Marriage Proposal Customs Around The World_ISaidYesHub

Who said going down on one knee was the only way to propose! We bring you 21 thoroughly researched marriage proposal and engagement traditions from around the world.

Guy meets girl. They fall in love.

They want to spend their live together, so he gets down on one knee at a romantic surprise location, diamond engagement ring in hand as he asks her to become his wife.

This is the typical proposal story you are used to. You probably even thought this was the only way to propose marriage? Right?!


The decision to get married is one of the most momentous decisions in anyone’s life, with careful planning and thought put into every stage from the proposal to the wedding and the honeymoon.

As the world becomes much smaller, with ease of travel and the influence of the Internet, different global cultures are adopting typical western behavior. The “down on one knee” proposal style, though western has caught on around the world quickly becoming the standard, which is probably why many in America and the West think it’s the norm globally.

Though this has become the modern way to go about proposals, you’ve gotta know that it’s just not the case globally, in many cultures this type of engagement means absolutely NOTHING if cultural norms aren’t adhered to.

In most western cultures a couple becomes officially engaged once the man proposes and the woman accepts (even if both their families oppose their union), however other cultures have traditions that need to be followed especially the approval of the parents before a couple can become “officially engaged”.

So it doesn’t matter if your man goes down on one knee with the most expensive diamond you can find at the Tiffany store, but in Nigeria for instance where family plays a huge rule in wedding rites, if the permission of the bride’s family isn’t sought…you and your very expensive diamond will be marrying yourselves…LOL.

We’ve already established that wedding customs differ vastly between countries; traditionally the rituals of most cultures are heavily steeped in social, religious and civil law that has been passed down through generations.

From the simple and mundane, which involves the man seeking favour with his intended’s family before he can even think about formally proposing, to an elaborate and colourful ceremony complete with proposal letter read out by a family member and often followed by a huge engagement party to the downright weird…giving the bride’s father whale’s teeth to seek his approval?

Different regions around the globe have their own approach to a marriage proposal, which is symbolic to their own culture.

Yep! Engagement ceremonies are a HUGE deal in many cultures. Think…BIG! Or BIGLY as Mr. Donald Trump would say..

We’ve rounded up 21 of the most fascinating marriage proposal rituals from around the world to give you an idea of what’s happening beyond your backyard. If you’re particularly charmed by a certain custom, by all means feel free to incorporate it into your own marriage proposal and engagement. When it comes to love, there are no limits.

It’s a long read, over 7,000 words, so you can skip over to the custom you are most interested in if you don’t want to read the entire post.

  1. CHINA
  2. KOREA
  3. JAPAN
  4. EGYPT
  11. KENYA
  12. MEXICO
  15. INDIA
  16. RUSSIA
  17. SWEDEN
  18. JEWISH
  19. FIJI
  21. GYPSY

Now let’s dive in…


Back in the day in China, matchmakers were the norm in making marriages happen. A family would hire a matchmaker who would go to another family to seek a proposal, once a proposal is accepted both families would then consult a fortune teller who would analyze the man and woman’s names, birth dates, and other vital information concerning the couple to confirm if they are both compatible for marriage.

This is where things get a bit hit or miss, ‘cos if the couple is deemed compatible, a marriage deal would be brokered, if not the entire proposal is cancelled!

Just. Like. That.

Sounds harsh…especially if the couple were truly in love, but hey…that was the tradition.

Once the marriage is brokered, betrothal gifts would be offered by the groom & his family to the bride, a dowry would be paid and a wedding planned.

But it’s 2017 and matchmakers aren’t as popular as they once were, with most people finding their own path to love and marriage nowadays, a lot of modern China has adopted the western culture of the man presenting the woman he would like to marry with a diamond ring. But that’s as far as the modernity goes, because Chinese couples still heavily imbibe the traditional engagement customs of offering betrothal gifts, a bridal dowry, consultation with a fortune-teller and even consultation with the Chinese almanac to determine an auspicious day to get married.


Let K-dramas tell it & all Korean marriage proposals happen with so much pomp & fairytale surrounding it.

