music, belly dancers, drums horns and performers with flaming swords.

Traditionally, Egyptians believed that the ring finger has the “vein amoris”, the vein of love, which runs straight to the heart.

Wedding traditions in Morocco

Nov 10, 2007 Author: John | Filed under: International Traditions

As in other Muslim countries, a traditional Moroccan wedding ceremony lasts from four to seven days.

On her wedding day, it is a Moroccan wedding custom for the bride to have a ceremonial purification milk bath before a ritual henna painting (Beberiska) of her hands and feet. Originally, this purification and painting was the wedding ceremony in Arab lands some 200 years ago. Modern Morrocan brides continue this tradition by annointing the palm of guests with a unique smear, called the henna. Before she is dressed in her wedding dress, another woman arranges her hair, applies her make-up and puts on her jewelry. The bride also wears an elaborate headpiece with a veil.

Once the couples wedding vows have been exchanged, and before the newlywed Moroccan bride becomes the mistress of her new home, she walks around the outside of her house three times.

Wedding traditions in Sudan

Oct 10, 2007 Author: John | Filed under: International Traditions

A bridegroom ceremony is a common wedding practice in the Sudan. The bridegroom is welcomed to the wedding site with an auspicious decoration called the umbul-umbul, a type of ‘wedding announcement’. The mother of the bride gives the bridegroom a garland of flowers, welcoming him into her family. She also gives him a ‘keris’, a hidden message encouraging him not to be disheartened while toiling for his family.

The bridegroom welcome is followed by a procession of ladies with candles, who pray for the ceremony. The bride and groom sit next to each other under an umbrella in front of the entrance to their future home with a veil covering both of their heads. The umbrella is held over the couple’s head, serving not only a very practical purpose by also symbolizing esteem and respect.

The bride and groom bend forward and kiss the knees of their parents, a ceremony called sungkem, asking for forgiveness and blessing and promising to continue to serve their parents. This wedding ritual is held in front of a gargoyle fountain. Water flowing from the gargoyle suggests the continuous flow of priceless parental love for their children. A chosen man and woman, sing a special song called kidung on behalf of the parents, advising the couple to treat each other well and to live in harmony. Kidung also invokes blessing upon the couple.

An egg breaking ceremony, called nincak endog, requires the couple to stand facing each other in front of their house. The bridegroom stands outside the entrance and the bride stands inside. The ceremony is conducted by the Sudanese equivalent of an American ‘maid of honor’, who remains an advisor throughout the marriage. In this ceremony, seven broomsticks are burnt and thrown away, dramatizing the discarding of bad habits which endanger married life.

The groom is pronounced master of his house when the egg is broken. His bride cleans the his foot with water from a kendi, an earthen water jug which represents peace. Then she breaks the kendi and crosses over a log into the house, demonstrating willing obedience to her future husband. She is fed a dish of turmeric sticky rice with yellow spiced chicken to symbolize the last time the parents of the bride will feed their daughter.

The groom remains outside for another ceremony, which is enacted before him by a couple who sing. During this ceremony, the groom, via the vocalists, requests to enter his bride’s house, and she consents when he agrees to confirm his Moslem faith. Having done so, the couple is given a barbecued spiced chicken to pull apart on a signal from the ‘maid of honor’. According to tradition, the one who gets the larger piece will bring in the larger share of the family fortune. The ceremony also portrays the importance of working together to acquire fortune.

Following the wedding ceremony, dancers shower the bride and groom with wedding flowers to insure a fragrant future for the couple. A sawer, made of turmeric rice, coins, and candy, is thrown at the couple. Rice is a symbol of prosperity, and yellow is for everlasting love. The coins remind the couple to share their wealth with the less fortunate, and the candy bestows sweetness and fragrance upon their marriage. Seven candles are lit representing the direction the couple should follow to bring about a happy married life. A betel nut set near the couple is a reminder that different customs should not spoil a harmonious marriage.