Wedding in Romania: What to Expect & What Gift to Bring

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One of the most important moments in one’s life is the wedding and in Romania, just like in most countries out there, this is a huge event that requires a lot of planning and usually brings a lot of confusion for guests, especially those who are not regulars at these events. If you’re a foreigner about to take part to a wedding in Romania, things could be even more confusing and you might wonder what to expect and especially what kind of gift to bring. I will answer all those questions, as well as offer all the details I can think of about weddings in Romania, so let’s get this started.

Just a short note: the second most important party in one’s life is the christening of their baby (or babies if more will follow), and I’ve already written about it here. And now let’s find out everything about Romanian weddings: what to expect and, most importantly, what gift to bring.

What to expect

If you’ve never been to a wedding in Romania, expect to be amazed and surprised – and definitely prepare for a long day and night, usually sprinkled with tons of alcohol. Even though things will be different from family to family, I think it’s safe to say that you can sort the weddings into two types: traditional weddings (which are most likely to happen in villages and maybe sometimes in smaller cities and towns, but you could get a freak traditional wedding in the largest cities as well) and modern weddings which will still have traditional elements – more or less, depending on the newly weds and their families. In concept, both traditional and modern weddings follow the same route, but the approach is different and expectations as well.

For example, if you somehow get to a Romanian wedding in a village, expect all the food (sometimes for hundreds of guests) to be prepared at home by the bride and groom’s family and friends, expect the alcohol to be home made, expect no real dress code, most likely a live local band that will only play traditional music and extremely friendly people (many of whom will be really drunk by the end of the party). But until we get to the food, there’s one extra step that has to be completed:

The wedding ceremony

Usually, people go first to officially get married at Starea Civila sometime in the morning or early afternoon. This is the ceremony that the bride and groom must attend in order to be legally married and there are no real bells and whistles here: it’s all very sober and boring and over pretty quickly. Usually, the bride won’t wear her dress for this occasion, but this could also vary. You are also expected to bring flowers for the bride at this point.

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At Starea Civila it’s where you officially get married
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It doesn’t take long and you’re married. And we now have the papers to prove it.
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The exit is market with confetti and smiles. People usually throw rice as well and the newlyweds walk under a bridge of flowers made by the other guests.
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Photo sessions start shortly after – we’re trying some “special effects” with our godparents here.

After the Starea Civila, photos are taken and, depending on the time of the day the ceremony took place, everybody goes straight to the church or meet at the church a few hours later (it’s usually the latter, allowing the bride to change clothes and get into her beautiful dress). The ceremony at the church is usually long and extremely boring as well – it could take up to two hours and you usually have to stand for the entire duration of it. In larger cities, the priests have understood the fact that nobody wants to spend that much time listening to them: for example, I personally tried to listen from start to finish at my own wedding and couldn’t make it – I can only imagine that all the guests were in their own world as well. Because of this, many priests now hurry things as much as they can, but expect the whole thing to last no less than 40 minutes.

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Our Church wedding and party afterwards were two weeks after we officially got married (and in a different city).
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The things they use in the church to get you married
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There’s usually just one or two priests for the ceremony, we got five. All I can remember though is that is sounded nice when they sang.
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There’s a lot of stuff you have to do at the church as well, while everybody else is eagerly awaiting for everything to be over.

In the evening, the party begins. This is usually considered the main event and it starts at around 8 PM, but for some reason most guests decide to arrive about an hour late. To prevent this from happening, some try to have the Church ceremony as late as possible so that they go straight to the restaurant afterwards, but it’s usually at least a few hours in between for a short rest.

As you can see, there’s a lot happening in the same day, so many people are now splitting this in two episodes: one when they go to the Starea Civila and officially get married, then the Church and Party for the second. Usually, when people invite you to their wedding, they don’t really expect you to be present at the Starea Civila and/or the Church (unless you’re the godfather/godmother or hold another important role). It’s the party that matters the most, so expect to only see very close friends and relatives at the first two events, and way more people at the party.