Think elaborate surprise proposal, bae on one knee and a lot of dramatic music in the background, but don’t be fooled this isn’t the standard in modern Korea nor has it ever been.

In Korea, marriage is something both partners talk about and jointly decide on. Until maybe the last 5 or 10 years engagement rings were not even a thing in Korean culture, however a lot of the younger generation are starting to propose with rings and even staging elaborate, romantic marriage proposals.

Nicole & Prax’s Proposal Shoot At The Seoul Forest. Image Credit: Greg Samborski

Even though the western norm of the man proposing is catching on in Korea, an engagement between Korean lovebirds doesn’t become official until the two families meet each other and agree on the proposal.

Then & only then is the engagement announced. Prior to this the couple would have met each other’s parents separately.

So in Korean culture the engagement ring isn’t a sign that an engagement is in the offing. It’s the families meeting (Sopranos…style…just kidding) that seals the deal.

And then the wedding planning can start.

Korean women do not even have to wear their engagement or wedding rings to signify they are off the market, although younger Koreans are starting to do this, the older generation never wore rings.

According to, In Korea year long engagements are also rare. Forget a 12 – 18 month wedding planning period; Korean couples are typically wedded at most 3 months after a proposal. If you’re thinking, “SHOTGUN”, you’re so wrong. It’s a logistics thing; Korean weddings are just a whole lot easier and quicker to plan.


Couple at their engagement. Image Credit: Sew In Love Blog

Modern Japanese couples are heavily into Western culture including a handful of their wedding customs. But unlike their western counterparts Japanese men barely convey their feelings through words, preferring instead to be more indirect, using actions. So for instance rather than saying, “I Love you, will you marry me”, a Japanese man would propose saying, “I want you to make me miso soup everyday”, unromantic to say the least, but the women understands totally this is the marriage proposal she’s getting.

The general reasoning behind these “unromantic” proposals is that Japanese men are acutely concerned about being hurt and try to avoid any risk that the girl rejects his proposal. That’s why they always cautiously choose ambiguous words.

Even after an indirect proposal between a couple, just like Koreans, a couple isn’t really engaged until there’s a meeting of the families of the bride and groom, this meeting is called the Yuino and it is the Japanese engagement ceremony.

At the Yuino which is usually held at the bride’s parents home, the groom’s family gives betrothal items, dowry and an engagement ring to the bride and her family.

The dowry price and gifts differ from area to area and families. At the Yuino, both families exchange nine symbolic gifts wrapped with rice paper. Each gift symbolizes sentiments and well wishes for the couple, such as fertility, longevity, wealth and healthy children. [Source]

It usually takes place three to six months to the wedding. Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to see the ceremony take place at a restaurant (like composer Keitaro Harada above) or at a hotel, with many now offering the Yuino package.


Egypt shares a lot of similar traditions with their Arab and North African neighbours, this includes courtship and marriage customs, which are also heavily influenced by their religious beliefs. Dating in the western sense of the word is frowned upon by the super conservative Egyptian society, the population of which is largely Muslim.

Dating is rarely ever done in private; usually taking place in a group setting under heavy supervision. Pre marital intimacy is a huge NO…NO!

Egyptian Couple at their engagement blessing. Image Credit: Ego – Productions

After just a couple of “dates”, a man is expected to seek permission from a woman’s father if he wants to keep seeing her. This is because in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world dating is done with the expectation that it will lead to marriage. So it’s expected that after a handful of dates the man should know if he wants to marry the lady.

So if you’re not serious, now would be the time to exit stage left.

The man and his parents are invited to the woman’s house for a meeting with her parents, it is at this meeting not just his intentions are scrutinized but also his financial capabilities to take care of the woman and any children they might have shortly after.

If all is agreeable between all parties, the father allows the man to continue seeing his daughter, the man must then make a promise of marriage with a gold ring called a dibla, given to the woman by him to show his commitment.

Think of the dibla as a promise ring.

Mary & Daniel’s Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Engagement Ceremony in Cambridge. Image Credit: Jean Luc Benazet

Shortly after there is an engagement ceremony where the man does the official proposal with a much nicer ring called – khaatim. Depending on religion the engagement is officiated by a religious priest. In Egyptian culture the man also wears a ring upon becoming engaged.

