keeping traditions: Weddings, Part 2 (civil & religious ceremonies)

Anda was worried about getting married in May — lots of Orthodox holidays (which means having to give more money to priests to officiate) and lots of rain.  But she was clinging to what someone’s bunica (grandmother) told her — Rain is good luck on your wedding day.  I asked her what sort of luck.  Wealth, health, and happiness.  I’d take all that and a bag of chips.  And as Anda dreaded, Saturday, the 22nd of May was a rainy day.

While the wedding invitation gave us details of the religious ceremony, Anda and Costel invited us to the civil ceremony at 3:00 at city hall.

Cultural aside:  According to Anda, religious clergy cannot marry people in Romania without an official civil ceremony and the accompanying completed marriage license from the state.  I think this is really interesting.  In a superbly religious country where church and state aren’t one and the same, but are definitely blurred at times (e.g. religion is taught in schools; icons in public buildings), they separate church and state when it comes to marriage.  The state takes care of the legal contract between two people and the church takes care of the spiritual contract.  Whereas in the US, where we have a more defined sense of separation of church and state, most priests and pastors have state authority to marry people and the priest/pastor completes the marriage license (at least in NC) as a representative of the state.

Back to the civil ceremony….  We showed up at the primaria in a break from the rain and saw Anda and Costel and their wedding party pull up.  After quick waves, smiles, and photographs, Anda was escorted in by groomsmen and Costel by bridesmaids.  The two were  followed in by their godparents (na?i).

Cultural aside:  Godparents are a big deal in Romanian life — you have a pair when you a baptized and a different pair when you are married.  Godparents for weddings are usually married couples who can “mentor” the new couple and help them learn the ropes of married life.

The civil ceremony (nunta civil?) was brief.  Domnul Primar was there in his official Romanian sash to officiate.  Anda answered “da;” Costel said “da.” (I probably would have giggled inappropriately if they said “eu fac.”) There was clapping, kissing, signing of papers, and the pop of the champagne bottles.

While champagne flowed and cakes shared, there was a receiving line where Anda was buried in flowers from guests who were wishing them a happy strong marriage by saying “casa de piatra” (which literally translates to “house of stone”).  These flowers were quickly redistributed among the guests who then made a tunnel of raised flowers through which the new bride and groom exited (into the pouring rain).

We drove in a caravan to Biserica Sfantului Gheorghe (Church of St. George) for the religious ceremony (nunta religioas?).  It’s one of the smaller churches in town and happens to be right behind our bloc.  Anda told me that her family usually goes to church there — the priests are younger and more dynamic she told me.  Three priests officiated and there was even a small choir of men who sang responses.

Cultural aside: At Orthodox services, people come and go; they wander here and there. The priests do their thing  — sometimes in front of the iconostasis and sometimes behind it.  There aren’t responses for the congregation as the choir takes that role on.   I find it interesting because it’s a very receptive service for congregants whereas in the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic world I’m accustomed to, it’s much more participatory for congregants. Apples and oranges — different, but both still good in my book!

I’m not sure I understood everything that happened in the religious ceremony.  Chanted Romanian is harder to understand than spoken Romanian.

The Betrothal Ceremony: The priests blessed both rings by touching them to the bride and groom’s foreheads and making the sign of the cross on them.  3x for Costel’s ring; 3x for Anda’s ring.  They kissed the rings before putting them on each other.

The Crowning Ceremony: Then crowns were blessed and placed on their heads.  3x for Costel’s crown; 3x for Anda’s crown. And again kissed by the recipient. I have a hunch as to the symbolism of the crowns, but I need to ask Anda when she returns to verify my hunch. Or talk to darling Parinte Vasilescu.

Then we got to more familiar territory.  There were several readings from scripture (the Wedding at Cana) and while the scripture was read, the priests elevated the Bible over the bride and groom’s heads.  Then the priest blessed bread/wafers and fed them to Anda and Costel (of course, 3 times for each) and then the same was done with a glass of wine.  I don’t know if these were considered “consecrated” or symbolic.  But there was the definite feel of a short liturgy of the word and a short liturgy of the eucharist.

Then came my favorite part — the priests, na?i, bride and groom all join hands and circle the wedding table in the nave of the church.  They circle three times while the priests and choir chant, symbolizing the neverending bind of marriage.  It was beautiful — the music, the ritual, the dance of it.  (I only caught 2 of the 3 rounds in the videoclip.)

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Crowns were removed and placed on the Gospel.  Anda knelt at the wedding table to receive a blessing and sign her spiritual contract. Costel followed.

The ceremony ended with the priest talking briefly about marriage and married life in the church — instructing the bride and groom to be good partners, parents, and Christians and instructing the godparents to mentor the new couple as they start their journey together.  And of course, he wished them happiness, health, and children.

As we exited the church, there was wine and more treats and chit chat with others in attendance.  Anda’s mom found me and filled my hands up with rice, saying that they wanted to add an American tradition to the wedding.  So as the sun came out from behind clouds, we all pelted Anda and Costel with rice as they left the church.

We arrived home for a pauza (a break) at 6:30PM and relaxed a bit.  In hindsight, we should have taken a nap before the wedding reception began…..

to be continued….

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