Are you ready to attend a big, fat, Croatian wedding? That’s right, Croatian weddings are a massive celebration that will keep you up partying and dancing all night. In some cases, over 300 guests top the traditional wedding list! Not sure what to expect out of your first Croatian wedding?
Keep reading for historical context on weddings in Croatia, as well as basic vocabulary and tips on what to expect before, during, and after the ceremony!
10 Joyful Croatian Wedding Traditions & Customs
The Croatian people are very proud of their heritage and traditions. As you’ll soon find out, the following traditions are still common in young Croatian couples today. Families unite for the union of their bride and groom, and they definitely have fun while doing it!
Let’s dive into some of the most joyful, and fascinating, Croatian wedding traditions.
#1: Engagement Apple
Croatian brides-to-be don’t expect a ring like most other ladies in different countries … Instead, they’re anticipating their love to give them a obiljezje, or a piece of fruit (usually an apple).
Once she accepts the fruit, the couple is officially engaged!
#2: Rosemary Branch
The Croatian people sure love to associate weddings with food! The beautiful rosemary branch symbolizes a warm welcome to the guests.
Once wedding guests arrive at the wedding ceremony, they receive a single branch of rosemary which they pin to their left side. Ever the nationalists, sometimes the rosemary is decorated with red, white, and blue ribbons to represent the Croatian flag. This way, it’s a welcome gesture, as well as a representation of their pride for their country.
Once the rosemary branch is secured on your left side, it’s customary to leave money in the basket as a donation to the lovely couple.
#3: Fake Bride
Croatian people love a silly prank, and this ‘false bride’ tradition is no exception. Here’s how it goes.
The groom arrives at the bride’s house on the wedding day and asks for his bride to come outside. The bride’s family tries to trick the groom, and instead of the bride, gives him a doll dressed in a wedding dress. Even more amusing, sometimes instead of the doll, the bride’s family will hand over a grandmother, or even a male relative to pose as the bride!
This wacky tradition always causes a good laugh, and loosens up nerves before the big ceremony. After the trick, the groom finally gets to see his bride, and they unite together to the church at the wedding ceremony.
#4: Anyone Can Dance With The Bride
Another fascinating Croatian wedding tradition is one that begins at the stroke of midnight. The bride wanders to the dance floor, with her maid of honor next to her holding a basket.
If you wish to dance with the bride, you must first make a monetary donation! You put money in the maid of honor’s basket, and get to waltz around with the bride on the dance floor. The bigger the donation, the longer the dance!
#5: The Banner Holder
The banner holder, also known as the barjaktar, is an important member of the wedding party. This person is handpicked (usually with an outgoing, loud, and silly personality) a male family member who carries the Croatian flag in front of the wedding procession on the way to the Catholic church.
The barjaktar hoops and hollers the entire way, and tries to make the scene as funny and ridiculous as possible. It’s a fun way to rile up spirits and get everyone attending the wedding hyped up!
#6: 3 AM Goulash
I told you that Croatian weddings last all night! Around 3am, once everyone gets hungry again after dancing and drinking all night, guests are served goulash as a treat at the wedding venue.
Traditionally, goulash is a stew with meat and vegetables. If this seems like a heavy meal after a huge party, that’s because it is! In some villages, goulash is replaced by fish stew. Coffee is also served to help keep you awake.
#7: Rice Ritual
The riza (rice) ritual is common in many wedding ceremonies across the world, but they do it a bit differently in Croatia. Instead of guests throwing rice on the bride and groom, the couple throws a handful of rice over themselves as they leave the church.
This act is said to bring happy fortune and a sweet life together.
Though, today, some couples choose to throw flowers or blow bubbles instead, so rice doesn’t stick in their hair. No matter what they throw, it is a sweet ritual symbolizing a happy life together.
#8: Gift Giving
If this is your first time attending a Croatian wedding, listen up! It’s considered courteous to bring money as a wedding gift to the bride and groom. As you’ve seen in other traditions on this list, you better have money on hand as you attend a Croatian wedding!
But for gift giving in particular, it’s important to put a decent chunk of money in a nice envelope as a thank you to newly married couple.
In traditional weddings, there is a gift giving ceremony around midnight where you will hand your envelope to the couple and offer your best wishes to them. You definitely don’t want to be the only one without a money envelope, so listen to this tip carefully and don’t commit a social faux pas.
#9: Traditional Croatian Band
Since this party lasts all night (literally), there has to be good music to keep everyone on the dance floor! This is where the Tamburaši comes in.
Tamburaši are a traditional Croatian band usually made of around 4-6 people who play funky instruments such as bass, acoustic guitars, and accordions. They are known for playing emotional, traditional music which makes everyone belt their hearts out on the dance floor!
#10: Rakija Toast
Finally, for the last Croatian wedding tradition, comes the toast. During the reception (maybe even more than once), there will be a toast with homemade rakija, which is a traditional Croatian alcohol. This liquor contains up to 50% pure alcohol, so make sure you know your limits! You don’t want to be passed out before all the other fun ceremonies begin!
Croatian Wedding Vocabulary
If you’re interested, here is a list of Croatian wedding vocabulary you’d hear on the couple’s big day.
|wedding invitation||pozivnica za vjenčanje|
|wedding ring||vjenčani prsten|
|first dance||prvi ples|
|maid of honor||kuma|
Ready To Party?
Be grateful you were invited to a Croatian wedding! As you’ve read, there are numerous joyous traditions that make witnessing this special day a blast for you! Drink lots of coffee and bring your dancing shoes, as you’re about to experience a huge party and 24 hour spectacle of love, traditional food, and laughs.
I hope you feel prepared to join Croatians as they celebrate love, and know that the more you dance and have fun, the more the Croatians will love you!
Learn Croatian With Ling
Want to learn more Croatian? Download the free Ling App today from the App Store and Play Store. It is a highly researched language-learning app for a fun and personalized experience. With Ling, you’ll smash your Croatian language goals with a little hard work and practice. Aside from Croatian, there are over 60+ foreign languages to learn on Ling.