International wedding customs

Common elements in wedding customs across cultures

A number of cultures utilize the western custom of a bride wearing a white dress. This tradition came to symbolize purity in the Victorian era (despite popular misconception, the white dress did not indicate virginity, which was symbolized by the face veil). Within the ‘white wedding’ tradition, a white dress and veil would not have been considered appropriate for a second or third wedding of a widow or a divorcee.

The custom of exchanging rings may be the oldest and most universal symbol of marriage, but the origins are unclear. The ring’s circular shape represents perfection and never-ending love. The rings are exchanged during the wedding ceremony and symbolize the love, faithfulness and commitment of the marriage union.

The wedding is often followed by a reception during which the rituals include toasting the bride and groom, the newlyweds' first dance as husband and wife, cake cutting, etc.