Tag Archives: Serbia

Friends Get Married

I’ve hit that age when everyone you know starts getting married. Some even start having (gasp!) babies! In the last year alone I’ve been to weddings in Serbia, the U.S., Germany, and Paraguay (oh, and there was that time I met my BFF’s baby in the Bahamas.) It’s expensive to keep up with so many friends and their love lives, but it’s also so much fun!

Every country has their traditions – some of them seem weird (actually, no, they ARE weird, but let’s not debate semantics here) but they are all equally as crucial for the couple getting married and for the guests in attendance. Here is a list of some of the things I found to be the strangest, or most unique, in the “foreign weddings” I attended this year:

SERBIA

Vladi and Ive

Vladi and Iva

  • The first wedding is in a church (pretty standard) and not all wedding guests are invited to attend – this is usually a small, intimate ceremony that lasts about half an hour – the couple must accept congratulations and smile and pose with every guest who came to the church for the photographer
  • When you walk outside the church, there are local gypsy brass bands that come up to the wedding party and play music – their music becomes more insistent the longer they play, often putting the horn of the instrument directly in your ear and playing at full volume until you give them some cash (at this particular wedding the best man also brought the gypsy band to the party, much to the delight of all the guests) – keep in mind, these guys can pull in thousands of dollars a night for a big wedding
  • When you arrive to the reception, the couple once again stands outside and poses with every. single. guest. (in this case about 350 people) Only after every guest had their photo op does the party begin.
  • Lots and lots of different cakes.
  • Oh, and the photographers have printers on hand and walk around the party distributing photos that guests can buy on the spot (this is not so much weird as awesome!)
Brass Band

Gypsy Brass Band

GERMANY

(This was a mixed wedding: half East German half Northern England, i.e. Geordie)

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Ali and Neil

  • Straight from leaving the church the friends of the bride and groom hold up an old bedsheet which has a giant heart drawn in the middle, and the name of the bride and groom inside of that. The bride and groom are each given a pair of tiny scissors and they must work together to cut the heart shape out. Once complete, the groom then carries the bride through the opening they’ve created in the sheet.374396_10152077898159278_1848781778_n
  • German tradition is that as the first true test of marriage, the newly wedded couple must work together as a team to saw apart a foot in diameter log using an old school, massive saw. The first marital row, if you will, ensues.995734_10152077899664278_1485770867_n
  • This might just be East German, not totally sure, but the bride and groom are each given two giant loaves of bread – they must create a pair of shoes from this bread. The first one to walk across the stage (or room) in their new shoes wins!
  • Each guest is given a balloon filled with helium and a postcard pre-addressed to the bride and groom. Each guest writes a message to the couple and ties the postcard to the balloon. Everyone releases the balloons at the same time (great photo op!) Once the balloon finally lands (wherever that may be) it’s up to any random stranger passing by who finds it to mail it back to the couple. (Strangely, our postcard made it back to Ali and Neil from the Czech Republic!)

PARAGUAY

(This was a mixed wedding half Paraguayan half Colombian – so the traditions may be a bit mixed up – at least in my mind)

Nati and Luis

Nati and Luis

  • There is a traditional Paraguayan dance at the beginning of the reception and every guest must dance for a few minutes with the bride and groom (men with the bride, women with the groom) and smile for a photo op!
  • Ligas – this took me a while to understand! The bride has about 20 garters under her dress (one garter for each single woman at the wedding). One garter is special (i.e. a different color) and the rest are traditional white. The bride sits opposite the single women (one at a time) and they each lift their right leg and touch the souls of the shoes. The groom then takes one garter from the bride’s leg and must slide it across their legs and feet and up the thigh of the single lady. His “last chance to touch another woman” if you will! The woman who gets the colorful garter is the next to marry. Ligas in Paraguay
  • Masks/hats/whistles/glow sticks/silly string, etc – Boxes of costume-like hats and whistles, (see list above) are distributed to guests to liven things up. I have to admit, this makes the party a hell of a lot more fun!
  • Whiskey – easy as that, the drink of choice for the night is whiskey, the nicer the better
  • For the Colombian tradition that stood out most, aside from sharing a bottle of whatever they were passing around, is some dance where a woman lies on the floor (or I suppose it could also be a man?) and all the party guests dance feverishly over her. (See example of Mapale here.)

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As I continue to grow my international network of friends, I will continue to observe the oddities of culture, which are never more openly displayed than in time-honored traditions such as weddings!

A Bridge to Belgrade

Post adapted from April, 2011:

Okay, so there was no real bridge crossing to enter Belgrade, though as I learned in my few days in the city, there most certainly is a lack of bridges from one part of the city to the other. It might be the only complaint I heard while there, that there are just not enough bridges, and the ones that are open don’t have enough lanes for all the traffic that attempts to flow through them.

Belgrade was a bridge of different sorts for me. It was a bridge to A’s childhood. A bridge to his family and friends, a bridge to a language and culture I know nothing about, and a history so foreign from my own.

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, all of the differences, it was without a doubt one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. For all that is different about it, and for all that I learned and experienced being there in the comforts of a local, I am excited to plan the next visit back.

I arrived on Friday night to rainy weather, which pretty much stayed with us throughout the weekend, (but gave us slight hope every so often with breakthrough bursts of sunshine.) We went over to his cousin’s place, drank some of the wine his father makes at home, and headed to a club with a live band. I recognized most of the music, who doesn’t recognize American 80’s, and enjoyed the 35 Euro champagne we had delivered to our table until the smokey bar became too much, and the realization that I had a hair appointment bright and early in the morning and it was well after 2 sunk in.

The next day I was pampered by A’s hairdresser, who was terrified I had cut my skull in the bike accident I’d had just a week earlier, but who I had A calmly explain to was just a bad dye job from the day before, where for some reason they couldn’t figure out how to wash the red dye OUT of my hair before sending me on my way. A hundred curls and a couple hours later and we were on our way to the wedding! Stylishly 30 minutes late. (ouch)

The ceremony was completely different from any I’ve seen before. It was in a small Orthodox chapel and the bride and groom were surrounded on both sides of the room by family and friends, all standing. They were in the middle and performed rituals I didn’t quite understand, but that involved wearing a crown and walking in a circle three times with the priest in front and smoke (incense?) in hand the room.

At the Ceremony

Then once the Bride and Groom were pronounced, and every guest visiting had the opportunity for individual photos with the B&G you stepped outside to a beautiful courtyard where there was a live band! Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement, as I later learned, since it was a gypsy band that would play as loud as they could and would stand directly in front of whoever looked like they might have some change to spare and blow their trumpet into your face until you gave in with a couple of rolled up bills, (having never seen this before, I still thought it was pretty cool!) We then headed off to the reception which was in a completely separate part of the city where we awaited the B&G with cocktails in hand and hor d’ourves.

Me and My Main Squeeze 🙂

The party lasted late into the night, with the Best Man pleading for another round at a club to follow. Of course as we were about to head out, it became evident that all the Best Man, (and any of us) needed was a comfy bed to spend the night…and probably a few less drinks than we had already had.

The wedding was just a part of the weekend, albeit a big one. But also included was the Serbian Open where A, his dad, and I watched national-hero Djokovic win gold, and a trip to a nearby bakery where we had delicious desserts with his mom.

Even though he was being a total diva, I guess he deserves to win in the stadium named after him!

I left this whirlwind weekend behind with thoughts and dreams of returning to get to the know the city and A’s family better one day. And until we returned a month and a half ago, just dreams they were.