As the World Weds: Global Wedding Traditions
But although Marriage be Common to all the Nations in the World, yet it is not regulated by the same Laws, nor celebrated in the same Forms and Ceremonies, they varying according to the diversity of Religions and Nations. (p 3)
-- Louis de Gaya. Nuptial rites, Or the Several Marriage Ceremonies Practiced amongst all the Nations in the World. London, 1685.
Over 300 years ago Louis de Gaya noted the variety in wedding customs around the world, a diversity which has continued ever since. Many of these traditions focus around clothing and textiles. The concept of tradition suggests timeliness and resistance to change, but the rituals and practices surrounding weddings have changed over time as much as they have differed across space. The practice of the bride wearing a white dress exclusively worn for the wedding ceremony has its origins in Europe in the nineteenth century. By the twentieth century many brides around the world followed the western custom for a white wedding gown. Nonetheless, despite the growing prevalence of white dresses, many brides through choice or necessity wore different styles for their wedding. This exhibition looks beyond the white bridal gown to the rich and deeply symbolic clothing and textiles linked to wedding ceremonies around the world. From bright red robes for the Chinese bride and groom to handwoven kente cloth for the happy couple in Ghana, colorful, handcrafted textiles represent wealth and material wellbeing.
Wedding customs connect people with their culture and tie families together. They also secure economic arrangements and enforce religious and social ties. From Japanese resist-dyed covers for bedding to splendidly colored Uzbek ikats, textiles are often a form of gift or dowry that strengthen these important bonds. In many traditions but particularly in the West, a young woman prepared for her wedding by creating or assembling a trousseau of delicate linens and beautiful lingerie. While the bride’s dress is often one of the central components of the ceremonies, there are many other participants in the festivities who have their own distinctive dress. From the groom to flower girls to the mother of the bride, each member of the wedding party and invited guests participate in the traditions and wear the appropriate attire.
After the wedding many couples carefully store away the garments and other mementos from the celebration. The valuable memories linked to the festivities imbue these pieces with exceptional sentimental value and encourage their preservation and even donation to museums. This exhibition draws from the KSU Museum’s rich holdings of wedding dresses and associated materials as well as personal collections of treasured pieces.
Made possible with the generous support of Mr. Robert A. and Dr. Susan H. Conrad, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
Additional funding from Leslie Royce Resnik and the Ohio Arts Council.