Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wedding Season: Albania

Summer in Albania is just like summer is the US: weekends are full of weddings left and right. And no matter where you are at any one time during the weekend you are most likely to either see or hear part of the festivities. Albanian weddings are in many ways similar to American traditions, but here are the major differences I have noticed:

1) No ceremony or exchanging of vows is ever done; the “wedding” is equivalent to our receptions.

2) They have at least two consecutive days for a wedding: one with the bride’s family and one with the groom’s family.

3) Gifts are given in the form of cash, usually which is thrown or slammed against the head of the bride and groom while dancing at the wedding.

4) Brides do NOT smile- it signifies that they are sad to leave their family and makes all brides look absolutely pissed off on wedding day.

5) At least 10 times more food is served at Albanian weddings: mmm mmm good.

6) They have a wedding cake, but they don’t eat it and they don’t serve it =(

Beginning early on wedding day, the groom usually picks up the bride and drives around the streets for a prolonged period of time honking in celebration. Albanians, just like Americans, want their weddings documented on video. So, don’t be alarmed when you see the car preceding the bride & groom’s with a person fully hanging out the window equipped with the world’s largest video camera slung over their shoulder. The video to come will most likely have 2 hours footage of this “driving on the streets”… trust me, I have seen one too many wedding videos.

For a special weekend in Bishqem (my host family/training site), Tyler and I were invited back by my favorite bar owner to 2 weddings. What I didn’t know was that we’d be put to work at both of them… I guess we technically are volunteers though right? After the setup for the first wedding was complete, we hopped in a car to pick up the meat and such for the wedding the following day. We made it back late for the 1st wedding, but enjoyed the food, danced towards the end, and cleaned dishes for hours on end. The next day everything was bigger…better, much better. We started preparation at 4pm: setting tables, starting to cook, and running last minute errands. By 9pm, we were shuffling hundreds of plates from the basement kitchen up to the tables while the crowd gathered outside the doors and the live band tuned up for the night. At 10pm the festivities began- we served case after case of beer and then finally all sat down to eat and enjoy the wedding temporarily. Throughout the night we had random tasks to complete, but for the most part the group of “servers” including Tyler and myself had a pretty incredible time. I somehow lasted until 5:00am, when a multitude of fireworks were set off for the occasion, confetti was thrown, and sparklers were lit. What gets me though, is that they didn’t even know what SPARKLERS were or what to do with them. I feel as though I fulfilled some American duty showing them the ways of Sparklers, and they were truly enjoyed by all. The big bang however marked the end of the night. It was so late, so we were off the hook for washing dishes! After all of the circle dancing and celebrating I definitely crawled home and into bed for a good night’s sleep! I'm sure there will be many more weddings to come...

Tyler & I ready to enjoy festivities after hard work

Yes, the 12 year kids at our table drinking beer... Cheers all around.

Tyler's host dad, Rifat, preparing the MEAT PATTIES.... man these are GOOOD!

The bar owner, Arjan, sitting down and enjoying himself finally.

Bledi & I taking a quick break to eat some food before more work!

Circle dancing with confetti flying everywhere!

Cutting the cake... yes, the ones you never eat. RIDICULOUS!

Sparklers to wrap up the night!


  1. so, if you don't eat the cakes what do they do with them? are they even real cakes? the cakes and the not smiling part at the 2 things im glad we didnt have to do!

  2. Excellent job , great posting for this site ,lovely and Faboulious,Awesome writing...


  3. Wow!! This Albanian wedding was truly brilliant. I loved each and every detail from this ceremony. My sister has also found some beautiful Chicago wedding venues for her special day. She will be getting help from an event planner for further arrangements. Hoping to have a fun day!