I finally went to my first Albanian wedding. My host sister, Florida, got married on Wednesday and Thursday, and even though it was long and exhausting, I really enjoyed myself! It was certainly an experience, because other than brides in white dresses, weddings in Albania are entirely different than in the States and elsewhere.
circle dancing in traditional dress at the bride's house
the rabbit hunt - two men dress as rabbits and hop around on all fours while a third, dressed in camo and face mask for anonymity, hunts them with a wooden gun, finally shooting and killing both, after which they all dance together like nothing ever happened.
the bride! Florida with a cousin's little girl.
First of all, they are so. freaking. loud.
Second of all, they last two days. The first day is the bride's wedding, which is just basically a huge party thrown in her honor. She wears a white dress and gets all dolled up, but the groom only shows up for two hours with a small party of 20-25 people. The following day, the groom's family come to the bride's house and pick her up (in another dress!) to take her to the groom's party, which lasts all day.
Walking in on her little brother's arm. So sweet.
the whole Pepa family.
cute littles in traditional dress.
Another weird thing? The parents don't attend the parties for their children's new spouses. So, my host parents were at their daughter's party, but stayed home the next day when 25 of us went to the groom's party. I have no idea what the reason is; the only answer I could get was "that's just the way we do it."
bride's sisters - and mine! - at the groom's party.
Everyone circle dances all day. There is a TON of food, but no one eats much, because they're too busy dancing. There are special dances, too: the visiting party's dance (where they stuff money down the bride's dress or put it on her head), the old-men-pretending-to-balance-on-a-log dance, the younger men showing off their crazy traditional dance, the "Rabbit Hunt" dance, and dancing in traditional folk costumes. I have videos below for most of them!
Also, the costume changes are ridiculous. I only brought two dresses - one for each day - which was JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE. So I got to borrow another one. The first day I changed three times at the party...while my host sisters changed, I kid you not, five times in five hours. Thankfully, all the women were obsessed with my sparkle dress, so I got away with wearing it for most of the two days.
Dress 1. Beginning of festivities. Normal.
Dress 2. Scary eye make-up done by a cousin/stylist. Sweating to death OMG.
Dress 3. Trying, and failing, to do the Albanian no-smile. I just look like a jerk when I do it.
The weirdest part? There's no ceremony. That is, at least, for my non-religious host family. They identify as culturally Muslim, but they are no where near to practicing. The match was made by my host father, and so the engagement was the real binding deal. To make the marriage legal in the eyes of the country, they'll sign a marriage certificate in a few weeks. But for two days of festivities, it was strange for there to be no "I now pronounce you Man and Wife."
The closest thing to that "moment" when they're finally considered a married couple was the morning of the second day, when the groom's family came to pick Florida up from her parents' house. All the women from both families crowded into this small room and sang a traditional song while an aunt sprinkled raki (Albanian moonshine) all over her. Florida kissed her family members goodbye, and was then greeted by all the groom's female family members. (I'm assuming this was the most important ceremony of the festivities, due to the impressive amount of crying.)
I caught quite a few videos of the different circle dances, but spliced them all together to make it just a little less boring! Skip around to get a taste of what I did, all day, for two days straight, at my dasma e pare ne Shqiperi!