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The restaurant, waiting for the guests. The table of the bride, groom and godparents is always in a central location.

When going to a Romanian wedding, prepare to eat A LOT and drink even more. There are usually 4 courses plus desert (the wedding cake which, for most, signals that the party is over – and afterwards it’s usually just the young people and close friends who stay to party), each with 1.5 – 2 hours in between (usually). There are also snacks, fruits, extra cakes and even “eating breaks” (we had sorbet in between, for example). Anyway, it’s usually a ton of food and you’ll probably be surprised to see that most people eat everything!

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And the feast begins. This officially marks the start of the party.

Here are some of things you should expect during the wedding party in Romania:

– a slow start of the party itself. It really depends on the crowd, but usually the first couple of hours will be very boring. This is one of the reasons why many people choose to come later at the party – but it has become some sort of a rule and now everybody arrives late, just prolonging the boredom for those who get there on time. Eventually, though, things pick up and there will be a lot of fun and dancing and surprise events.

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The traditional first dance.
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Soon afterwards, the party and fun begins.

– you could expect to have a live band or multiple live bands, including a lot of traditional music or a more modern approach – a DJ. Personally, I believe that the latter is better when it comes to the fun potential – but expect to hear traditional music even if there’s a DJ present, because for some reason people at weddings really like the “hora” (our traditional dance where everybody endlessly dances in a circle).

– Kidnapping of the Bride. This is one of the biggest events of the wedding: close friends (usually) “kidnap” the bride and take her to a club or restaurant to party a little bit. They then ask for ransom to bring the bride back, and the ransoms can vary widely. It’s usually something fun for the groom and/or godfather to do, plus some bottles of whiskey. I’ve seen grooms that had to strip, sing karaoke or do all sorts of funny things to get their brides back and it’s all great fun. At my wedding, I had to sing and the godfather had to give the kidnappers a bottle of whiskey – which he filled with apple juice. So pranks like this can be expected and the entire event is usually a lot of fun.

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Me recovering my wife from the kidnappers.

– The ritual of becoming a married woman. It’s a traditional, special event centered around the bride trading her veil for a scarf. There’s an entire process here that I am not very familiar with, but I know that the bride has to try and refuse the scarf, throw it away and eventually accept it (this was probably for real back in the days when weddings were not the result of love, but today that’s just for the show). In some cases, the groom goes through something similar, where he has to be shaved by the godfather and best man. These are both old traditions and many weddings tend to skip them.

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Part of the ritual of becoming a married woman.

– Finally, there’s the bride throwing her bouquet, with the lady catching it being considered the one who will marry next. The groom also does something similar with the bride’s garter which he throws back and the single guy who catches it will be considered the next one to marry. The event of removing the garter is fun to watch, as it’s usually made by the groom entirely using his mouth. Yup… strange things happen at Romanian weddings, haha!

– Also, there might be special events during the party, usually different forms of professional dancers arriving to spice things up and get everybody off their seats. This again varies a lot from wedding to wedding.

What gift to bring at a Romanian Wedding

As sad as that might sounds, it’s usually an envelope with money that you should bring as a gift, on very rare occasions actual gifts being considered appropriate. However, if you feel comfortable bringing an actual gift, don’t hesitate to do so: most likely, your friendship won’t be ruined by this. But do know that most likely you’re expected to have some cash in an envelope. Even if you don’t have the envelope, there’s no problem as they are usually provided at the ceremony, again usually after the cake is served.

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It’s usually considered that you can’t leave the party before the cake is served.

If the wedding is split in two events: Starea Civila first then on a different day the Church and Party itself, you can only bring flowers and a small gift (or no gift) at the Starea Civila and keep the envelope for the party. But remember the flowers!

How much should you offer as a gift?

