I got to experience my first Moldovan wedding this week! It was definitely interesting, to say the least!
Moldovan weddings start in the morning, generally on a Friday, with the signing of documents and a short, simple church ceremony. I got up fairly early to get dressed and do my hair and such. My host mom and host aunt had approved my dress (they wanted to make sure it was nice enough) a few days prior, but were a little worried about my hair and makeup, as I hadn’t known if I’d be able to go until a few days before, and therefore weren’t able to get my hair professionally done (which is quite common). I did a French braid to the base of my hair, and then a low pony-tail. It looked nice, and they seemed to think it was fine.
Around 10 AM, my host cousin came, and I went with her and some other family members to the bride’s parents’ house. The house was a whirlwind of activity. Everyone was getting dressed and getting ready. In the front room of the house, a table was set up in the middle. This was covered by a nice, white tablecloth. On the table, there were four intricate loaves of bread on each corner, accompanied by piles of grain. In the center of the table, was a beautiful religious artwork. Unlike in the United States, where it is considered “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the ceremony, no such thing exists in Moldova. Both the bride and groom were getting ready at the house, as were the rest of the wedding party and many family members. Once the bride and groom were dressed and ready, the nasi (“nah-sh”), which are the “wedding godparents” arrived. In the Eastern Orthodox faith, you get godparents both when you are baptized as an infant (called “cumatra”) and when you get married (called “nasi”). The nasi are another married couple that can model a good marriage. My host parents, Pasa (Pash-ah) and Kosta (Koh-sta), were the nasi for the couple that was getting married. The nasi are incredibly important and have a MAJOR role in the wedding. They are as important, perhaps even more important, as the couple getting married. When they arrived, they, along with the couple getting married and members of the wedding party, circled around the table in the entrance room. They scattered the grain on the floor.
After this, some photos and videos were taken at the house by the professional photographers. I was included in some of the photos. There were some shots of wine (and cognac), and some traditions involving intricate loaves of bread that were braided in circles. Everyone got a small piece of the bread. Then, water was splashed on the ground, and the couple walked over it. We then drove to Chisinau for the church ceremony.
The church ceremony was held at a gorgeous church. Unlike in the United States, the church ceremony is very small and rather short. Only the nasi, the wedding party, the immediate family members of the bride (parents and younger brother), and immediate family members of the nasi were present. There were maybe 15 people at most. The church ceremony was led by a priest. My Romanian is still rather limited, so I’m not really sure what was said during the ceremony. Both the bride and the groom are “crowned” at one point in the ceremony, but I don’t know the significance of this. At the end of the service, the priest, the nasi, and the bride and groom circle around a small altar, then exit the church.
The church ceremony was followed by professional photos both at the church and at a nearby botanical park. Again, I was included in the photos at the park. This took a couple (few?) hours. We then headed to the main wedding ceremony at a restaurant in Ialoveni to start setting things up.
The wedding venue was gorgeous and very modern. I waited with the wedding party and bride and groom until the actual celebration started around 7 PM. Guests arrive in pre-determined waves. First, the wedding party (who were actually already there) “arrives” around 6:30. The bride and groom stood on a small stage. Each guest greets the bride and groom (kiss on each cheek and a handshake), and gives them a gift. I went up first with the wedding party (I just did as I was told!), and again later. Then, around 7:00, the groom’s guests arrive. They wait outside until the announcer announces their arrival. There was music, and the groom’s parents were the first to enter. These guests each greeted the bride and groom and then helped themselves to a fruit buffet. About 20 minutes later, the bride’s guests arrived. They also waited outside until the announcer welcomed them in, accompanied by the same music, then greeted the bride and groom. The nasi get to invite their own guests in addition to the guests of the bride and groom. Their guests, along with the nasi themselves, arrived about 20 minutes after the bride’s guests. As my host parents were the nasi, I re-entered the venue with them. They had brought flowers for me to bring up. Finally, all the guests had arrived, and the celebration could begin (but not until more photos were taken!).
I would love to share all of the traditions, but there were so many, that I’m sure I will leave some out. The order might also be wrong, as the wedding was very long and therefore it’s a bit hard to remember what order things happened in. There was some dancing, and then the first “masa” (special meal) was served. The food was pretty good- there were grilled veggies and meat, bread, salad, and other dishes, as well as champagne, vodka, and whiskey at each table. The “shot” glasses were like mini wine glasses, with stems.
Throughout the rest of the night, there was another meal, many toasts and speeches, and lots of dancing. About 75% of the dancing was the traditional Moldovan dance, the hora. There were traditional dancers there that performed several times. At some point in the night (or morning!), the bride and groom did their “special” dance. This seems to carry the same significance as the “first dance” in the U.S., but didn’t occur at the beginning. This was a choreographed, beautiful dance. There was even steam and special lighting for effect.
Like in the U.S., there was a bouquet toss. As far as I could tell, it has the same significance. There were only about 7 unmarried young women present (including me) to participate. Thankfully, I did not catch the bouquet. Another tradition, that I really liked, was the transferring of the veil. Towards the end of the wedding, the bride’s veil is removed. The veil is then placed on the head of the next woman present that is going to get married. That woman, along with her future husband, then have their own dance. After the dance, the veil is returned and put carefully away.
Various traditions were also scattered throughout. Towards the end of the evening the bride and groom were presented with their gifts. As I mentioned before, the nasi are very important during the ceremony. They are also expected to give certain gifts, including a significant amount of money (I read online that they are expected to give the equivalent of 1 to 2 years worth of salary, but don’t know how accurate that is). They presented their gifts first, taking each gift out and “using” it. There was a brush for the bride and a comb for the groom. There were a number of blankets, which were piled on the bride and groom, as well as linens, tablecloths, and other things. The bride’s head was covered with a sort of bonnet, and a fancy apron was put on her as well. After the nasi had presented their gifts, the parents of both the bride and groom and some other guests also presented their gifts, piling on more and more blankets to the point where they wouldn’t actually stay up.
Cake was served at the very end of the celebration. Once the cake was eaten, there was another song or two, and then we headed out. It was about 4:30 in the morning when we left. A rutiera (bus) had been hired to take many of us, including the bride and groom, back to Costesti. Everyone was taken to the end of the road that I live on. When we got to the end of the road, we got off the bus. It was about 5:00 AM then, and the sky was already pretty light. A couple of people met us at the end of the road with a wheelbarrow piled with straw and topped with a blanket. The nasi (my host parents) were told to get on, and were then quickly transported in the wheelbarrow to our gate and right up to the house! It was one of my favorite parts of the night! The bride and groom, and several other family members, gathered at our house to celebrate some more. I can’t tell you what happened, because I needed to be at class at 8:30 and went to sleep to catch about 2 hours of sleep. Everyone had either left or was sleeping when I headed off to school at 8:15.
My first Moldovan wedding was quite the experience! It was a bit overwhelming, mostly because I don’t know much Romanian yet, but it was also a great thing to experience! I was so glad to experience this so soon after arriving here!