A wedding can be simply defined as a ceremony in which two individuals are bonded in marriage. There are various wedding traditions and customs and these go by the cultures, religions, ethnic groups, social classes, and even countries. In most cases couples exchange vows in weddings, present various gifts, and an authority figure or leader makes a pubic proclamation of marriage. Another feature that is commonly witnessed is the wearing of wedding garments, and in some cases a wedding reception follows such as a ceremony. The incorporation of readings from scripture or literature accompanied by music, prayers or even poetry is also popular for such ceremonies. There are various distinguishing aspects that may be included in a wedding thus generating many types of weddings including: civil wedding, elopement, same-sex wedding, destination wedding, white wedding, weekend wedding, military wedding, double wedding, and mass wedding. Al these weddings have features that distinguish them from each, however, it should be noted that there are certain features that are common through all the wedding types. It is also important to know that these wedding types do not exist in all countries or regions and their existence depends on the cultures, laws, and religious beliefs among others. The significance and importance of a wedding also varies from one culture to another with some cultures recognizing it as a very key and mandatory step into marriage while others considering it like any other ceremony which an individual can choose to either go through or not.
This research paper will however concentrate on the analysis of cultural weddings from two regions, specifically the African cultural weddings and the Australian cultural weddings. In order to capture the context of this paper it will be important to give a brief description of the two cultural weddings.
African cultural weddings
Africa as a continent is considered to contain to a number of the oldest civilizations on earth and a home to diverse religions and cultures which is clearly reflected on the diverse weddings traditions. The importance of family is the very core of any wedding tradition in Africa (Africaguide.com, 2011). The main concept of African weddings is bringing together of two individuals as a single family, or two families, or even two different communities. Weddings in cultural Africa is not based on love between two individuals but rather on the desire of bringing two families together and the creation of a bigger family unit. Almost all cultural weddings in Africa can be traced back up to thousands of years thus they strictly follow the old traditions. Even though there can be differences due to the presence of various religions in Africa, all the cultural weddings value bringing together of families. As a way of building a strong and lasting family in future, African young girls undergo training on how to be good wives. This may include learning of secret codes and secret languages essential for communicating with other married women without their husbands comprehending the communication.
With respect to which part of Africa is being referred to, there can be extremely elaborate wedding ceremonies which may last for several days (Euroevents & Travel, 2004) . In most cultures in Africa holding of huge ceremonies (mass weddings) is common. In such ceremonies the community witnesses the bonding of many couples at a go. Another feature that is emphasized in African weddings is the payment of dowry by a man which is viewed as an appreciation as well as recognition of the loss of the daughter's labor from her family. Almost all African cultures allow and encourage polygamy and girls being engaged as early as at birth. It is also very rare to hear of divorce in African marriages since family problems are treated as a concern of the whole village; more often than not both families will come together and find a solution to any problem. Most important is that marriage is sacred just as is everywhere else.
Australian cultural weddings
In Australia there are varied wedding customs since the country's society is multicultural. However, traditions of the rest of the Western world take dominance in Australia, this is commonly referred to as the 'white wedding'. Regardless of the kind of wedding, (formal or informal) the brides still wear the traditional white wedding dress. One characteristic of the cultural Australian weddings is the giving of a Bible as a wedding gift, the Bible usually has a section used to record births and deaths that occur within the family (Euroevents & Travel, 2004). The weddings will usually include family members from both families. Just like most of their ceremonies, weddings in Australia are not very formal and most of the times the venues are outdoors in parks, beach and in family or public gardens, however, there are instances when it can be very formal like anywhere else and is usually founded on love between two individuals.
Impression formed of the two cultures
As is always the case whenever an individual encounters a culture that is new then he or she must have an impression about the culture, either because it is too distant from what is familiar or has significant similarities (Yamauchi et al., 2002). In this case the similar situation applies and the two different cultural weddings made me form different impressions. For the African culture it is because of the difference that exists between it and what is already familiar while for the Australian culture it is due to the significant similarities that it has with what is already familiar.
To start with I feel the African cultural weddings are 'dictatorial' in nature in that they take into consideration the personal feelings of the individuals involved. This I say because in the African culture love is not a factor to consider when bringing together two individuals for marriage but rather what is considered is the joining of two or more families. With regard to this girls and boys are usually engaged at a very age when they do not have an idea of what is happening and when they come of age they are not given a choice but rather forced to wed the partner who has been identified. This goes against the rights of the individual to choose a partner who she or he admires and likes, even though some say that love grows with time it is not always the case thus a couple can live throughout their entire marriage life without ever loving each other. This culture gives me the impression that the communities involved are more concerned about creating more family units without caring on the welfare of such families. The only things that are usually considered are the cultural, social, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. Since time is not always given for love and courtship the partners will always feel they do not know their new mate well.
Since the individuals involved in these weddings have no choice on what happens I also feel that the parents may take advantage of this and push their daughters into such marriages in order to receive financial restitution for the arrangement since in most cases the dowry involved is much. This means that young girls of between ages 10 and 17 years may be forced into marriage and the consequences will be decreased educational opportunities, exploitation and violence, or even death in childbirth. It is also possible that when such girls are forced into marriage they may try to escape from the uncertain situation and in the process they will endanger their lives and may even die. As I mentioned just before the dowries for arranged marriages are usually high since the girl's family believes that the boy's family are obliged to ensure that the marriage is a success, thus they will place a very high price. When the boy's family is poor then this becomes a financial burden since it is the boy's family that will cover most of the wedding costs. In addition, I also believe that this culture encourages segregation of different social classes in the process of making such arrangements. It will be common to find that the rich will make arrangements will families that are also rich leaving the poor with no choice but to make arrangements with the remaining poor families. This will probably lead to a poverty cycle which can greatly affect a particular community.
On the other hand the other good aspect that I admire in this culture is the way family problems are handled which is a factor that has reduced cases of divorce. It is very encouraging to know that once the couples are married both families will help them grow together in the marriage and offer their support. This to me is a good aspect since some families do break-up due to minor misunderstandings that can be easily solved when more people are involved. With divorce cases being kept low, chances of getting single-parented children or even parentless are very low. This way the society…