Our Wedding Ceremony in Macedonia

by Eugenie Tiu Radevska
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bride's sister slaps the groom

Yes. My sister slapped my husband on our wedding day in Macedonia. I’ll let you know why later on.

Wedding ceremonies in Macedonia takes one full day. And by full day, I mean it starts from 8AM and ends at 1AM the next day. That is especially true for mostly the bride, the groom, and their families though. In this post, I’ll share what happened in our wedding ceremony in Macedonia.

Our wedding in Macedonia took place on two different dates. I came to Macedonia using a tourist visa which was valid for only two months. So we had to do the civil wedding ceremony within those two months so that I can apply for a residence permit and not have to go back to my country.

The civil wedding ceremony in Macedonia is quite calm and relax, but experiencing the actual wedding ceremony is really fun, tiring, and unique.

Civil Wedding in Macedonia

To be officially married in Macedonia, you need to head to the Marriage Registry (матично) and ask for the procedure and required documents for marrying a foreigner.

As far as I could remember, the only documents that were needed from me were:

  • birth certificate,
  • certificate of no marriage (an official document that confirms I haven’t been married before), and
  • NBI clearance (an official document that verifies I haven’t committed any crimes and that I have a clean criminal record).

Of course, passports, visas, and application forms are also staples to registering marriages. 

Civil ceremony in Macedonia
Left to Right: The godfather, the bride, the groom, the best man

While I was not required to bring any representatives, the groom is required to have a godfather and a best man. Both representatives had to sign and declare that neither the bride nor the groom was forced into marriage.

I was actually quite surprised how important their roles were compared to the role of the parents in the entire wedding procedure.

On the day of our Civil Wedding, we headed to Bitola’s City Hall, listened to the Registrar (staff who officiated the wedding) and the translator, signed some documents, took some photos, and went to a restaurant together with our family and relatives. We also had to pay him 30 Euros to officiate the entire thing.

They usually refer to “City Hall” as “municipality” or “Општина (opstina)” in Macedonian. 

The civil ceremony happened on July 18, 2018, two days after I arrived in the country. I got my residence visa a week after.

Our Wedding Day in Macedonia

Wedding photoshoot in Pelister
Photoshoot session at Mt. Pelister

We planned our Macedonian wedding day three months after the civil ceremony. My father-in-law played a big role in organizing the entire thing. He was our wedding coordinator making all the necessary agreements with the musicians, caterers, church, guests, hotel staff, and decorators.

In the morning of the big day, I woke up early to go to the makeup artist and the hair salon.

In Philippine weddings, makeup artists and hair stylists can be the ones to go to your hotel and fix you there, here – you have to go there yourself. As someone who isn’t that familiar with how makeup works, I didn’t realize that Asian and Eastern European ways of putting makeup can be quite different, and so after seeing the outcome, I reapplied the makeup by myself. So just a heads up to international brides, do either a trial makeup with the makeup artist of your choice or learn how to do it yourself.

The photographers arrived at our home at around noon. For the photo session, we chose to do it in Dihovo, a small apple farm and vineyard my parents-in-law maintains, and in Mt. Pelister, one of the mountains in Bitola. 

The Traditional “Hand Over”

When we came back to my parents-in-law’s house, I was surprised to see a band playing traditional Macedonian music outside the house, and many of our neighbours standing everywhere, watching our guests hold hands and dance in a circular way.

Everyone cheered for me and my husband as we got off the car, and I did feel like a superstar here since everyone was smiling and waving at me, or okay – at us. Anyway, now comes the fun part.

At this point, the bride has to go inside the room, and wait to be fetched by the best man and the godfather. The men in the bride’s family (the father and the brother-in-law, in my case) have to stand outside the bedroom and “protect” the bride.

The best man and the godfather meet with the bride's brother-in-law and father
Left to Right: The godfather, the best man, my brother-in-law, my dad

Money in the Shoe

The Best Man trying to put money on the bride's shoes.
The Best Man trying to put money on the bride’s shoes.

The best man and the godfather have to offer a certain amount of money three times (maybe around 100, 300, 500 denars – varies per person of course) and kind of “force” themselves into the room. Once they’re inside the room, the best man has to put money inside the bride’s shoe, and then bring the bride to the groom.

In the actual Macedonian tradition, this usually takes place in the bride’s house, not in the groom’s house.

The Slap

My husband gets slapped by my sister.
Have I used this photo already?

Another interesting “customary practice” that we did in the wedding was that we let a female member in the bride’s family (not the mom), “slap” the best man, the godfather, and the groom. I am not certain why this practice has been done in the past, but I guess it’s a way to say “take care of the bride.”

I’m also not sure if this is still done these days, but we certainly did it because it is something very new to me and my family – which makes it very interesting as well.

When the bride is finally taken to the groom, the band continues to play music inside the house celebrating the bride and the groom’s union. Everyone sings, claps, and eats for about an hour. The celebration is then taken outside the house and everyone dances in a circle for another half an hour.

Wedding Ceremony in the Church

Wedding Ceremony in a Macedonian Church
Our Macedonian Wedding Day: The Communion

Around three or four o’clock, we went to the church and waited for the priest to conduct the ceremony. I don’t remember the exact order of events, but the priest mostly read some scriptures in the Bible, prayed for our union, asked the godfather to put crowns on our heads, asked the best man to light up candles, and invited everyone for a communion.

We stood there a long time, the ceremony itself took more than 30 minutes. And I could remember how painful my feet were! I also remember that there was a point in the wedding where people threw some grains of wheat, candies, and coins.

Again I don’t know the exact reason why they do that, but I guess it signifies prosperity and wealth. 

Wedding Reception

The longest part of the wedding happens at the reception. After the ceremony at the church, we stayed outside to take a few photos and then headed to the hotel. 

The parents of the groom and the bride stand outside the reception hall to welcome and receive the gifts from the guests. The guests then enter the hall where they are received by the bride and the groom.

After the photos are taken, the guests will be assisted by an appointed family member to their seats. Macedonian weddings are usually big and have roughly 300 guests – an estimated 150 guests for the bride and another 150 for the groom. In our case, we had about 180 guests, and so the process of receiving the guests took quite a while.

The most common gifts you’ll find include boxes of chocolates, bouquets, kitchen tools, and money.

When everyone has finally been settled down, the bride and the groom will go out of the hall, and will re-enter the hall and be re-introduced to everyone in a more special way.

Macedonian Dances

The couple will share their first dance to everyone with their chosen song and will share a drink of wine. After that, everyone will be invited by the host to join the traditional Macedonian dance. And yes, we had to practice how to dance to each song. Here are some songs that are commonly played in Macedonian Weddings:

The food is served three hours after all the dancing happens (a good way to get everyone hungry). While eating though, the musicians will continue to play music, until everyone starts to dance again.

At our wedding, my father-in-law also invited a group of traditional Macedonian dancers to perform in front of everyone. It was a very interesting part of the event. 

I’m very surprised to see that at a Macedonian wedding, age doesn’t matter. From baby boomers to gen-Xers, everyone just joins the dance up until midnight. You’ll realize that the party is about to end when the band starts to play English songs.

The Beginning of Our Married Life

Our wedding ended at about 1:30AM.

At that point, I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, but I must say that I really enjoyed the music and how it was done. And although I was not the one who organized the event, I was really happy how it turned out and the decisions we made to make it memorable.

As we continue to live in a modernizing world, it’s easy to lose sight of how unions were so valued back then. And so sometimes, adding a touch of tradition can remind us that marriage is something we celebrate only once, rather it is something that we need to dance with for a lifetime. 

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