The exchange rings is usually followed by a huge colourful ceremony and dinner.


Marriage Proposal ISaidYesHub

Iraqi Bride at her Mashaya festivities in London. Image Credit: Fatima Baqi Photography

Another culture that’s very religious, conservative and big on family inclusion in a marriage is Persian culture. Very similar to the Egyptians and most of the Arab world, however the difference being that in Iraq/Iran there are 7 crucial steps that must be taken on the road to a wedding. One of which is the formal marriage proposal called the Mashaya, this is when men from the groom’s family meet with men from the bride’s family with a formal marriage proposal in hand.

At the Mashaya, the bride-to-be is formally asked by her father or the eldest man in her family in the presence of everyone, if she will accept the proposal. Once she agrees the Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Book of the Muslims – The Qu’ran) is read.

And this is when the festivities kick in!

The Mashaya is concluded with both the families of the bride and groom celebrating by sharing a Sherbet, which is a fruit cordial flavoured with rose water and pomegranate. Turkish coffee and dessert is also served.

These two ceremonies are then followed by an official engagement ceremony, which is when the exchange of rings takes place. Gold for the bride to be and silver for her fiancé. The exchange of rings is rounded up with a huge dinner hosted by the woman’s family with both families in attendance.


Engagement Ceremony at Amethyste Lebanon. Image Credit:

Lebanese society is very much a modern one, however old traditions and customs still hold sway.

Families play a huge role in the marriage rites in Lebanon, right from the proposal stage. Once a couple decide they would like to get married, even if a typical Western style proposal has taken place, the groom to be would still need to seek the permission of his future father in law to marry his daughter.

If consent is given, they either celebrate the engagement that same night or schedule a huge engagement blessing ceremony and party where the couple would exchange rings and party with their closest and dearest.

By Lebanese tradition at the engagement party the parents of the groom usually gift the bride to be with lavish, expensive gifts usually a stunning piece of jewellery.


As with most non-Western cultures, the process of engagements and marriage in Turkey is largely traditional, a couple cannot get married without the approval of her parents.

Engagement customs vary in Turkey, with larger cities dating is more relaxed than in rural communities where old traditions like arranged marriages are still very much prevalent, matter of fact when a woman is ready to get married in rural Turkey, her family advertises her single status with an empty milk bottle placed on the roof of a house, which a man would have to knock off in order to be assessed for marriage suitability – by the woman’s father, of course!

Even though dating customs in big cities don’t necessarily follow the traditional tones set in rural Turkey, tradition still dictates that when a couple is ready to marry, he will need the permission and blessing of his girlfriend’s parents.

Turkish Bride to be serves fiance’s and family, specially brewed coffee at the Kiz Isteme

Traditionally the groom and his family will meet with his intended’s parents at their family home, to ask for her father for hand in marriage, this is called the kiz isteme. Coffee is a major part of this formal gathering and the bride is required to serve the perfect brew of Turkish coffee to the guests, with a special cup for her groom using salt rather than sugar. If the man drinks his salty coffee without complaint, he is said to be patient and good-tempered and ready for marriage.

During the gathering, the groom’s family is also judging the woman’s coffee making skills and service.

Once both families come to an agreement, the bride’s family throws an engagement party called Nisan, which is usually a lavish, colourful affair, attended by families and friends. At the engagement party before the celebrations begin the couple exchange engagement rings…yes it’s not just the woman that gets an engagement ring, the man does as well. How cool is that?!

The rings are bound by a red ribbon (so the couple is bound together for eternity), a prayer is said for the couple after which the ribbon is cut off.


In Nigeria there are 3 major ethnic tribes (Igbo, Hausa & Yoruba) and while most modern Nigerian couples that live in the big cities follow the American style of proposal, traditionally it is still not deemed as official if some rites and customs haven’t been followed.

