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10 Charming Marriage Customs from Around the World

Love is universal, yes—but romance takes an astonishing array of forms around the world. If you've never wooed your beloved with a spoon or won your partner's weight in beer, read on...

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsTimo Hartikainen/REX/Shutterstock

Wife-carrying world championships

Each year, competitors in the village of Sonkajarvi, Finland, partake in this bizarre sporting event. With wife or partner slung over the shoulder, participants get stuck into a variety of challenges and the winner receives the partner’s weight in beer. Did you know you might be breaking these surprising marriage laws?

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsArif Iqball/Alamy Stock Photo

Graveside weddings in Russia

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is Moscow’s top destination for wedding parties, who snap photos and drink champagne while the bride and groom pay their respects by laying flowers at the grave site.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsHemis/Alamy Stock Photo

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy

Step back in time into the greatest love story ever. Each year thousands flock to Verona’s Casa di Giulietta, a 13th-century house believed to have belonged to the Capulets (never mind that they were all fictional characters), to add their amorous graffiti and notes of adoration to the courtyard walls where once fair Juliet was wooed by her Romeo. We bet you didn’t know that these common expressions came from Shakespeare.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsHemis/Alamy Stock Photo

Ladies’ Choice at Gerewol Festival

In an annual courtship event, the men of the Wodaabe in Niger dress up in elaborate costumes, put on make-up, and dance and sing in a bid to win a bride. At the end of the performance, the women do the choosing. Learn the crazy reason bridesmaids at weddings started wearing the same color.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsEmily Marie Wilson/Shutterstock

Henna tattoos

In Arabic and African communities, Swahili women adorn themselves with intricate henna patterns before a wedding. They signify the bride’s beauty, womanhood, and worth, so she, naturally, boasts the most elaborate designs. Aside from their aesthetic delights, these tattoos represent an empowering, sensual quality in Swahili culture, as the design often conceals the groom’s initials in a secret spot on the bride’s body. Learn the suggestive origins of a more familiar wedding tradition—the garter.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsTrinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

My big, ‘rich’ Greek wedding

Greek weddings are known for their ebullient spirit. A wonderful tradition is the couple’s first dance, when guests pin money to the bride’s and groom’s clothing, leaving them twirling about the floor entwined in decorative (not to mention, expensive) paper streams.

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Mt. Hagen sing-sings

Papua New Guinea tribesmen paint their bodies and don colorful feathered costumes in an attempt to impress potential lovers. The sing-sings are a kind of spiritual mimesis—the tribesmen take on the form and mating rituals of the male birds-of-paradise in a kaleidoscopic show of affection. Learn about some adorable animal species that mate for life.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsREX/Shutterstock

Eloping in Scotland

When the Marriage Act of 1754 made it illegal for persons under 21 to get hitched, young English sweethearts hopped across the border to Scotland where the law didn’t apply. As the first village en route, Gretna Green grew into the favorite spot for eloping couples—to this day, some 5,000 couples visit each year to tie the knot or reaffirm their vows. Check out these other good-luck wedding traditions from around the world.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsGeoff Wilkinson/REX/Shutterstock

Love spoons in Wales

This adorable Welsh tradition gives a whole new meaning to the term “spooning.” The beau presents his lover with a meticulously carved wooden spoon as a gesture that he will always feed and provide for her.

Fascinating-Marriage-CustomsRemy De La Mauviniere/AP/Rex/shutterstock

Love padlocks in Italy

Inspired by Federico Moccia’s book and film I Want You, many people began attaching their own love padlocks to the Ponte Milvio in Rome. In what is now a worldwide phenomenon, couples attach the locks and throw the key into the river as a symbol of their unbreakable love and commitment to one another. However, these trinkets have caused quite a controversy of late, particularly in Paris where, besides being an eyesore, they are becoming an environmental hazard and have to be removed. Now that you’re up to speed on worldly weddings, see how well you do on our wedding tradition quiz.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest International Edition