Posted by: Jess Riley | November 8, 2008

How To Run: A Wedding, Part Two

Well, last time I managed to cover styles of dress at the different weddings. I thought today I could make a particularly lengthy post about the different kinds of customs you’d be likely to see at weddings.

For any of you who are getting bothered by the romantic/gendered spin on everything lately, I apologise; this is just the direction my brain has been kicking in. I predict a whole series of roleplaying disorders posts following this string of wedding posts – speaking of which, feel free to email us at and pass on any questions you’d like to see answered. You probably know by now that my specialty is probably in real world analogues rather than lore – hit me up for some of that!

Sorry; back to my point. There’s a vast difference in the cultural expectations of a wedding across different real world cultures – heck, even between family groups and different parts of the same culture. Consider, even, expectations like whose family pays for the reception, whether the bride’s family fronts the cost for the attendant’s gowns, who throws the bachelor and bachelorette parties – come to think of it, what constitutes a bachelor/bachelorette party? Is the bachelorette party the same as the bridal shower? And these are just things that differ in our society, much less anyone else’s.

So, let’s get into it. How does each race run their weddings?

Humans would have a fairly similar style to what we consider ‘normal’ in the real world, although a rather more archaic one. By ‘archaic’ I don’t mean they’re going to be talking in ‘thees’ and ‘thous’, because let’s be honest; that’s just silly. It will, however, probably be much more structured, formal and respectful an occasion, and probably one dolled up with minor customs. We’re all familiar with ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, with a silver sixpence in her shoe’, right? (Well, if not, you are now.) I can’t say if the humans of World of Warcraft would follow this custom in particular, but it’s in the style of many wedding traditions that they probably would follow.

Given that there’s not much lore on the specifics, if you’re going to reference any wedding traditions or superstitions, I don’t think it would be difficult to invent something along these general lines (keeping in mind that these kinds of traditions were almost always centred on luck and happiness), nor do I think it would be inappropriate to just carry over any of these traditions. Some of the obvious ones would be the poem, the groom never seeing the dress before the ceremony, the bride not seeing herself fully dressed until the day of the ceremony, not putting a ring on the appropriate finger until that time in the ceremony, among many others.

But basically, the humans will have ceremonies much like we imagine: the bride and the groom, a religious official to wed them, and a congregation to watch them on their happy day. Everything will, likely, be very centred around traditions and superstitions, even if the happy couple aren’t superstitious themselves – this is just the Way Things Are Done.

Much like I noted last time, the dwarves will have a broadly similar sort of ceremony to the humans – even though the words spoken won’t be the same and there’ll be differences in details, you’ll be able to look at both events and identify them for much the same thing. The dwarves probably won’t have any less traditions that they must keep up, though they certainly will have different ones; a dwarf bride probably won’t fret about not having her something blue, for instance, but they will have other traditions they want to keep up. Given the Scottish/Celtic history of this in the real world, dwarf couples may incorporate hand fasting into their ceremony, and reference should be made to the fact that historically, the best man was the one to fight off anyone who tried to disrupt the proceedings – in a dwarf wedding, I can’t imagine this wouldn’t be the case.

As for the reception, however, I can only assume this would be a big affair probably going into multiple days and costing the families a tonne of money just in alcohol. It’s a time for celebration, and celebration for a family of dwarves means enough alcohol to go swimming in. If anyone is still sensible in a few days time, someone will pay the caterers and they’ll go their separate ways. It probably isn’t even a wedding until at least three brawls have happened, and it’s absolutely traditional for the bride’s brother to have a go at someone in the groom’s family.

The important thing to consider here is that gnomes typically live in house groups of masses of gnomes; as such, they probably have a very communal kind of ceremony, where a selection of the important people in their lives stand up and speak on behalf of what their branch of the family intends to do to help the young gnomes on their path. While these weddings, too, would be recognizable as similar to both the dwarves and the humans, particularly recently, when the gnomes would have probably adopted a lot of traditions from the dwarves, there will be less overall religiousness and spirituality in the ceremony. Where a dwarven or human ceremony will probably be conducted by a religious official, a gnome ceremony may be conducted by a chief engineer or family figurehead of some sort.

