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Wedding traditions in Oceania

Oceania covers a vast territory, and the main countries are Australia and New Zealand. The other nations of Oceania are much smaller, with a multitude of islands of varying sizes.

Languages and religions in the Pacific vary from one island to another. Formerly colonized by the British Empire, Australian and New Zealand weddings follow Anglo-Saxon traditions. Other parts of Oceania are also influenced by their status as former colonies but indigenous wedding traditions are more vivid than in the highly industrialized countries.

Throughout all these islands, often more so than in Australia and New Zealand, some indigenous peoples have managed to preserve their wedding traditions. But the mix of the ancestral rites of local traditions with modern trends is fascinating. For some this is a good way of preventing these traditional customs from disappearing. For others, it is a good opportunity to make a wedding more original. Couples can call on local bands playing traditional instruments or organize demonstrations of tribal warriors and chiefs for their guests.

Oceania is also a collection of territories that offer a tropical paradise. It attracts many tourists from Asia who come mainly to spend their honeymoon or to celebrate their marriage, usually held on the beach, feet in the sand!

Let us take you to a traditional wedding in Australia and New Zealand, taking a detour to one of the French-speaking islands of Oceania to discover the wedding customs of New Caledonia.beach-wedding

A traditional wedding in Australia

In Australia, the traditional church wedding is very important and the Bible has an important place within marriage. Custom dictates that a Bible is presented to the couple to be kept throughout their marriage as a memento. In Australian families, the marriage Bible passes from mother to daughter or from father to son for generations.

Australians have an outdoor culture and weddings are often celebrated outdoors. The festivities take place in gardens and for the lucky ones who live near the sea, beach parties can take place at weddings. The barbecue is a great tradition in Australia and many people cook meat outside. Australians have a strong sense of celebration and weddings are usually very lively.

To ensure that everything goes well and to make sure that this is happiest day in the newlyweds’ lives, Australians make an effort to forget about family conflict on this day. Marriages in Australia are also an opportunity to finally make peace with a particular family member.

Many Australian wedding customs and traditions were inherited from the British colonizers. Many marriages follow Scottish and Irish traditions depending on where the family is from. When the wedding guests, family members or friends know traditional Anglo-Saxon dances this is a great opportunity to do demonstrations. These group dances are great fun. There may also be groups at these weddings that play music with typical Scottish bagpipes and traditional Irish pieces.

Many weddings in Australia combine Anglo-Saxon customs like the white dress and the exchange of rings with other very local customs directly from Aboriginal culture, although the people do not usually mix. In Australia, musical instruments such as the famous didgeridoo are borrowed from Aboriginal culture.

A traditional wedding in New Zealand

New Zealand is so far away, yet weddings in New Zealand are very similar to ours. Wedding traditions in New Zealand are taken directly from British traditions, as in Australia.

White dresses are the classic choice in New Zealand. Weddings are more strongly influenced by American marriages, notably in the use of a wedding-planner. Religious marriage is widespread and the custom that the groom should not see the bride in her dress before the wedding is followed in New Zealand.

As in Australia, New Zealanders usually hold their celebrations outdoors, including weddings.

In New Zealand, more than in Australia, traditional indigenous customs have their place in contemporary weddings. For example, it is not uncommon to see a wedding in New Zealand incorporating the costumes and music of the Maori people.

Some of these customs are known throughout the world, like the wreaths that are put around the bride’s neck or the warrior dance.

A traditional wedding in New Caledonia

Some 1500 km from the east coast of Australia and some 2,000 km from New Zealand going to the north, is New Caledonia.

Weddings are often celebrated according to traditional rites. One of the wedding customs in New Caledonia is to plant trees. This is a custom found in other parts of the world. It is a powerful symbol of marriage for people who are attached to the land and their land in particular. Married couples come back years or even decades later to find the trees they had planted on their wedding day.

The wedding attire in New Caledonia is joyous and colorful. Although brides love white dresses, color is often seen.

It is important for families in New Caledonia to present gifts. Families are actively involved in the wedding preparations. Each family member is invited to take part and help out within their means and according to their skills.

Weddings in New Caledonia last two days. In general, the first day is a celebration of the couple's union when the gifts are given. Then comes the day of the religious ceremony and the couple are joined in matrimony before the authorities to legally formalize the marriage.

Traditionally in New Caledonia, marriages are happy gatherings where everyone sings and dances, and the wedding reception is a time of utmost importance. It is customary for the groom's family to be responsible for serving the meals and the bride’s family eats first. Since families are often large, weddings in New Caledonia must be very well organized. It is not uncommon to see several hundred people gathered together. Friends of the family, friends of friends and neighbors all come along. That's why anyone who can lend a hand is welcome!

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