Tag Archives: Weddings

Spitting at Greek Weddings

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Greek American
Age: 19
Occupation: Unemployed
Residence: Anaheim, CA and Thessaloniki, Greece
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Greek


“That common stereotype that Greeks spit at brides down the wedding aisle you see in [My] Big Fat Greek Wedding, although exageratted, is based in truth.  More in Greek-Greek culture than in Greek-American culture, you will see people spit on the bride, not walking down the aisle, but while she gets ready.  Also this “spitting” is not accompanied by saliva, but instead is like a mock spit. What it’s supposed to do is ward away evil spirits and the “evil eye”,  which a lot of us characterize with a redness on the face.  This can be acne or just simple irritation of the skin, but we have done it at weddings moreso to wish the bride luck and hope her husband doesn’t run away.  Yeah, it can be a little condescending at times because people could do it to say, “Just so your man doesn’t leave you at the altar”.


My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this not from her church in America, but her church back in Thessaloniki where there is more of a belief in bad spirits surrounding big occasions.


This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.


When you watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s easy to write off a lot of the stuff in it and other culture-specific movies as overblown stereotypes, however, in asking someone with firsthand experience, it’s very interesting to see a piece of folklore interpreted into a joke or comedic form.  As well, I find it interesting that this has such a dual meaning.  It can be seen as helpful or insulting and that really opens up a conversation about how one bigger folk group could be divided into  sub-divisions based on how they interpret the same piece of folklore.

Wedding Traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Date of Performance/Collection: 1/5/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


The informant is a 29-year-old Caucasian female who will be called JH. She is of Irish and English descent and knows of this folklore from her family, more specifically her grandparents. This folklore piece is told in her words:

Main Piece:

My Paternal Grandparents used to tell us that it was tradition on our wedding day for proper young ladies to have a few things:

– Something Old: Usually a piece of jewelry from a mother/grandmother/future mother-in-law. You were connected via sentiment and would carry that into your new marriage.

– Something New: Usually a gift of some sort from the groom or his family to show that the wife was considered precious to them.

– Something Borrowed: Sometimes a veil from a family member, or a trinket they wore or used in their wedding.

– Something Blue: Usually we learned it was forget-me-nots, sweet blue flowers to never forget your family, or the new love and joy you would receive from your wedding day. We also learned it could be a blue handkerchief, to hide the blue of tears (sad or happy).

And a sixpence in your shoe: By walking into your new life with wealth in your foot, you would always have money when you needed it for a prosperous life.



JH learned about this folklore when she was younger and had attended a wedding with her family. JH is not currently married but when she does get married, she will continue this tradition.


This tradition derives from an Old English rhyme, which goes, “Something olde, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe.” The meaning of something old is meant to ward off the “evil eye” and protect the newly weds and their future children. It can also represent continuity. Something new expresses optimism for the future so that the new couple can have good luck for their future life together. Something borrowed is a way for the couple to share in the luck given to them from the item that it borrowed and from that person/persons. The contemporary belief is to have something that honors a loved one that the item came from.  Something blue is also another way to ward of evil or mean spirits. And the sixpence is for future prosperity and good fortune in the couple’s life together. This tradition wasn’t something my family did however, for my wedding, my mother-in-law gave me trinkets that fulfilled every part of the tradition. I may continue this tradition with my children as I appreciated the gesture made by my mother-in-law.


For more information on this tradition, check out:




Iraqi Wedding Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Florida
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/28/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Marc is one of my close friends, and I knew that his dad is from South Africa, and his mom is of Arab descent. With this in mind, I asked if he had any particular traditions at celebrations from either of these cultures. What he told me about what a dance that he has done at multiple Arab style weddings.


Marc said that, “At weddings we do something called a Dakbe line, this is pretty much when the whole wedding gets in a big line and does a traditional line dance from various Arab areas, this is usually done at weddings but also at other celebratory events. It’s one of my favorite things to do at these types of events. I learned this from my mom’s side of the family who is of Arab descent.”


Background Info: Marc’s father is from South Africa and his Mom’s parents are from an area near Iraq. Marc now lives in Florida, and attends many events every year that involve traditions and flavors of these two different backgrounds.


Context: Marc told me about this tradition while we were in his apartment hanging out during small talk.


Analysis: I personally have yet to attend a wedding, so I don’t know of any wedding traditions that I have seen in person. At bar mitzvahs, there is a similar type of line dance that Marc speaks of. What I found interesting was how this dance is done at other celebratory events as well because in my religion, this type of dance is only at specific events rather than multiple.


Jumping the Broom at Weddings

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Vacaville, California / Los Angeles, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 15, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Indian Wedding Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian american
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Atlanta, Georgia
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):


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


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.

Rain on Wedding Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 51
Occupation: Social Worker
Residence: Tulsa, OK
Date of Performance/Collection: March 16th, 2016
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Soul Train Line

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 47
Occupation: Spanish teacher
Residence: Memphis, TN
Date of Performance/Collection: April 25, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Weddings in Sudan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Sudanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic

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.

Ethiopian wedding traditions

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Ethiopian-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 28, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Cantonese Wedding Comb Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 51
Occupation: Housewife
Residence: Arcadia, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/2013
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

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.