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11 Wedding Superstitions From Around the World

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You’ve likely heard that before a bride can wed she requires something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue (representing her past, her future, and the hope of “borrowing” good fortune from a happily married woman and fidelity, respectively) or that the husband- and wife-to-be shouldn’t see each other pre-vows. (That one dates back to the time of arranged marriages when matchmakers feared the future spouses might run if they didn’t like their mate.)

But Americans aren’t the only ones with detailed wedding day rituals. Read on to discover the steps brides and grooms around the globe take to ensure they’ll last ’til death does them part.

1. IN GREECE, THE BRIDE AND GROOM GO NUTS WITH SNACKS.

The Mediterranean country is home to a sweet tradition. The happy couple hand out sugar-coated almonds, called koufeta, to their guests. As one Greek Orthodox bride explained to Manhattan Bride magazine, the white of the almond symbolizes purity, the egg shape is a sign of fertility, the hardness represents the endurance of marriage, and the sugar is meant to show the sweetness of married life. Together, they’re meant to wish the newly married duo "happiness, health, wealth, children, and a long life." And should a single girl take one of the blessed snacks and sleep with it under her pillow for three nights, tradition states she’ll somehow see her future husband!

2. IN SWEDEN, THE PARENTS OF THE BRIDE SHARE THE WEALTH.

Brides in the Nordic country add some heavy metal to their footwear. According to Stockholm website Your Living City, the father of the bride gives his daughter a silver coin to go in her left shoe, while Mom offers up a gold coin for her right. It’s meant to ensure she will never go without.

3. IN POLAND, BRIDES DON'T SKIMP ON THE SHOES.

Future wives in Poland must also pay close attention to their footwear. Tradition dictates that if they wear open-toed heels their future wealth and fortune would fly right through the opening. Fortunately, they have a shot to scoop up some extra cash. When the new Mr. and Mrs. exit the church, the guests shower them with coins they must scoop up to ensure a prosperous future.

4. IN SCOTLAND, FUTURE WIVES GET SAUCED.

Before a Scottish bride can be dressed in white, she must first be doused in slime. Pre-nuptials, the bride’s friends slather her—and sometimes her groom—in smelly foods like rotten eggs, curdled milk, and fish sauces. The tradition is said to prepare couples for the hardships of married life or to throw evil spirits off the trail of the upcoming big day.

5. IN FRANCE, WEDDING GUESTS PREPARE AN UNUSUAL FEAST FOR THE COUPLE.

French newlyweds flush away bad luck with a unique tradition called La Soupe: Guests gather the leftovers from the reception—or tasty treats like champagne and chocolate—and place them into a toilet or toilet-like bowl for the bride and groom to eat.

6. IN KENYA, THE FATHER OF THE BRIDE DOESN'T HOLD BACK.

The Maasai people in this African country douse newlyweds with good fortune. The father of the bride will spit on her head and chest as she leaves the village with her new husband. The thought is that by acting disrespectfully, rather than heaping them with praise, they avoid tempting fate and bringing bad luck to the new union.

7. IN NICARAGUA, BRIDES SKIP THE PEARLS.

In some ancient cultures, pearls are thought to symbolize wealth and love, but Nicaraguan brides won’t touch ‘em. In many Latin cultures, pearls mean “tears of the sea” and wearing them on your wedding day is a sign sadness is likely to show up in your marriage.

8. FUTURE WIVES IN MEXICO GET COLORFUL.

Mexican brides aren’t all dressed in white. Many will sew three colorful ribbons to their undergarments. A yellow strand symbolizes the blessing of food, blue is meant to bring financial luck, and red is believed to ensure a passionate relationship.

9. IN INDIA, BRIDES GET INKED.

As part of their pre-wedding celebrations, Indian brides have henna tattoos applied to their hands and feet in an hours-long ceremony. Often, the groom’s initials are included in the elaborate designs. If he’s able to locate them on the wedding night, the couple is thought to have good luck. And if he’s unsuccessful? He owes his new bride a present, which is somewhat lucky for her.

10. IN CHINA, SOME BRIDES GET TEARY, WHILE OTHERS CAREFULLY VET THEIR GUEST LISTS.

Betrothed couples in China have many key rituals to follow. In one province, brides must spend an hour a day crying in the month leading up to the nuptials day. In another, couples have to slaughter a chicken to discover the perfect wedding date. And some duos won’t attend another wedding, a funeral, or visit a woman who’s just given birth in the three months before their big day to avoid a clash of good fortune.

11. IN ITALY, COUPLES HAVE A SMASHING GOOD TIME.

To ensure a long marriage, some Italian couples will attempt to demolish a vase or glass during their wedding. Tradition states that however many pieces they manage to smash the glass into determines how many years they will be happily wed.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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