Modern weddings can take so many forms. For the first generation Canadian Romanian families they often continued the old-world traditions practiced by their forefathers.
Making a Match
Friends or relatives of the prospective groom (petitori) or "matchmakers" visit the parents of the prospective bride to ask for her hand. Sometimes, in the early days, the bride and groom had not even met! The decision was made by the parents on the basis of family status, the groom's "means", the bride's dowery, etc.. If the bride's parents were in agreement arrangements were made for a meeting of both parents, the bride and groom to make wedding arrangements.
Invitations by Horseback
Paper invitations were not sent out, rather the groomsmen "vatajei" went out on decorated horses, first to the horne of the Best Man and Matron of Honor (in olden days it was almost always a married couple) and then to the homes of other guests to invite them personally. They had a bottle of wine or other liquor with them and recited special verses of "invitation" on behalf of the bride, groom and their parents. Incidentally, proper weddings always took place on Sundays, usually after the morning church service. Even in 1947, when we got married it was on Sunday!
The Wedding Day (Day One)
On the morning of the wedding the bridesmaids, friends, relatives of the bride and her parents met at the bride's home. At the same time groomsmen met at the groom's home to fetch the groom. They helped dress him and then came with him in procession to the Bride's home. Music was always present, there was recitation of special verses, and generally just "whooping it up".
At the bride's parents home the bridesmaids helped dress the bride. The Maid of Honour put the veil and coronet on the bride. During this time the elder ladies or grandmothers of the Bride and Groom sang special sad songs to the bride reminding her that she was leaving her home and her "youth" in an effort to make her cry!
My dear young girl I do not know where we are giving you to. To water or to fire, to bad situation or good luck.
Be happy dear one because you are getting a peacock, handsome and loveable. Look after him, look after him well and he should look after you.
And from now you should have many years with happiness, and many years with good health.
[The bride is asked to say goodbye to her parents] Say your goodbyes to your father, to your mother to your brothers and your sisters.
From the garden with flowers and basil (your childhood) and from the young boys of the dance you leave.
The wedding party then brought the groom and bride to kneel before both sets of parents where both the bride and groom asked their parents for forgiveness of the errors they made as children and for their blessing on this wedding. During this ritual there was always sad music being played by two or three instrumentalists playing violin, cymbala and drums.
Once the veiling and "forgiveness" ceremony was over the musicians switched to lively music. The bride was then seated on a chair which the groomsmen hoisted up into the air three times as they danced to the music. The joyous bridal procession then left the house. When the bride walked out the door, her grandparents or parents held "colaci" (braided bread) and salt above her head as a symbol of good luck and plenty.
The procession made it's way to the church. The musicians followed the wedding procession to the church and played again when the young couple came out after the religious ceremony.
The orthodox wedding ceremony is very symbolic and ritualistic. The Best Man and Matron of honour carried long decorated candles which were lit by the priest at the ceremonial table. They "helped" with the crowning, the putting on of the rings, went around the table with the young couple and helped with the removing of the crowns after the encircling.
After the ceremony everyone proceeded to the place of celebration. This was usually the home of the groom's parents. In Saskatchewan it might have been the hayloft of a large barn, a granary that had been cleaned out for that purpose or in later years, a large tent. In the city it would have been a hall.
The Wedding Dinner
"Colaci" and the candles that had been carried by the Best Man and Matron of Honor (Nasi) were used to center the Head Table. When the young couple and their attendants entered the site everyone stood up and the musicians who preceeded them played a special tune as they walked to take their places behind the Head Table. Usually the head table consisted of the Bridegroom and Bride, their "Nasi", both sets of parents, the God-parents of the young couple at their baptism, the priest who performed the ceremony and his wife (if there was one). The groomsmen and bridesmaids if there was room and, if not, at another table.
The musicians played all through the dinner, during the different "ceremonies" that went on, and on late into the night for the dancing, etc.
After dinner, the cooks, or someone picked out for the task, came out to do the Dance of the Chickens which preceeded the collecting of the wedding gifts. The dancers were dressed in traditional Romanian costume and danced and sang while carrying decorated platters displaying roasted chickens with the head still attached with a cigarette dangling from their beaks. The platters were placed at the head table in front of the Best Man and Matron of Honour. The chickens were then "sold" to the Best Man and Matron of Honour who showed their pride of being the special attendants by the amount of money they offered which would go to the bride and groom as a gift.
Certain men were delegated to do the collecting of the gifts. They were given towels which they wore over their shoulders to indicate that they were chosen for the "job". Usually they worked in pairs, one who carried a plate with the "sweet glass" (pahar dulce) and a bottle of wine and the other who took the gifts and brought them to the Bride and Groom. The gifts were usually monetary and they would announce the amount as they received them. (this helped to have the gift givers give more - to keep up or surpass the previous giver) The sweet glass was offered to the guests as a toast from the young couple, and the server recited certain verses while doing this. Read more in the article Good Evening, Honourable Guests!
The gift collecting started at the Head Table with the Best Man and Matron of Honour, then the parents of the young couple, Godparents, if present, and then on to the relatives, and other guests. In the country, and particularily if the couple was going to live on the farm, the gifts may have been a calf, chickens, ducks, or other animals that would help them get started. In this case the gifts were just announced and the young couple would pick them up at their leisure.
After the dinner and gift collecting was done, there was the procedure of taking the bride and groom "out from behind the Head Table". The musicians played a special "Hora" or "Sirba" and everyone joined hands and took them out "dancing" into a big circle. The dancing circle continued until the musicians decided to give everyone a rest!
During the evening there was a "Brides Dance" when the Matron of Honor was seated in the middle of the hall holding a large bowl. Friends and relatives put cash into the bowl to pay for the right to dance with the bride. This was always quite fun as little rivalries arose by the length of time one dancer was allowed to dance with the bride by the next person who "tapped" them for their own turn.
The Days Following the Wedding (Day Two+)
Romanian Weddings were known for taking three days! There was usually celebration the second day for sure. If there were friends and relatives coming from a distance it could well have carried on for one or two more!
On the second day the married couple returned. The bride still wore her wedding dress although there were no rituals to perform when dressing this time. The celebration with music, dancing and eating resumed. This time all of the work to serve the guests is performed by the bridal party. The people who did the work on the wedding day got to rest and enjoy being served.
Holding an event like this in the early days was a large task especially out in the country. Without running water there was water to haul for cooking and cleaning. Without a water heater there was endless boiling of water. Without electricity endless fires needed to be tended in stoves and ovens and lighting with candles and lanterns had to be maintained during the evening. Food and drink needed to be served and the washing of plates and glasses would have been nearly endless. Especially in a small town the list of invited guests would have been extensive to include, in addition to family, people of the town as well as the surrounding area - hundreds in some cases.