Belgium is home to two linguistic cultural groups – the Dutch-speaking Flemish in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south, and a small group of German speakers. As a founding nation of the European Union, Belgium still retains its long cultural history, as can be seen in its many wedding traditions.
Invitations to a wedding in Belgium are sent out twice! One invitation is from the bride’s family, the other from the groom’s. These double invitations are a symbol of the new union of the two families.
Flowers for mothers
The bride traditionally takes two single flowers to her wedding. After walking up the aisle, she gives the first to her own mother, and embraces her. After the marriage vows have been taken, the bride presents the groom’s mother with a single flower, and embraces her. This shows the bride’s acceptance of her new family and mother in law.
On her wedding day, the bride carries a handkerchief, upon which has been embroidered her name. Following the wedding, this is framed and hung on the wall in the marital home. The next female member of the bride’s family to get married will inherit the handkerchief, and her name will also be embroidered on it. In this way, the wedding handkerchief is passed down from generation to generation, and is considered to be an important family heirloom.
Belgian Etiquette – Wedding seating plans
It is considered in Belgium that the most honoured position is either at the head of the table or in the centre, with the most important guests seated first to the left and then to the right of the head of the table. This customary etiquette matches perfectly with the European style of top table seating plan. Other guests will expect to be told where to sit, with husbands and wives not usually seated together. When sitting down to a wedding meal, it is considered polite to allow women to take their seats before men.
Belgian Etiquette – Toasting the happy couple
In French speaking Belgium, the most common toasts are salud, or a votre santé . In Flemish speaking Belgium, gezondheid will be used. It is expected that guests maintain direct eye contact from the moment the glass is raised to the moment it is placed back down on the table. It is polite to stand for a toast. The Flemish raise their glasses twice during a toast, once during the toast and then again at the end of the toast.
Traditional Belgian fare
The North sea and Atlantic ocean supply a vast variety of sea food, with eels, cockles and mussels all considered delicacies. Two of the best known Belgian dishes are carbonades of beef – a beef stew – and waterzooi – a chicken or fish chowder. A Belgian wedding cake is often either a croquembouche (see previous French wedding traditions article for more information)