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Wedding Customs in Bulgarian Culture

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Did you know that Bulgarian culture of wedding has roots in customs practiced 500 years ago? Most of the traditions that were practiced then are still practiced today. The wedding is considered to be one of the most important and central ceremonies in a persons life, and they involved a series of complex rites and rituals that were often riddled with folk drama.

Bulgarian Culture for Pre- wedding Customs

You might be interested in noting the fact that even in the ancient times, the consent of the bride was extremely important in Bulgarian culture. When two people considered marriage, the prospective groom would send his closest family and friends to the bride’s house to ask for the fathers consent. Usually they brought whisky which was called ‘rakia’, a flower symbolizing health and prosperity called zdravets and other small gifts for the father and the bride. If the father agreed he would ask the bride three times if she consented to the marriage. If she said yes all three times, then the bride’s family will send gifts to the groom’s family. This was considered to be one of the most important customs in Bulgarian culture.

The engagement is another important custom in the Bulgarian culture. The engagement involved a lavish feast held by the Bulgarian bride’s family where family and friends are invited. This is the occasion where the details of the wedding are discussed. The period of engagement varies from one area to another in Bulgarian culture. The period of engagement could be a day or it could be a year.

Many rituals were practiced by the Bulgarians prior to the wedding. You might find similar rituals in many communities. Two parties were traditionally held- one at the groom’s house and one at the bride’s. This signifies their parting from the unmarried men and women. There were many rituals practiced in the weeks leading up to the marriage that are however no longer practiced.

On the Thursday before the wedding, there is a Bulgarian custom of pitka or bread kneading. The yeast is mixed with the dough to make the bread, signifying the making of a new life. The rising dough is also taken to be the creation of a new family in Bulgarian culture.

There is another custom of making a wedding banner in Bulgarian culture. A 2 meter long branch from a forest or orchard is loped off in a single swing to form the pole. A hand-woven handkerchief is attached to it and on top of the pole an apple, quince or an onion which is wrapped in tinfoil is placed. Popcorn, bunches of zdravets (a flower) of, ivy and box-shrub which were tied with interwoven red-and white-coloured (martenitsa) thread, are also used to decorate the pole.

Another pre-wedding custom in Bulgarian culture is the braiding of the bride’s hair by the women folk and the shaving of the groom. These customs are usually accompanied by dancing and music. This custom is to prevent evil spirits. This ritual is still practiced in small towns and villages.

Wedding Bulgarian Culture

On the day of the wedding, guests assemble at the groom’s house where a table is set with light snack. This ritual involves the taking of the best man, who is usually married to the maid of honor. The groom, along with the guests, proceeds to the best man’s house, followed by musicians playing music. The groom takes a baked chicken and a wine vessel with him and presents this to the groom. The groom, whose word is now law, takes a wine vessel, and along with the maid of honor, who carries the veil, candle and small baked candies, go to the bride’s house.

The taking of the bride is another ritual that you may find interesting. Before the groom leaves the house, there are many customs followed to protect him from evil spirits. Barley is poured over his head, rifles are shot in the air, and the groom takes the blessings of his parents. The flag bearers, followed by the musicians, the best man, the groom and the rest of the guests then move to the bride’s house. Usually, there is a “hostage” sent before them and he heralds the coming of the wedding procession in Bulgarian culture. The bride’s parents sell him a rooster which is decorated with a wreath of white popcorn and chilli pepper hanging in the middle. The rooster’s wings are tied with a red cloth. The price f the rooster is bargained over for a long time. After the guests are seated, the bride is locked in a room with the maid of honour. The groom and the best man, after paying an admission fee are allowed into the room, where the “veiling” of the bride is done. The maid of honour attempt to veil her three times, the first two of which she refuses. The third time she is veiled.

The bride and the groom then come out of the house accompanied by the bride’s brother or by the maid of honour. Then there are other rituals which protect the bride and groom from evil spirits. The bride throws a dish full of wheat, raw and egg and coins. If the dish shatters, it is a sign of good luck. Then, a copper cauldron containing water is knocked over. At the gates the mother of the bride spills a bucket of water for good luck. Then, the guests throw wheat, coins and candles over the couple’s head and sing sad songs. Once the party leaves the bride’s house to approach the church, they don’t look back. When they enter the church, the bride and the groom have to place their right foot first.

Post Wedding Customs in Bulgarian Culture

After the signing of the papers, the newlyweds go to the groom’s house. The groom’s mother places a white, long, hand-woven cloth at the entrance to welcome them. Flowers are strewn on the path. They are given home made bread and wine by the groom’s mother.

After this, there is usually dancing in Bulgarian culture. The traditions vary from one part of the country to the other. Sometimes, the bride and groom dance for their wedding cake. Sometimes the best man and the maid of honour dance with the bride’s relatives until they are exhausted. The best man usually raises a toast in the honour of the bride and the groom. The guests give them gifts. When the best man leaves the party, it is a signal for the guests to also leave.

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