Yoruba Introduction Ceremony. Image Credit: Demi O Photography

For instance with the Yoruba culture, once a man states his intention to get married, he and his family meet her family at her home for what is said to be an official introduction ceremony known as a “mo mi mo”. The bride’s family chooses the date for the introduction, which takes place at her father’s home; this ceremony is a significant occasion for both families to get to know each other. Members of the immediate family on both sides come together to introduce themselves and their relationship to the bride and groom. At this ceremony the groom to be’s family is welcomed by the bride’s family with food and drinks. The couple are also officially introduced to each other’s families. Although officially introduced, the bride and groom leave with their respective family members because they cannot live together until the actual wedding.

The bride’s family then chooses the date for the official traditional engagement ceremony, which is when the official proposal (as custom dictates) takes place. The engagement ceremony (otherwise known as the traditional wedding) is usually held at an event centre, the entire ceremony though long (usually close to 3 hours) is very vibrant, rich in colour and steeped in culture, although it can be very lengthy there is never a dull moment…I promise you.

The ceremony is hosted by the bride’s family and is spearheaded by two narrators, one representing each family. The Alaga Ijoko is the narrator for the bride’s family and the Alaga Iduro speaks for the groom’s family. At this ceremony an elaborate proposal ‘letter’ is presented by the grooms family and then read out loud by the youngest member of the brides family. After this the bride’ s family gives the groom’s family their acceptance letter.

Yoruba Groom to be & his friends prostrating before his in laws at engagement ceremony. Image Credit:

The groom to be then makes his appearance by dancing in with his friends and then proceeds to prostrate (yes lie down flat on the floor!!!) twice with his friends and once on his own. After a few more rituals, the bride is ready to be make her grand entrance, depending on her religion she either picks out a Quran or Bible from the myriad of gifts brought to her by the groom.

Yoruba couple John & Adeola. Image Credit: K Lala Photography via Yoruba Wedding

After being cheered on by the guests in attendance, he then gives her, her engagement ring. Following this the bride price is then paid and it is at this point the couple are officially engaged. This ceremony doubles as a proposal, engagement and traditional (not legal) wedding. Following this a couple then go on to have a legal ceremony either a civil, church or Muslim wedding depending on their religious dictates.


Ijeoma and Jonathan’s Introduction (Iku Aka) Ceremony. Image Credit:

In Igbo culture, just like with the Yoruba culture, a man who is ready to marry must first ask for a woman’s hand in marriage from her parents. But the Igbo culture differs in that in addition to asking for permission from her parents, the man must also ask for permission from her extended family (her clan) known as her Umunna. This can be done on a separate occasion from the initial meeting with her parents. The Igbos are very communal, hence the inclusion of her extended family in the marriage request and the western style proposal just doesn’t fly, even if the girl has said yes.

Then the first official proposal takes place at a ceremony called Knocking On The DoorIku Aka, this is where the groom and his family go to home of the bride’s parents in their hometown, to formally state his intention to marry their daughter. They are welcomed by the parents of the bride with the traditional palm wine drink. This is also the first official introduction of both families.

After receiving the consent of the bride’s family and extended family at the Iku Aka, the groom and his clan would settle the dowry (bride price called Ime Ego), then the families decide on dates and planning of the traditional wedding (the wine carrying ceremony) and the church wedding.

Igbo Bride at her engagement ceremony. Image Credit: Jide Odukoya

It is only after these that the couple are officially engaged in the eyes of tradition.


The notion of a proposal and engagement (as viewed in Western culture) is foreign to traditional South African culture. For African ethnic groups in South Africa once a couple has decided that they would like to get married it is preferred by the older generation that he not propose (western style) but rather, send a letter to the girl’s family (either to her parents or the girl’s maternal uncle) requesting that his family (usually his maternal uncle and maybe two other people – male or female) go to her parent’s home to discuss the possibility of marrying the girl.

Bride to be dances at traditional engagement/lobola. Image Credit: Simon Shaba for

The girl’s family writes back to indicate whether or not such a meeting and discussion is acceptable and they also indicate a suitable date and time for said meeting. The girl’s family will usually also indicate what gifts the boy’s family must bring with them on the stipulated date. Traditionally the groom is not allowed to be present at this meeting, because it is only meant for elders. In Zulu custom for instance someone called an Idombo represents the groom at this meeting. At the meeting the groom via the Idombo asks the bride’s family for her hand in marriage, both families initiate negotiations of the dowry, which is called the Lobola.

