The Different Expectations of Marriage in Different Cultures

As the years go by social norms change and so do our expectations of certain institutions. Marriage is perhaps the one that has undergone the biggest changes in the West in the last fifty years or so. In today’s Western culture men and women expect similar things from each other when entering into a marriage and the days of the wife sitting at home, cleaning and making the meals, while the man goes out to work are more and more consigned to the past. In some cultures however things have not developed so much with regards to marriage. What happens after marriage can depend greatly on the culture in which the marriage takes as does the celebration itself. Here are a selection of some of the most interesting.


In Africa it is normal for young girls to be raised simply to be a good wife. These girl sometimes often learn their own private language which allows them to communicate with other wives in a way that their husbands won’t understand. In Sudan and other places along the Nile, the groom must pay his wife’s family in cattle or sheep to make up for the loss of labour power they will lose in her marriage to him. In Somalia a man can have up to four wives as long as he can support them all. Divorce is very uncommon in Africa and the whole community will often help to prevent a couple from separating.

In the Baltic countries the tradition of marriage is still highly resepcted. A man must first ask his intended wife’s father for permission to marry his daughter. If permission is given there is no dowry or inheritance to be paid. Baltic weddings usually last more than two days and are huge affairs with lots of singing and dancing had by all. Guest usually give money to the bride and groom as a wedding gift.

Wedding Cake

In Fiji the groom is expected to present a whale’s tooth to the father of the bride to exhibit his welath and suitability. The groom has to also send a lavish feast to the family of the bride and present his future wife with a diamond ring. In Hawaii flowers are an essential part of the wedding day and both the bride and groom wear pure white.

In the Middle East the engagement party is the first of five official wedding celebrations. The wedding party itself is the biggest of the celebrations and involves the guests receiving five almonds as a symbol of the five sacred wedding wishes: health, happiness, wealth, fertility and longevity. There is another party seven days after the wedding. Only women attend and it is when gifts are traditionally given.

In the Caribbean it is traditional for the bride and groom to show themselves off in their best clothes in front of the whole village from which they are from. Hand written invitations are only given to very special guests but anyone who turns up at the church is welcome to join the party. An Island wedding cake is perhaps the most unique part of a Caribbean wedding. The recipe for this black cake is passed down from generation to generation.

So before you trade that signet ring in for the real thing, you might want to investigate a little more as to the traditions of the country and culture in which you wish to marry. You don’t want any nasty surprises on the big day!

Featured images:

Guest Post by My Family Silver – Family Crest signet rings.

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