1. A bit of wedding sparkle In India the families of the bride and groom often give each other jewellery. A full set of jewellery is an important gift for the bride. The bride wears different jewellery for different parts of the wedding.
India; 2000-2010; copper, enamel, glass; RV-6078-37a to g
2. Say it with mirrors A wedding is a time for fancy gifts. A mirror in a beautifully carved frame was a fancy gift for the Yoruba people, who live in Nigeria. A message for the bride and groom is carved on the frame, wishing them a good marriage and children, of course. Children made the Yoruba people stronger.
Yoruba; Nigeria; 1950-1992; wood (mirror has been lost); AM-535-7
3. Together forever Couples often get gifts for their home. But some of them are too lovely to use, like this wedding bowl. Look: the bride and groom are holding hands. The words underneath mean “Love until death is our good fortune”.
Suriname; 1800-1900; gourd, paint; RV-1354-81
4. For your best clothes This box was a luxury gift for a bride and groom. It is decorated all over with gold lacquer. If you look carefully, you can see some round logos beside the trees. They are family crests, two different ones, symbols of the family of the bride and the family of the groom.
Japan; 1850-1900; wood, lacquer; WM-34116
5. Who pays what? At a Chinese wedding, you usually give money as a gift, in a red envelope called a hongbao. There are good luck wishes on the envelope. Somebody writes how much each person gives in a book. This is useful if you go to someone else’s wedding later, then you can give them about the same back.
China; 2020; paper
6. Household gifts forever The names of the bride and groom are written on this present, and the Dutch words mean ‘till death does them part’. The people who gave it hoped the couple would stay together forever. They are shaking hands because they are making a promise.
Delft, Netherlands; 1789; tin-glazed earthenware; on loan from Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, RMCC v15
7. Wear your wealth around your neck In many countries, a bride’s family gives her jewellery. It’s nice to wear, but it’s also like a kind of money box. This necklace is made of lots of expensive things, so the bride always has something in case she needs extra money.
Ida ou Semlal; Morocco; around 1940; silver, amber, glass, shell, coral; TM-6387-3
8. A pillow in your neck Do you have a nice soft pillow to fall asleep on? If you want your hair to look good in the morning, it’s better to use a neck rest like this one. It’s the perfect gift for a wedding. Usually, after the wedding, the expensive beads are taken off to make jewellery from them.
Ethiopia; 1950-2000; wood, beads; AM-655-32
9. Shopping list Lots of young men have not saved enough money when they get married. But in some countries they have to give the bride’s family money or things so that they can marry her. So the bride’s father carves a plank with pictures of all the things he needs to buy. Can you see the rings, earrings, comb etc.?
Kai Islands, Indonesia; 1880-1889; wood; TM-A-1115a
Wish list Look at this piece of wood. What gifts does the groom still need to buy? Can you see what all the different things are?
10. Shell valuable In many countries brides go to live with their husband’s family. Often the groom’s family gives the bride’s family a gift, which is called a ‘bride price’. It shows that the groom’s family recognises that they are gaining a valuable member, while the bride’s family is losing one. This shell was part of a bride price. There were other things too: feathers from a bird of paradise and stone axes.
Asmat; New Guinea, Indonesia; 1980-1985; shell; WM-70021
11. What will your parents bring? The families of a man and woman who are going to get married often give each other presents. On the island of Sumba the bridegroom’s family gives the bride’s family a kind of earring. The bride’s family gives beautiful cloths and clothes. Can you see the babies at the bottom of this cloth?
11A Sumba, Indonesia; 1910-1930; gold; RV-Liefkes-334 11B Sumba, Indonesia; 1890-1910; cotton; WM-19809
12. Chest for a life together In many countries the bride’s family gives her a big box, or chest, full of things for her new home, like clothes, jewellery and bed linen. You can also use the chest to sit on. The words in Arabic in the middle of the chest say: ‘Congratulations to you, oh bride!’.
Egypt; around 1970; wood, paint; WM-63981