Wedding Traditions in Belgium
Belgium is a very old country, with a fascinating mixture of old customs and modern laws. Belgium weddings may be performed as a civil ceremony or as a religious ceremony.
Traditionally when a couple in Belgium wishes to announce their marriage, the wedding invitations are printed on two sheets of paper, one from the bride’s family and one sheet from the groom’s family. These wedding invitations symbolize the union of the two families and the partnership of the new union.
An ancient Belgium custom that is designed to unite the two families calls for the bride to stop as she walks up the isle and to hand her mother a single flower. The two then embrace. Then, during the recessional, the bride and groom walk to the groom’s mother and the new bride hands her new mother-in-law a single flower and the two of them embrace, symbolizing the bride’s acceptance of her new “mother.”
One of the most important and enduring traditions of the Belgium wedding is for the bride to carry a specially embroidered handkerchief that has her name embroidered on it. After the wedding this handkerchief is framed and hung on the wall in a place of honor. When the next female member of the bride’s family is to be wed, the handkerchief is removed from its frame, the new bride’s name is embroidered onto it, and it is passed down.
The wedding handkerchief is passed from generation to generation, and is considered an important family heirloom.
During the wedding mass the bride and the groom are enthroned in two large chairs placed near the alter, symbolizing that on this day and in this place they are the king and the queen. At the conclusion of the ceremony the groom slips the wedding ring onto the third finger of his bride’s left hand. The ring, being an endless circle, symbolizes never-ending love, and the third finger of the left hand is believed to hold the vein that travels to the heart, symbolizing love.
At the conclusion of the ceremony the bride and groom share their first kiss as husband and wife. The kiss is considered a symbolic act of sharing each other’s spirit as the couple each breathes in a portion of their new mate’s soul.
The bridesmaids traditionally take up a collection of coins and as the bride and groom exit the church, the bridesmaids toss the coins to the poor outside the church. Giving gifts of money to the poor helps to insure prosperity for the new bride and groom.
Following the wedding the bride and groom are off on their honeymoon. In ancient times the honeymoon – which was celebrated by the drinking of mead, or honey wine – would last 28 days, one complete cycle of the moon. This was to make sure that the bride’s family did not try to steal their daughter back from her new husband.