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.
What are the Romanian wedding traditions? What to wear at a Romanian wedding? What gift to bring? These are just some of the questions that people ask (Romanians included, not only foreigners) and I will try to answer them all in today’s article about weddings in Romania.
If you’re a foreigner about to take part at a Romanian wedding, things could be even more confusing and you might wonder what to expect and especially what kind of gift to bring. As you will see, things are not that complicated and the Romanian wedding traditions have been updated to modern times, so you will definitely feel comfortable and entertained.
Just a short note: the second most important party in one’s life is the christening of a 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, what to wear and what gift to bring.
Note: The photos shared in this article are from my own wedding which took place back in 2011. I am saying this as you might consider some of the clothing and everything else a bit outdated. But that matters the least – it’s the traditions and how things go that matter the most.
Things to know about weddings in Romania
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 and just as much delicious food. 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 every now and then)
– 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 from guests are different too.
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 extended family, 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).
The weddings in villages and smaller cities stick to traditions more often than not, so you will experience some strange things which vary from area to area. We’ll talk more about these traditions in today’s article, but the general rule of thumb is that the younger the couple and the larger the city, the more modern the wedding will be and fewer strange things will happen.
But no matter if we’re talking about completely traditional or entirely modern weddings, they will always follow the same route. And everything will usually start with…
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 fast.
Normally, 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 and nothing more.
This step can also take place in a different day, usually prior to the church ceremony and the party (in order to keep the day less crowded). If this is the case, it’s usually just the bride and groom and very close friends and family taking place. So this part is not too important in the entire process, normally…
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 they meet at the church a few hours later (it’s usually the latter, allowing the bride to change clothes and get into her beautiful wedding dress).
If the first part already took place in a different day, things will start here, usually on a Saturday or Sunday. The ceremony at the church is usually long and extremely boring – 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 because it was way too boring. 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 church ceremony to last no less than 30-40 minutes.
The wedding party
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 already a lot happening in the same day, so many people are now splitting this in two episodes as I said above: one when they go to the Starea Civila and officially get married, then the Church and Party for the second (which can be weeks or months apart).
Usually, when people invite you to their wedding, they won’t get offended if you are not present at the Starea Civila and/or the Church. These are usually attended by very close friends and family only, but it’s also considered a nice gesture if the guest attends these two ceremonies as well.
However, it’s the party that matters the most, so expect to see a much larger crowd here and a different set of faces altogether.
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 you are free to consider it a night and leave). There’s usually 1.5 to 2 hours in between courses but either way, you’ll always be full.
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 on their plates.
Here are some of wedding traditions in Romania and what to expect:
– a slow start of the party itself. It really depends on the crowd, but usually the first couple of hours will be very boring as everybody gets into the “party mode”.
This is one of the reasons why many people choose to come later at the party – to avoid this boring part, but eventually things pick up and there will be a lot of fun and dancing and surprise events and an impressive night overall.
– 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 a Romanian wedding: it’s usually close friends who “kidnap” the bride and take her to a club or restaurant to party a little bit. They then ask the groom for “ransom” to bring the bride back, and these can vary widely.
Traditionally, people were asking for money, and they might still do this in villages. However, it’s now usually a fun thing that the groom (sometimes helped by the godfather) has to do. It all depends from case to case, but usually it’s a hilarious part of the wedding.
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, while the godfather had to give the kidnappers a bottle of whiskey – he took an empty one though and filled it with apple juice instead to prank the kidnappers. So pranks like this can be expected and the entire event is usually a lot of fun.
– 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).
It’s also a traditional thing, since married women were expected to always wear that scarf (called “Batic” in Romanian) over their head. This is no longer done, but the wedding tradition remained.
– 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 – we did skip the second part, for example.
– 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. Usually, the single lady who got the bouquet and the singly guy who caught the garter will share a dance.
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 and there could be a lot of variety (or none).
What to wear at a Romanian wedding
Let’s get one obvious things out of the way first: if it’s a themed party, you will be informed about the dress code well in advance, so you have time to prepare accordingly. Themed parties are not a popular thing in Romania though, so chances are slim you’ll be invited to one.
Also, if you’re having a role at the wedding (godmother or godfather, maid of honor or best man) you will discuss this with the couple getting married – for bridesmaids, for example, they will choose a color that you’ll have to wear.
Although this was not the tradition, now most weddings follow an American style wedding with multiple bridesmaids and best men (until now, it was just a pair). In this case, the bridesmaids will usually be expected to order a dress for the occasion and they will all have to wear the same model.
Now, if you’re just a guest, things are a bit easier because you’ll have more freedom on what to wear. For men, things are very simple as they are expected to wear a suit with or without a tie. So things are easy here.
When it comes to ladies, there are a lot more options. Ladies are expected to wear an elegant night dress, something that they usually wear at special occasions. There’s a saying here in Romania that it’s the bride that has to shine during her special day, so don’t go over the top when choosing your dress, you don’t want to draw all the attention! Also, try not to wear something white, as that’s the color reserved for the bride.
What gift to bring at a Romanian Wedding
As sad as that might sound, it’s usually an envelope with money that you are expected to bring as a gift for the party. On very rare occasions, actual gifts are considered appropriate such as household items. If you feel comfortable bringing an actual gift, though, don’t hesitate to do so: most likely, your friendship won’t be ruined by this, but know that you are generally expected to give money to the newlyweds, when the party is over.
You don’t even have to bring the envelope with you: on most occasions, they are provided at the ceremony – in the past somebody simply came and gave envelopes to all guests, but nowadays things are not as in your face as they were and the envelopes are placed somewhere near the special box for the envelopes (yes, there’s one!)
The process goes like this: you put the money into the envelope, write your name (or your family’s name) on it and maybe a message for the newlyweds. Then you are expected to either give the envelope to one either the bride or groom before leaving the party or put it in the special box for envelopes, which is usually located near the couple’s table. This entire thing usually happens after the cake is served (which is, as I said before, a sign that the party can be officially considered over – although it can still go on for a few hours afterwards).
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 deliver 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 and sometimes a little extra for the new family. So try to find the appropriate amount for covering the cost of 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 about 35 Euros per person and can skyrocket at over 100 easily. Usually, for a regular wedding, the food and drinks will be anything between 60 – 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 – unless it’s a very fancy wedding.
If you know other 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 actually very common at weddings, so just do it to see what others are doing. Just make sure not to ask close relatives or the godparents, as they are supposed to offer more than regular guests.
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 anymore.
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!