Although the main point of a wedding is meant to be to bring two people together in partnership, the traditions and customs at weddings can vary widely across the globe. While some ceremonies are rather simple, others are very elaborate and include the whole family participating on the day of or even on the days leading up to the event! Many countries view a wedding as involving the entire family, not just the two newlyweds.
In many countries, the wedding reception is a time for music, conversation, and lots of good food that's usually only reserved for special occasions like weddings. A lot of the dishes that are traditionally served at wedding receptions are chosen because they have a lot of history behind them, and most of the time, they're also meant to be highly symbolic. Every small detail from the colors chosen for the food to the size of the portions can be representative of an aspect of the new couple’s future life or meant to bestow luck and blessings.
Many wedding guests are treated to multiple-course meals (as many as eight in some traditions!) of delicious dishes that can oftentimes take days to prepare. There are also some lucky wedding guests that get to go home with wedding favors that include a delicious treat.
In the list below, we take a closer look at some of the delicious dishes that are usually served at wedding receptions around the world, including the symbolism behind the particular dish.
20 England: Fruitcake
Although in the United States, fruitcake is usually not the most popular flavor of cake that people opt to have on special occasions, it's been a staple of many royal weddings in England for centuries. The main reason why this cake has been so popular for so long is that the fruitcake is extremely well preserved because of some of the ingredients. This means that it can be baked months in advance for chefs to take their time intricately decorating the cake, and usually, one or all of the layers of the wedding cake is made of fruitcake.
19 Germany: Hochzeitssuppe
"Hochzeitssuppe" is literally translated to mean "wedding soup." It's a traditional soup that's usually served during the reception at many weddings in Germany. The wedding soup consists of simple ingredients such as white chicken meat or meatballs, noodles (usually eggs or thin glass noodles), herbs, egg, butter, nutmeg, and milk. Although the ingredients for the soup are simple, they're meant to be high quality, and the soup is served as a first course on the menu, with some variations being replacing the chicken with beef or adding raisins.
18 Italy: Jordan Almonds
Jordan almonds are usually given as a wedding favor in many parts of Italy. The almonds are sugarcoated, and although they can come in many different colors, white is usually a very popular choice. Because they can be used to make many different beautiful and unique wedding favors, they also serve as decorations and can be seen around the wedding location. The bittersweet taste of the almonds are meant to represent life, and the sugar coating is meant to encourage the newlyweds to have a sweeter life.
17 Japan: Kazunoko
Kazunoko is a traditional dish that's served alongside many other dishes at numerous weddings in Japan. The food item is meant to symbolize fertility, which is why it's presented to the newlywed couple, and it consists of herring roe. The fish is usually prepared beforehand by laying it out to dry in the sun naturally and is pickled in salt so that it's well preserved. The fish is typically a very soft, yellowish color and is usually served alongside some kind of sushi.
16 Vietnam: Banh Xu Xe
Banh Xu Xe, or Banh Phu The, is a very symbolic cake that means “husband and wife” cakes. The small and colorful cakes are usually enjoyed by wedding guests; however, the tradition used to be that the groom would go over to the bride’s family’s house and offer various treats, with the small cakes among one of the most popular treats offered. The sweet filling is primarily made from rice and mung beans, and it's placed into a small box made of leaves. The top and bottom of the individually made boxes fit perfectly together to represent the great union of the couple.
15 Brazil: Bem Casados
In Brazil, wedding guests are usually treated to small favors called "bem casados," which translates to mean “well married.” The cakes are a sweet dessert that's usually wrapped in colorful tissue paper and ribbon. They look like a small cookie, although it's actually two small pieces of sponge cake that are held together by a creamy filling made of anything from a creamy milk filling to different fruit jams. The small and sweet wedding favors are meant to represent two parts held together by the sweet bonds of love and mutual respect.
14 Bulgaria: Breaking Bread
In Bulgaria, one of the many wedding traditions that commonly occur is the breaking of the bread by the newlywed couple during the wedding reception. The mother of the bride is usually the one who bakes the bread a few days in advance, and during the reception, she hands it to the newlywed couple who each take a piece of bread in their hand and pull. Whoever gets the biggest piece of bread is meant to represent the person who the “boss” of the relationship moving forward will be!
13 Bermuda: Cedar Sapling Cake Toppers
In Bermuda, the newlyweds are usually treated to one cake each, each decorated in a different way in order to symbolize what they hope to bring to the union. Typically, the cake of the bride is made up of 3 tiers and is made of fruitcake and covered in silver icing, which is meant to represent their fruitful marriage. The groom’s single-tier cake is covered in gold icing to represent prosperity. The cakes are both topped with cedar saplings, which the couple later plants in their garden to signify their growing love.
12 Thailand: Foi Thong Cake
One of the common foods that are served in weddings in Thailand is the foi thong cake. The gold color of the thong is believed to bring good luck to the lives of the newlyweds. The cake itself can come in a variety of different flavors according to the tastes of the new couple, but the topping on top of the cake is traditionally made of foi thong noodles, which are sweet and made primarily from egg yolk and sugary water, then dried before they're used.
