How To Celebrate A Traditional Bulgarian Wedding | Bagpipes & Costumes | Europe Ties The Knot


“My crown fell off!” Beforehand the priest told me several times
how important this moment is, how sacred.” “It was uncomfortable.” “No, but how dumb. The crown’s a symbol of our faith — and suddenly
it was gone!” Bulgaria’s stunning natural landscape is the
perfect backdrop for Antonia Hubancheva and Viktor Senderov’s dream wedding. It’s here they feel most at home. But their wedding weekend begins at the foot
of the Troyan Balkan Mountain, in the town of Sopot. They exchange vows at the local church in
a Bulgarian Orthodox wedding ceremony. Neither the bride nor groom are very religious. For the biologist and the IT-expert, the decision
to get married here was a compromise. “The church wedding was mainly for our familes,
not so much for ourselves.” “Though, to be honest, it triggered some positive
emotions. Even if my interpretation of things is a bit
different than what we heard in church.” During the centuries old ceremony, the bridal
couple are crowned. The best man, or ‘Koumbaro’, exchanges the
crowns on the bridal couple’s heads three times — to symbolize Jesus’ crown of thorns. After the Crowning, the bridal couple drink
wine from a common cup. It’s meant to show that from now on they are
to share everything — in good times and in bad. And to sweeten their future life there’s chocolate. “It was worth it!“ “Ja, Ritter Sport!“ The ceremony takes close to an hour. Now, according to church law, Viktor Senderov
and Antonia Hubancheva are man and wife. But the part they’ve been waiting for — the
traditional, open-air wedding celebration — is still to come. A few days before the wedding ceremony, Euromaxx
reporter Andreas Korn scrambles up this rocky route to meet the future couple. They are here conducting research, setting
up a bat trap in the mountains of Rusenski Lom Nature Park. As a biologist, ‘Toni’ studies the behaviour
of these winged mammals. After night falls, reporter Andreas Korn gets
to see the bats up close for the first time. “They’re so small, I’m surprised.“ “I told you they’re not that big.“ “To be honest, I didn’t only come for the
bats. I came more for the two of you. So I wonder, I heard, you are a little bit
of an Indiana Jones, like Indiana Toni, and you are more like a Steve Jobs, a computer
guy. How did you two find each other?“ “There’s this intersection of field biology
and computer science: bioinformatics. We were both at a bioinformatics conference.“ “To be honest, I wasn’t interested in Victor
in the beginning.” “Oh my God, that’s quite tough.” “Yeah, that’s true, but he was so insistent. He was so brave.” “So I invited her on a date, and apparently
the way I invited her was very convincing to her. I was super excited, so she liked the fact
that I was excited.” In the cave, the couple also tell Andreas
about every day life in Bulgaria. Here scientists earn very little, which affected
their wedding plans. Without a little help from their friends they
could never have afforded their traditional, outdoor celebration. In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, the couple
are looking for an outfit for Viktor. Their wedding planner, Nevena Jekova, is here
to help. The bridal couple and all the guests — including
Andreas — are to wear traditional Bulgarian folk costumes. “This is for me now?“ “Let’s try it.” “Why did you decide now to have a traditional
wedding?“ “It’s nice, isn’t it?” “Everything started with the fact that Victor’s
grandfather was a bagpipe player.“ “First, we wanted to have bagpipes at the
wedding.“ “Then this meant like a lot of traditional
dancing. And then it – oh – kept building up, building
up, and then we met Nevena and we fell in love. And that’s the end of the story.” “Let’s find something for you now. It’s about you, not about me.“ The patterns vary according to the region. There’s no traditional costume just for weddings. The outfits are worn at all festive occasions
and on holidays. “And Nevena, would you say this is now a trend
that young people to marry in a traditional way again?“ “Yeah. Actually, recently in the last few years it
became very popular to use traditions. Maybe not the whole wedding, but to use tradition
and to make something traditional in the weddings.” “And why do you think that?“ “Because… I’m not sure exactly, but so many people
start to look back to roots, to search for the magic in life and Bulgarian traditions
are very magical.“ “Now you look really like a Bulgarian old-fashioned
gentleman somehow. And to me, also your whole attitude seems
different now. You feel different now?” “It’s also a little bit because of the harness
here. It kind of makes you stay upright!“ As a wedding guest, Andreas Korn also has
to dress in traditional Bulgarian garb. “What do you say, do you say something like
‘Cheese’?” The
day after the church wedding, the guests head for a meadow on the Troyan Balkan Mountain
— at an elevation of 1800 meters. All of them arrive in traditional dress. Wedding planner Nevena Jekova is busy making
the final preparations. Then the musicians play the gaida — a kind
of bagpipes that’s been played across the Balkans for centuries. Viktor Senderov now has to undergo a shaving
ritual. Our reporter is in on the action. “Hold the razor steady! Hold it steady!” “It’s not even sharp! Now I get it!“ “Why do they do the shaving now? What does it mean?“ “Because it’s the symbol of moving from
childhood to adultness.“ Now clean shaven Viktor can go and fetch his
bride. He takes a flag along with him. It’s traditional for bachelors to ask the
parents of the prospective bride for her hand in marriage. If they agree, the flag is then hoisted onto
the roof of their home, as a sign that their daughter is taken. But today’s celebrations are more about fun
than ritual. So Viktor waves his flag proudly and tirelessly. Even when he has to eat some magical bread. “What are they doing now?“ “It’s a welcoming from the groom’s mother
to the newlywed couple. And she’s giving him the bread and she’s
putting some salt on it, because they need to be able to swallow easily the hard moments
in their life. And honey, so they have a lot of sweet moments.” +++ Afterwards, the maid of honour removes Antonia
Hubancheva’s veil. This symbolizes her transition from innocent
maiden to mature young bride. “We’re working to realize our dreams and looking
to the future. And for a way to stay together. That’ll be tough, as Viktor must go to Sweden
for an extended period. And I’m going on a short exchange to Germany. But after that we want to return to Bulgaria. After all, we’re doing all this so we can
be here.” +++ The grand finale of the traditional wedding
ritual is the ‘Horo’, a Bulgarian folk dance. “It’s not easy, your dance” “That’s one of the easiest!“ “It is the easiest?! Oh my God, I don’t want to see the difficult
one.“ The celebration is a dream come true for the
bridal couple. “I won’t let you go. (pause) We’ll find a way.“ “We’ll find a way.” If Viktor Senderov and Antonia Hubancheva
can incorporate some of the magic from the party into their daily lives, they’re certain
to have a bright future together.

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