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Weddings in Bulgaria

Many engagements and weddings in Bulgaria today still practise traditions handed down from generations and 500 year old ancient customs. Traditional weddings in Bulgaria in the past required the consent of the Bride to be so the groom would send his closest friend to his intended’s home to ask her father for his blessing. The father would ask his daughter three times if she wants to marry, and when she replies yes on every occassion she is considered pre-engaged and the groom will receive an invite to the house.

The engagement


The official engagement can be on a vacation or on a Sunday where relatives and locals are invited to a small feast. It is during this gathering that the features of the marriage are approved.  An agreement during the engagement is considered legal and binding. The engagement can last from one day on to a year depending on town customs.
In the past there were a lot of rituals involved in the parties before the marriage ceremony.   Today similar practises to those of western cultures are held prior to the wedding parties. The bride to be and the groom both have parties to bid fairwell to their unmarried lifestyle.

Pre-wedding rituals

Most weddings in Bulgaria took place on Sunday. The Thursday before the ceremony the bride’s mother makes prepares the bread (pitka)  the rising of the bread symbolizes the creation of the a new family unit.

During the same time the best man will make the wedding banner. There are a lot of rituals    connected when making the wedding banner. The post needs to be from a fruit-bearing tree and the 6-foot-long pole must be chopped from the tree by way of a single ax stroke. An apple or an onion covered in foil is pierced onto the top of the pole, along with a hand-woven kerchief is attached to the pole along with colourful ribbons, ivy, and strings of popcorn.

Early on the morning of the wedding, the groom’s friends and family gather at his home. His friends empty barley over him and shoot rifles into the air to ward off any evil spirits. This is where the bridegroom bids farewell to his parents and asks for their blessing. There is then a parade to the best man’s home. The procession is happy with much dancing, musical and singing. The bridegroom gives wine and meat as gifts to his best man and from that aim best man s law where the wedding plans are concerned. The best woman (often the greatest man’s wife) and the best man then lead the procession to the bride-to-be’s home where they present the new bride with wine, the veil, candles and baked candies.
On the big day they leave the bride’s home and it is very noisy with drums beating, fireworks and a lot of joy and cheer.

The best woman attempts to place the bride’s veil on 3 times; 2 times the bride rejects the veil and solely accepts it in the third attempt. At long last the bride and groom are led outside, each of them holding an end of a long woven cloth where more rituals are performed to keep bad spirits away from.  Then the soon-to-be bride throws a dish filled with wheat, coins as well as a raw egg over her head. If the dish smashes into lots of pieces it is considered good luck.
The procession from the bride-to-be’s house to the church is loud and cheerful. Fireworks are often package off, there is the beating of drums, and the procession frequently stops to dance. However, it is considered bad luck for a couple of unmarried brides-to-be to meet face-to-face, therefore a couple of bridal processions are winding through the highways they take great care not to meet each other. During the proccession the bride to be friends and realations will make sure they do not meet with another wedding as the meeting of two unmarried brides is considered bad luck.  

The marriage ceremony rituals

It is considered good luck for the bride and the bridegroom to set foot into the church with their right foot first. The wedding itself is usually very short, but interspersed with folk tracks. At the end of the ceremony the bride and groom exchange rings and the traditional wedding kiss. The formal wedding papers are signed. Followed by another wedding custom known as the stepping.Who steps first on the others foot will guide and provide for the family.

The reception

In days past there might be a loud and boisterous wedding procession to the groom’s house for the wedding reception. In modern day the reception of weddings in Bulgaria are normally held in a restaurant. The groom ‘s mother meets with the new family and she lays a long, white hand-woven cloth in the doorway of the newly-married couple to enter on and she throws flowers in their route as a mark of health, joy and purity in their new married life. The groom’s mother feeds the newlyweds a honeyed cake and wine and wishes them a long and happy life together. She then holds a loaf of fresh baked bread above her head and invites the couple to each take one end of it; whichever one has the bigger piece could has the largest role in the new family.

And then, as with numerous other Bulgarian celebrations, the singing and the dancing starts. Dancing is a big part of weddings in Bulgaria and the wedding reception ritual. In some areas of the country it is customary for the bride and bridegroom to dance to get their wedding cake.


Weddings in Bulgaria for foreigners


Here we list the general legal requirements and documents compulsory for civil weddings in Bulgaria needed by both parties for foreigners choosing to wed here.

At least 30 days prior to the wedding date a request is placed at the local town hall where either the future bride or groom lives permanently.  Both have to be present with identity cards when requesting the application.  

Evidence of identity

Certificates to confirm that each individual is free to marry
Health certificates valid for a thirty day period from the issue are given following a standard pre-marital health check-up including a bloodstream test and can be done at any medical facility in Bulgaria

The following additional documents might be required:

If under 18 years of age, a permit from the entire regional courtroom
If either party has previously been married the final divorce decree or a death certification of the previous partner if widowed

The Ceremony

What to expect from all the marriage ceremony in Bulgaria...
On the day of the wedding, the couple should present themselves at the civil wedding hall with their two witnesses 10 mins prior to the appointed time. As a whole nowadays, weddings take place any day of the week.

The documentation needed at the ceremony

Proof of identity of the future spouses and their witnesses
Receipts for the payment of the ceremony, photography, video and music
Wedding rings which in Bulgaria are worn on the right hand
2 custom glasses and a bottle of champagne are part of the celebration

During the ceremony the official performing the service will ask both parties if they agree to marry, and check there are no problems. When “Yes” is confirmed, rings exchanged and a kiss, the documents are signed by the official, the couple and the witnesses. Newleyweds also state whether they keep their family name or take the new family name of their partner.

The couple get an official copy of the marriage certificate, and the first copy is kept at the town hall registires. The whole event takes about 15 minutes, then the guests pass on good wishes to the newly weds and leave to celebrate with friends and family. For more details about weddings in Bulgaria see Traditional Courtships and Wedding Tourism.