Each culture has its own set of wedding traditions, and Croatian weddings are no exception. Nestled across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Croatia is a country with ancient architecture, history, and traditions to match. Brimming with castles and forts, beaches and natural parks, Byzantine art and ancient cathedrals, Croatia is a unique place to visit.
You may just fall in love with the culture and sights enough to make it your own wedding destination. Filled with symbolism and interactive traditions from start to finish a Croatian wedding makes for an entertaining and fun-filled wedding event.
Instead of a diamond ring, the man will offer an Obiljezje, as a mark of their engagement. Typically, the Obiljezje is a piece of fruit such as an apple with coins pressed into it. If the lady accepts the fruit, this is a symbol of their engagement.
It is a very old tradition, that you will not see in other countries.
Time to buy… the bride!
On the day of the wedding the groom does not set out straight for the church—instead, he heads to his bride’s parents’ house to participate in a game where he essentially barters for his bride. The groom normally shows up to this event with an ensemble of musicians or other groomsmen who will help him act out his love, complete with singing and overall showboating in an effort to win the affection of the bride and her parents’ approval. Decoy brides are often offered up to test his love and devotion, such as a grandmother in a veil. Sometimes the groom displays his worthiness by performing various physical acts such as lifting heavy objects or doing push-ups. The groom will offer amounts of money to the family in exchange for the bride, usually rejected by them because money is rarely the objective in this scenario. In the end, all the groom has to do is profess his undying love and commitment to the bride and her family will give her away to him.
To the church!
Once the bride has been “sold” to the groom, both families head to the church for the ceremony. During this trip, one person is dedicated to carrying the Croatian flag, and they are called the Barjaktar. They wave the flag around for the entire procession from the bride’s house to the church, whooping and shouting to hype up the wedding party as they go. Think rowdy frat boy mixed with a traditional best man for this role, and you have a classic Barjaktar.
Rosemary & Donations
When guests arrive at the reception they are given little bundles of rosemary wrapped in ribbon, typically in the colors of the Croatian flag. Each guests is expected to pin this on their side, and offer a donation in exchange. Sometimes the donations basket will be passed around during the reception while the bride and groom play games. This is a great way to gather newlywed money for the couple, and also to involve guests in the wedding traditions.
Activities at the reception
At the reception, the bride and groom participate in various light-hearted activities. In order to determine who will be the boss of the house, the bride and groom compete in various activities such as trying to step on each other’s foot first, or even racing to the church doors at the end of the ceremony. The first to accomplish either of these is predicted to be the boss of the house after they move into their new home together.
Although less of a modern tradition, Croatian weddings are filled with singing and dancing, and back in the day circle-dancing called kolo was quite common. Often during the singing or dancing portion of the evening, the donations basket from when guests arrived is passed around again to collect further donations.
The bride will toss her bouquet into a crowd of the single female guests at the wedding, and the gal to catch the flowers is predicted to be the next one to marry. Similarly, the groom will toss the bride garter to the single gents at the wedding party and the man to catch it is also predicted to be the next to wed. How does the garter get into the groom’s possession? He usually makes a show of removing it from the bride’s leg in front of all of the guests, either with his hands or his teeth. Traditional Croatian wedding activities all have a romantic and playful vibe, and this is clearly one of them!
During the whole wedding event there are many opportunities to consume alcohol. During the pre-wedding event where the groom buys the bride, he often will share some of his own homemade rakija, which is a Croatian alcoholic beverage. At the reception, guests are offered shots of alcohol, usually schnapps, by the master of ceremonies. His role is also similar to that of a best man, and being the Master of Ceremonies is a great honour. The schnapps that is passed around is wrapped in a custom-made towel, which is given to the Master of Ceremonies after the wedding as a token of the newlyweds’ esteem. Before the bride and groom enter their home as a married couple for the first time, the bride chucks something over their roof for good luck, and a glass of rakija is often the flying object of choice. If the object that the bride tosses over the roof rolls back to them, it is said to bring bad luck to the couple. Once the couple enters their home for the first time, they take a celebratory shot (of course!).
Overall, Croatian weddings are steeped in long held traditions that highlight the commitment of the two individuals and celebrate their love for one another. Croatian weddings are filled with celebratory drinks and laughter to help build long lasting relationships between not only the bride and groom but their families as well. Regardless, whether you are visiting Croatia for the first time to attend a destination wedding or returning home for a family member’s wedding, you can expect a wedding event brimming with unique and fun-loving traditions.
All photos were made by wonderful couple from Croatia Goran & Snježana. They are owners of Labirint studio and more photos you can find here Labirint studio