For better, for worse; in sickness and in health. Marriage is one of the most important constructs of society. Its effect on humanity’s evolution, growth, and continuity of life can never be understated. For marriages to occur, however, there has to be consent between a man and a woman after which the union or agreement is sealed by a marital ceremony called a wedding.
When we talk of weddings, the mental image we are most likely to picture is that of a woman in white lace and a man in a dashing black suit. However, different cultures have peculiar ways of celebrating this event. Some of these traditions are likely to be viewed as barbaric in this age, some as weird, and some as ridiculous.
Here are some of the strangest wedding customs practiced around the world:
1. COUPLES DON’T GO TO THE LOO FOR THE FIRST THREE DAYS IN BORNEO:
“Don’t take a dump, so you don’t dump your spouse”.
This short phrase I coined covers the weird wedding custom practiced in Borneo. While in many other places, a rich couple would jet out to some recluse island for honeymoon, couples in Borneo will spend their first three days of marriage in detention — and worse, restraining themselves from taking a dump or urinating.
The people of Borneo believe that refreshing the bowel system can bring about things like an unhappy marriage, child mortality, and infertility. Even weirder is that they believe that this restraint will strengthen the couple’s bond and love. Who could have guessed that our guts and not our hearts were the custodians of love? So, instead of feasting on their wedding cakes and the other delicacies served at their wedding, a fast would be imposed on them by their relatives effectively throwing the couple into their first-ever conflict — a conflict that ends on the third day. Successful couples are the ones who were able to handle each other’s mess or fart, rather.
2. BRIDE FATTENING IN MAURITANIA:
To get married, you must be big enough to handle marriage.
In rural Mauritania, slim runway models from New York would be looked at with disgust. Being slim is like hoisting a placard on your head that reads “I’m malnourished and immature”.
Ladies considering marriage are forced to feed heavily months before the wedding ceremony so they can become fat. The fatter, the more wifely she looks. In fact, while Google is filled with women seeking ways of clearing the stretch marks that line their bodies, Ancient Berber poets praise them as jewels.
The fattening of ladies is not a wedding custom practiced exclusively in Mauritanian though. The practice extends to northern Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Calabar, and some parts of Spain and Portugal.
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3. SPITTING ON THE BRIDE:
I hope you have already had dinner before reading this. Think. Think about scenes in movies where a villain sends his men to nab the hero. The villain then taunts the beaten hero, taunts him, and tries to coerce him to give up, but the hero musters all the saliva in his mouth and hurls it at the face of the villain. Are you familiar with such scenes? What usually happens next? More beating, right?
Spitting at a person is not a very pleasing sight. It is disgusting, to say the least — but not to the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania. It is a sign of respect. In weddings, the spitting continues. To bless the daughter, the father of the bride publicly spits on her forehead and breasts.
4. THE FULANI FLOGGING OF THE GROOM:
Do you love your wife? Yes. Will you take a bullet for your wife? No answer. Will you take a hundred lashes for your wife? No, maybe yes.
This is a picture of a wedding custom practiced in some ethnic group of the Fulani. This flogging is known as Sharo. In this case, suitors are publicly flogged by other men to test their bravery, endurance, strength, and discipline. Interestingly, you are expected to receive these lashes without whimpering. Of all wedding customs practiced, this has to be the most hilarious.
Those who cry are immediately labeled as cowards and, in many cases, are rejected by the bride’s family. Of course, the man wouldn’t walk through this Valley of the Sharo of Lashes alone; his relatives will be on the sidelines cheering him on. I imagine, sometimes, what would happen if he gives in at the 98th lash. Heartbreaking. But if he pulls through, he would have a beautiful Fulani wife to apply ointment on his scars. Is that worth it?
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5. PRACTICING TO CRY IN CHINA:
People usually cry at their weddings, yes. But in China (especially for the Tijua people), it is compulsory. It is believed that only a poorly raised girl would fail to cry at her wedding, and are even flogged by their mothers, in some cases.
The practice, known as Zuo Tang, begins a month to the wedding. The wife spends an hour each night rehearsing her weeping skills. Her mother joins the rehearsal in the next days, and in her final ten days, her relatives also join in the crying ritual. The crying may also go with a deeply sorrowful song to create a somber atmosphere at the wedding. It is believed that this could help start the wedding off on a happy note.
What are the wedding customs practiced in your community? Do you think they should be scrapped?