The women at this Masai Wedding in Arusha in Tanzania carry on wedding traditions that persist to this day. The day before the wedding, the groom and best man brought a dowry to the bride’s family, which makes the marriage legitimate in the family’s eyes. On the same day, the bride’s head is shaved to symbolize the new chapter of her life. She is anointed with oils and decorated with imasaa, Masai beads, to complete her wedding dress. The groom’s relatives make the wedding dress, not the bride and her family, as a show of unity. The bride is blessed by elders when she leaves her home and village. As she makes her way to her husband’s home, villagers greet her with light-hearted teasing and wedding gifts. For each gift, the bridge ties a knot on an enkariwa wedding necklace to note how many gives she received.
Sometimes it’s not just the groomsmen who want to steal the bride on her wedding day. Extra security precautions have to be taken to ensure the safety of the couple and their guests during political and celebrity weddings. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. and Ethel DuPont married in 1937, it was the merging of two enormously powerful political and business families. The groom was the son of the President, who had just started his second term in office. The bridge was the heiress to a major chemical corporation. The couple had 300 powerful, well-connected guests. As guests arrived, each car was inspected by security to make sure they had full credentials to attend the reception at the Owl’s Nest, the DuPont family home in Greenville, Delaware. The couple would have two children, Franklin Delano Roosevelt III and Christopher DuPont Roosevelt, and divorce in 1949.
Bedouin, the semi-nomadic people specializing in goat and sheep herding in North Africa, used to start their wedding celebrations with a grand dance procession to the bride’s house. This dance built up to the bride and groom meeting for the first time. In the past, families brokered the marriage; the couple often didn’t even meet before the ceremony. The bride and groom would meet for the first time on their wedding day. The groom’s party started a procession, full of dancing torababa (a stringed instrument) and dalouka (drums). When they reached the bride’s house, the men and women stayed separate until a point in the dance ritual where an ‘emissary’ from the women’s room came to observe and playfully critique the men’s dance. Today, the couples have more say in who they marry, but the joyful dancing tradition is alive and well.
Princess Fawzia of Egypt and Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1939)
The wedding of Princess Fawzia of Egypt and Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran was a purely political match, to enhance Egyptian power in the Middle East and to increase Iranian respectability. The couple had two lavish wedding ceremonies, one in Egypt, one in Iran. It was, unfortunately, not a perfect match. Princess Fawzia and Prince Reza Khan disliked each other, and Fawzia preferred her Egyptian home to their lifestyle in Iran. The couple had one daughter in 1940, and had an Egyptian divorce in 1945, although the divorce wasn’t recognized by Iran until the couple filed for an Iranian divorce in 1948. It came at a price, though. Fawzia had to agree to let her daughter be raised in Iran. She later married for love and was reportedly happier married to her Colonel than she was to the Shah of Iran.
In April of 1940, German forces entered Norwegian territory. Despite German occupation, Norway refused to surrender and remained allies with Britain, even as Britain had to transfer resources to the fight in France. Even though the Norwegian people had the enemy in their backyards, they refused to give up their lives to the occupation. This wedding procession in the northern Norwegian city Karasjok shows indigenous Sami Norwegians carrying on with their celebrations, even under the gaze of Gebirgsjäger, German mountaineering soldiers. The Sami were forced to act as guides to the German military during the occupation of port cities like Narvik, served as laborers to build railroads and load trains to support the Germans, among other atrocities. The Sami had an advantage in understanding the terrain and the climate, and while the war destroyed a good deal of their culture and communities, the Sami culture has survived.
A Royal Post-War Wedding, Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Montbatten (1947).
The formal portrait of Princess Elizabeth (more famously known as Queen Elizabeth II) and Lt. Phillip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, show the regal attire of a princess marrying a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. They married in November of 1947 at Westminster Abbey in front of 2,000 guests that included royalty from around the world. But that extensive guest list did not Phillip’s sisters, who had married into German royalty and had Nazi connections. King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, forbid their attendance due to lingering tensions between Britain and Germany. World War II touched another important aspect of the wedding, the bride’s dress. The fabric for Princess Elizabeth’s dress was purchased using clothing ration coupons. People sent their coupons from all over the United Kingdom to contribute to the dress, but they had to be returned. It would have been illegal for Elizabeth to use these gifts.
