Spring is the time of year when God’s blessings are shown in magnificent splendor. Spring is when God’s mercy brings an end to the bleakness of winter and offers, instead, new life and new beginnings. Spring is when God’s love for us shines its brightest.
There are as many kinds of love as there are people in the world. Every culture has different ways of showing love, and in no greater way is this displayed than in the ceremony of marriage.
Marriage Around the World
All of us are familiar with the beliefs and traditions of Christian marriage, whether we were brought up in the faith or learned it at some point in our lives. While it may seem that Christianity’s global influence has established its wedding practices internationally, there are plenty of other ways that other cultures celebrate marriage.
In that spirit, let us learn how three religious cultures separate from our own observe the coming together of two people in love, and as we peer into their differences, may we learn what core beliefs unite us.
The leading religion in countries like India and Nepal has a rich history reaching back to the Iron Age. From observing multiple gods and goddesses to the belief in reincarnation, Hindu beliefs and rituals differ greatly from the religious traditions of the West.
Marriages in India are often arranged, as they were for centuries across the world. Traditionally, women can marry multiple men — a difficult concept for Western mentalities to comprehend. Today, these practices have waned, and Western influence has made marriage rooted in romantic love has grown increasingly mainstream.`
In India, marriage is considered to be a holy sacrament, just as it is in Western belief systems, in which two people join their life journeys as one. Happiness, harmony, and growth are held as the foundational elements of a meaningful marriage in Hinduism, showing that despite practical differences, Hindus uphold similar philosophical observations we value in the West.
Hindu weddings are elaborate affairs, with celebrations often lasting days. Engagement parties are held as a way to appreciate the couple with gifts and blessings. It is here that the bride receives beautiful henna tattoos along her arms, hands, legs, and feet to signify the occasion.
The wedding itself is often held on a day that falls in the “bright half” of the northern course of the sun for astrological reasons, and it is customary for the ceremony to take place under a canopy called a mandap. Commonly made of wood, the mandap resembles a pergola brightly decorated with lights, fabrics, flowers, and crystals. Beneath this structure, a sacred fire is lit where family members make offerings and the bride and groom make their vows.
The bride and groom are welcomed by family and friends with joyful songs and dancing, and the nine planets are invoked to provide blessings to the couple. The parents then wash the feet of their children with milk and water, and the bridge and groom’s right hands are joined together with cotton. After the vows have been made, the marriage is complete, and the ceremony is concluded with the newlyweds gazing toward the North Star, symbolizing a steady relationship in an ever-changing world.
Jewish weddings are steeped with symbolism. A week before the wedding, the bride and groom separate and do not see one another until the wedding ceremony. Guests are welcomed by the bride and groom separately, while each of their mothers break a plate together to signify the importance of their children’s union. Once the bride appears, it is tradition that the groom and his family veil her face — a symbol of the husband’s responsibility in clothing and protecting his wife.
Similar to Hinduism, Jewish wedding ceremonies are performed underneath a canopy adorned with flowers and decorative cloths called a chuppah. The bride and groom stand beneath the chuppah as a representation of the home they will create together. No jewelry is to be worn when under the chuppah due to its focus on the material rather than spiritual world.
A ring is given to the bride by the groom, but should the bride desire her partner to possess one as well, it is given once the ceremony has concluded. A written contract similar to vows is read out loud and defines the responsibilities of the groom to his wife.
Everyone is familiar with the practice of breaking a glass by the groom at the wedding’s end. The meaning of this is debated by many. There are those who proclaim it as a symbol of the Temple of Jerusalem’s destruction, while others declare it demonstrates that all joy is tempered by sorrow (something that all marriages must endure).
While Islam is world’s second-largest religion, its traditions may vary depending on the ethnic culture of the area it is practiced. In the Middle East, wedding ceremonies appear to take influence from both Western and Eastern religions.
Like Hinduism, the bride (along with close friends and family) will be painted in henna. These designs act as blessings of protection, while ritual baths are used to cleanse the spirit (similar to baptism). Particular sects will even include musicians and dancing to these celebrations, making the event a very festive occasion.
In certain Muslim communities, a ceremony is observed where male friends and families of both bride and groom gather at the mosque the Friday following the proposal. It is here that prayers of thanks and blessings are given with arms stretched out toward Heaven.
Part of why weddings in Islam are so diverse is that there exist far fewer official rules to its practice. It is always a formal event. Convention dictates that men and women are to be seated separately. It is typical that the father hand his daughter over to her husband and common practice that, in addition to recreating the groom’s proposal and bride’s acceptance, verses from the Quran are read.
Dowry is then presented to the couple by the family of the bridegroom as an act that signifies the groom’s responsibility to honor and provide for his wife. Prayers and blessing are given in addition to gifts and thanks. A marriage contract is signed, where the newlyweds then share a piece of sweet fruit.
This spring, as nature blooms in full color, let us remember love. Especially now, when fear and uncertainty abound. God help us to use the gift of life to glorify your majesty and learn to love one another.
Editor’s note: Make sure to click the linkS below and enjoy Jonathan’s anthems.