11 Greece: Bread Salad
In Greece, there are a number of different traditions that have been alive for a very long time during weddings. For example, January or June are considered ideal times to get married because they were ruled by Hera, the goddess of marriage and fertility. During the wedding reception, along with a number of delicious dishes, there's typically a substantial bread salad that's served as a first course. The hearty bread salad usually consists of ingredients such as fresh sea scallops, lump crab, calamari, and mussels.
10 Ukraine: Korovai
Korovai is the traditional centerpiece at many weddings in Ukraine. The beautiful work of pastry art is round in shape and is usually made of one big, thick braid. The decorative items that adorn the cake are usually made of sculpted dough and are shaped into a variety of symbolic figures. Some of the more common symbols include doves to represent love and faithfulness, pine cones to symbolize fertility, and periwinkle to represent purity. The bread itself is slightly sweet and soft and serves as both a delicious treat and an attractive centerpiece.
9 France: Croquembouche
The croquembouche is, on the one hand, a work of art but on the other, is also a delectable dessert that's time-consuming to make, which is why it's usually only served at special occasions like weddings. The distinct-looking cake is made of little pasty balls called "profiteroles," which are filled with creme patisserie and bound together by threads of caramel. Each of the parts of the cake has to be made individually, and remarkable patience and care are needed to stack the balls together neatly so that the cake is sturdy.
8 Sweden: Prinsesstårta
In Sweden, many special occasions such as weddings are celebrated through the elegant Prinsesstårta or princess cake. The sweet and smooth-looking cake is made of torte or layer cake and consists of alternating layers of the cake, jam, pastry cream, and whipped cream. Each layer is pretty thick and covered in an overlay that's made of marzipan, which can be dyed to any color but traditionally has been dyed green. Small stylish details such as powdered sugar, icing swirls, and a pink rose are usually common.
7 South Korea: Jujubes and Chestnuts
One of the fun traditions in South Korea when two people get married is carried out during pyebaek, which is a family-only event held after weddings in which the bride offers her new in-laws some jujubes and chestnuts, which are meant to represent fertility. When the ceremony ends, the in-laws toss back the jujubes and chestnuts so that the bride can catch them in her gown. Whatever number she catches is meant to represent the number of children she and her new partner will end up having.
6 Nigeria: Kola Nut
The use of kola nut in many wedding ceremonies in Nigeria is highly symbolic because of the significance of the kola nut. This particular nut is used for many medicinal purposes and, at the wedding, is meant to represent the couple and family’s willingness to help each other heal from that time on. During the ceremony, the couple shares a kola nut between the couple and their parents since families are thought to be brought together during the wedding and have a responsibility to help each other be well.
5 China: Peking Duck
Wedding banquets in China are grand affairs that usually consist of eight courses! Of the many courses and delicious food items served, Peking duck is usually a staple at many wedding receptions. The red duck is highly symbolic because red is meant to represent happiness for the new couple, and ducks are known to mate for life. The duck is commonly served without its skin but otherwise whole including head and feet because it symbolizes completeness. The duck is typically served with sides that enhance the flavor such as hoisin sauce.
4 Morocco: Mechoui
In Morocco, "mechoui" means “roasted over a fire,” and it can technically mean any kind of meat that's slowly roasted over the fire, but in many cases, the meat of choice is usually lamb. There are several recipes of this well-known dish that call for only a few parts of the lamb, but when the occasion is a wedding, typically, the entire lamb is cooked over a long period of time so that the meat is well roasted but tender and juicy, too.
3 Armenia: Ghapama
The ghapama is a traditional dish from Armenia that's tasty and comes with a beautiful presentation. The special dish is served at many big functions, including weddings. The dish is so delicious and traditional to the culture that there's a short song associated with eating it, which includes lyrics about how good it smells and tastes. Ghapama is not an easy dish to make, and there are several steps involved in the process from cutting up the pumpkin to making the filling which usually contains rice, nuts, and other fruits.
2 India: Honey and Yogurt
Honey and yogurt at a wedding might seem very simple, but the two ingredients are highly symbolic to the newlyweds. The sweet treat is called "madhupak," and in some traditions, the honey and yogurt are mixed by the father of the bride and offered to the couple to eat together. In other traditions, the bride mixes the honey and yogurt and present them to the groom. The mixture is meant to symbolize a long life together, and the honey is meant to sweeten their new life together.
1 México: Polvorones
Although polvorones may not have the most appetizing translation since it's derived from the word “dust,” these little sugar cookies are very popular at weddings in México. They get their name from the light dusting of powdered sugar on top of them. The treats are made from simple ingredients and usually don't vary much in terms of recipe, but they're very popular, and even though large batches of them are usually made to place on the table, they rarely last to the end of the wedding ceremony!