Lobola is a combination of items given to the bride’s family. The first item is called Ukangaziwe, which is money given by the groom’s representative as his formal introduction to the bride’s family. The Idombo is then given a list of the Lobola items decided by the bride’s father and/or uncles, these are usually given in part over a period of tim. Lobola items are usually: Cattle (the number of which is at the discretion of the bride’s dad and uncles) or the equivalent given to her father and uncle, another item is the Amalobolo which is a cow given specifically to the mother of the bride to thank her for giving birth to and raising the bride, another is the Impahla, which are items of clothing for the mother and father.

Poster from 2013 South African movie – Lobola

The groom’s family usually pays a huge chunk of the Lobola at the first meeting or at a future meeting decided by both families, the entire Lobola isn’t usually paid at once because it is against the custom and regarded as rude to pay the entire Lobola at once. A little more of the Lobola can be paid after the birth of the first child and the rest usually remains indebted to the bride’s parents forever, as a symbol of keeping both families tied together forever.

After the first meeting of the couple’s families, the couple are officially engaged.

Zulu couple after their engagement. Image Credit: Exquisite Photography

With modernity comes change, after all it is 2017 and it’s worthy to note South African couples much like other cultures have been influenced by Western culture…somewhat. So these days once modern South African couples have decided to marry, the intended groom will usually meet with the father of the woman he wants to marry to indicate his intention, he might even ask her father if he is allowed to give her an engagement ring and propose to the girl (Western style) with the stipulation that his family will either simultaneously or shortly after the proposal, send the letter (as indicated above) and carry out the Lobola process.


Much like other African cultures a Kenyan engagement usually involves the family, with the man seeking permission from the elder male members of the bride’s family.

However with modernity a lot of the traditional customs have changed but some practices still hold sway.

Likuyi bride to be at her dowry payment ceremony

With the Rendille tribe a man who is ready to marry will send beads to the girl he is interested in. Once she receives the beads, she knows what they signify and ether accepts or rejects them. Her acceptance of the beads indicates acceptance of his proposal and thus begins the engagement and wedding process.

Her parents aren’t left out of the process either; they indicate their acceptance of their future son in law by having the mother of the bride to be placing a wooden ornament over the beads. In ancient tradition which is still practiced among the Rendille tribe, the soon to be bride also gets tattooed and her earlobes placed prior to the official wedding ceremony.

At a predetermined date prior to the wedding the groom to be gives his bride’s family and relative a gift of camels. [Source]


Mexican couples typically have long engagements, which often starts with a promise ring (or pre-engagement ring) given to the bride roughly a year before the formal engagement when she gets her “official” engagement ring. The pre engagement ring signifies a couple’s commitment to each other and symbolizes that they will treat each other with love and devotion as if they are already married.

While most Mexicans propose marriage in typically the same fashion Westerners do, traditional Mexican families (especially those in the rural areas) still follow age old custom, which states that the permission of the bride to be’s father needs to be had before the man can even ask for her hand in marriage.

Here is how that typically works – the parents of the man accompany their son to the home of the girl’s parents to ask for her hand in marriage. All this is done while the potential groom to be waits outside the house (perhaps so he can make an easy run for it incase the woman’s father comes charging at him with a gun lol).

Once the woman’s father gives approval to the proposal, the groom to be is invited into the home; it is at this point he gives his love an engagement ring. Once permission is granted, both families decide on the best dates for the weddings to take place.

This tradition is steeped in treating women as chattel, as property—but even the most progressive Mexicans still do it even today, because it’s quaint and also demonstrates an understanding of how marriage involves families and community, not just two individuals.

It is worthy to note that rural Mexican families tend to follow traditional dating customs more closely than those in the larger cities.


Just like with other Asian customs, families especially parents are key to a typical marriage proposal in Philippines, even in modern day Philippines. Proposals are typically influenced by religion, however a traditional Filipino proposal starts with a parental marriage proposal called Pamanhikan or Pamamanhikan.

