Instead, I’d like to share an unusual marriage custom I’m pretty certain most of you would not have heard about. Granted, it’s an old one, about a hundred years old, but still unique.
One of our grandfathers was a young postmaster in a rural part of India. His parents had passed early, and his job required him to move every so often, leaving him to mostly fend for himself among strangers. In one of these small towns, locals married him off to one of their daughters, and as was the custom in those days, she would be a very young girl who soon after puberty would join him officially as his wife. But before that rite of passage occurred, the poor bride contracted tuberculosis and passed away. The young postmaster was again married off to another very young maiden in another village, and this girl too met an untimely death. Now the relatives were worried. Do we marry him off again? They took their concerns to their local pandit (or priest), who warned the groom against a third marriage, which could be unlucky (as in, three strikes and you’re out).
According to the priest, the young widower would have to marry, that’s right, a tree, so that a future marriage with a human wife could then be considered a fourth marriage rather than an ill-fated third one. The family agreed, and the groom had little choice but to abide by his elders’ wishes and go along with it. All the usual rituals were observed, the bride was a lovely little plantain, and soon after the ceremony, the poor bride was tragically cut down in her prime, a sacrifice to rid the groom of bad omens. I’m pretty sure wife number four, who went on to become the family matriarch and celebrated her golden anniversary with the serial groom, was the original source of this story. Though the groom had only briefly met his previous wives, being the successful fourth wife had to have been some kind of scandal back then, and possibly even a badge of honor. (I’m only guessing, of course.)
What unique or unusual marriage customs have you encountered in your travels?