5 Cultures With the Most WTF Wedding Rituals
Flowers, candy and whiskey fueled midnight sexts are fine for chumps with no imagination. But we say if you're not willing to ritualistically shame yourself for your sweetheart, maybe it's not really love.
Just take a look at courtship rituals around the world, and you realize how much more awesome and/or insane things could be.
Spartan Brides Butched it Up for their Wedding Days
Modern brides will do anything to get that perfect wedding day. Hair, nails, facials, dresses made of golden gossamer fairy wings; no expense is spared to play the part of the pretty, pretty princess on that special day.
"Maybe I should have chosen a husband..."
The brides of ancient Sparta were just like modern brides, if we were in Oppositeville.
For starters, they began the big day by shaving their heads. Second, they donned men's clothes and sandals. Then, instead of participating in a ridiculously expensive ceremony with family and friends, prospective brides laid alone in the dark on a pallet, waiting for their grooms to come and steal them away in the night. Once a groom had his way with his new bride, he deposited her shaved, man-clothed self back at her parent's home. Done. Married. Que romantico!
And what a lovely bride!
She wouldn't see him again until the next night, or the night after that. Sometimes, years could go by before these married lovebirds actually saw each other in the daytime.
According to some historians, to help ease the Spartan groom into heterosexuality.
Spartan men were avid practitioners of dude-love. While we might be tempted to think this made them champions of gay rights, the reality was that women were so poorly regarded in ancient Greece that, not only weren't they regarded as citizens, they didn't even deserve your warm pork injection.
The problem was that when the time came to do their duty to their species, Spartan men didn't even know where to stick their bits. So to facilitate the soldier's transition from gay love to straight love, brides shaved away their femininity and threw on some man clothes.
As for the sneaking around stuff, Spartan men were required to live in military barracks until the age of 30, but the average age of marriage for men was 25. So most couples married, did the hanky-panky in the woods or whatever, made some babies, and didn't even live in the same household for the first few years of their marriages. Hey, we wonder how the Spartan men comforted each other over the absence of the women in their lives? Eh, we'll probably never know.
Brides Who Cry... for Weeks
A little emotion at a wedding is expected. A dramatic solitary tear, a quiet sniffle, even the occasional nose honking into a tissue is acceptable. But brides in Southwest China's Sichuan Province take it to a whole new level. For one thing, they start crying a full month before the wedding. Every night, for about an hour a night. Like, they totally pencil it onto their calendars.
9:00: The Office - New Episode!
Ten days into the ritual, things start getting really surreal. That's when the bride's mom joins the act, sobbing it up every night with her daughter. Ten days later, grandma enters the picture. By the end of the month, every female member of the family is wailing away like a very bad scene from a very bad romantic comedy.
Worst Rom-Com ever.
The custom is called Zuo Tang, or "Sitting in the Hall." It doesn't really matter what they cry about, but many brides take the opportunity to curse the jerks who arranged her marriage to the ugliest dude in the village.
It started when the mother of a Chinese princess wailed like a whiny baby at her daughter's marriage, dropping to her knees like a lowlife peasant.
Shameless, really. But apparently, because she did it, everyone thought it was tres chic, and a thousand year fad was born, only it was the brides who were expected to do the crying, and the more tears the better. Those who didn't get the job done were often beaten by their mothers.
Fast-forward a million or so years and brides in the province are still performing a version of the ceremony, singing their cries in mournful "Crying Marriage Songs," which probably sound every bit as horrible as we imagine.
Drinking Trash Juice out of a Toilet (For Love)
When you think about France, you probably think about rose petals, coffee shops, black turtlenecks, really long bread rolls and all the other things that American movies tell us about France.
All French people are hilariously incompetent. Every. Single. One.
You probably don't immediately picture a group of slavering wedding guests hunched over a table slurping garbage out of a toilet bowl. But that's exactly what occurs during La Soupe, a wedding tradition seemingly cooked up by cracked-out hobos.
Here's how it works: After the wedding reception, the happy couple are sent on their way to their marriage bed while the bridal party stay behind to clean up the mess. They do this by dumping all the leftover punch and cake and hors d'oeuvres and napkins and bits of trash off their shoes into a chamber pot, creating a garbage stew.
