A wedding in Romania can be one of the most authentic and inspiring way to understand and see, with your own eyes, how this eastern european country is an unique mix of old and new, joined together in times when cultural identity tends to fade as globalisation takes its place.
In this post I will describe some Romanian wedding traditions as they are kept today by young couples getting married. In Romania, weddings usually go like this: the couple goes to the city hall in the morning to get legally married, then back at home to get all dressed up and, in the evening, they go to church to get married in front of God. From the church, everybody goes to the wedding party.
Kidnapping a bride at a Romanian wedding
One of the most interesting customs at a wedding is to kidnap te bride around midnight. Daily Mail wrote a fairly accurate article about this – even though the pictures and some details were a bit exaggerated, as there are no weapons or masks involved. If you want to see what it is all about click here.
The tradition of the bride being kidnapped by the groom’s friends is not a specific Romanian tradition, but a custom outspread in all the eastern part of Europe. There are some differences in „the ritual” depending on the country, but, at large, we are talking about the same root custom. As many might imagine, this is a tradition reminding of old times when a bride was a very important „possesion”.
Wedding kidnappers ask for ransom
However, in Romania, the custom goes like this: a group of close friends of the groom take the bride (usually by hand) and sneak her out of the building where the wedding party is taking place. Then, the bride is most often taken to a bar, a club, in the city center or in a park. The guys who kidnapped the girl call the groom and demand a ransom. They negotiate on the phone and when they reach an agreement, the bride is brought back to the wedding. Usually, the ransom is either paid in whiskey or fine wine bottles for the friends of the groom to drink or it can also be a request for the groom to make a speech to declare his love to his wife.
The wedding ritual of becoming a married woman
Another pin point custom in a Romanian wedding is trading the wedding veil for a head scarf. At a given point of the wedding party, a popular song named „Say goodbye, dear bride (to your father and your mother)” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRx2rzEkmiE – is played and, at that point, the godmother of the marriage (as Romanian customs require that the bride and groom have another couple as marriage godparents) takes the veil from the girl’s head and replaces it with a head scarf. The gesture symbolises the transfer from a girl to a married woman who will take care of the household and future children.
Source: Claudiu Photography
Getting ready for the wedding ceremony
Between the city hall and the church, the bride and the groom must dress properly in wedding clothes. This is also a ritual still kept in modern times even though its origins go way back in time. So, the bride is getting ready for the wedding as her mother and some of the closest friends help her with the white dress.
At a given hour, the groom comes to her house to take his wife to church. The groom also arrives with a group of friends. There is a tradition that the best man would symbolically shave the groom with a knife before the ceremony. The young men arrive at the bride’s house with pine trees which are left at the gates for luck. At her house, the guests make a round dance with the groom and bride and after that they would sit the bride on a chair and „break” a sweet bread above her head. After that, all the people go to the church for the ceremony.
The woman learns she should be submissive from the priest, at her wedding
At the church, the priest performs the ritual – as most often is orthodox. The ritual takes about 30 minutes and in it, the couple must listen to the priest and his deacons who read from the Bible and wish the married couple, in chanting voices, all the best. The two grooms don’t get to say anything. At some point, they receive some bread to eat it symbolically and then some wine. Because of the traditionalist ways of the orthodox church, the priest wishes them love and happiness but also warns the wife to be submissive and always follow her husband’s decisions. In the end, the couple, the parents and the godparents have a round dance around a middle church table.
As the wedding customs seem to still have reminisces of the times when marriages were not usually based on love but on arrangements, there is another tradition that the bride’s mother would cook a chicken and the godfather of the married couple must buy it from her with money.
The wedding gift is an envelope
Also, as we speak of weddings happening nowadays, the custom is that all the guests at the wedding party must bring gifts for the newly wed couple. But here, in Romania, these gifts are mostly money. The bar is fairly high comparing to the minimum wage. For example, as a couple coming to a wedding, the gift they give is the minimum wage – about 200 euros. The money are handed to the couple, into envelopes, at the end of the party. The couple use this money to pay for the wedding, for the honeymoon or, if they can, for a car or an apartment (not the whole price but as advance money for the bank loan).
Some Romanian superstitions for the wedding day:
- Rain means luck in marriage
- The bride should cry before the weeding so she would be happy in her marriage
- It is a good sign if a relative sneezes before the ceremony
- On the wedding day, no woman should stay between the bride and the mirror. If this happens it means that the other woman could steal the groom’s heart
- A spider found in the creases of the dress means good luck
- To drop the wedding rings means death
- No weddings are allowed in feasting time
- It is really bad luck to see another bride on your wedding day