USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Weddings’
Gestures
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jumping the Broom at Weddings

Informant: The informant is Briana, a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Vacaville, California, in the Bay Area, and has lived there for her entire life, until she moved to Los Angeles for college. She is of African descent.

Context of the performance: This performance was done while we were sitting on the grass outside of our dorm building on USC’s campus- Arts and Humanities at Parkside.

Original Script:

Informant: So, at weddings, African Americans have a tradition of the newlywed spouses jumping over a broom after they say their vows. Basically, someone brings a broom up to the altar so that when the spouses are leaving, they have to jump over it to exit the ceremony area, whether it’s a church or not. It’s supposed to represent sweeping your past behind you, whether that was any issues you had dating or just your past as single people.Your lives as single people are behind you, and you enter into your relationship as a married couple and your new, shared life together.

Interviewer: Who taught you about this ritual?

Informant: My grandmother told me this when I was in middle school.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s cool because it’s a tradition that’s been done for a long time. Also, my mom and dad did it, and so I want to do it. I would keep the broom, personally, and I would show my kids. It would be really sentimental for them to see it.


Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing about this ritual because I, personally, have never been to a wedding. However, I do know that my family does not follow this tradition, so it was quite interesting to learn about. At first, I was confused as to why the couple would step over a broom, but, with Briana’s explanation, the ritual totally makes sense. It is also interesting that she knew the reasoning behind this piece of folklore because many people who observe or participate in folklore do not know about its true message.

Adulthood
Customs

Indian Wedding Tradition

Informant:

Shehan is a sophomore aerospace engineering major from Atlanta, Georgia,  

Piece:

So ummm it is an indian tradition that when you have the bride and groom like the week prior to the actual wedding day they have this thing called a pithi. That’s a word in Hindi. But what they do is they get the groom and he sits on a chair all of his like bachelors like hang out and chill with him for a little bit and then they just like start throwing eggs at him and like ketchup mustard, mayo. really the plan is to like get him as dirty and gross as possible .the tradition is is like cleansing your body at the same time. They do the same thing to the bride, but with her they just put some sort of oil on her face, but for the groom it’s always like eggs yolks and always turns into a big food fight. And its like really fun, really gross and it happens before every wedding

Collector’s thoughts:

The most interesting part of this wedding tradition to me is that the informant says it is a indian bachelor party tradition, yet mustard, mayo, and ketchup are all very american condiments that are not traditionally indian. This reveals that while the tradition may come from the informant’s hini background, it has taken on a distinctly american twist in what foods are used to throw at the groom.

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Rain on Wedding Day

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my aunt talks about the folk belief that if it rains on your wedding day, you will have good luck in your marriage.

AJ: Have you ever heard it when we say “it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day”?

Me: Yeah. I remember at Ashley’s wedding I heard you say that.

AJ: I don’t really remember where I heard it. I always thought it was a Cherokee saying, but I’ve heard others say it too. It’s not that hard to figure out. If it rains on your wedding day, you will have good luck in your marriage.

Me: Where did you first hear it?

AJ: I think I was really young, and one of my cousins was getting married, maybe June or Kelly, and it was raining. My mom went up and told her that it was good luck for it to rain, and that it rained on her’s and Pa’s wedding day, and they were married for over fifty years.

Me: So what about it do you like?

AJ: I think it’s a nice thing to say. Rain is usually seen as something bad, and a bride’s wedding day is the most important and happiest day of her life, and she doesn’t want to think that rain is going to ruin it. So I think it probably started when somebody said that to calm their daughter on her wedding day.

Me: Do you think it holds any value?

AJ: Well, it didn’t rain on any of my three wedding days, so I guess it has some value there! [laughs] But, it didn’t rain on your mom and dad’s wedding day.

Me: Jury’s still out on that one.

AJ: [laughs] Thirty something years of marriage and the jury’s still out.

Me: You can never be too certain.

Rain on your wedding day is something I’ve actually thought about a lot. I think my aunt is right when she says that it was probably just something told to calm a nervous bride. In life, I feel like we always see rain as something bad, even though rain is for the most part really beneficial to the Earth: it causes growth. The idea that rain on your wedding day is good luck I really like, because it’s taking something we usually see as bad and making it something else entirely. Though, now I’m worried it’s not going to rain on my wedding day, but then again, as my aunt pointed out, it did not rain on my parent’s wedding day and they’ve been married thirty plus years. There’s nothing that truly connects rain to a happy marriage, but I guess it’s still wishful thinking.