Gnome receptions are likely to be big, happy occasions with free-flowing alcohol (if not quite as free-flowing as the dwarves) and the inclusion of the inventions of each of the couple, if appropriate – either as a ‘look here what we’ve done!’ or actively incorporated into the festivities. However easy and open it looks, everything probably has been overplanned out and the couple could, at any given moment throughout the ceremony, tell you just how much time has past and exactly what else they have to do before it finishes. They plan things a lot; it’s what gnomes do.

Night Elves
I’ll admit, now I’m getting into territory I don’t know so well, but I’ll be happy to give it a good go. The night elves are identifiable by a few key traits, as a rule – honourable and practical, but also quite superstitious, and with a reverence for nature and mystical forces. This means that odds are, wedding ceremonies are rather smaller affairs than for humans, dwarves or gnomes, held in natural areas like forests rather than cathedrals. For all that their choices in clothing seem flashy and exotic to the other races, there’s a certain mystique to the ceremony, and they take it all very seriously and respectably; while there are plenty of them who will probably have a celebration before or afterwards with a larger group of family and friends, the wedding itself is a very small, respectful affair.

Depending on the couple in question, the ceremony may be conducted by a druid, or a priestess of Elune, but the nature of the ceremony will be highly influenced by their choice here. Honour and trust will play a big part in the vows, or in the equivalent of vows, and the ceremony probably involves a lot more silent meditation or prayer than actual speaking. It is more ritualistic than anything else.

More than any of the other races, with the possible exception of the night elves, the draenei’s ceremony will be informed by religion. Certainly, the humans and dwarves incorporate religion into their ceremonies, but it is still more about tradition than religion – the draenei, however, are more likely to have vast differences in the ceremony from couple to couple, based on how they feel and how they approach their religion. This may seem strange, but I think that given how centred their culture is on the Holy Light, either their ceremonies will be very homogenous or very flexible and changeable – I tend to think the latter, personally, as such intense faith as this is a very personal thing that will change dependent on the individuals.

More so than any of the other races, wedding preparation will be the longest and most intense. The individuals will probably separately withdraw from their families for days prior to the ceremony to reflect on the nature of marriage, commitment and the path that they must follow in the name of the Light. After the ceremony, however it may be conducted, there will likely be a family celebration of this commitment – and given the lifespan of the draenei, weddings are intense commitments – and the tying together of the families.

Regardless of Thrall’s influence in terms of gender roles, orc weddings are likely to be very patriarchal and gender-defined affairs. Prior to a wedding, there is almost certainly some traditional process behind engagement; I daresay it involves the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s father or brother having it out publically, or something along those lines. The father/brother probably literally gives away the bride at these weddings, too.

The wedding itself will likely be conducted by a shaman and invoke the elements in some tangible way – expect anointing the couple with water and earth, and the burning of incense or sweet-smelling herbs. I’d like to imagine that hand fasting plays a part in the orcish ceremony, although I’d like to take it a step further; a wedding tradition I’d like to see is that the couple are tied together and left somewhere in the wilderness together the day before the wedding, with no weapons to speak of. If they can fight their way back in time for the wedding, the ceremony goes ahead.

The best man’s fighting ability will probably be tested again, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the maid of honour was as well, these days. I doubt they’d be called the best man and maid of honour, though; they’re probably Chief Defenders or something along those lines.

The trollish wedding is a harder one to define; this is a difficult concept to discuss without going into a lot of detail about trollish history and culture. As such, I will keep this one very brief, but expect me to make reference back to this during Theme Week Trolls. For the record, I just want to note that the majority of weddings will be shamanistic, and thus will follow the guidelines set out above for orcish weddings, with the invocation of the elements. Other cultural practices, mostly those that stem from voodooism, are more questionable, as there are those who will want to include them, while others believe that a lot of the old traditions should be culled. As such, it’s a much more complex subject to discuss.

Particularly, the culture of the tauren is inspired by an amalgam of different Native American cultures. As such, even though there’s not a lot of lore on how a tauren wedding would actually be conducted, we can consider some of the practices of various Native American tribes and extrapolate to how the tauren (who themselves are of many different tribes) might act. Foremost, it is pertinent to note that given the variability within the tauren, no two tauren weddings in play may be exactly the same; drawing from different sources is perfectly acceptable in this situation.

