Weddings in Slovakia often are still organized according to old traditions. A lot of traditional wedding rituals and ceremonies are performed by the bride and groom, their parents, the wedding party, etc. But, of course, Slovak couples also incorporate some modern activities on their big day celebration. Let’s look at various authentic and contemporary activities performed in Slovakia on the wedding day. How many old rituals survived to this day? What modern wedding activities do they have? What adorable wedding day traditions are there in Slovakia?
At the traditional Slovak wedding, the day of the wedding begins from an official visit of the groom and his parents to the bride’s house. This wedding tradition is called “odpytovanie” in Slovakia. They officially ask for her hand in marriage.
But on his way to the bride’s house, the groom meets different obstacles. For example, villagers can block the road with a chain and ask for a ransom to get to his fiancee. Usually, he pays with a bottle of some alcohol or something like that. They make a whole show out of it, with laughing, music, playful negotiation, etc.
Another very funny and curious wedding ritual is performed when he gets to the bride’s house. The bride hides in the house and her family tries to fool the groom offering him another woman as his bride. Usually, the first woman who claims to be his bride is some elderly woman. He refuses to take her as a wife. Then, another, younger girl is offered to him. And again, he refuses to marry her and negotiates with the family to get the bride he expects. After some time and a lot of jokes and laughing, the groom finally is allowed to enter the house and look for his fiancee. He finds her hiding somewhere and reunites with her.
All these obstacles and jesting negotiations have a purpose – they make the groom put some effort into conquering his bride so that he valued her more. They make him show manly qualities and think about his fiancee as a woman who’s difficult to get.
Next, the bride gets a blessing from her parents and grandparents. The Best Man or godfather or the elder (a man who runs the wedding) says a rather emotional thank-you speech to the bride’s parents, thanking them for such a good child they’ve raised. The speaker and the bride both are kneeling in front of the parents. The whole audience usually cries because of emotion and sentiment. And she gets the blessing. This ritual is important because the girl is leaving her house, her parents, and moving with her in-laws, so it’s sort of a farewell for them.
Wedding procession and wedding photoshoot
After this, the wedding procession starts moving to the church for a religious wedding ceremony. The couple goes to the church together.
In modern times, this is when the wedding photos are done. The couple, their wedding party, parents, and other guests go to a historic part of the town or city or to a place where couples traditionally take photos. Often, it’s an old castle or some picturesque place. Also, studio photos can be made if the couple decides so. The wedding photographer takes pictures. This is done before the actual wedding ceremony, when everybody still looks fresh and pretty.
While the bridal procession walked to the church, they made a lot of noise – this was another old wedding ritual. It was done to scare away the evil spirits. Slovak people are rather superstitious and they have always believed in evil spirits who try to harm people. It was considered that the bride was vulnerable during her walk to the wedding ceremony because she had already left her house and its protection and hadn’t yet reached her new house and new family. So, it was a dangerous time for the bride and she needed the protection of the crowd, her wedding procession.
In Slovakia, the church wedding ceremony is more important than the reception. To the wedding dinner, the couple invites only the closest people, while the wedding ceremony is populous – the invitations are sent to all of the relatives and friends.
After the ceremony, guests line up to congrat the couple and wish them happiness in marriage. A lot of them bring bouquets of flowers, so the bride and groom may get up to 50 and even more bouquets. Some of them are kept, others are left in the church, and the rest is brought to the cemetery the next day and put on the graves of close relatives. By the way, this is one really worthy tradition – the couple honors their deceased family members.
Fun fact! Instead of flowers, some people give money to the couple (small sums but they add up) or even lottery tickets so that the money spent on dozens of bouquets aren’t thrown to the wind.
Wedding party rituals
When the church ceremony is over, the guests who are invited to the wedding reception get into a bus provided by the newlyweds. They drink, laugh, sing, and have fun during their trip to the wedding dinner destination – a restaurant or backyard or another venue. Beverages are free, the couple’s parents provide a lot of alcohol, so the wedding guests drink a lot on the wedding day.
After the wedding ceremony, there were other challenges for the newlyweds to overcome. One of them was a ritual of sawing a log. Today, this ritual is rarer (though, still rather popular), but in the past, practically every couple did it. They had to saw a log together using a two-handed saw. This wedding ritual has its roots in the lifestyle and usual chores of Slovak people. They needed wood to survive (to cook, to warm up the house, etc), so every young person needed to know how to use a saw. But also, this ritual was a symbolic act – it teaches the newlyweds to work together, rely on each other, and trust each other.
A widespread till this day wedding ritual is the plate braking. The couple breaks a plate to ward off the evil spirits and sweeps the shards together to show that they can cooperate and succeed as a unit.
The wedding dinner is plentiful, with a lot of alcohol. And the party is really cheerful.
After the reception, the groom takes his new wife to his home or to their new house. He carries her over the threshold to save her from – guess what? – the evil spirits.
And then, the first wedding night begins.