The Peñano and Lantin families pose with engaged couple (seated, center) at their pamanhikan ceremony. Image Credit: Chinky Lantin Photos via GMA Network

This is when the man who intends to marry, formally approaches the woman’s parents at their home, to get their consent to ask for her hand in marriage. Filipinos believe parental approval and consent is a blessing and brings good luck to the couple.

Once the woman’s parents accept the proposal, other matters such as: the wedding date, the finances, and the list of guests, are discussed during this. The expenses for the wedding are generally carried by the groom and his family.

Pamamanhikan enforces the importance of the familial nature of the wedding, as traditionally a marriage is seen as the foundation of an alliance between two clans as well as the joining of individuals. Following the Pamamanhikan there is usually a feast held at the bride’s family home.

These days many Filipinos have moved away from traditional customs to embrace more of the Western marriage customs, but that said a good number still incorporate the old custom and tradition in their engagements and weddings.


Even though many cultures have been influenced by Western culture thus making love matches more prevalent than arranged marriages, in Sri Lanka arranged marriages still thrive heavily.

Traditions still play a huge role in modern day Sri Lanka as far as proposals, engagement and marriage proceedings go.

In the case of a relationship which has been initiated by the couple on their own, when ready for marriage, rather than a Western style proposal to signify engagement they would still need to get their respective parents to arrange their marriage and this usually starts with the parents arranging to meet each other to set the ball rolling.

Processes vary from region to region and also depend a lot on religion as well. For Buddhist couples, the engagement process of starts with horoscope matching of the couple using their birth dates. Horoscope matching also determines the formal date and time of the wedding, the Nekatha.

Akkineni Akhil puts a ring on it, at engagement ceremony with Shriya Bhupal in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Image Credit: Joseph Radhik

The dowry is also a huge aspect of engagements in Sri Lanka, while in most cultures the intended groom pays a dowry to the bride and her family, in Sri Lanka the reverse is the case, with the bride paying a dowry to the groom. The amount varies with some groom’s families asking for as much as 5 Million Rupees cash, property and even jewellery before a formal engagement and wedding can commence.

According to the Big Fat Indian Wedding, for a formal engagement ceremony Buddhist tradition usually calls for a more reserved affair during which the couple meets with each other’s parents to exchange gifts and to formally select a date for the wedding ceremony.

Some communities require this formal engagement to be a religious event, however modern Sri Lankan couples largely opt for Western-style engagement parties.


Pinal & Keval praying at their Hindu engagement ceremony. Image Credit: Daniel Taylor Photography

Proposals and engagements in modern India are deeply rooted in ancient tradition, which is still very prevalent in modern Indian society thus Western style proposals are very rare. Whether the relationship is an arranged marriage or a love match there are certain processes that the couple would need to follow before they can be considered officially engaged by their families and the community at large.

Indian couples traditionally become engaged after the bride’s family has formally accepted the groom’s family’s proposal.

The engagement process starts with both the families of the groom to be & bride to be, hiring an astrologer to do a horoscope reading of the couple, to ascertain If they are a suitable match and also to determine the most auspicious day for the ceremony.

If they are deemed incompatible by the reading, the woman is made to marry a banana or peepal tree before going ahead with the rest of the engagement and wedding, in a ceremony called Kumbh Vivah. According to ancient Hindu tradition the point of this act is to dispel the maanglik (an astrological combination that indicates ill-omen) and to ensure the good health and long life of her husband. If the marriage goes through without the bride to be first marrying the tree, the girl could cause the death of her husband!

Well that’s grim and enough to make you want to marry a tree to reverse the curse…or not?

Even though the tradition has been legally banned it still takes place.

Back in 2007 Bollywood actress Aishwariya Rai was alleged to have participated in this ancient tradition of marrying a banana tree, to dispel any bad luck her horoscope was said to bring her groom to be – Abhishek Bachchan, whom she has now been married to for ten years. The star actress received public backlash for reportedly promoting caste discrimination and misogyny.

Only maanglik girls must go through with the Kumbh Vivah and as such the act was banned for being derogatory to woman.

Moving on, the bride’s family then throws a huge engagement party for the couple.

