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, don’t worry!) and I will answer them all – and some more – in today’s article about weddings in Romania.
If you’re a foreigner about to take part in 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 should feel comfortable and entertained.
Before we get into this, I have to say that the second most important party, after the wedding, is the baby’s Christening party. I’ve written about that in depth here – make sure to check that article too, since after the wedding, this will usually follow up soon.
Now let’s get into the weddings in Romania and see what the traditions are, what to expect and more.
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 I am saying this as you might consider some of the clothing and everything else a bit outdated. I still want to keep them for the great memories and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
How is a Romanian wedding?
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 slightly different from family to family and also region to region, I think it’s safe to say that you can sort the weddings into two types:
Traditional Romanian wedding
These very traditional and old school types of weddings usually take place in villages and smaller cities or towns. They usually respect old traditions to the core and don’t embrace many modern elements.
We’ll speak more about the wedding traditions below, worry not. Some are really nice and fun, as you will see.
But back to traditional weddings, expect them to feel like slightly outdated modern weddings, with various strange customs and a live band playing traditional music all night long.
Modern Romanian wedding
Although they will still have traditional elements and customs, they will be more modern and it’s most likely this type of wedding you will attend.
Expect a more laid-back atmosphere, a DJ or live modern band, lots of entertaining events during the night and an overall modern, fun night.
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.
Even the alcohol might be home-made wine and the local tuica (a plum brandy). There will be no dress code (people in sports attire can easily be spotted there) and there will usually be one local band that will only play traditional music.
People should be extremely friendly and many of them will be really drunk by the end of the party.
The weddings in villages and smaller cities tend to stick to traditions more often than not, so you will experience some seemingly 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 even days before the actual Church ceremony and follow-up party, in order to keep the day less cluttered and crazy.
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.
At this ceremony, it’s usually just the bride and groom and very close friends and family who are present. So if you receive a wedding invitation, you’re not normally expected to be here (unless you’re a very close friend or family), but nobody will mind if you do show up.
After the Starea Civila, photos are taken with the guests and, depending on the time of the day the ceremony took place, everybody goes either straight to the church or the next ceremony 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).
The Church ceremony
If the first part already took place in a different day, things will start here, usually on a Saturday.
Again, just like with the previous type of ceremony, you’re not necessarily expected to be present (unless you’re a close friend) but here, it is appreciated if you do show up.
How long is a Romanian Orthodox wedding ceremony?
The wedding ceremony at the church is usually long and extremely boring – it can take up to two hours and you usually have to stand up for the entire duration of it.
More modern ones are rushed by priests and can take as low as 30-40 minutes. But consider this the minimum.
In larger cities, the priests have understood the fact that nobody wants to spend that much time listening to them and nobody actually does that.
For example, I personally tried to listen everything from start to finish and couldn’t make it because it was way too boring. And it was my own wedding!
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 it’s still a long time you’ll have to spend standing up.
Here are some photos from our ceremony:
The wedding party
In the evening, the party begins! This is usually considered the main event and it starts at around 8 PM – but guests will trickle in slowly, and usually by 10 PM the full crowd’s present.
To prevent this “trickling in” that results in a very slow part of the party, many 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). But expect a ton of food (and you’ll probably be surprised to see that most people eat everything on their plates).
Wedding traditions in Romania
I am listing below all the wedding traditions in Romania that I can think of, as well as some of the things you should expect during this important event.
1. 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” or guests are still arriving.
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.
2. The traditional first dance
This is what officially marks the start of the wedding. Just like in other countries, the groom and bride show off their dancing skills, to be joined by others as soon as their song ends.
3. You can 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).
Yes, I’m not a fan of that. Ha!
4. 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.
In the past, 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 funny part of the wedding and I haven’t been to one that didn’t have this tradition.
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, as I said.
5. 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 – hopefully).
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.
6. Shaving the groom
In some cases, the groom goes through something similar, where he has to be shaved by the godfather and best man.
This can also be done at home, if the wedding is very traditional and begins at the groom’s home. In this case, he would be shaved at home, then go with the crows to take the wife from her home. From there, they’ll head to the church and then the party.
This is easier done in villages, where you don’t have to cover a lot of space and usually the crowd is followed by a live band. But in larger cities, this is virtually impossible.
These are both old traditions and many weddings tend to skip them – we did skip this one, for example.
7. You also have 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!
Finally, 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. But in case there’s a theme, you will be told in advance.
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. But apart from this, anything else goes!
What gift to bring at a Romanian Wedding
You are usually expected to bring a gift at a wedding in Romania, and that is usually an envelope with money inside – as sad as that might sound.
On very rare occasions, actual gifts are considered appropriate – such as household items. But usually, it’s the money that is expected to be received and this is what people usually bring.
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, right before heading home.
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 the bride or groom before leaving the party or put it in the special box for envelopes, which is usually located near the newlyweds’ 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 all) at the Starea Civila and deliver the envelope at the party. But remember the flowers!
How much money should you gift at the wedding?
There is not really a set amount of cash that you should gift at a Romanian wedding. Generally, 100 to 150 Euros per person is considered enough in most cases, but more money will usually be appreciated.
Basically, the money “gift” you’re offering is you paying your share for the wedding expenses and hopefully at least a little extra for the new family.
The main expenses when organizing a wedding in Romania are for food and drinks (at the restaurant), as well as the band/DJ playing but there are other things that do add up in the end.
These 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 40 Euros per person, but at the same time it can easily go past 100 easily.
On average, at most weddings, I would say that the menu and drinks alone would be around 85 Euros per person.
So if you’re offering 100 Euros as a gift, that would be in most cases enough. If you want to be really sure that you’re covering everything now that prices are so much higher – and if you can afford it – then 150 Euros would be safer and better.
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.
Do have in mind that the close relatives – family members, VERY close friends and the godparents – are expected to offer a lot more than the average, so don’t ask them. Ask regular guests and offer as much or as little as they do if you don’t really know where to start.
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!