This is the main question and unfortunately the answer is not very clear. Basically, the money “gift” you’re offering is you paying your share for the wedding expenses. So try to find the appropriate amount for covering the food and drinks (this is the main expense at a wedding), as well as your share for the band payment and everything else. The costs also vary from city to city (villages and smaller towns being less expensive), restaurant to restaurant and even the type of party: a wedding menu can be as low as 150 lei per person (about 34 Euros) and can skyrocket at over 400. Usually, for a regular wedding, the food and drinks will be anything between 55 – 70 Euros per person.

As a golden rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong if you’re offering 100 Euros per person. Remember that there’s no real limit here so you can go as high up as you want or afford but I would say that 100 Euros per person would be perfect in most occasions.

If you know people at the wedding, don’t hesitate to ask them how much they’re offering. This question that might sound like a thing you should never ask is what people usually ask at weddings, so just do it and go for the same amount that most people are offering. Just make sure not to ask close relatives or the godparents, as they are supposed to offer more.

Finally, if you are taking part at a village wedding, there might be an entire event dedicated to collecting the money: the entire party stops and a person with a microphone simply goes from person to person collecting the money and announcing the amount for everybody to hear. Fortunately, this happens less and less often and I’ve never heard of a wedding in a city or even smaller town where such a horrible thing happens.

OK… so this would be all I can think of in terms of weddings in Romania. If you have any other questions about them, don’t hesitate to ask!

17 COMMENTS

  1. Oh how lovely to see your wedding pictures 🙂 . The Mrs. looked beautiful. The whole affair is similar to ours, only the day before is the engagement and the next day the church wedding and party. Money is usually the gift too since we don’t really have department stores. In lieu of cash, it is very common for household items to gifted (for example you might give a set of 100 plastic cups that have the image of the bride and groom and wedding date along with the name of the giver). These are then handed out as gifts to the attendees as a keepsake. It’s funny that the church service used to run long just like ours did years ago. I remember my oldest sister’s service was 3.5 hours! Now, most churches will give you a max of 1 hour thank goodness and even that is too long in my book. Thanks for sharing this C. Love it! 🙂

    • For me, it was lesson learned at the wedding: I was so busy with everything, trying to make sure that everybody is pleased and everything works smoothly that I didn’t really manage to fully enjoyed it. That’s why I had a different approach at the Christening of our baby and I felt way better. Either way, it was fun in the end and just the good memories remain.

  2. Awww Calin: This is quite an article! Happy times for you, indeed. You and “Wife Romanian” were/are quite an attractive couple! Very colorful photos–thanks for sharing those! (Was the marriage held in Bucharest? Looking at the pictures, that’s what I’m guessing.)
    Do most couples live together (try it out;-) before actually making it official?
    Also, can you just do the Starea Civila , and not the “church” part?
    Here in the USA, some couples just elope and get married by a justice of the peace, (or an Elvis impersonator;-) foregoing all the “pomp and circumstance” and $’s of a church or formal wedding.
    What about same-sex marriages (not for me–just curious;-)?
    Are there “pre-nups” in cases where either the man or woman makes so much money, as to not want to be on the hook for big alimony or payouts at the dissolution of the marriage (divorce). Of course, this begs the question: is it a big deal to divorce? Do Romanians frown on divorce? (I ask because almost everyone in my family has been divorced–at least once. Me, I am a confirmed bachelor–I’ve seen what a toll divorce can take on all parties–especially the children.) This is why I believe in taking a “test drive” before actually signing the “contract” of marriage–that is before making it an official, lawful marriage.
    What would you estimate the total cost is for the couple actually getting married? Are there companies which will cater the wedding, provide videotape (or whatever video service) photographs, honeymoon services, etc.? (Where did you and the “Mrs.” honeymoon?)
    Will you be sharing your upcoming month in Budapest, Hungary with us?
    I know you were there last year, but a whole month would certainly provide some interesting material for your blog. (Maybe you will be an Ex-pat Romanian in Hungary?;-)
    Thanks again for sharing your personal wedding experience,
    ~Teil (you-know-where)

    • Thanks for the compliments, Teil. We’re even better looking now that I managed to lose a bit over 10 kilos since the wedding 🙂

      The Starea Civila was held in my city, Drobeta Turnu Severing, while the church and party in Bucharest. In order to be officially married, you only need to do the Starea Civila, so you can do that and skip the church and/or party.

