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Many people say that marriage is an institution that teaches men (in particular) and women (who need it) regularity, temperance, frugality, forbearance and many other splendid virtues they wouldn't need if they remained single. Yet, thoughts of upcoming nuptials still fill the heads and hearts of soon-to-be radiant brides dressed in white and nervous tuxedo-clad grooms in black. In this mix are the worrying future in-laws who must foot the wedding bills which will cost them almost as much as a Jets' football Stadium in Manhattan. Ah, but isn't marriage worth it?I love weddings. I love watching wedding coordinators choose the caterer, the band, the photographer, the flowers, the cake, seating arrangements (making certain that Aunt Hannah doesn't sit near Uncle Mayer). And, as tradition dictates, rearranging situations so that the bride and groom do not see each other until the ceremony. Whew! I am happy I do not have that awesome responsibility. But just read about the customs and traditions in other countries (with ending truisms by me):Ireland - Brides braid their hair for good luck and to retain "sacred female powers." Claddagh rings, passed down from mother to daughter, are exchanged. After the ceremony, the couple ring wedding bells and then keep them close at hand in their new home. (All brides never look happy, they look triumphant.)Korea - Ducks are often included in the ceremony because they mate for life. Prior to the wedding, the groom gives the bride's mother a wild goose (no, not that kind), symbolizing a promise that he will care for her daughter all his life. (I went to a wedding of a very young bride. Her mother would not let her have any wedding cake until she finished her vegetables.)Mexico - A lasso (large rosary) is strung around the couple's shoulders and hands during the ceremony (representing the union and protection of their marriage). During the reception, guests surround the couple in a heart-shaped ring. (Bride's father to groom: "My boy, you are the second happiest man in the world.)African-American - Cowrie shells are worn in bridal necklaces, adorning gowns, jackets, and headpieces. They are used as currency in Africa and some Asiatic countries and symbolize fertility, beauty and power. (One tear said to another tear, "I was shed by a sad lady who never got married. The other tear said, "I was shed by an even sadder lady who was.")India - A diamond wedding ring, valued for its magical powers, is thought to protect the bride from fire, snakes, illness, thieves and other evils. Sweets (representing a sweet life), eggs (fertility) and money (prosperity) are included in the wedding ceremony. (Usher to Lady: "Are you a friend of the groom?" "Indeed not! I am the bride's mother.")Puerto Rico - A doll is placed on the bride and groom's table. The doll wears a dress replicating the bridal gown, which sports capias (mementos). These are removed and given in thanks to each guest by the bride and groom. (Anyone who claims that marriage is a 50-50 proposition doesn't know about women or fractions.)China - On the day of the wedding, both the bride and groom's houses are decorated in red. The marriages are performed on the half-hour rather than the hour because "life together should begin on the upswing." Brides change gowns after the feast and four to five dresses are worn throughout the day. (Gloria is a schoolteacher. Before our marriage, I wrote her passionate love letters. She sent them all back corrected. And that's not all. I am the only newly married man who, when returning from the honeymoon, received a glowing report card marked A-minus and the comment, "Alex is neat and friendly and shows a keen interest in fun and games.")Greece - The bridal party carries ivy to symbolize endless love. The bride may carry a lump of sugar in her glove to ensure a sweet life. (The Best Man: The one who isn't getting married.)Japan - The religious wedding ceremony is only attended by the couple's closest family relatives. The bridal party wears traditional kimono attire. Following the ceremony, a reception is held for all guests with gifts given by the bride. (I told Gloria that a husband like me is like fine wine - I just get better with age. The next day she locked me in the cellar.)Poland - Friends of the bride weave her a crown of rosemary leaves symbolizing remembrance. All the guests encircle the bride. Her mother removes the veil and places it on the maid of honor, who then dances with the best man. She then places the veil on the next bridesmaid, etc. Each bridesmaid symbolizes an angel bestowing gifts on the couple. (Marriage is a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering.)England - From an English rhyme evolved the tradition of the bride wearing something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue. Brides will often sew a good-luck charm (sometime a small horseshoe) into the hem of their wedding gowns. (Husbands, when you question your wife's judgement, remember that she married you.)Germany - The bride wears shoes paid for with saved pennies. While she carries salt and bread in her pocket to ensure bounty, her groom carries grain to ensure wealth and good fortune. The best man steals the bride away from the reception and takes her to a local pub for champagne. The groom must pay the bill once he finds them. (Following our ceremony, I had to let Gloria know who was the boss. I looked her right in the eye and said, "You're the boss.")I would like to add that a successful marriage requires falling in love many times and always with the same person. It is the most beautiful, wonderful thing in the world and my life would be nothing without Gloria. This I say from the bottom of my heart - and also because Gloria reads my columns.Reach columnist Alex Berger at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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