The word wed in Greek means a pledge and it is true for the reason that couples who choose to wed exchange vows or pledges to love and protect each other at all times. Weddings have been there since time immemorial. However, they have evolved in many ways. There are three well known wedding types all over the world and they are customary weddings, civic weddings and Christian weddings. This research paper analyzes and contrasts two difference wedding cultures from two different continents i.e. Asia and Africa.
(i) How are weddings important?
(ii) Is dowry paid and what is the treat of other members?
(iii) How do people regard a wedding in modern times?
(iv) What is the influence of culture in weddings and how does manifest itself?
Weddings have been there since the past and they remain to be conducted a civil office, church and sometimes in shrines. Stewart (1995) says that, “weddings are part of traditions in any family and young members of a community should be encouraged to wed and enjoy the heritage”. However, there has been an evolution of weddings which means that there have been many changes to customs for instance dowry, which are associated with weddings.
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There are many common features and rituals of wedding which include dowry, the pledge or vow and ceremonies after the main wedding like the reception which puts the finishing touch to any wedding. However, the degree of conduct and action of the features and rituals differ from one culture to the other as Johnson and Foster (2004) write that, “Marriage rituals diverge from one society to the other as some combine traditions and modern trends”. Furthermore, Baldezzonis (2002) note that, “marriages by various wedding ceremonies have been reflected by many astonishing but admirable rituals and customs”.
Marriage by a wedding speaks a lot about two people who have decided to come together as Howse, Hugh and Marshall (1995) believe that, “human beings hunger for relationships which offer real understanding, recognition and acceptance which drive many young people to propose marriages by weddings as a crown of their intimacy”. In Africa, with its thousands of different cultures and religions weddings are characterized by very colorful traditional ceremonies with Christian, Muslim and even Jewish influences.
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The common ritual is the newly weds sprinkled with milk in traditional wedding and Christian weddings have copied the same but with a slight change that the newly weds are given milk in a cup to sip and this signifies that they have been blessed to succeed. For instance, a bride may cost up to and or more than 20 heads of cattle. There were two most important for paying dowry, one, as a sign of appreciate of the care of the bride and two, to replace the loss of labor in the family of the bride. Dowry as part of the initial stages of a wedding continues up date but with changes like the number of cattle, goats and sheep paid but the tradition is there to stay as Shaw (2001) agrees that, “dowry as part of marriage has been in existence since time immemorial and is one of the traditions that may not be discarded as such for generations”. Other elements like music and dance accompanies all wedding of any culture in Africa. Comparably, the same happens in Asia and more particularly the Indian sub continent where eggs and sweets are part of the ceremonies of the wedding which signify the sweetness of life and prosperity. The traditional ritual is like groom’s father showering the bride and groom or the newly weds with flower petals and the groom wears a turban with flowing flowers to protect him from evil spirits. These two customary rituals in India have been integrated into customary, civic, and Hindu weddings. Moreover, color is significant in many Asian wedding cultures whereby pink is India's color, red is for the Chinese and many others.
There are other interesting differences of the two cultures i.e. African and Indian like in Africa dowry is paid from the groom side but in India is from the bride’s side. In Africa, it is the men who approach women for courtship and hence marriage proposal unlike India where the women approach. However, in both occasions parents have the right to intervene where necessary but cautiously as young people should be given the freedom to make a choice of their lifetime as Marshall and Baildam (1996) note that, “God has given the freedom to choose and will not interfere with the choice of a partner, that is an absolute assurance from God”.
However, today weddings are loosing the traditional touch and some are becoming an outward show of extravagance as noted by Mordecai (1998) who says that, “modern weddings are very demanding in form of resources as few spend millions to organize the event apart from the norm of dowry”. Furthermore many modern weddings are just for convenient because some important traditions like virginity are not considered as during ancient times whereby this was a necessary and important requirement.
Families are building blocks of a nation and families have grown and nurtured by weddings which are conducted in different ways throughout the universe. Every tribe and race has their traditional wedding adornments which are very colorful and differ from one another even though there are some similarities. It will be volumes of tomes if every detail of a wedding culture is taken or written into detail.