      Regarding the living together, it depends – some do, some don’t but I guess that most people do live together before getting married. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in the country and I never heard about pre-nup things happening here.

      I don’t really know much about the divorce process either, but I guess it’s as complicated or simple as the couple wants it to be.

      The costs of the wedding will vary greatly depending on the choices made by the couple and especially the number of guests. The biggest expense is normally the food & drinks part, so the more people you have, the more it costs. However, it rarely is an expense on the family because of the gift money, which basically covers the costs and usually even leaves the newlyweds with some extra money as well. All restaurants only require a down payment, with the rest of the money being paid after the wedding – because this is how things work here 🙂 However, the numbers are not anywhere near the tens of thousands of dollars spent in the US.

      You can more or less automate the entire process, but it’s not as complicated as I saw it is in the US, so the number of people involved is very low. We did all the planning by ourselves. The honeymoon was in nearby Turkey, but we loved it.

      I will surely write about our experience in Budapest!

  3. Sure, it’s so lovely to experiance other people’s cultures on their wedding day. Here in Jordan takes lots of effort starting from date of scheduling that could fit close relatives who lives in other countries to be on time of wedding date. As a traditional respect the oldest brother / sister as well as uncles must be all present before days of weddind. usually men keeps partying for 3 night before weddind. Giving money/ Gold are the most appreciate gift that would pleased both. Other gifts can be home compliances as big TV, Refregirator, Stoves, or Travelling Tickets. Yes it’S so costly but enjoyable. At the end Love you all with a wonderful night on watching billy dancer. Regards Emad

  4. A bid over a decade ago my wife and I accompanied my daughter, her husband, and little boy to Brasov, Romania for the wedding of his younger brother. It was delightful, on the first Saturday in June, a busy time for weddings. The civil ceremony was brief and we gathered in the nearby park for a drink while the papers were prepared. Then we had a break and then on to the church, where again there were a series of weddings, so the ceremony was as brief as possible. Later that afternoon the party began, much as you describe. My son-in-law took a room at the adjacent hotel or motel so his son could sleep when he got tired. I also took a nap late in the festivities, being brought back for the finale. All in all it was a delightful experience for me and my wife. Look forward to at least a few visits back as I struggle to learn a bit of Romanian. The phonetics are my stumbling block, as I am fluent in Spanish,
    French, and Catalan and passable in Italian as well as studying Latin. Thanks for a delightful account. Many happy years.

  5. Great article and the wife and I enjoyed the pictures as well. I know I’m expected to give money at a Romanian wedding but now I know why. I just got back from Romania last night. I can’t wait to go back!

      • I hope you didn’t misunderstand I had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back to Romania. I didn’t want to go home yet.

        • No, I understood, but I forgot a word: “Even”. I wanted to say that I hope you’ll feel even better next time you visit as I am sure there are more pleasant surprises Romania has to offer! 🙂

        • Hi Calin,
          Wow, what a beautiful ceremony! I am just getting around to checking out everything on your site here, and came across this article. How nice of you to share the pictures and experiences of your own wedding, and it sure looked like a joyous occasion. I can’t help but notice what a good looking couple you two make also. I would need to brush up to feel comfortable attending a wedding in any country, even the U.S., as it’s been over twenty years since I last attended a wedding. I had to think about it for a few minutes to recollect…lol…. but thanks again for sharing the beautiful pictures and helpful info too…I like the part about lot’s of alcohol!..take care. JC

  6. Thanks, JC! I initially added the photos just to make reading easier for those interested in finding more about how weddings go, I didn’t think that they would steal the show. But to be honest, I am happy they did 🙂 It was indeed really nice and I am happy to see that others see it like that as well.

  7. Thank you for the detailed information. What lovely pictures. Could I ask if it is considered rude for guests to wear white to a Romanian wedding as it is in the UK? Thanks

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