Folk Dance
general
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soul Train Line

The tradition: “At wedding receptions, the guests form 2 lines facing each other, men on one side and women on the other. The 2 at the front of the line dance down the aisle together and go to their sides when they reach the end. Then the next 2 dance all the way down and so on. It’s comes from the 70s and 80s dance show, Soul Train. It’s called the Soul Train Line.”

The informant (my mom) is a black American woman who grew up in Tennessee. Soul Train aired in 1971, and was the first all-black show on national television when it moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. So my mom (and dad) basically grew up watching Soul Train almost everyday after school, learning the dances and watching the various R&B performers through the 70s and 80s, when they were children and teens. The Soul Train line became famous from the TV show, and now it’s a popular practice at African-American weddings; it’s almost a staple. My mom says it happens at basically every black wedding she goes to, in addition to “lots of line dancing: wobble, Cupid Shuffle, 2 stomps…” in her words. Improvisation and line dancing are huge parts of black folk dance in America. The Soul Train line combines both, and emulates the practices done on the show itself. People go down the line in pairs, improvising and feeding off of one another. Every move is choreographed in the moment, feeding off the energy of the crowd. I think the emergence of Soul Train in the 70s was very important for young black children in America, to see their community represented onscreen. It made them excited, and want to imitate the dance practices they saw on TV. That generation (my mom’s generation) is the generation that mostly practices, or starts, these Soul Train lines. I was at my cousin’s wedding last summer, who is in her thirties, and it was the older adults who began chanting to start a Soul Train line. They’re fun and energetic, and a good way to interact with people you may not even know well through dance.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Weddings in Sudan

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Sudan and they are Muslim.  Both he and his twin brother were educated in international schools.  He speaks Arabic and English.

 

Context: I was talking with the informant about traditions and rituals his family has.

 

Item: “Before the actual wedding, there’s this thing where everyone goes to the mosque and watch the Imam (who is kind of like a Muslim priest) bless the couple so the marriage is Islamically legitimate.  Everybody watches that happen so, you’re kind of obligated to go to that.  Then there’s the actual wedding celebration, and the thing is by the wedding celebration you’re already married.  So the wedding celebration is just a big party, and Sudanese weddings are really odd.  They take place in these large tents with lots of fans.  Like, they’re huge; I’ve never been to a Sudanese wedding that had less than 400 people.  The point of it is that you don’t just invite your close friends and family, that’s not gonna fly with Sudanese people.  You gotta invite your friends and family and then their friends and family.  I’ve gone to these weddings where it’s like a third degree connection to the couple.  Which is hella weird, you’ll get people who invite you and say just bring whoever you want.  My mom goes to a lot of these.  You know, females always engage in this kind of stuff so yeah she goes to a lot; my dad really doesn’t give a crap.

 

I usually don’t like to go, cuz they’re so loud.  There’s just really loud music playing the whole time and there’s really not a whole lot of interaction either.  You sit at a table with like six other people and there’s like 50 tables and you get a plate like halfway through the wedding so you’re already starving, and it’s just like a sandwich with some meat in it, like a beef sandwich, falafel or two and dry chips with Pepsi.  It’s never good food, honestly I feel like there’s one company in Sudan who caters all these weddings because it’s way too similar every time.  Um, so the food I’ve never really been a fan of, personally.  And you can’t really talk to people cuz the music is really loud.  The bride and groom sit in the middle of the whole party, most of the time just sitting down while people go  up to them throughout the night to give their congratulations.  These are three-four hour events that usually start at 10 and go until 2AM.  So they’re really late.  At some point during the wedding, the bride and groom are expected to dance and that’s always a fun time.

 

Now there’s this thing, and I’m not sure how many cultures do this, but the makeup that the bride has, like, it makes her a lot more lighter than she actually is.  Her face will be so much whiter than normal.

 

Analysis: My analysis of the makeup aspect is that there’s some kind of inferiority complex or self-hate related to having darker skin; whiter skin is seen as more beautiful.  This is why brides will be a lot more whiter skinned during weddings.  I doubt that anyone would ever acknowledge this if you asked them the reason, but this sort of thing has been seen across cultures and throughout history.  It is especially prevalent in many South Asian weddings.

