Romanian Traditions: Weddings (part 2)

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The second day of a Romanian day is the longest. My day started around 10:30 am when I met up with the bride at her house. She had just finished getting her hair and makeup done and there were lots of women there to help her finish getting ready. They helped her put on her dress and veil and then we waited.

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Soon we could hear music – you guessed it – the Romanian band showed up along with the groom and all of his family. The procession was led by the ring bearer and flower girl (? the children were carrying candles decorated with flowers and I’m not sure what their official titles were). The groom brought the bride’s bouquet and presented it to her.

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Everyone crowded inside the living room of the house to see the bride and groom with the parents and godparents. And yes, the band was also in the living room. I didn’t know so many people could squeeze into such a small space. More tuica and cakes were passed around. Lots of pictures were taken.

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Then we were off to city council where the actual legal wedding would happen. This is different than in America – here, you can get married in the church and it’s a legal marriage. In Romania, it only counts if you do it at city hall. Then you can go have a religious ceremony.

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This ceremony is mainly for family and close friends. Despite this fact, we were still a very large group. Again, we all piled in the magistrate’s room to hear the vows. After the vows were said, there was a short champagne reception (with cakes!!) and everyone lined up to congratulate the bride and groom.

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Many of the guests had bouquets of flowers with them. Those who didn’t stopped at the florist across the street from city hall. I didn’t know about this tradition, so I didn’t bring any flowers 😦  When the bride and groom were leaving city hall, guests who had brought bouquets held them up to make a cool flower arch.

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With the legal formalities out of the way, it was time for the church ceremony. Mind you, this is a smaller town, so we are walking from place to place. At this point we have gained a few people, so we have become something of a spectacle – people are standing on their doorsteps watching a huge wedding party pilgrimage to the house of worship.

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At the church, the priest performed the ceremony. Everything was in Romanian, and I’m not orthodox, so I have no idea what was going on. The only part I knew was when the priest puts crowns on the bride and groom to signify that they are the king and queen of their house. The ceremony at the church was lovely. Afterwards, we threw rice on the couple and went out in the street and danced.

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After all of this, we headed to the reception because the real fun was about to begin. I had no idea at the time, but we were about to have four meals served over the next twelve hours. Plus dessert. I can’t tell you how full I was after all this food.

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The first meal was more like a sampler plate of meats, cheese, and vegetables. An hour later, we got sarmale and polenta. After that came the fish course, which was so delicious I tried to eat all of it – big mistake 🙂 I could barely move at this point. We had another course of mixed grill meats with vegetables. Then, the wedding cake. Of course, we needed a lot of energy. There was dancing almost the entire wedding. The only time people weren’t dancing was when they were serving the food, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary for people to eat a little, dance, and then go back to their plates.

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The dancing included a lot of hora (which I did!) and some other faster paced danced (which I tried, but failed miserably lol). There was a photo booth and some other seating outside, so when we needed to cool off from the dancing, we headed outside to enjoy the cool night air.

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Negotiating the ransom for the bride

Towards the end of the night, the groom’s friends kidnapped the bride. This is a common tradition at any Romanian wedding. The groomsmen escort the bride out of the wedding at some point after dinner and take her somewhere. In the case of this wedding, they took her to the nearby town of Bran to a reggae concert where she danced on stage and had some fun. In order to get her back, the groom has to negotiate some kind of ransom. This night, the ransom was that he had to accept a fake bride (his male cousin dressed in wedding drag).

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Then it was the groom’s turn to demand a “punishment” for the groomsmen for stealing the bride. At this wedding, the lead instigator had a soup ladle tied on his belt and the other groomsmen had to undo the tie with their teeth. Hilarity ensued. Then they took off the shirt (? more punishment?) of the lead instigator and he had to dance with the fake bride.

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One of the last traditions I failed to get on camera 😦 After the bride threw her bouquet, the lucky girl who caught it was seated in a chair next to the bride. One of the bride’s female relatives took off her veil and replaced it with a head scarf. Then, they put the veil on the girl who caught the flowers. This ceremony signifies that the bride is now a wife, and the girl with the veil is the “new” bride. One of the things that I really liked about this wedding is that it felt very traditional but also updated for a modern audience. The ceremonies and customs were preserved, but it never felt like we were at an old-fashioned wedding.

There was one custom that was strictly observed – the giving of monetary wedding gifts. This is one huge difference in American and Romanian weddings. In America, the couple registers for items at a couple of stores. They probably want a toaster, some plates, and towels. You go to the store, get their list, and purchase only those items for the couple. Obviously, you are welcome to buy them whatever you want, but usually the bride and groom appreciate receiving items that they’ve picked out themselves. In Romania, the wedding guests do not bring gifts. There are no registries. Instead, you bring cash. And lots of it. Each couple is expected to give around 300 euro to the bride and groom. The idea is that you are covering the cost of your food at the reception and also throwing in some extra to help the newlyweds get started in life. You bring the money to the reception and at the end of the night there are envelopes waiting for you on the table. You put the now fattened envelope into a special container – later, the bride, groom, and families will sit around and count the money to make sure they all arrive at the same number. They do this the same night as the reception, as is tradition. Then, they pay the venue, photographer, videographer, etc. out of this money.

Once the night was late enough, the traditional Romanian music ended and the DJ turned on the modern dance tunes. We ended up dancing until 3 am, and we would’ve danced longer, but they had a wedding the next morning and they had to set up. So they kicked us out. We put our envelope into the appropriate place and found our way home.

I ended up sleeping until 1 pm the next day, which if you know me, is really out of character even if I stay up late. I was really exhausted. But the wedding weekend wasn’t over yet – there was one more night of revelry before we sent the newlyweds on their honeymoon.

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