Thursday, March 6, 2014

Slovak Wedding

So let me tell you about the Slovak wedding that I attended. It was the wedding of an old and dear friend, known on this blog as Elizabeth Bennett. Slovak weddings are rather different from ours, so sometimes I didn't know quite what was going on, but here's what I picked up:

The wedding was in an old church in Raca, the part of Bratislava where Elizabeth Bennett is from. I think that the original church was built there in the 1400s or so, but rebuilt after a fire in the late 1800s. We had translations of the readings and the vows, but not much else (their vows were exactly like our vows!). After the wedding, there was a chance for the many people who attended the mass, but wouldn't be attending the party that evening, to greet the bride and groom and give them flowers. After that, when we were standing in the courtyard, the best man brought around shots and the maid of honor brought around cakes. Because the wedding party didn't start until 8 p.m. (the mass was at 2:30), many people were dressed very casually for the wedding and the cold weather. Other people were dressed in long formal gowns with their hair up, so there was quite a range.

After visiting outside the wedding for a while, we met up with old friends at a coffee shop down the road. The great thing about this coffee shop--and there are several in Bratislava like it--is that there is a playroom for kids adjacent to where their parents can drink coffee or tea. So nice and comfortable for parents of little kids (like the family we were staying with).

At the wedding party itself, we arrived to traditional Slovak music and dancing, played by an appropriately dressed band. The only song I knew was the Levoca song, which ends tragically (which is normal for Slovak folk songs) with the woman throwing herself in the river, as far as I remember. And then there was a more contemporary band with more contemporary dancing.

There was a buffet of food that you could eat at any point (and food was necessary, as the wedding ended and Elizabeth Bennett and her new husband left at 5 a.m.--Francisco and I only made it to 1:30, due to the jet lag). The buffet was mostly contemporary food, but also had the traditional Slovak food (my favorite!) Bryndzove halusky--potato dumplings topped with Slovak sheep's milk cheese and bacon.

Since the wedding went for so long, there were also party games: For instance the unmarried men did a dance where they took turns dancing around stacked bottles; whenever you knocked some over, you took a shot. Another was like musical chairs with hats: There were one too few hats that got passed from head to head in rhythm with the music. If the music stopped and you (just the men were playing) had no hat, you took a shot and were out.

Around midnight there was a little ceremony--the bride and groom changed from their contemporary wedding outfits to the traditional outfits of the towns they are from. The lights were turned out and maybe 10 young women carrying candles and singing escorted them to their seats in the center of the room. Bennett's brother came out with a sword and asked whether she would rather give up the crown of leaves on her head (her virginity, right?) or would rather have him cut her throat with the sword. Twice she responded that she would rather have her head cut off than give up the crown of leaves. The third time he asked, she agreed to give it up. The young women blew out their candles and then her mother put a headscarf on her, the traditional head-ware of a married woman.

And then men lifted the couple up into the air on their chairs, and they intertwined their arms and took a drink.

The last thing we stayed for is a special dance (known by one of my Slovak friends as "the fundraising dance") where guests put money into a basket in order to dance with the bride and/or groom (in this wedding, the bride danced with everyone). And then we caved in and went to sleep. But I think that the rest of the wedding was mostly dancing till dawn.

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