 

It is interesting that the weddings are so open and that it is open to pretty much the whole town.  I imagine this means that weddings largely dominate the social scene as you could probably be invited to at least one or two per week.  I think the informant’s experience, being a children at most of these, probably tainted his viewpoint and led to his dismissal of weddings in general.  More than likely he was placed at the table with other children or random people and he therefore does not appreciate many of the more rewarding aspects of this type of ceremony.

 

Like many cultures, religion is a dominant and even defining aspect of life for the Sudanese people.  Nothing happens without first making sure that Islamic conditions are met.  Government statistics say that 100% of Sudan is Muslim, which, although it may not be completely true, does highlight the homogeneous nature of the country.  This homogeneity may also contribute to the relative openness of the weddings, as many people have congruent viewpoints, values and expectations as opposed to the massive diversity we find here in the U.S.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ethiopian wedding traditions

My informant’s parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. My informant grew up in Washington, D.C., where she says there is a large Ethiopian community. This her explanation of Ethiopian wedding customs:

“I go to a lot of Ethiopian weddings every summer, and they’re all pretty similar. The only ones that are like, really different are when people try to Americanize them. That’s always really awkward because half the people there don’t approve. So yeah, I usually go to around twelve every summer, and they’re all pretty repetitive. The one main thing that would make a wedding different is if it’s held in the orthodox church. Those ceremonies are pretty much exactly the same. Um, they are using Amharic, which is like the main Ethiopian language. It’s the one that’s spoken by the most people. But they’re kind of using the old form of it, so it’s words that aren’t really used outside of a religious setting. And there’s three priests that preside over that ceremony. And it’s really long, and they burn incense, and it’s like… it just goes on forever. When you go in the orthodox church, you have to take off your shoes. It’s a sign of respect. Um… Oh, and the people who are getting married are wearing, like, robes. They’re really heavy and they’re kind of made of like, velvet or suede, I think. The stitching and the designs are usually flowers and crosses—crosses are always a big theme—and they’re stitched with very heavy gold fabric, and they’re very detailed and rigid. They’re not very comfortable. And the people getting married are also wearing crowns that are made out of the same fabric. Um… And… In preparation for the wedding, the bride is like… It’s done at like a close family member’s house, it can’t be done at your own house. But like, the bride is kind of like, prepared and dressed, and there’s singing and dancing and talking. And it’s mostly women. Like, men can there, but they’re usually not. They’re usually with the groom. It’s like the Ethiopian version of bachelorette party, sort of, but it’s like, right before the wedding. So all the family is there, and so are all the bride’s close female friends. So I mean, I guess they’re less lively when it’s an orthodox wedding, because if the wedding is orthodox, it’s likely to be really early in the morning. So it can be at like 6 AM. I’ve been to a few that are at like, ten or eleven, but that’s not normal. And the ones that are still in churches but are not orthodox are usually at ten or eleven. The reception isn’t until much later, so in between, there’s usually like, a big break where people just go home or do whatever they want. Or at least in Washington, D.C., everyone always goes to the same park and takes pictures for hours. And there’s food there—Ethiopian food—like injera and types of sauces that are very similar to curry. So everyone eats and socializes.”

My informant had a lot to say on wedding traditions because weddings are so ritualized. They commemorate a liminal period in a person’s life—the time between being completely single and being married—so there are multitudes of traditions in every culture that surround weddings. Some aspects of Ethiopian weddings are similar to common Americanized wedding traditions, such as the separation of the actual ceremony from the reception and the “bachelorette party”. Yet there are a number of obvious differences, such as the clothing that is worn and the time of day that the ceremony takes place. My informant alluded to the fact that many elements of Ethiopian weddings are considered traditional, and according to a portion of the Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C., they should not be altered. However, as cultures continue to blend in America, the mixing of “traditional” elements is becoming more and more common.

Contagious
Customs
Folk speech
Homeopathic
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cantonese Wedding Comb Tradition

My mother said that when she was about to get married, she learned of a tradition that takes place before the day of the wedding.  Her older sister combed her hair the night before, and said the following lines:

一梳梳到老 (yi shu, shu dao lao)

二梳白髮齊眉 (er shu, bai fa jing wei)

三梳兒孫滿地 (san shu, er sun man di)

四梳有田有地 (si shu, you tian you di)

Each line is delivered with a stroke from a comb.