Couple being carried on the shoulders of family and friends after their Hindu engagement. Image Credit: Daniel Taylor Photography

During the ceremony the fathers of both the bride and the groom vouch for the virtues of their child and then make a formal announcement to all the guests in attendance that their families will now be joined and their children will be getting married. Exchange rings are exchanged during this ceremony and the wedding happens usually a few months after.

In traditional Hindu cultures, women are known to wear toe rings (known as bichiya) rather than engagement rings on their fingers.  


Proposals in Russia have been greatly affected by Western culture much like everything else, however there are some very aspects of weddings that are unique to Russian culture.

You’d be surprised but until very recently Russian men did not give engagement rings. Traditionally a man would go along with his father to the house of the bride’s parents to ask for her hand before even proposing directly to her. However at the turn of the 20th century these traditions became less of the norm.

A man would typically ask his love to marry him with no rings given. Till date some men still seek the permission of the bride’s parents however it isn’t common. Once the proposal is accepted the couple would only inform very close family and friends about their engagement with the intention to wed within one to three months. No long engagements here.

Even though engagement rings are not the norm in Russia with the influence of Western culture, it has no become a gesture that is not unexpected among modern Russian couples.


Interestingly in Sweden many couples don’t bother to ever get married. They usually just end up having a common law type of situation – living together, setting up home & raising children. It’s really no biggie in Scandinavian culture as these types of relationships are legally recognized.

Swedish proposals are very unique in that they are complete opposite of Western European and American proposals, with everything done in reverse!

Even though I love a romantic proposal, you can’t help but admire the practicality of Swedish proposals. Typically a Swede couple would discuss getting engaged and married with no family involvement, if it’s agreeable between the man & the woman, then they become engaged with no rings given. At a later date the couple would then go together…yes together, to shop for their engagement rings. Surprise proposals aren’t typically a thing in Sweden

The couple will then exchange plain gold bands, which is worn on the 3rd finger of their left hand as a sign of their engagement. You read that right…the man and woman both wear engagement rings.

Then at the wedding only the bride is given a diamond ring, which in Western cultures is given as the engagement ring. So the Swedes do it complete reverse…totally awesome!


Traditional Jewish marriage custom is rich is history dating back to very ancient Abrahamic times. In traditional Jewish law and engagement is way more that just the intention to get married, it carries heavy social and legal significance.

Even though modern Jewish couples propose in the typical Western fashion, Orthodox Judaism dictates that an official proposal and engagement takes place at the groom’s table with the signing of the engagement contract called Tena’im.

The signing of the Tena’im signifies that the couple has become engaged, it is a mutual agreement between the parents of the couple and it states the financial arrangement and dates of the marriage. According to a Jewish Newsgroup, it also serves to discourage disorganized arrangements as well as misunderstandings that can lead to hurt feelings and strained relationships.

The signing of the Tena’im involves the reading of the engagement contract in Aramaic by a rabbi or close friend of the couple. The mothers of the bride and groom then breaks a piece of crockery usually a china plate, to signifying the completion of the engagement agreement.

Following this the parents of the couple hold an engagement party in their honour. The couple would need to be married within 12 months of signing of the Tena’im.

At a later time in a ritual called Eirusin, the groom to be gives the bride to be a ring, an engagement ring. The Eurisin takes place under the chuppah (bridal canopy) and signifies that she can’t marry anyone else even though they are not yet a married couple. The bride to be’s acceptance of the ring is called Qiddushin. This completes the engagement rites of the couple.

The wedding rites then follow.

In North America it can be hard for some people to envision an engagement without a big piece of diamond bling, but around the world gifting such jewelry is far from the norm. In fact, several cultures have unique ring traditions that are even more sweet and sentimental.


Adi & Emori at their traditional wedding. Image Credit: Nas Photography

As with most non Western cultures in Fiji an engagement and wedding can only go ahead with the permission of the bride to be’s father. The bridegroom along with his parents will visit the home of the girl’s father to ask his permission to seek her hand in marriage.

Depending on the status of the couple and their family, members of the groom to be’s clan known as mataqali, would approach the girl’s father offering him several whale’s teeth. The head of the bride’s family speaks first welcoming the guests. The groom’s family then explains the reason for their visit to formally ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage.

