While a wedding is all about the couple saying I do, it’s also the fusion of two separate families who will now be in each other’s lives for years to come. So what better time to celebrate culture and traditions than during the ceremony and reception? For couples of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, cultural traditions often play a big part in their wedding day.
“For Asian couples, heritage is usually an important aspect of your inspiration, but it's not the only thing,” Jung Lee, co-founder of FÊTE, told Brides. “Try to go deeper into details that have great meaning for you: think food, drink, design, music, etc. Use your wedding to tell your story both individually and as a couple.”
As a wedding and event pro, it's important for you to be well-versed in all cultural traditions. For some inspiration, we’ve broken down some of the most popular AAPI wedding traditions couples can work into their big day!
Chinese couples often consult with a fortune teller, Chinese monk, or Feng Shui master to choose a “lucky” date for their special day. Once that is decided, red and gold take center stage throughout the event, with red symbolizing luck, joy, and happiness, and gold representing wealth and prosperity. Couples might also participate in a hair combing ceremony, a heartfelt tradition of parents combing their child’s hair while reciting blessings. The affection is reciprocated during the tea ceremony, where the couple thanks their parents for their love and support throughout the years.
Korean weddings include the Hapgeunrye ceremony, where the couple drinks from the same copper cups before bowing to one another, their parents, and guests. The Paebaek includes food, tea, and a gifting ceremony.
During the wedding, couples will share sake in a ceremony known as San San Kudo. Afterward, the couple will usually change from their white wedding attire into something more colorful. Guests might be surprised that there isn’t any dancing at the reception. Instead, it is a more formal affair. During the event, the bride will present a letter to her parents, and the couple will give both of their parents a large bouquet—called a hanataba—as a sign of love and respect. The bride can also choose to read the letter she penned to her parents.
Since Japanese weddings often take place during lunchtime, some couples opt to throw an after-party where family and friends can dance. They’ll also send their guests home with hikidemono, which is essentially guest favors.
The wedding reception is typically held at the bride’s family home—and everyone in the Samoan community is invited to be there! The couple traditionally has a large wedding party (we’re talking up to 24 people on both sides of the aisle), which means there has to be plenty of food to feed everyone. With that in mind, the wedding cake at a Samoan wedding is huge, with both vertical and horizontal tiers.
Tongans enjoy a multi-day celebration that includes Fakalelea, a celebration before the wedding where family and friends can show their excitement for the couple. The betrothed also traditionally wears special Tongan ta’ovala made of tapa cloth and mats for the ceremony. The reception features lots of food—including a roast pig---and a large cake.
Hawaii has a multicultural history of Asian and Polynesian cultures. Most weddings start with the “Oli Aloha,” a chant that prepares the space for blessings and welcomes the couple and guests. The “Blowing of the Pū” uses the conch shell horn to build up excitement about a special arrival and specific event during the multi-day celebration. Couples also exchange leis—a gesture of love—during the ceremony.
Hindu couples will host pre-wedding festivities, most notably Haldi, where a turmeric paste is applied to the couple. Mehndi, where henna is applied, is another pre-wedding tradition. Indian weddings boast bright colors, especially red and orange. The groom will sometimes participate in Baraat, a parade planned by his family that sees the groom arrive at the venue on a white horse. During the ceremony, there is the tying of the mangal sutra, a sacred necklace that is put on the bride and should only be removed if she is widowed.
Nepali weddings also feature red as a symbol of purity, love, and fertility, while brides will participate in the mehndi henna tradition before walking down the aisle. During the ceremony, a Diyo—a silver lantern—is lit for prosperity, purity, good luck, and power.
Vietnamese couples each don a áo dài, a traditional wedding outfit where the bride dons red and the groom in blue. Before the vows, the groom and his family will form a procession line from his family’s house to the bride’s home, where they then hold a candle ceremony called Rước Dâu. During the vows, there is a tea ceremony called Vu Quy, which has the couple present tea to their parents and grandparents. As for the reception, many Vietnamese weddings will feature lion dancers to bless the couple, as well as lots of Cognac, the preferred drink for Vietnamese vows.
Filipino wedding ceremonies focus on the unification of the couple saying I do. Their godparents will place a lace veil over their shoulders to symbolize them becoming one, and a ceremonial cord called a yugal is also wrapped around the couple. They might also light a unity candle during the service, as well as eat sticky rice cakes to represent “sticking together” for the rest of their lives.
Thai couples who want a traditional wedding will need to receive a monk’s blessing ahead of their vows. Some couples will also hold a Sai Monkhon ritual, where a white thread is used to link their heads, as well as participate in Rod nam, which is a water blessing ceremony.
Hero photo courtesy of Pretty Branch Photo + Video