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United in any language

The rituals and religious traditions of weddings may differ from culture to culture, but the world over they’re essentially about the same thing: uniting not only a man and a woman, but their families as well.

Teenagers from 50 countries, visiting South Africa courtesy of Cathay Pacific’s cultural exchange programme, recently re-enacted the songs, dances and merriment that go with weddings in their countries.

Carric Lee, from Hong Kong, captured many of the youngsters’ views when he said, “When people get married, they commit themselves to each other for life. It is about commitment and loyalty.”

Bahrain and Pakistan
Because both are Islamic states and their weddings are similar, youngsters from these two countries shared the stage. Before the wedding, a series of meetings between the two families took place. The bride, in the company of three witnesses, was proposed to three times before she gave a nod of acceptance. After she had consented, the couple signed papers symbolically sealing their commitment. The proceedings were solemn and presided over by an imam or sheik. This is followed by days of festivities and feasts.

This wedding was based on Hindu values and rituals. The wedding dresses of both the bride and groom were bright and lavishly adorned. The couple put garlands — the equivalent of rings — around each other’s necks. The bride’s parents walked her in as they handed her over to the groom. Incense was burnt in special receptacles, and a fire symbolised eternity. The wedding conductor led the singing and chanting.

The bride and groom were ushered in to different music. With heads bowed, they simultaneously made their vows. They then held out a wide cloth into which grain or seed was thrown, symbolising the children they will have. The bride and groom then fed each other a piece of bread.

Philippines and Malaysia
They also shared the stage because their wedding rituals are similar. The bride entered with her face covered in a veil. She joined the groom and both were wrapped with a cloth to symbolise their new togetherness. The groom’s attire was yellow, representing royalty. The groom is always on the right and the bride on the left during the ceremony. In the Philippine ceremony, this was followed by a traditional dance with the bride and groom clutching banknotes in their hands for prosperity. Instead of money, the Malaysians sprinkle grains of rice and use water, also as symbols of prosperity, purity and eternity.

The Vietnamese wedding consists of three parts. The first part is a visit to a fortune teller to find out if all is well. The second is a meeting between the two families to ask for the bride’s hand. And the third part is the wedding day where there is a lot of fun. During the proceedings, the groom took a piece of ginger bread lightly dipped in salt and put it in the bride’s mouth. Solemnly, the bride and groom knelt down and prayed to the ancestors to bless their union.

August is an auspicious month to the Thais, and many weddings take place at this time of the year. Dressed in dazzling attire, the couple exchanged vows and rings, accompanied by dance and song. A Buddhist monk guided the proceedings. The couple then joined hands and her parents poured water over the couple to symbolise their blessing.

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Thabo Mohlala
Guest Author

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