Name the first food that comes to mind when someone mentions a wedding. Is it cake? Prime rib? Comfort foods like macaroni and cheese?
Of course, depending on where you are, you may associate weddings with fruit cake, kola nuts, or wedding cookies.
Foods are tightly woven into our wedding traditions. They help us honor our heritage and faith. They can serve as a symbol of good things to come. The right foods help make an event even more special — or add an element of familiarity.
Here are just a few of the traditional foods linked with weddings here and around the world.
Bánh Xu Xê
The name of this Vietnamese sweet means “husband and wife cake.”
In its delicate covering of coconut leaves, the dessert resembles a tiny, wrapped box.
While these cakes are served at wedding receptions, they also are a traditional engagement gift from the groom’s family to the bride’s.
Also known as “casadinhos” (“happily married” in Portuguese), these Brazilian wedding cookies comprise sponge cake filled with dulce de leche.
“The legend says that these wedding cookies represent the couple’s union and commitment, and promise a life of happiness,” Olivia Mesquita wrote for Olivia’s Cuisine. “According to the tradition, you have to offer each guest a bem casado so they can each be blessed with that same luck and happiness. Some say that guests can make a wish before taking the first bite!”
According to Elise Taylor of Vogue magazine, fruit cake is the “de facto dessert of the royal family,” at least when it comes to weddings.
“Queen Victoria had a fruitcake, as did Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson,” Taylor wrote, adding that fruitcakes have been served at important occasions since the Middle Ages.
Centuries ago, fruitcake was considered a symbol of prosperity because of its (then) expensive ingredients, including alcohol, spices, and dried fruit.
German “wedding soup” usually is made from chicken broth and meat, small meatballs, asparagus, noodles, egg custard garnish, and sometimes, raisins.
“Hochzeitssuppe is eaten in Northern Germany and Southern Germany by the bride and groom and guests, traditionally after the wedding ceremony, and it is usually served as the starter on the menu at the wedding reception,” a blog on GermanCulture.com explains.
This complex recipe takes a long time to prepare, so it usually is reserved for special occasions.
This caffeine-laden fruit, which is used for medicinal purposes in a number of African countries, is a symbol of unity at weddings.
By exchanging and consuming kola nuts, couples essentially are saying they will heal each other. Kola nuts are shared by couples and their families during Nigerian ceremonies, and the newlyweds keep a nut to heal problems that will arise in the future.
“Apart from its importance in the social life and religious customs of people in the tropics of West Africa, in every traditional gathering, Kola nuts are highly esteemed channels of blessings,” Kweku Darko Ankara wrote for Griots Republic Magazine. “It is used during ceremonies related to marriage, child naming, installation of Chiefs, funeral and sacrifices made to the various deities in Africa.”
In Morocco, this can refer to any kind of slow-roasted meat, though it usually is lamb.
“Some people serve two meat dishes like grilled chicken with saffron sauce and lamb tagine with prune and almonds, or one meat dish (chicken or lamb) and Seffa (short noodles sweetened and served with cinnamon and grilled almonds),” a Maroc Mama blog says. “At some weddings you might find a whole sheep (mechoui style) served at each table.”
Mexican Wedding Cookies
These cookies, also known as “biscochitos,” are traditionally offered at Mexican weddings.
Historians believe that the recipe migrated to Mexico by way of European nuns or Spanish conquistadors in the Americas in the 16th century,” a blog for the Institute of Culinary Education (New York and Los Angeles) explains. “Traditionally, these sweet cookies are made with finely chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds, though this can vary depending on the recipe’s origins.”
Tang Yuan (sweet rice ball soup)
This traditional Chinese dish is a symbol of success and family.
“The roundness of the rice balls is said to represent the wholeness and perfection of a marriage,” Trisha Jain wrote for The Tempest. “For good luck, it is key to swallow them whole instead of chewing, which would ruin the smooth shape.”
Would you like to see a traditional wedding dish featured in Part 2 of this feature? Comment with your suggestions.
About the Author:
Roger Igo is the founder and CEO of special events venue, The Bell Tower on 34th, along with Houston catering service Excellent Events, and research resource, Venues in Houston. He is the author of “Keep On Going, The History of The Bell Tower on 34th,” a former radio host, a graduate of CEO Space International, and an alumnus of The Disney Institute.