Everywhere you go in the US, you'll see evidence of what a melting pot the country truly is. You might see an Eastern European church next to an authentic Mexican taqueria. You're just as likely to hear Korean spoken on the subway as you are Spanish.
Immigrants from all over the world have brought their culture, language, food, and customs to the US. When looking at some of the most popular wedding traditions throughout the country, this conglomeration of cultures has never been more obvious.
Whether you've been to (or had) your own fair share of weddings, or just enjoy the movie versions, you're likely familiar with some of the more obvious traditions. For example, it's customary for the bride to wear white, and for no one else to do so. Most American wedding ceremonies also include a bridal party, complete with ring-bearer and flower girl. But this is a list about some of the lesser-known nuptial traditions, as well as their origins. From the most unique Southern wedding customs to the fun-loving traditions of the West, the US has it all.
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Second Line Parade
The Second Line parade, also called the wedding parade, is one of the lesser-known traditions of the South. New Orleans, in particular, is where you're most likely to witness (or take part in) this event.
In the 1800s in New Orleans, the city's love of jazz extended even to funeral processions, when musicians would highlight the celebration-of-life side of things after the more formal ceremonies had been taken care of. The Second Line parade was born as friends, family, and residents of the city joined in the musical procession.
This tradition then extended to weddings. The parade usually refers to the bride and groom, their wedding party, and any passerby who wants to join in. The First Line consists of the brass band, which leads the group throughout the streets to celebrate the occasion with the whole town.
The wedding parade usually takes place after the ceremony and before - or on the way to - the reception. Most wedding parades last around 20 minutes or less. You don't want to tire all your guests out before the reception has even started!
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Pounding (Pantry) Party
While this tradition might sound a little fishy, it's probably one of the more practical and useful ones out there. Originating with the Quakers, a pounding party is when friends, family, and neighbors come by to stock the lovebirds with pantry essentials such as flour, butter, and sugar - items given by the pound.
This traditionally Southern version of a housewarming party can take place any time before the nuptials. Nowadays, it's often combined with the typical bridal shower or wedding shower. Either way, it's a fun yet practical method for the bride and groom to stock their kitchen before learning how to cook for two!
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Blowing Of The Pu
When people envision a Hawaiian wedding, they likely think of the beach, lei flowers, and perhaps even a hula dance. One lesser-known Hawaiian wedding tradition is blowing of the pu, or conch shell.
The conch has been used for centuries in Hawaii to make important announcements, as it creates a sound audible for miles. The tradition goes that the blower of the pu will direct the sound in all four directions of the earth: north, south, east, west. This unites love, energy, power, and good thoughts and sends them to the betrothed couple.
This ritual usually occurs right before the bride walks down the aisle. It signifies unity and long-lasting love, and is a moving complement to any Hawaiian wedding.
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Another carry-over from the Victorian era that remains popular in the South is the cake pull, a nod to the ladies attending the wedding. Generally, all single women are invited to join in, but because of the size of some weddings, it can be limited to just those in the bridal party.
So, how does it work? Does everyone grab a handful and pull that beautiful wedding cake apart? Not so much. Ribbons are attached to small charms, which represent well wishes and are carefully placed between the cake's layers. The most common charms are a ring (to signify who will get married next), a four-leaf clover (for good luck), and an anchor (offering hope).
Once all participating women are around the cake and holding on to their selected ribbons, they all pull (gently) on the count of three. The cake pull is a festive way to include more of the women you love in your special day, and give them a small trinket for the memory.
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Jumping The Broom
Jumping the broom reportedly has origins in Europe, but no one has quite been able to nail down the specifics. Regardless of where in Europe is started (it had become a common tradition in pre-Christian Celtic and Roman areas), it was likely English immigrants who brought the tradition to the American colonies.
It was these later immigrants, along with the Welsh, who brought the tradition to the American South. It also became popular among enslaved couples, although whether it was forced upon them or they borrowed it custom from poor whites around them is up for debate.
A person, perhaps the leader of the wedding ceremony or someone special to the couple, will walk around the couple with the broom, usually adorned with ribbons or other decoration, offering them good wishes. The person will then ask the couple if they're ready to take the leap into marriage. After they answer in the affirmative, the broom is set in front of the couple for them to leap over together, officially starting their happily ever after. Families often keep the broom as an heirloom to pass down to future generations.
While more common in the South, couples throughout the US now practice the tradition.
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The handfasting ceremony is also referred to as a tying of the hands. The tradition has its roots in pagan Celtic rituals, and until fairly recently was only seen in pagan or Wiccan ceremonies. However, the rite is now increasing in popularity among American couples everywhere in the 21st century as a symbol of unity (especially among Game of Thrones fans).
The ceremony itself is pretty simple: the bride and groom hold hands, and as they exchange vows or other meaningful words, the officiant ties their hands together, usually with ribbon or a specific ceremonial cord. It's meant to symbolize the binding together of two separate lives. Or, more literally, the "tying of the knot."
The couple can leave their hands tied for as long as they choose, but most couples opt to remove the ties before the reception begins.