Wedding traditions – to be or not to be a feature in your wedding?

In a constantly changing world, with new trends popping up regularly and the hype of one trend changing to another in an instant, could it be said that the value of traditions are, in some sense, lost in the modern wedding world? A clear answer can never be given. One thing is for certain, wedding traditions differ per couple and their views. However, for the standard “American-style” or Christian wedding, there are some common wedding traditions that some live by for a successful marriage.  There are other wedding traditions that are followed by a number of other cultures and religions in South Africa.

Veronica Sookdin who has been in the events industry for a number of years and currently fills the role of banqueting manager at Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, a popular wedding venue, gives us her views on wedding traditions that she believes in, and has seen during her time in the industry:

  1. Traditions can be different according to one’s faith, culture, family, spirituality and forms part of one’s identification.  “I don’t believe that there are only a handful of traditions that need to be followed and I don’t think that there is a rule for the sharing of traditions amongst different cultures, especially in our country where there is such a diverse rainbow nation” she says.
  2. According to her, she has never seen anything particularly absurd at a wedding, but rather, finds interesting features in every wedding she has witnessed. “It is amazing how each wedding differs from the other. That is what keeps it so exciting,” she adds.
  3. As a Catholic, Sookdin is a firm believer of having the wedding ceremony in a Chapel. “I know some of the latest trends are garden, beach or outdoor ceremonies, but I believe that as a Christian, one should celebrate such an important Sacrament in a sacred place like a Chapel.” According to South African marital law, a marriage ceremony can take place in almost any setting, however the legal part of the ceremony must be conducted in a church or other building used for religious services or in a public office such as the Department of Home Affairs (that has open doors). In addition to this, the marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses.  Tip: Your Marriage Officer has the experience to advise you of the best way of combining the legal requirements with you desired ceremony venue.

When it comes to traditions, there are many that are performed in South Africa that are inspired by other countries. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • Bride wears a white dress and veil to symbolise her modesty and purity. This tradition originates from the Victorian era.
  • Guests should throw rice/confetti/flower petals on the Bride and Groom as a symbol of fertility. Origin: Italy
  • Releasing of white doves during the ceremony is in fact a Filipino tradition and symbolises a long, harmonious life together. Origin: Phillipines
  • The Bride should toss the bridal bouquet as it is thought to be a symbol of good luck. It has become common to do this at the reception where all the single ladies line up with the aim of catching the bouquet. It is believed that the woman that catches it, is next in line for marriage. Origin: England

In South Africa, there are many traditions that are performed according to cultural beliefs.

  • A traditional isiZulu wedding is called “umabo”.In isiZulu tradition, lobola, must also take place, which is a negotiation with the groom and the bride-to-be’s parents for her hand in marriage. It would originally be in the form of cattle however money is now commonly accepted.
  • In isiZulu culture, it is also common tradition for a cow to be slaughtered at the groom’s house after the marriage ceremony as a symbol of his wife being welcomed home.
  • In Hindu weddings in South Africa, the wedding takes place inside a mandap (a canopy like structure) and it is very spiritual, with various prayers said to the specified God’s. This takes a number of days, however in modern times, the wedding ceremony is usually completed in 2 days.
  • As part of the dress code, the bride will don mendhior henna designs that cover her hands and feet before the ceremonies begin.
  • On the ceremonial day, the groom enters with his groomsmen, singing and dancing, and this is called the vara yatra. The bride’s parents, family and friends will greet them with akshat (a kind of rice), tilak (a dot on the forehead), arati (a plate carrying a lighted lamp), and a garland, according to Love Vivah (

These are just a few of the traditions held in South Africa.

Some modern takes on old traditions performed both in South Africa and worldwide, include:

  • Cakes – some couples steer away from the traditional tiered wedding cakes and rather display a host of cupcakes or a tower of doughnuts and the likes, which allow guests to have more options.
  • White wedding dresses – for the bride that is slightly more daring, a coloured gown or dress that is slightly off white is the order of the “modern” wedding day.
  • The tradition of the father giving away the bride has changed for many brides (it originates from the times of arranged marriages). Brides are now choosing the option of walking down the aisle solo or accompanied by both parents. For some Brides who have lost a Father, they may opt for a grandfather, uncle or even a brother to walk them down the aisle.
  • Seeing the bride before the wedding day has become trendy recently. Some couples choose to have their photos taken even before the ceremony takes place. For some couples, this means they are able to spend more time with guests and avoid the awkward time of guest loitering between the ceremony and reception when the photographs are being taken.

The list of traditions goes on as there are many cultures, religions and preferences throughout the world. However you choose to celebrate your special day, ensure that the traditions you choose to follow, allow you to enjoy your day and life together. Call Granny Mouse Country House and Spa’s banqueting team to help make your dream wedding day come true!

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