Why Using Local Traditions Makes Your Destination Wedding Authentic

Think Locally, Wed Globally

You watch sumo wrestling when you’re in Japan. You eat jerk veggie cakes from a street vendor when you’re in Jamaica and explore Maya ruins when you’re in Cancun. And when you’re in Hawaii, you sip Kona coffee and sink your teeth into the juiciest mangos ever.

That’s why we travel—to experience the unique details that make these destinations truly special. And likewise, your destination wedding is a wonderful opportunity for you to embrace local culture, traditions and décor. By doing so, not only will you give the ceremony that special flair to make it even more memorable, you’ll also save money by not having to ship hometown goods to your destination.

Here are just a few ideas from top destination wedding locations, showing how you can incorporate the local flavor into your own ceremony. Your travel agent will also have a lot of great ideas, since he or she knows the area intimately and are very familiar with the customs. Travel agents also have special relationships with vendors in your destination, so they can help you rent that elephant to transport you down the aisle in style.

Experience Unique Destinations: Consider getting married by the sea. 

Puerto Rico

Capias ribbons, which bear the names of the newly married couple and the date of their marriage, are the traditional wedding favors given to guests. You could also use local flowers like amapolas for the bouquet, while serving up pasteles or churrasco at the reception.

Turks and Caicos

Consider serving conch, a clam-tasting local favorite and a national symbol of the Turks and Caicos, at your reception. Also, ask the bartender to use locally-made Bambarra rum in a unique cocktail created especially for your day. What would your drink be called…the Rumdog Millionaire maybe, or Comfortably Rum?


A traditional Italian reception can have up to 14 different courses that might include gnocchi, lasagna, steak, eggplant, sorbet and of course a tiramisu. When your guests are ready to roll away from the feast, present them with an Italian bomboniere wedding favor—little tulle or satin pouches filled with white Jordan or sugared almonds.

Riviera Maya

Add a pop of color to your bouquet with yellow Tiger Lilies, or inspire a more laid-back look with orange Gerber Daisies. Then hide a little color by sewing three ribbons in to your garment—yellow, blue and red—to ensure the availability of food, money and passion in the years to come. Better make that two reds.

riviera maya
Riviera, Maya

Unique Traditions

Want something a little more out of the ordinary? Or maybe you aren’t traveling abroad and want to bring the culture to you. Here are a few unique traditions from around the world:

The bride wears red in China. The traditional wedding dress in China is a red silk gown called a “qipao.” This dress, worn for the ceremony, has long sleeves and falls all the way to the floor. It’s not unusual for a Chinese bride to change dresses several times during the reception as a way of showcasing her family’s wealth.

In Mexico, the groom gives the bride 13 coins on their wedding day. A long-held Mexican tradition is for the groom to make a gift of 13 gold coins, called “arras,” to his bride on their wedding day. The coins signify Jesus and the 12 disciplines and shows that the union is bound in faith.

They break dishes in Germany. One charming German wedding tradition is for the bride and groom to break china dishes on their wedding day. This is said to ward off “evil spirits” and signifies that by working together, the couple can overcome any challenges they may face. Cleaning dirty dishes can be challenging after a party… breaking them would be so much easier.

The father of the bride spits on her in Kenya. It is a tradition of the Masai tribe in Kenya for the father of the bride to spit on his daughter after the ceremony. This, um, interesting tradition (for lack of a better word) signifies that the father won’t interfere unnecessarily in the new couple’s lives.

Watch your shoes in the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic, it’s a tradition for the bride’s female relatives to steal one of the groom’s shoes and demand a cash ransom for its safe return. The jokes on them when you don’t pay and their stuck with one odorous loafer.

Collect money while you dance in Cuba. On the island of Cuba, guests pay for the privilege of dancing with the bride by pinning money on her skirt, which pays for the wedding and the honeymoon. Guess this explains why Cuban dresses are rarely worn twice.

More shoe antics in India. In India, it is customary for the groom to remove his shoes on the way to the altar. Once off, the groom’s family is charged with guarding them, while the bride’s family attempts to steal them. This is a way for the two families to interact and become familiar with each other.

It’s not an unveiling in Israel. Where a bride is usually unveiled by her groom, a Jewish groom will put a veil over his bride. This veil symbolizes the fact that no matter how beautiful she is now, he is committing to her character and her spirit, and symbolizes that he will be her protector and provider.

Whatever country you wed in, always check with a travel agent to help you weave in the local threads. As destination experts with tons of been-there-done-that experience at your locale, they might know of some unique wedding traditions that could add the perfect, locally-grown cherry atop your two-tier wedding cake.


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