The first line translates to, “one stroke, stroke until old age.”  The first stroke comes with a wish for the bride-to-be to have a long life.

The second line translates to, “two strokes, your brows become white together.”  The second stroke wishes for the bride-to-be to have white eyebrows at the same time her husband does.  In other words, this stroke wishes for the couple to grow old together.

The third line translates to, “three strokes, children and grandchildren cover the ground.”  This third stroke wishes for the bride to have many children, and children who survive to raise grandchildren.

The fourth line translates to, “four strokes, you’ll have fields and have land.”   This wishes for the wife-to-be to own property.

There are other significant gestures in this ritual as well.  The reason why my mother’s older sister combed her hair was because she was happily married, had children, and had a home.  Elder members of either family can comb the wife-to-be’s hair so long as they’re happily married and generally have experienced the wishes of this combing ceremony.  Widows or sickly wives can not perform this action.

After the combing ceremony, the wife-to-be can not sleep and must preserve the hair until the wedding.

There’s a lot going on in the gestures of this combing ceremony.  A happy marriage and future is very important, so it would make sense that this combing ceremony takes place.  The stressed need for a happily-wedded wife to perform this ceremony shows that theres is a form of contagious and homeopathic magic going on in the performance.  Since homeopathic magic follows a “like produces like” rationale, a happy wife combing a wife-to-be’s hair hopefully produces another happy wife.  On the other hand, the wife combing the wife-to-be’s hair acts as a form of transferrence.  She is transferring her happiness and successful marriage to the wife-to-be.

My mother noted that the fourth line was a recent addition.  With expanded rights and social roles for women, the wish for her ability to own property became very relevant.  This shows that the incantation and the practice of combing the wife-to-be’s hair is adaptive to changing circumstances.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Russian Wedding Traditions

My informant is from Lipitsk, Russia. She moved to the United States for graduate studies, and is a graduate student at USC at the age of 33. I collected many superstitions from my informant, and also wedding traditions, using her own wedding as an example. My informant gave me many Russian wedding traditions. My informant is married to a man from the United States. Their wedding was in Russia, with the traditional elements. I asked my informant why she did all of these traditional things and she explained the importance of tradition in Russia. “Tradition is important to the family. There are certain expectations and you do not wan tot upset everyone. The structure is always there, and it works well. Russians are very traditional, it is just the way things are done. At my wedding, I wanted to show my in laws the Russian wedding and show them my culture. The M.C. brings the two families together. Like they have to do this special dance with each side of the family. One tradition is at the wedding receptions where when someone means a word translated to “sour or lemons”, the couple has to kiss.”

I thought this tradition was interesting because at my aunts wedding reception there was karaoke and anytime a song had the word “kiss” in it, a couple had to kiss.  My informant told me about an M.C. that is hired to run the wedding. There are many weddings games to play, and the M.C. facilitates bringing the two families together. My informant’s parents in law liked how involved they were able to be, as the groom’s parents.

There is another Russian superstition that says “if it is raining on your wedding day, you will be rich.”

Another tradition that I found especially interesting was that the bride will be “stolen” and the groom must buy her back. This is very similar to my informant from Bangladesh, where the groom’s side of the family had to pay to get in to the reception. Similarly, in Russian tradition, the bride’s shoe is often stolen, just as the groom’s shoes were stolen in the wedding from my informant from Bangladesh. My Russian informant said that the stealing of the shoes symbolizes a “loss of virginity.” It is interesting that these themes of buying back the bride and stealing of shoes come up in countries across the world.

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Stealing the groom’s shoes

My informant is from Bangladesh and goes to school in Los Angeles. He is studying mechanical engineering in school. His sister got married last summer (he husband was also from Bangladesh) so I asked him about any wedding traditions. He told me about two, but they are related so I put them in one entry. The first is a tradition where someone from the bride’s side steals the grooms shoes during the ceremony and the groom must back whoever stole them a sum of money. The second is that the groom’s side of the family must pay the bride’s side at the door to get into the wedding reception, which is hosted by the bride’s family. It is sort of a joke and fun tradition.

Rebecca: Okay, so can you tell me about weddings?

