Brides painted with evil-eyes, girls adorned with butterfly wings and women veiled in silver coins. Don’t Panic searches the globe to seek out alternatives to the white taffeta.
We’ve seen horrendous a-list weddings, worse z-list weddings and even big fat gypsy weddings. But around the world the bride is presented and celebrated in unique and mesmerising ways. From flirtation festivals to full body painting, here are the world’s most beautiful brides.
Mursi and Surmi Brides
We’re used to girls and women in the western world using every possible trick and trend to emphasise their beauty, but in the Mursi and Surmi tribes of the Ethiopian Omo Valley young girls have a unique and beautiful way to express their feminity. During the fertility and wedding season, the women use their natural surroundings to adorn their bodies and faces. Natural paint is used to decorate their faces, whilst local flowers, reeds, leaves and butterfly wings are woven into intricate headdresses and jewellery. There is no other tribe in the entire world that uses such elaborate natural decoration.
Lasting over a week, the Bedouin wedding ceremony is one of deeply ingrained tradition. From the proposal tea ceremony to the Laylat Al Henna, where friends and sisters decorate the bride with henna tattoos, the Bedouin wedding is all about the bride’s beauty, wealth and happiness. Silver coins are threaded to the headdress to symbolise the prosperity of her family and jet black liner is used to emphasise her seductive glances for the first meeting with her husband, as her eyes are the only part of her body he’ll see.
The image of a geisha may not be a foreign one to the western world, with traditional Japanese dress and culture acting as a constant source of inspiration for fashion and beauty trends in Europe and America, but the Geisha marriage or ‘danna’ binding ceremony has always remained relatively unknown. The lengthy ceremony is rich in ancient traditions, with the Geisha bride taking pride of place as the focal point of the proceedings. Up to four costume changes can happen, each outfit more elaborate than the last. After a tea sharing ceremony, the Geisha joining with her sponsor will be adorned with sweet smelling jasmine and cherry blossom kanzashi (hair ornaments), and is then dressed in a kimono of her suitor’s choosing.
Imilchil Moroccan Brides
The Imilchil wedding festival is the single most celebrated time of the year for the villages surrounding the Moroccan Middle Atlas Mountains. Taking place in the lake plateau in the centre of the region, the younger women of the Berber tribal clans all come together to search for and choose their husbands. The festival, also known as the September Romance, is one of beauty, fun and flirtation, with the young women decorating their head-scarves with silver jewellery and threading their eyebrows with coloured thread. Guests and travellers are always welcome during the festival, making this unique event a hugely popular attraction to more seasoned tourists.
The Kosovan bride is transformed from a girl into a work of art. In the remote village of Donje Ljubinje the young bride is painted alabaster white and decorated with evil eye drawings and geometric lines to ward off bad luck during their wedding ceremony. Painted by the female members of her family, the process is a intimate and deeply meaningful one. After the wedding has taken place and the bride is presented to her husband, the same members of the family remove the make up, preparing her for life as a married woman. This ceremony is only kept for the most traditional of marriages, and the Donje Ljubinje citizens hold it in the greatest esteem.
Donning the traditional Perak hat, encrusted with turquoise stones, the Ladakhi women engage in a dance that symbolises the start of the annual September festival. Celebrating marriage, weddings to come and the fertility of their people, the vibrant festival is filled with dancing, feasting and rich traditions.
The Woodabe flirtation festival is one of the most studied ceremonies in history. The Woodabe people, part of the Nigerian Fulani nation, come together once a year to pick potential marriage partners. The men have to decorate themselves with yellow and black paint to emphasise white teeth and eyes and increase their charm. The young girls line up in their finery to watch the men dance and flaunt their wares, but must never look directly at their chosen man, as stolen glances are strictly taboo until a marriage is arranged by their clansmen.
The Rashaida bride stays in seclusion until the wedding ceremony, keeping her elaborate costume hidden from her future husband. Veiled behind an elaborate mask called a burga, the bride is dressed in opulent reds and golds to demonstrate her family’s wealth and her own beauty. Silver jewellery and colourful beads add a touch of personality to the young girl’s traditional garb.
Yemenite Jewish Brides
Similar to Muslim brides, the Yemenite Jewish bride wears a tall triangular head decoration bordered with fresh flowers, basil and other sweet herbs to protect them from the evil eye. Silver thread and bells are used to demonstrate the elaborate nature of the bridal ceremony. Filigree rings are arranged from the elbows to the fingers, and rows of coral necklaces are strung around the brides neck to represent ultimate beauty. The occasion is made even more prestigious as a girl’s wedding is the only time she is allowed to dress with such opulence.