Hungarian clothing traditions dictate that people dress according to their age, marital status, region of origin, etc. Today, Hungarians don’t follow those rules anymore, obviously, because life isn’t static and lifestyle changes all the time. But in the past, you really could look at a person and understand a lot about him or her. And first of all, the marital status had to be easily determinable so that young men and women didn’t have to ask if someone they met was single and available for courting. But in this post, we’ll tell you how Hungarian brides dressed for their wedding. It mattered if you were getting married for the first time or remarrying.
Every bride traditionally wanted and, basically, needed to look at her best because the whole family was judged by her attire. Traditionally, the most costly, colorful, and opulent clothing was worn by the brides. Sometimes, their wedding outfits look ridiculous for a modern eye, as there were so many layers, jewelry pieces, odd combinations of colors, and so on. But one of the main goals of every bride was to show by her bridal clothing how wealthy, skilled, and hardworking she and her family were.
And also, the bride simply had to stand out of the crowd – as we often do today, people dressed in their best clothes for a wedding, so the bride had to be even more bright, sparkling, wearing larger and more eye-catching garments.
Hungarian brides in the past definitely attracted attention. Though, Hungarian grooms wore even more wondrous wedding clothing (we’ll talk about Hungarian traditional groom’s attire in one of our next articles).
And the most catchy piece of folk clothing worn by brides in Hungary was a bridal headdress. Women didn’t wear veils 100-200 years ago. They preferred a specific item similar to a wreath but much larger and more intricate. Its design differed according to the region of Hungary, sometimes even from one village to another.
Hungarian bridal headdress was really high and wide, several times bigger than the head itself. Of course, it was also heavy. It was constructed of many rows of artificial flowers, foil decorations, ribbons, sparkly elements, etc. This headpiece told everybody from the first glance that this is the bride in front of you.
Modern Hungarian bride in traditional wedding attire. Photo from Folkcostume.blogspot.com
In some areas, brides wore the headdresses they got for their coming-of-age ceremony. It meant the girl was still a virgin maiden, so she didn’t cover her head.
The folk wedding dress wasn’t white and sheer, like modern brides often choose. Rather it was colorful (adorned with ribbons), modest (no extra skin visible, even the neck was usually covered), wide (the typical silhouette of an outfit was A-line, with short but puffed lantern sleeves), and opulent (plenty of embellishment were used – someone might say such a dress is tacky but people didn’t think like that in the past).
At a Hungarian wedding, there was one particular ritual connected with the bride’s headwear. It was the ritual of covering the hair, which meant she was married now. Married women always covered their heads with kerchiefs, coifs, or other headdresses, they never went outdoors without some kind of headgear. No loose hair or braided hair anymore.
Today, a lot of married women wouldn’t want to wear a kerchief, they say they would look like a granny. But in the past, a kerchief was a status thing and young girls dreamed about getting married and dressing like a mature woman. The chores about the house were so hard and labor-intensive that a woman couldn’t manage without a husband to help her, that’s why marriage was so important for survival.
So, the ritual of covering the bride’s hair was a happy occasion. Women sang special songs, congratulated the bride, took off her bridal headwear, and put on a kerchief or some other headdress of a married woman. Sometimes, they would also unplait her braid and make a bun or updo – the hairdo of a married woman also differed from that of a maiden.
If a woman was getting married for the second or nth time, she didn’t dress like a virgin bride. She just chose her Sunday best – the best attire she had in her possession. She didn’t wear a bridal headdress as well. And, of course, there were no rituals of covering her hair, obviously, because she has been already married and wasn’t a virgin. It was a much simpler ceremony, less grand. And we have to mention that a woman remarried only after losing her husband, no divorces were possible.