Unusual Wedding Traditions in Bulgaria

Bulgarian weddings have a long history that dates back hundreds of years. It is based on intriguing cultures and has always played an important role in Bulgarian culture. It is more than just a celebration of love and the union of two souls; it is also the union of two families and the beginning of a shared history.

In modern times, Bulgarians regard wedding ceremonies as their second and larger prom night, where they gather with family members and friends, sign the wedding contract, and unite in the local church before the eyes of God. But it has not always been this way.

Bulgarian couples frequently opt for a traditional wedding ceremony over a typical European-style wedding. They want to return to their roots and learn more about their indigenous culture. A fact with Bulgarians is they are fortunate in that their folk weddings are colorful, cheerful, and magical. The church wedding ceremony is another famous method of getting married in Bulgaria. However, the most stylish weddings combine both of these ceremonies to make the event as fancy and festive as feasible.

1. The Rites of Pre-engagement and Full-engagement 

Traditionally, the prospective groom will send his closest friend to his intended home to seek approval from her father. If the father agreed, he would ask his daughter three times if she wanted to marry. She was considered pre-engaged if she said “Yes” three times in a row, and the potential groom was invited to the house. The wedding itself takes place on a weekend or a holiday. A small feast is held for relatives and neighbors. Specifics of the wedding are agreed upon during this meeting. This engagement party’s agreement is deemed legitimate and binding. Depending on local customs, the engagement can last anywhere from one day to a year or more. The groom’s friends throw him a bachelor party shortly before the wedding, and the bride’s friends throw her a party as well. In the past, there were many rituals associated with the parties, but today’s parties are similar to those found in the United States or Western Europe. Nonetheless, now is the time for the man and woman to bid their single friends farewell.

2. Marriage Ceremony’s Ritual

The bride and groom are said to be lucky if they enter the church with their right feet first. The wedding ceremony is usually short, but it is interspersed with folk songs. Following the ceremony, the bride and groom customarily exchange rings and kisses. Another wedding tradition is “stepping,” which takes place after the official wedding documents are signed. Whoever steps on the other’s foot first will have the upper hand and will provide for the new family.

3. The Gathering

Traditionally, the wedding procession to the groom’s house for the wedding reception would be loud and boisterous. Nowadays, most wedding receptions take place in a restaurant. The groom’s mother traditionally greets the new family at the reception. She places a long, white hand-woven cloth at the door for the newlywed couple to walk on, and she scatters flowers in their direction as a sign of health, happiness, and purity in their fresh start together. The bride and groom are served a sweet honeyed cake and wine by the groom’s mother, who wishes them a long and sweet marriage. She then holds a loaf of freshly baked bread over her head and encourages the couple to each pull one end of it; whoever gets the larger piece will have the most influence on the new family. Dancing is an essential component of the Bulgarian wedding reception tradition. In some parts of the country, the bride and groom are even expected to dance as they receive their wedding cake.

Bulgarian Wedding Tradition

Bulgaria, Nature Images

1. The Making of the Wedding Flag

When there was a big wedding,  Bulgarian forefathers used to hang flags in their homes. It was usually hung high in the groom’s house for all to see, facing the sun, as a symbol of good fortune for the bride and groom. The origins of the wedding flag can be traced back to a forest where the groom cuts down a tree with one blow as a symbol that the couple will not remarry. The tree itself is an important thing to look for. It was thought that it should bear fruits (pears, apples, and cherries) and be healthy. It would be a bad omen if it became dry or dead. The tree branch was then stitched with red or red and white fabric at the groom’s house before being delivered to the bride’s house, where she and her friends sang songs to ward off any negative energy it might carry.

What’s fascinating is that after the marriage ceremony, the godparents destroyed the flag – either by breaking it, hiding it, or throwing it in the water – so the newlyweds would not see it. In some Bulgarian regions, it was so cautiously disposed of that not a single thread fell off of it, preventing people from casting dark magic and bringing bad luck to newlyweds.

2. The Long Walk For Wedding Invitation

The wedding invitation ritual was born hundreds of years ago as a result of the cohesion of people in Bulgarian villages. The groom, bride’s siblings, and all their relatives would have to go around the village inviting people. The groom would put on his best clothes and walk from house to house, offering a sip of Bulgarian wine or rakija. They accepted the offer when the host took a sip. As another sign of invitation, the bride’s mother would bring apples and give them to the hosts. In some Bulgarian regions, families will even invite the dead if someone has recently died. They would place apples on their graves, inviting them to join the living in celebrating the wedding.

3. The Bride’s Weaving and the Groom’s Shaving

One of the most sacred ceremonies for the bride was braiding her hair. It represents her transition from a girl and a maiden to a bride and a soon-to-be wife. On the wedding day, the braiding was usually done before sunrise, with the bride sitting with her face to the sun. This is done to attract fertility.

Grooming was a vital part of the wedding rituals as well. The groom began the wedding day early in the morning, sitting outside under a tree. He began by washing with clean water from a nearby spring. The groom’s godfather, groom’s brother, or barber would then begin the grooming process. It was always done from right to left because it was thought that the right side was associated with good fortune and the left with bad.

4. The Red Veil and the Bride’s “Theft”

Following the braiding, the bride was veiled in front of the fireplace with a red veil. She’d then put on her wedding gown and wait for the groom and his brother to pick her up. They would try to enter the house, but the bride’s family would refuse unless they paid a fee. Following that, the groom’s brother entered the house and brought the bride’s shoes full of coins, which he placed on her feet, beginning with the right. She was then taken away from her home while wearing the red veil. If anyone saw her face, it would be a bad omen for the couple. The wedding procession would then begin, winding its way through the entire village and ending at the groom’s house. 

5. “Kumove”

In Bulgaria, the “Kumove,” or Godparents, are usually a couple and close friends of the bride and groom. The “Kumove” should typically be an older family who will serve as spiritual “parents” and guidance counselors to the newlyweds.