Romanian Wedding Traditions
The informant who told me about these customs was born and raised in Romania until she came to high school in the US. Given the fact that she is a native Romanian, she knows a lot about the customs and traditions of the country, especially due to her large family, and the setting she grew up in from an early age.
“The wedding day has three parts. However, before the entire ceremony starts, everyone who wants to, meets at the bride’s house, and they put little balloons and bows on all the cars. The entourage of cars then goes from ceremony to ceremony, honking all the way. This happens between the three different parts, and whoever wants to join the parade of cars can. The first is the civil union, which is basically all the paperwork at the courthouse. That usually happens during the morning and is pretty quick because there are a lot of couples getting married on the same day. Then, in the afternoon, there is the church ceremony. That’s longer, it takes like 1-2 hours. Romania is of the Eastern Orthodox faith, so instead of having the parents bring in the bride and groom, it is actually the godparents who do it, the godfather brings in the bride, and the godmother brings in the groom. Godparents are very important in the wedding process, because they have both social and financial responsibilities during the event. Godparents are chosen by the bride and groom, and usually they are people who are very close. Anyway, after they come in, they arrange themselves in the front – the bride and the groom, then on either side are the godparents, the man is on the grooms side and the woman is on the bride’s, and then there’s another couple that hold two large candles on either side. The priest then talks about the duties of each partner – its pretty sexist in favor of the man. The bride and groom then get crowns that they put holy water on and then everyone who sits in the front has to kiss the crown, everyone who sits in the front also has to kiss a portrait of the Virgin Mary as well as cross themselves. There is also a table in the middle, and everyone who sits at the front holds hands and circles the table. The bride also has bridesmaids, whose main duties are to pin either flowers, or bows, or some type of ornament onto the guests to distinguish that they are in a wedding. When exiting the church, the guests line up into a semicircle outside holding flowers, and the bride and groom walk through. At the end of this ceremony there is a more modern custom which is the taking of a group picture in front of the church.
The final part of the wedding is the night party, which is equivalent to a reception in the US. Unlike American weddings that end pretty early however, Romanian weddings last all night long, until the next morning. There’s a lot of food, a lot of alcohol, however this is the most stressful part of the wedding to plan out because most Romanians have really large families and you have to invite all of them. Even if you don’t know them, you basically invite who your parents want to invite. You also have to take into consideration how you’re going to seat them all, because you don’t want relatives who have negative feelings towards one another to sit next to each other, but if they have friends in common they have to be close to them. Anyway, its a very complex process, and you make diagrams of where everyone is going to be seated because there is assigned seating basically. How it works is the family and closest friends are closest to the dance floor area, and then everyone else is further away, ranked by how well they know the family. The closer your relations are to the family, the better seating you’re gonna have. In the very middle is a very large table where the bride and groom sit, along with the godparents, children of the godparents, and the parents of the bride and groom as well. Usually there are musicians, called Lautari, who play traditional Romanian music or Muzica Populara. There are also specific Romanian dances that are part of a wedding. There are the group dances, the Hora and the Sarba, which are danced in a circle by a lot of the guests, and then there is the Brasoveanca, which is danced by couples. The guests don’t dance until the bride and groom have their opening dance, which is usually a slow dance by themselves. It opens the last part of the wedding ceremony. There is also a wedding cake, like in Western culture, and the bride and groom get to cut the first slice. The bride also throws her bouquet and garter at some point in the night, there is no set time, but when she does, whoever catches it also gets her bridal veil.
There is also the famous tradition, the ‘stealing of the bride’. So at some point during the night, someone steals the bride, usually friends who want to have some fun. They basically take the bride to a random place, they took my cousin to a pub, and everyone started dancing and having a good time. Then they call the groom, and the groom has to pay the friends who stole the bride in alcohol. So they negotiate how much is too much, and come to a compromise, and whenever the friends are pleased with the offer, they bring the bride back. The party usually stops at some point in the early morning, and guests either sleep over or go back home at like 5 am.”
From the informant’s account, we see how many of the wedding customs in Romania are similar to those of the West, while others, like the stealing of the bride, or the traditional dances are very different. Another important distinction is that, unlike many American wedding ceremonies that have drifted from the traditional format, most Romanian weddings adhere to tradition very strictly. We see this both in the religious ceremony as well as during the reception with the traditional music and dances. The responsibility resting on the shoulders of the godparents instead of the biological parents is also quite different, and points at the fact that Romania is a very religious country, where God and the church are very important. There is also a great respect and loyalty paid to the entire family, which not always happens in the US, illuminated by the fact that the entire family is invited by the parents. The practice of “stealing” the bride is a tradition that is found with slight variations throughout Eastern Europe and some of the Middle East. It takes multiple forms – whether it be stealing objects that the bride is wearing, or the bride herself. However, the overarching goal is for the groom to symbolically “buy” her back. This stems from tradition in the old days when the groom would literally buy the bride with something of value – whether it be money, or treasures, or even livestock. The informant has experienced three Romanian weddings first hand, so she has had exposure to the traditions associated with them.