One of our favourite pastimes at Fly Away Bride is learning about different wedding traditions and customs that are celebrated and practiced around the world. Lately, we have been getting a lot of requests for information on how to get married in Croatia and with this beautiful destination wedding in Hvar being so popular, we thought that we would look at some fun Croatian wedding traditions.

Obiljezje

Obiljezje is Croatian for a “mark”  and before the concept of a diamond engagement ring became the way to propose, Croats would propose marriage using an obiljezje. This was usually a piece of fruit, typically an apple with money coins pressed into it. If the girl accepted the obiljezje,  it marked their engagement. Not quite so sure that too many ladies would be thrilled with such a modest gesture today but there is something so beautiful in its simplicity and we think that it could definitely serve as a feature during an engagement session.

Croatian Wedding Traditions

Photo by Elizabeth Messina

Buying the Bride

One thing is for sure. Whoever said “a women can’t be bought” wasn’t a Croat and actually, this playful tradition is still frequently practiced by locals nowadays! This custom usually sees the groom arrive at the bride’s house along with his merry bunch of best men and a band of musicians just before the wedding, expressing at the top of his voice his desire to marry the girl inside. A male member of the household usually answers the door and a scene plays out whereby the groom has to bid or barter for his bride. More often than not, offers are too low or money is not seen as a suitable trade off and instead, the groom must prove himself by promising to love her with all of his heart, by showing off his physical strength, through song, or by offering a glass of his own hand made rakija.

The fun usually continues with the family offering up a fake bride, a doll dressed in a wedding dress or a grandmother in a veil. The groom then has to beg for his real bride to come out. After the sale has been agreed upon, both families head to the church together for the wedding.

Barjaktar

The Barjaktar is the “banner holder”, the person who has the honour of  waving the Croatian flag in front of the wedding procession as they make their way to town hall or church. The tradition of the barjaktar is usually bestowed upon the individual considered as being the most funny, crazy and loud fool! They are often seen (and heard) with their heads sticking out the car window as the bridal party makes its way around the town!

Croatian Wedding Traditions

Image by Katie Mitchell Photography via Polka Dot Bride

The Rosemary Buttonhole

I really love this Croatian wedding tradition because I have a little obsession with herbs! As guests enter the reception, they are greeted with a stem of rosemary wrapped in ribbon (usually red white and blue) which is pinned like a buttonhole to their left side as a sign of welcome. In Croatia, guest normally leave a donation for their rosemary buttonholes for good luck. Another lovely tradition that might be easier to incorporate into a wedding in Croatia over some of the others above!

Bridal Dance

At midnight, a fun tradition known as “Dance with the Bride”  typically commences at Croatian weddings. Usually the maid of honour holds a basket into which every guest must make a monetised contribution. The larger the contribution, the longer the dance with the bride! This tradition is quite old and back in the day, guests would spend a substantial amount of money just to have the the prestigious honour of having longest dance with the bride. It’s still very common today although it is often danced to “On the Beautiful Blue Danube”, the waltz by Strauss.

Croatian Schnapps

At Croatian weddings, it is up to a master of ceremonies to welcome and entertain wedding guests. Part of this involves offering guests a shot of home-made schnapps. The bottle of schnapps is wrapped in a towel, handmade specifically for the wedding from woven cotton and after the celebrations are over, the master of ceremonies would keep the towel as a very special gift from the bride and groom.

Family Pants

A custom used to determine who will become the real leader of the house or “wear the pants” when the newlywed couple start living together is basically down to the skill or art of stepping on each other’s feet!  After the actual wedding, the married couple would try to step on each other’s feet and if the groom succeeded to do so before the bride, he would be the head of the house. On the other hand, if the bride managed to step on the groom’s foot, she would become the boss. Another version of this would see the newlyweds racing to the church doors and the winner would run the house. Hardly fair with a bride in heels and a big dress!

Croatian Wedding Traditions

Image by Leah Kua

Rakija and Wine

When everything is nearly over and just before the groom carries the bride over the threshold of her new home, she has to to throw something over the roof. In some parts of Croatia, it is a glass of rakija, a homemade brew while in others, it’s an ordinary apple (hmm wonder if it’s the Obiljezje apple!) If the thrown item fails to reach the roof and returns to the bride, it is believed they will be brought bad luck in the future leading the bride to return to home (in other words, the couple will divorce).

Finally (and to end on a more upbeat note!), another Croatian wedding tradition is for the bride’s new mother in law to  offer the bride a glass of wine. After drinking the wine, the bride throws the glass over her right shoulder, signalling that the two women will get along very well.

Can you see yourself incorporating any of these traditions into your wedding in Croatia? I really love the meaning behind rosemary buttonhole tradition and would definitely consider it!

6 Responses

  1. Sara

    This is such a fabulous post! Did you know I used to live there? On the island of Krk – and still speak Serbo-Croatian pretty well. Such a lovely place. But I definitely wasn’t in the marriage market back then so I had no idea about all this! Adored this post and learning about a place I hold so dear.

    Reply
    • Amy

      OMG Sara you’ve been everywhere! Can’t believe you used to live here (and that you speak the language, amazing!)

      Reply
  2. Sukey

    I loved learning about all these traditions; especially the rosemary ( Croatian ceremonies must smell lovely!), and the “family pants” game. Ouch – those toes!

    Reply

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