Given the wealth of different tribal traditions, I feel it would be inappropriate to list a few possibilities, as I would be bound to leave out important details; instead, I advocate doing some research into the matter and deriving your choice from this if you want to run a tauren wedding. Just keep in mind – acknowledge this influence.

The undead are tricky because, frankly, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that any of them would get married. But alright, let’s say they do; after all, blogatelle made me write a post about how the undead could fall in love, so even though blogatelle doesn’t believe in undead marriage, I’m going forward with this anyway.

The undead would have traditions strongly derived from the humans; after all, they mostly were humans, they’d remember this. However, a great many of them would be quite bitter or apathetic about the institution of marriage, so while the essentials would be the same, you’re far more likely to see people taking a darker spin on it, or ignoring a lot of the traditions. It would be more simple, in all probability, and they probably wouldn’t be married in a cathedral, or even by a religious figure; more likely, they’d find someone suitable to their desires to perform a ceremony that, while not legally binding, more or less covered the gist.

Consider also that a lot of the undead would have been married in life; while their spouse is now dead, a lot of them may have trouble coming to terms with this change. While not strictly related to a wedding, this is something to keep in mind, should the subject of a new romance come up.

Blood Elves
Given the influences on them from other cultures, a blood elf wedding would be rather like a human wedidng with influences from the night elves; while logic would imply the opposite, the overt spirituality and honour that influences the night elf ceremony would be out of place with the blood elves. A blood elf wedding is likely to be a bombastic occasion, with a lot of finery and formality. While certainly a religious occasion, and almost certainly performed by a priest or a paladin, consider the design of Silvermoon City; clearly, these are a people with a concern for or an interest in things looking good.

The reception is likely to be a cordial, formal affair, with everyone wearing their nicest clothes and sipping champagne. Appearances may be just as important as the actual commitment going on, and traditions are less important than ensuring that things look consistent and as though they flow. Deviations from the norm in terms of how the ceremony and reception are conducted are more common amongst the blood elves than amongst, say, the humans.

This has been an absurdly long post; if you managed to get this far, thanks for listening.


  1. Pretty good assessment of their weddings. I think you pretty much got as close to how they really are as one could possibly get without doing a ridiculous amount of even more research, as I am sure you did a fair amount of research just to get this. So kudos!

    “and the inclusion of the inventions of each of the couple, if appropriate – either as a ‘look here what we’ve done!’ or actively incorporated into the festivities.”

    Yup, I can see that. I could even see that the bulk of the gifts to the couple be of an engineering nature. And maybe there even be a show of mental prowess much like you said for other races showing off physical prowess. So I am thinking it wouldn’t be rare for gnomes to be put on the spot to build something awesome in a short amount of time to show their skills.

    “held in natural areas like forests rather than cathedrals”

    As you pointed out how things be different depending on who conducted the ceremony. I think the same could be said of where it be held as well. So for druids, it obviously be held in nature but for followers of Elune, it be likely to be held at a Temple of the Moon, and probably specifically the one in Darnassus.

    “that they must follow in the name of Elune”

    Hope that was a slip of sorts or something.

    “I just want to note that the majority of weddings will be shamanistic”

    It be more of an underlining thing, rather than in a more obvious manor like with orcs . Because trolls aren’t a traditional shamanistic society(as they have never called their connection with the spirits shamanism), and any traditional shamanistic tendencies would have been adopted very recently by the Orcs and Tauren, who follow a more traditional shamanistic path.

  2. Ah, yeah, I was still thinking about the night elves and accidentally made a slip there. I don’t know how I didn’t catch it sooner.

    As for the trolls, that’s the cultural shift I was talking about; I think it is more likely to be a very obvious thing as the majority of trolls have recently taken up shamanism alongside other cultural practices from the orcs when they became part of the Horde. In particular, while there are those who still practice voodoo, any troll who openly practices many of the ‘old ways’ is overtly mistrusted by other members of the Horde.

    As such, while you’ll get a lot of traditionalists who won’t touch Orcish shamanism, and even the bulk of trollish shaman weddings will have a vodoun slant, there will be (nowadays) a much bigger shift towards shamanism.

    This is the reason I wanted to go into more detail later, though, as that’s a lot for a post like this.

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