We tend to view weddings in a certain light, and certain traditions seem to have been going on forever. These are some that you’ll definitely be glad are gone, though.
Though every couple is different, most American weddings tend to stick to a certain script. The bride walks down the aisle, the groom kisses the bride, they take off for a two-hour photo session, and then the real party begins.
We can guarantee, however, that even the wildest wedding you’ve been to pales in comparison to some of the past wedding traditions of other cultures—because nothing says love like drinking soupy leftovers out of a toilet, right?
France—Leftover Toilet Soup
When most of us think of France, there’s a certain romanticism to the images we conjure up—riding bikes to go buy fresh baguettes, taking photos in front of the lit Eiffel Tower at night, spending a day gazing at art in the Louvre. Get ready for all of that to fly right out the window, though, because your brain’s image of France is about to get really, really gross.
When it comes to French couples getting married, the chain of events used to go something like this. After the reception was over, the couple would head off to… do what couples do after getting married, and everyone within the bridal party would stay behind to clean up.
Oddly enough, part of their duties included taking all of the leftover food from the event—the punch, the cake, the appetizers, everything—and mixing it all together in a chamber pot, essentially making a disgusting leftover slurry in what was the toilet of their time.
Then, a loud and most likely intoxicated group of wedding guests crammed their way into the couple’s room to make them drink it—ALL of it, and they wouldn’t leave until it was gone.
Apparently, however, this was all done with good intentions. The wedding guests did this to give the couple the fuel they would need to get on with the rest of their night, if you know what we’re saying.
It’s somewhat of a nice gesture until you think about the fact that people also pooped in chamber pots, and this was probably happening at a time when hygiene and sanitation weren’t exactly the norm. Surprisingly, the tradition still exists, although it’s usually done with a mixture of chocolate and bubbly these days—and without a toilet.
Ancient Greece—Bride to Groom
A bride’s wedding day is essentially the most important day ever when it comes to hair and makeup. They want their look to be perfect, and they’re often willing to pay a pretty penny to get exactly what they want—flawless nails, perfect curls, and makeup that looks as if it was airbrushed (and hey, maybe it actually was).
For Spartan women, however, the goal was actually to make the bride look like a man.
Why? Well, back in the day, it’s said that Spartan men didn’t actually think too much of women, so much so that the men felt that only other men were worthy of their affections. Of course, that’s not something that’s going to do your civilization any favors, so the men did eventually have to marry and have babies to keep their numbers up, but there was one huge problem—they had absolutely no idea how to do the deed with a woman, and often didn’t want to.
To make the transition easier for them, Spartan brides often shaved their heads and dressed in men’s clothing, essentially enticing the men into being interested in them by looking like a dude.
It’s not a surprise when someone cries at a wedding, whether it’s the bride or groom, their friends, or their parents. It’s an emotional event, after all, and one that can pull a few tears out of even the burliest of dads. Some brides in China, however, used to take it to a whole new level.
In the Sichuan province of southern China, brides actually take it upon themselves to start crying at least a month before their wedding. We’re not just talking a few tears here and there either—we’re talking scheduled bouts of sobbing each night that brides work into their schedules.
When they’re 10 days into the whole thing, their moms even join, sobbing right along with them for an hour each day. Grandma will join 10 days after that and, by the time the whole ritual is over, every female member of their family will have joined in helping them cry a river.
This tradition is known as Zuo Tang, which means “Sitting in the Hall.” It all started when one mother wailed like a crying infant at her daughter’s wedding and, for some strange reason, other women took to it and started doing it too.
It actually got to a point where brides were punished if they didn’t cry enough, and the tradition is actually somewhat alive today. However, the women now sing their cries in “Crying Marriage Songs,” which is probably just as miserable as it sounds.
Bulgaria—Uncle Jester Steals the Show
Brides today would be horrified if one of their family members deliberately tried to steal the spotlight at their wedding, but it was actually something that was requested by many Bulgarian brides back in the day.
Sometime before the big day, the bride would ask her favorite male family member to take on the role of the strashnik, which means “the frightening one.” That family member would then paint their face dark, hide in the bushes, and then jump out of the bushes mid-ceremony to give the guests a jump.
It gets even better from there, though. He would then start throwing dried poop at all of the guests—where it came from, we have no idea—and swinging around an animal bone like a baton. The bride would eventually sneak past him, trying to act like none of it was happening, as if she didn’t actually request it herself.
Believe it or not, all of this was actually supposed to be helpful for the bride. Bulgarians believed that someone was most vulnerable to harmful spells and magic when people were giving them praise. The strashnik was essentially a way to take all of the attention off the bride so she could get down the aisle before anyone affected her with dark magic.
Most brides wouldn’t dream of doing anything other than getting ready on their wedding day, and it’s usually expected that their wedding party will help them take care of anything that needs to be done behind the scenes. Not in England, though.
In Ye Olde England, common folk got married just like everyone else, but their days looked way different from those that had some kind of stature. They might be mopping the floor before they get married and make a mad dash, mop still in hand, down to the local magistrate’s office to get hitched.
There were no rings, no licenses, no kissing of the bride—the bride and groom actually held onto the mop while all of this was happening. When it was over, they rushed back to their respective workplaces, presumably to empty a chamber pot right after their big moment. “Ceremonies” like this took place until the Marriage Act of 1753 was passed, which required a clergyman to administer a license for a couple to be wed.
This was the norm for a while because the poor weren’t very highly regarded, and pretty much known just for the mop they carried. In fact, lower class working people often met at fairs that were meant for people like them, and they carried around items related to their trade to find employment.
At the time, these items were so ingrained into that person’s identity that it even followed them on one of the biggest days of their life.