John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier Kennedy in Candid Moment (1953)
This image captures a candid moment during the photo session at John F. Kennedy’s 1953 wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier. The attendants are looking every direction, mostly smiling or laughing. Jackie is having a grin at the photographer. But among the spontaneous mid- pose moment, John is looking intently at Jackie. Their wedding was a grand affair for the 800 political and society guests. Despite meticulous planning, the day had its glitches. John and his brothers played a quick touch football game before the ceremony, resulting in John plummeting into a rose bush and scratching up his face. Jackie’s father was sent home for drunkeness. Jackie’s stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, stepped in to walk her down the aisle. And even though every bride wants to feel beautiful on her Big Day, Jackie reportedly hated her taffeta gown. Despite these troubles, the two married and settled in to a not-so-normal married life.
This unnamed bride is wearing traditional Japanese wedding attire. Her kimono, called iro-uchikake, is traditional bridalwear in Shinto weddings. Iro-uchikake is richly colored, in this case a deep red, and embroidered with flowers, animals, or other special, unique designs. In this image, the bride chose a rich gold floral pattern. The kimono has long, trailing sleeves and a padded hem to protect it as it trails along the floor. Unlike ‘everyday’ kimono, iro-uchikake are worn open rather than tied close. The headpiece is a tsunokakushi. This roughly translates to “hides her horns.” The elaborate headpiece is meant to prevent jealousy and ill thought against her mother-in-law. The woman behind the bride is wearing a traditional black kimono. Mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wear black kimono. The family’s symbol is embroidered on their black kimono, symbolically welcoming the bride or groom to their household.
Northern Macedonian wedding, with money tradition (c. 1973)
Macedonian weddings are multi-day affairs. They start the Monday before the wedding by confining the bride to her house and putting her trousseau on display. After some smaller wedding events, the Big Show kicks off on a Saturday, when the food is prepared and the day passes with groom’s wedding procession (the patinadha) and dancing. The bride and her relatives receive the patinadha and join them in a bridal dance (kalamatiano). Sunday brings another procession, the ceremony, and more dancing. The post-wedding dance might include pinning money on the newlywed’s clothes to offer them a step toward prosperity in their lives together.
This image of a Romanian bride and groom features a baby wearing a bread ring as a necklace. This was likely not just something to pacify the child. In Romania, bread is an important part of a wedding ceremony. In the religious ceremony, the bride and groom eat three bites of bread and drink wine. This represents the hope of a prosperous, good life that they will share. In addition to the bread used in the ceremony, there is a braided wedding bread. The bread, called colacul miresei, is broken over the bride’s head by her godmother. The bride shared the bread and a beverage with the wedding guests. The bread brings good luck to the guests who eat it.
Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada, Japan’s Royal Wedding (1993)
Crown Prince Naruhito proposed to diplomat Masako Owada. Three times. Twice she refused. The third time she accepted, marrying him in June of 1993. Masako was a modern Princess. She was educated at Harvard and Oxford. She had a diplomatic career with the Foreign Ministry. This was controversial; traditionalists felt she was “too outspoken and Americanized.” Modernists wanted her to keep her career instead of leaving to be married. Despite the couple’s modern lives, their wedding was traditional. They wore 8th century Heian-era attire. Crown Princess Masako’s twelve-layered silk kimono weighed 13.5 kilograms (30 pounds). Prince Naruhito wore the orange robe representing Japan’s rising sun, which only the Crown Prince can wear. The couple’s daughter, Aiko, was born in 2001. Masako withdrew from public life in 2004 for personal reasons. She has slowly been returning to public life after she and Naruhito became Emperor and Empress of Japan in 2019.
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