I: Weddings, okay well my sister got married this past summer. So from personal experience, one of the customs is that someone from the bride’s family tries to steal the groom’s shoes. The idea is that you’ll steal them and eventually sell them back to the groom and make a prophet because the groom is going to want his shoes back, because they are his wedding shoes.

Rebecca: Like the ones that he is wearing?

I: The ones that he’s wearing, off his feet.

Rebecca: So when? After the wedding or before

I: During. At some point. Because customarily the groom is sitting for a large part of the wedding. So if you can creep in there under the table or something, or have people hold him down while you steal his shoes, that’s the thing. So my brother successfully stole his shoes. Its on video.

R: Your brother stole your brother in laws shoes, during the wedding? How did he do it? Like when?

I: He literally ran up and swiped them off his feet.

R: just like during the ceremony?

I: yeah, because you have to remember that they are kind of like Aladdain shoes, they are not tied on, and he sold them back for a large amount of money

R: And how do people react? Do they think that’s funny?

I: And everyone laughed. You don’t have to do it, its just a customary thing. Similarly, at the beginning of the wedding, the girl’s family, who’s throwing the wedding. The wedding reception is from the girl’s side. They bar the husband from entering, until they pay a large sum. At the gate. It is literally this large heckling battle between the groom’s side and the bride’s side. Where its like, “you can’t come in with all your guests until you pay.” It’s a total joke. Often they hand over like a suitcase full of money, which has like monopoly money you know inside. Its just fun and games.

R: So then after his shoes were stolen, he had to buy them back later. After the wedding or way later?

I: You talk about it after the wedding. Like my brother got a few hundred bucks

R: seriously?  So can anyone steal them? Or do you choose someone to do it beforehand?

I: Anyone on the bride’s side. Its anyone who is capable of doing it.

R: does this mean anything to you?

I: To me it shows that even at your wedding you are already having a good time with the other family.

My informant enjoys this tradition because it is pretty funny and amusing to watch. I think that this practice is important for weddings because it may help bring the two families closer together, if the bride’s side must steal the groom’s shoes. Also, the paying of money to enter the wedding reception is another way of bringing the families together. It seems that because more modern weddings do not require real money to enter the reception, the tradition has taken on more of a joking or playful side. The person who successfully stole the shoes was able to actually make money in this case. Additionally, I found this story very interesting because another one of my informants from Russia told me about a wedding tradition in which the bride’s show is stolen. (See my other entry for that story). I have also found through my collections a common theme of the different sides of the family paying each other, or stealing things from each other. These themes were seen both in this collection and my Russian wedding collections.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Weddings in Taiwan

“One thing I remember is when my sister got married in Taiwan, there were a lot of Taiwanese traditions that we went through that I think are traditional marriage customs. Like, first my brother-in-law came to our ‘house’ that our family was in, and had to be welcomed in by us to get my sister or else he couldn’t come in the door. Then, he had to formally ask my parents if he could marry my sister, and then he had to bow and give my parents money. Then when my sister left ‘our house’ my little sister had to pick up a fan that my older sister threw out the car window and neither of them could look back and my little sister had to take the fan and put it under her pillow, which was one way to ensure a happy marriage. After that we moved to my brother-in-laws house, but before my sister entered, she had to step over a pot of fire onto a tile and the number of pieces the tile broke into signified the number of children they would have.”

My informant was unfamiliar with the traditions herself as she is Chinese and lived in America for most of her life, and found them very different and interesting. She was not really sure of the meaning for these traditions other than entering a new stage in life.

As discussed in class, marriage is one of the most celebrated occasions in life, so marriage traditions are abundant in most cultures. Now that I know may of the seemingly innocent traditions that people partake of are actually Freudian, I viewed these traditions in a similar light. I found it interesting that my informant’s sister had to step over a pot of fire before finding out how many prospective children she will likely have. This seems to have a Freudian angle as fire can signify passion and sexuality. Also, I have heard that fans can signify union, so perhaps the tossing of the fan can mean the new union formed and a loss of the female’s innocence, which the little sister keeps as she should still have this innocence. This may not be the actual significance of this action, but I interpreted it in this way. Other actions seem to show the traditional way of the woman leaving her home and entering her husband’s. At least in Korea, I know that often newly wed couples will live for a couple years with the husband’s parents. This seems significant in this particular wedding as well, as the husband “bought” his wife from her family by offering money, and they moved from her house to his.

[geolocation]