While the newlyweds are tangled up in bed preparing to do the nasty, half a dozen or more loud and presumably drunk people barge into the room with a toilet full of slop and don't leave until the bride and groom drink it.
Apparently France decided to out-"What the fuck?" Japan.
To be fair, these days the soup is more commonly just chocolate and champagne, but honestly, nothing seems particularly appetizing when served out of a toilet.
To give the new couple humping fuel.
Love is in the air. Also, the smell of garbage soup.
Sexin' takes energy and that's a scientific fact. What better way to provide a worn out couple with the sustenance they needed to finish their evening than to make them drink trash soup? Back when the tradition originated, the entire village would drink the garbage, and of course, these were the days when these very same chamber pots were actually used for pooping, and presumably some time before hygiene really came into vogue.
Mop Weddings: So Adorably Demeaning
Picture this, ladies: It's your wedding day, and the only problem is that you're a housemaid in Ye Olde England. Not to worry! Just grab your mop, sneak out of the castle, and run down to the magistrate's office. You and your fiancee will hold the mop while the magistrate rants on for a bit about love and commitment and all that, but then you better rush back home quick because those chamber pots aren't going to empty themselves.
That's all it took to get hitched in England back then. No certificates, no rings, no formal registration or legal shenanigans required. That is, until the Marriage Act of 1753, which was specifically written so lower class trash like yourself couldn't get married without a clergyman and a license. Still, up until that fateful act, all you needed to forever bond yourself in matrimony to your equally dirt-poor mate was a mop.
We're talking about people so low in the pecking order that their entire identities were tied to the instrument they used to swish mud and pig droppings around.
In all likelihood, a couple participating in a mop wedding met at a mop fair, which was kind of a job fair for the working classes, usually held at the end of September. Skilled and non-skilled workers showed up in the village to sell their services to prospective employers. If you were, say, a cobbler, you'd carry a shoe around, or if you were a baker, you'd carry a spatula or something.
Likewise, mimes would carry around shame and their parents' disappointment.
But if you were unskilled, you'd just show up with a mop, which came to symbolize those on the lower end of the domestic service hierarchy, and it would become a part of them until the end of their lives.
These days it's like two laid off lovers grappling a bundle of food stamps while the preacher conducts the ceremony. Somehow, they'd come across as precious and desperate at the same time. What more could you ask for on the most important day of your life?
Cross Dressing Uncle Plays the Fool (On Purpose)
It's one thing when your fully bearded Uncle Ralph shows up at the wedding in a homespun tuxedodress to steal your big day thunder. But if you happen to live in the Kyustendil area of western Bulgaria, it's likely that you specifically asked him to.
"Please, Uncle Milty. Please dress up like Amy Winehouse."
Before the wedding, Bulgarian brides would traditionally ask a favorite family member to blacken his face and play the role of the strashnik, or "frightening one." Just as she got ready make her big entrance before the ceremony, the strashnik did a flying leap out of the bushes to grab the eyes of all the onlookers.
Afterward he might strum out a tune on his ol' banjo.
He would then proceed to throw dried dung at the wedding guests while wielding an animal bone in a manner that would be threatening if it weren't so ridiculous.
While Uncle Stoopid conducted his freak show, the bride slipped past and pretended there wasn't a crazy transvestite throwing shit at people just a few feet away.
To ward off the evil eye. By seizing the attention of all the onlookers, the strashnik created a stink eye force field, thereby letting the bride slip by before anyone could afflict her with jealousy-driven curses.
"No! Stink-eye me instead!"
The Bulgarians believed that people were most vulnerable to evil magic while they were being praised and adored, so having a wedding ceremony was just asking for trouble. That's where the cross-dressing nutcase came in, whose role was simply to be as irritating as possible while the bride walked down the aisle.
Have you ever tried to give someone the evil eye while a poplocking juggalo wigged out for your attention? Well, let us assure you, it's pretty hard. Damn hard.
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For more insane rituals, check out The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World and The 5 Creepiest Death Rituals From Around the World.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 4.16.10) to see our initiation ritual for new columnists.