This speech is called the formal proposal or traditionallyNa vakasavu i tukutuku.

The head of the groom’s family then presents the whale’s teeth to the bride’s father. At this point he leaves the room where the meeting is gathered to inform his daughter, who is in another room nearby, of the proposal.

If the proposal is refused the father of the bride returns the gifts to the groom’s family, if it is accepted the groom and his clan are served traditional drinks called yaqona or kava. The engagement is complete once the bride has been informed of the proposal and accepts.

Preparation of the potent Kava drink at the traditional welcome ceremony. Fiji Image Credit: Tim Graham for Getty Images

Following this, members of the woman’s clan visit the home of her fiancé and his parents to confirm the marriage. This visit is called vakadonumata and they are hosted to a feast of baked delights.

It is after this the couple is officially engaged and both families can proceed with the wedding festivities.


Scotland’s wedding traditions are rich in culture which has held-fast even in modern times. Proposals are pretty much the same as most western cultures with the man proposing to his intended bride, on one knee, engagement ring in hand. Once he gets a yes from his bride to be he also needs to get her father’s permission as well!

Young Scottish men proving their strength in Speering. Image via

However there’s a humorous twist for traditional Scottish men who insist on imbibing the ancient traditions, they would need to prove their strength to the father of the potential bride by taking part in a series of tasks called Speerin or Beukin to prove his strength while he awaits his girl’s father’s answer.


Romani gypsies are spread across the world and remarkably they have managed to maintain their heritage and customs, in spite of heavy criticism. The customs and rituals for engagements and marriages described are traditional and vary for the many Roma tribes around the world.

Typically Roma culture frowns on marrying outside their tribe and group as a way to maintain tribal and social purity. If a Roma male marries outside his community, his bride is required to adopt the Romani lifestyle, however a Romani woman marrying outside the culture is seen as a worse violation because she would need to adopt her husband’s culture, which isn’t Romani.

Traditionally, marriages in Romani gypsy cultures occur as early as the age of 9 and not late than 16. The early marriages have drawn a lot of criticism from the outside community.

Melissa & Maison Gypsy Wedding. Image Credit: DCL for TLC Network

The first step in marriage is the selection of the bride, for some Roma tribes it is the parents who arrange the marriage. The parents of the boy consider carefully all the young, unmarried women in the group, evaluating their individual qualities. According to Female First, the prospective bride and groom might be consulted, but their opinions are rarely considered in making a final decision. Prospective brides are judged on the character of her family, standing in the community, her health, strength, manners, and domestic skills. In arranged coupling, there is usually no courtship involved. A 3rd party visits the parents of the girl to talk about the acceptability of the boy as a potential husband. This visit is to obtain a formal consent from the girl’s father, and establish a price to be paid for the bride.

When an agreement is reached, and the bride price is accepted, the meeting ends with the father of the future bride drinking a symbolic glass of wine. This means that the boy has been formally approved as a husband for his daughter, under the agreed conditions, this signifies the official engagement of the couple and they can go about planning a wedding.

In the case when a young Romani boy courts the girl he is interested in, the young couple discusses getting married and if all is agreed on, they become engaged and exchange modest gifts. Parents are consulted, but the final decision still lies with the young couple.

So there you have it! Don’t you just feel a whole lot more knowledgeable about other cultures. I know I do after researching and writing on this topic. Even though most of these cultures differ from my own, I tried to present each culture with the respect I want outsiders to have for mine.

I put together this list after extensive research with some help from a few people. Thanks Lebogang and Rushi, for providing super valuable insight on the marriage customs of your cultures.

Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive! There are thousands of cultures around the world with their own unique engagement and marriage practices. I am sure I have missed out on many, but believe me when I tell you it wasn’t intentional. I am just not knowledgeable about the practices in these cultures and wasn’t able find anything substantial I could use.

But I could use your help, if you’re reading this and have some useful information on Proposal, engagement and marriage customs on cultures not listed, help me out by leaving a comment down below or sending me an email here. Once verified the list will be updated with due credit given.


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