This is Part 3 of a 4-part story on Bulgarian wedding traditions; check out the rest of the story with these links:
After we revealed the most interesting traditions and customs that precede a typical wedding day in Bulgaria, we shared with you some traditions that take place on the wedding day (making wedding breads, a wedding flag, wedding garlands, and peculiarities about the traditional Bulgarian wedding dress).
Now we will raise the curtain again to see the rest of the fascinating wedding traditions that are followed on a typical Bulgarian wedding day (some of them are a thing of the past, but others are still being followed even today):
The bride’s veil
Unlike the rest of the world, where white is considered a traditional color of the bride’s veil, Bulgarian tradition says the veil should be red. This tradition is rarely followed today, but in the past the red veil was an inevitable accessory to the bride’s wedding outfit. Besides, it was made of opaque fabric that prevented everybody from seeing the bride’s face before the wedding ceremony was over. The whole ritual of putting the veil on the bride’s head was very important as it marked her transition from a fiancé to a bride.
This is a very beautiful tradition that takes place on all Bulgarian weddings even today. It represents a ritual in which the bride says an official goodbye to her parents, symbolically leaving forever her parents’ home to enter her new home (that of the groom). Even though today such a notion seems obsolete and strange, in the past it was the hard reality. Once the woman becomes a bride, she leaves her parents’ house for good and returns there only as a guest (preferably always accompanied by her husband or another member of her “new” family).
Entering the new family’s home
After the wedding ceremony is over, the newly-wedded family performs a ritual with which the bride enters her “new” home. In the past this was actually the groom’s home where, except for the newly-weds, there lived the groom’s parents together with the wives and children of all their sons. Sometimes there were more than 4-5 families living together under the same roof! Each family had their own (small) room and there was one living room that all families shared. In this living room there was a fireplace where all the food was prepared, so the bride had to reach for the fireplace upon her first entrance into the groom’s house as a symbol of her incorporation to the new household.
Every Bulgarian woman used to have dowry. It usually consisted of handmade items like carpets, sheets, tablecloths, cutlery, clothes, etc. The woman’s mother starts gathering her daughter’s dowry very early on – sometimes even before her daughter is born! According to the tradition, on their wedding day, the newly married couple shows the bride’s dowry for all the wedding guests to see. This tradition, however, is not followed today – it is replaced by the contemporary presents’ giving from all wedding guests.
The first wedding night
The first wedding night was a really big deal in the past in Bulgaria. Just like it is with gypsies even today, Bulgarian girls used to keep their virginity till the wedding in the past. In fact, the first wedding night was even considered part of the general wedding festivity with all the guests waiting for news about the bride’s virginity. Once that was revealed (with evidence, at that!), the real jamboree took place – there were drinks, food, and dances all night long. On the first wedding night different rituals were also performed by both the bride and the groom’s parents that were supposed to protect the couple from magic and evil spirits.