A Slovakian wedding looks very similar to wedding in other countries these days. However, Slovaks take pride in preserving many wedding rituals and traditions rooted deeply in their culture and history.
Last summer, the region where my dad comes from, Hrinova, held a an festival, which included a reenactment of a traditional Slovak wedding. The spectators had the opportunity to see and enjoy a traditional Slovakian wedding with real, hand-crafted costumes and live music.
A Slovakian wedding typically starts with live music in front of the groom’s parents house. Here is where all of the groom’s wedding party usually gathers.
The entire wedding party wears traditional colorful hand-made and hand-embroidered folk costumes.
The old tradition is that the bride is getting ready at her parents’ home while the groom is getting ready at his parents’ home.
A wedding in Slovakia officially starts with the groom receiving a blessing from his parents..
The groom’s speaker, typically his godfather, or an uncle, then walks with the groom and his side of the family in a procession to the brides home. That is where the speaker on behalf of the groom officially asks the bride’s parents for her hand.
The procession starts in the groom’s house and ends in the bride’s home. Sometimes it can be a along walk to get from one place to another.
After the groom’s party arrives to the bride’s house, there is typically a short ritual that sees the groomsmen bringing up several girls to the groom to see. They’re all wrong ones, until, of course, the last one that comes is the bride . This is when the groom gets to see his bride for the first time since the beginning of the wedding ceremony.
Bride’s family is already waiting at her house for the arrival of the groom’s party. Everybody meets in front of the house and is welcomed with drinks and sweets and the music playing in the background.
The bridesmaids – unmarried women – typically show off their hair with colorful ribbons. The married women must keep their hair covered. The woman in the front with the most sophisticated headdress is the bride.
At this point, the groom’s speaker officially asks for the bride’s hand and the engaged couple receives blessing from their parents. The bride kneels to thank her parents for taking care of her during all of her young life. Her parents then hand the responsibility over to the soon to be her husband.
After the parents blessings the wedding couple and the guests move to church.
After the official wedding ceremony all guests line up outside of the church to congratulate the married couple.
Slovakia has a fun tradition of wedding moderators who act as the official programmers during the wedding, providing both instructions and entertainment to the guests. The moderators are often dressed in traditional folk costumes and are involved with greeting the guests, orchestrating the ceremony, and letting the couple know when it is time to cut the cake and throw the flower bouquet.
After the congratulations, the wedding party moves to the party venue. The wedding guests group around the entrance, with the bride and the groom in the front, where everyone is greeted by the official of the venue.
The tradition at this stage is that one of the guests volunteers to break a plate into pieces. The newlyweds then have to sweep up together. This symbolizes their cooperation and working together as a couple.
The bride has to be extra careful as she has to get all of the broken pieces. The pieces she misses represent children that the groom will have outside of the marriage :(.
Also the tradition is that the male members of both families try to kick the pieces around since they want the groom to have fun (hmm, maybe not too funny, is it?). After this the bride is carried into the party hall by her husband.
Traditional Wedding Dinner
Slovak traditional wedding dinner starts with live music, a welcome speech and a toast given by the groom’s speaker. The couple then has to give each other a kiss. The dinner usually includes all the wine and beer you can drink along with endless fill-ups of your shot glass with the local, home-distilled plum vodka so called slivovica.
The meal usually begins with a bowl of chicken noodle soup. All meals in Slovakia typically begin with a bowl of soup, even special events such as birthdays and weddings.
Then usually chicken is served with potatoes and vegetables.
And finally a dessert. Lots of deserts!
Each course is liberally sprinkled with more wine and beer . Guests shot glass is kept full of the delicious and deadly vodka or slivovica all night long. At some point you might consider tricking locals and putting water in it to keep yourself alive. :)
Once in a while during the diner guests pick up their forks and spoons and start making a noice with prompts the newlyweds for another kiss.
Midnight ceremony in a wedding in Slovakia
There are some other old tradition in a wedding in Slovakia which people have managed to preserve and still enjoy up to these days. For example, during a wedding ceremony and also the feast afterwards the bride is wearing a delicate green wreath on her hair as a symbol of her purity and virginity. Becoming a new wife, just after the midnight, she replaces her the wreath with a beautiful hand-made handkerchief-like hat. The hat symbolizes that the young girl/bride is becoming a woman. There is a great ceremony where women sing songs while taking the green wreath off the bride’s head while men are drinking or just watching.
After the veil is off, the groom’s takes off his buttonhole and the bride has to stand on it, which symbolizes the groom’s faithfulness.
The bridal dance then follows. Every guest takes a turn to dance with the newlyweds. Dancers encircle the newlyweds. The tradition is that guests pay for this dance. This money is usually collected by the eldest aunt or uncle into a covered bowl.
After the bridal dance the bride usually gets changed into something red, which means that she is a new wife from now on. And the party carries on till early morning.
In some regions a small group of groom’s friends might kidnap the bride while the groom is not watching and he then has to go look for her.
Wedding Conclusion Rituals
A typical wedding in Slovakia ends around 2 o’clock in the morning After all of the dancing, toasting, singing and eating the guests start leaving the party around midnight. They usually receive a bottle of vodka or slivovica and a gift box filled with wedding cake, pastries and deserts. The younger guests typically continue partying till the sunrise or even longer .