Old Bulgarian Wedding Customs

Women in traditional costumes
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Most weddings in Bulgaria took place on Sunday. The Thursday before, the bride’s mother performed the ritual kneading of the Pitka bread. The rising of the dough symbolized the creation of a new family unit.

The best man was busy making the wedding banner. The six-foot-tall pole had to be from a fruit-bearing tree and beveled with one stroke of an ax. An apple or an onion wrapped in decorative foil was impaled on the top of the pole, which was decorated with a hand-woven scarf, brightly colored ribbons, ivy, and strings of popcorn.

Bulgarian Wedding Day

Early on the morning of the wedding, the groom’s family and friends sprinkled him with barley for luck, and rifles were fired into the air to ward off evil spirits. The groom asked for his parents' blessing before departing. Then, a joyful march with singing and dancing proceeded to the best man’s home where he was presented with wine by the groom. The maid of honor and best man then led the procession to the bride’s house where they presented her with wine, the bridal veil, candles, and candies.

Bulgarian Wedding Shenanigans

Amidst the frolicking, the bride was locked in a room and only the maid of honor could gain entrance until the groom and best man bargained to be let in. The maid of honor then tried to put the bride’s veil on three times. Twice she rejected it and only accepted on the third try. Finally, the bride and groom were led outside, each holding the end of a long woven cloth where more rituals were performed to keep evil spirits away. Then the bride threw a dish filled with wheat, coins and a raw egg over her head. The more pieces the dish smashed into, the more luck the couple would have.

Bulgarian Wedding Ceremony

It was considered good luck for the bride and the groom to step into the church with their right foot first. At the end of the ceremony, the couple exchanged rings and a kiss. Then came the custom of "stepping." Whoever managed to step on the other's foot first would dominate in the marriage.

Bulgarian Wedding Reception

In the old days, the reception would take place at the groom's home. In more modern times, it takes place at a catering hall or restaurant where the groom's mother lays a long, white handwoven cloth at the door for the new couple to walk on as she strews flowers in their path to ensure health and happiness. She feeds the newlyweds a honey cake and wine with more wishes for a long, sweet life. She then holds a loaf of bread over her head and invites them to each pull one end of it. Whoever gets the bigger piece will dominate, similar to the "stepping" custom. Then, the feasting, dancing, and drinking begin in earnest.