Jamaican wedding traditions and rituals are some of the most fun!
While some cultures focus on avoiding terrible luck and upholding superstitions, Jamaican weddings are all about the party!
Some Jamaican wedding traditions and rituals ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, but they are mostly about celebrating the love and commitment of the new couple with delicious food and sweet rum.
12 Traditions & Rituals at Jamaican Weddings
Below is a list of the most common traditions and rituals at Jamaican weddings.
1. A Lucky Dime.
To bring luck and prosperity to the marriage, Jamaican brides will often slip a dime or other coin into the bottom of their shoe. While this tradition may be slightly uncomfortable, having cold metal against the sole of your foot, it’s one of the easiest traditions.
Some brides may even slip cash bills into their shoes, but a dime is the most common choice. Some misconstrued this ritual as only being about money and wealth, but it brings happiness and vitality to the marriage for years to come.
2. Bridesmaids in White.
Unlike most cultures, bridesmaids typically wear white to the wedding along with the bride. Sometimes female guests are also encouraged to wear white. In most cultures, this disrespects the bride, hogging the spotlight on her big day.
But in many Jamaican cultures, women at the wedding wear white to try and confuse evil spirits who have ill intentions for the bride. Ideally, any evil spirits lurking about will try to curse the bride and continuously fail because they cannot identify the bride.
3. Goat for Dinner.
Almost every Jamaican wedding serves goat for dinner, the traditional meal reserved for special occasions. It’s usually a curried goat that stews for hours.
The couple traditionally goes to a farm and picks out the goat for their wedding, but some more modern couples opt not to do this. While curried goat is often the main dish, they utilize the entire goat, so other standard Jamaican wedding menu items are goat head soup and jerk goat.
Along with the goat, you can expect many tropical fruits like pineapples and mangoes to be part of every dish. You can also expect the following staple foods at a Jamaican wedding:
- Jerk Pork
- Jerk Chicken
- Fried Plantain
- Rice and Peas
The dinner is an integral part of any Jamaican wedding, as it’s one of the main ways they can incorporate their culture and bring the spirit of the islands to their wedding.
4. All About the Rum Cake.
If you thought the goat was essential, it’s nothing compared to the cake. Traditional Jamaican weddings serve an extravagant black rum cake.
It is a fruit cake soaked in dark rum for up to six months, so it’s decadent and flavorful. Rather than a cakey texture, it has a pudding-like consistency but is still firm enough to be a tiered cake.
Many families begin soaking the cake immediately after the engagement! This fruity cake has a spicy taste thanks to a boatload of aromatic spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
But it’s not just about a yummy cake. The cake gets equal treatment to the bride. It’s hidden under a veil until the moment the couple cuts the cake, and it receives a dramatic procession when brought into the reception.
People cheer and watch the cake be set down on the cake table. It’s more than just a tasty dessert at your wedding; it’s a sacred cake meant to be treated with respect and appreciation.
It’s also bad luck to share your wedding cake with a dog or allow any cake to fall onto the floor. Even a few crumbs on the ground could mean an unsuccessful marriage.
But if you wrap up a sliver of your wedding cake and place it under your pillow on your wedding night, it can bring good luck and fertility! It’s truly a magical cake.
5. Lots and Lots of Rum.
Unsurprisingly, you can expect tons of rum at a Jamaican wedding. Rum is a significant spirit in Jamaican culture and gets some extra love during a joyous wedding.
Most toasts use rum, except a few, which traditionally use champagne to toast the happy couple. You can find white rum, black rum, and everything in the middle!
It’s also customary to have rum cocktails available for guests. Most Jamaican weddings serve rum punch, rum sangrias, and frozen rum drinks. Jamaicans will sometimes sprinkle white rum in the venue’s yard to appease and ward off evil spirits.
Simply put, no Jamaican wedding isn’t complete without at least a few bottles of this island nectar.
6. Both Parents Give the Bride Away.
In Western culture, the bride’s father gives her away at the altar. But in Jamaica, giving away the bride is more of a family affair. The mother and father of the bride walk their daughter down the aisle to give her away to her new husband.
This has always been a Jamaican wedding tradition, but some Western brides have adopted this ritual. After all, both the mother and father had a hand in raising their daughter, so it’s a beautiful sentiment to have them both walk her down the aisle to begin her new life as a wife.
7. Be Careful With the Bouquet.
Like the wedding cake, you also must be careful with the bridal bouquet. This tradition is pretty heavy, as it’s said that if you drop your bouquet and any flowers fall off or break, your husband will cheat on you throughout the marriage, and you’ll be unhappy.
It’s a motivating factor for brides to white-knuckle their bouquet. To coincide with this, brides will not carelessly toss the bouquet. Instead, they choose a person to throw it to. This is to ensure the bouquet will never touch the ground. So hopefully, the bridesmaids have quick hands.
8. Dancing the Night Away.
While some wedding receptions can run very late when everyone is having fun, Jamaican weddings take the cake on late-night parties. Jamaican wedding receptions will often go for hours and hours until the sun rises the next day.
Even if the ceremony is in the morning, guests will party and dance until the sun comes up. The bride and groom also stay for the festivities, unlike in other cultures where they leave before the other guests, so they can begin their honeymoon.
Jamaican weddings are anything but short and sweet, elongating the celebration as much as they can!
9. Jamaican Wedding Favors.
As you can see, Jamaican weddings are mostly about having fun and enjoying some incredible food!
Jamaican weddings couldn’t be fun without the lively guests who participate, so the bride and groom often have wedding favors for the guests to say thank you. The favors are typically Jamaican treats!
- Rum: Unsurprisingly, couples gift small bottles of Jamaican rums to their guests.
- Coffee: Jamaica is also known for its delicious and robust coffee beans, so this is another common wedding favor.
- Red Stripe: Couples frequently give their guests Red Stripe, a popular Jamaican beer.
10. Backyard Receptions.
Jamaican wedding receptions are usually in the backyard of the bride or groom’s family home. Rather than spend loads of money on an expensive reception venue, everyone just gathers in a backyard for drinks, food, and dancing.
And since the celebration usually goes from dusk to dawn and so on, it can be tough to find a venue that will allow a 24-hour party. Today, couples will host the reception wherever makes sense, but customarily it was in the groom’s backyard.
Guests and members of the wedding party will construct a marquee or tent in the groom’s backyard for the reception. The groom is forbidden from helping with this construction, as he’s not supposed to get his hands dirty on this sacred day.
11. Tun T’anks Sunday.
As mentioned, Jamaican wedding receptions go on forever. But when the reception ends, the part still is not over. The Sunday after the wedding, whether the next day or a week later, is when Tun T’anks Sunday takes place.
This fun tradition is when the bride invites all of the wedding guests back to her house for brunch and more festivities. This second reception is often bolder than the original reception, which is almost unimaginable.
This party will also feature plenty of cake, delicious food, and rum! It can often go longer than the original reception and typically takes place immediately after a Sunday mass, making it easy to gather everyone again.
12. The More, the Merrier.
Many Jamaican weddings don’t even send out written, personalized invitations. Instead, Jamaican weddings often have a “come one, come all” vibe.
Weddings are announced to a community, offering a blanket invite to friends, family, neighbors, strangers, and everyone else! Some modern Jamaican couples opt to have smaller weddings, but this is rarer, as the Jamaican culture is very inviting and focused on community.
While the wedding party and close relatives and friends will be designated a table at the reception and space during the ceremony, other people are welcome to stand or sit wherever they like to enjoy the ceremony and witness the union.