Sunday, December 30, 2012

Algeria Wedding - Desert Wedding

Algeria is a Muslim dominated country with almost 99% of the population being Muslim, because of this it's traditions will mirror those of Afghanistan an Albania. For the purpose of this wedding, I will put religion aside and focus more on the wedding itself and a ceremony that can be adapted to any religion. The easiest way to do this is to have an outdoor wedding, that way the couple can make the arrangements needed for their religions or specific ceremony.

(Sand Dunes of Algeria)

Flowers:
It is widely accepted that the national flower of Algeria is the sunflower. And naturally that would be the best choice for an Algerian wedding, because of the deep rich colour of the sand, orange would be a great colour for the flowers out in the dessert. However sunflowers come in different colours so which ever colour the couple would like to choose could be easily changed into this wedding.

(DIY Sunflower Bouquet: Posted by Amber1279 to: Weddingbee Bios)

The Dress:
The traditional wedding dress in Algeria would match that of any Muslim country, (like Afghanistan and Albania). However, a more traditional ''Western'' wedding dress could be a Muslim bride's second dress or a catholic (or other religion) bride's dress. Again a dress with sleeves or a jacket and a veil would be advised in countries that aren't always open to women showing off their shoulders, arms or neckline.


The Shoes:
The heat and the dessert would naturally make the shoe choice a flip-flop or sandal of some kind. With a long dress, the shoes won't be seen, but for the bride a shoe high enough to keep the dress just to say off the ground would be best especially if the ceremony is done in the sandy dessert. A sandal, whether it be a flip-flop or not, with a heel (like this) would be a good shoe for the desert.

Make up, hair, nails and accessories:
With the flowers for this wedding being mostly orange, a light brown would be a nice colour, or any light natural colours would work fine for a lip colour and blush. For the daring bright a light orange eye shadow may be nice, or hints of it and a white coating may work well also. For the nails and toe nails, anything that appeals to the bride may be incorporated into the theme, a great way to do this would be to add a sunflower design to one or all nails or something of that nature. The same thing applies to a hair style adding sunflowers where ever possible can make any hair style match the wedding themed colours.


The Groom:
The grooms tuxedo can be white or black. However the tie, vest and other accessories would have to match the colour of the theme (in this case the sunflowers). Men's Warehouse sell tuxedos and there is even a build a tux option on their website so that colour matching is made much easier. The vest and tie in the example below are called Venice Sunbeam (8858VNSBM) with the eruo tie. It is matched with the Black by Vera Wang collection. A hankerchief in the pocket would be fine if it matches the colour of the tie, but it may take away from the boutonniere depending on the size of both, a great boutonniere for this wedding would be of course a sunflower. And finally, sunflower cufflinks to complete the grooms outfit. 


The Invitations:
When getting married, it is important to think of the guests and where they are all travelling from. Any one coming from out of country or town even should get a Save the Date card especially if the couple really wants that/those guests at their wedding. A Save the Date card gives guests time to make arrangements in order to be part of the couples big day. The sunflower theme is a great example of a theme that can be mixed and matched. It's not always easy to find matching sets of invitation, thank you cards, save the date cards, reply cards etc, so why not match a little bit of this and that as long as they all have the theme relative theme. Also when shopping for mixed sets, looking a different sites and stores is key, the invitations for this wedding are from Zazzle, while the seals are from MagnetStreet and the reply cards are from WeddingInvitations123. Often times if there is a large number of out of town guests the couple chooses to add a directions card to tell the guests how to get from place to place (from airport to hotel to ceremony to reception....). These can be easy to make, typing out directions and printing it on white or colour card (in this case yellow or orange) and than simply adding embellishments (stickers or a stamp etc).


Photographer and Videographer:
If Algeria is not the home country of the bride or groom or anyone they know, finding a photographer and videographer will be a tricky task. Asking a local company really isn't the best way to go because a couple that isn't local has no idea who to get and who has a track record of taking great pictures. Asking a person to travel around the world just to shoot pictures and/or video would cost a small fortune. The best thing to do is to ask friends and family if they have any experience with taking pictures (beyond the point and shoot that everyone can master), it would be a lot cheaper if an already invited guest could take pictures for the big day. But just because they are there anyways, offering to pay them a small fee, or asking them do to it as a wedding present could go along way to getting someone to agree to do it. However if that is not an option or the bride and groom would rather try and find a professional there is always listings on the internet. The best way to find a photographer on the internet is to see a portfolio of the photographers work. 

Ceremony:
A wedding ceremony changes based on the couple, because of the past two countries before this in this country religion will not be incorporated into the wedding for Algeria. But, any religion can be celebrated for this wedding by making the required changes and arrangements. For the sake of having some sort of ceremony, something should be done. Whether it be a candle ceremony, a sand ceremony or just exchanging vows something that symbolizes unity would count as a ceremony. A great ceremony could involve readings of romantic poems instead of religious ones, the couple can choice poems that they wrote themselves or that they find suits them. They can also choice to incorporate vows, exchanging of rings, or anything else they that is traditional for them. Programs are a great keep sake from weddings, in this case, a program would hold the poems read and the vows said instead of details on the steps taken in the ceremony. 


Reception:
Out door receptions are hard do to under any circumstances, because of the lack of electricity, the uncertainty of the weather, and the lack of natural light once the sun goes down. Having the reception in the dessert would not be very easy to do or pull off, not only because of the challenges but because of the heat as well. Just like most foreign countries, it is hard to find reception halls in Algeria on the internet. However, it is always better for a couple to go and see reception halls for themselves before picking, especially when there are no recommendations.


Sometimes the best decor doesn't always match the theme. The above guest book has nothing to do with sunflowers except for the pen, but because of the brown ribbon tied to it, the book matches. It is perfectly okay to do this, even if the wedding colours don't use brown (however choosing to use brown in other places would be best to make it look less out of place). The same rule applies for the ''wishing well'', ''money box'', or whatever other word associated with where the guest leave their cards. By simply adding a fake (or real) sunflower and some ribbon, anything that will hold cards can be used for the purpose. 


Table numbers for a sit down meal is always a great thing to have for a wedding. Table number and place cards help minimize the confusion and help avoid having two people sitting close to each other that maybe shouldn't be. 


Every couple and country has different traditions, some throw the bouquet and garter, some have a cake dance, some have a couple's first dance, some have a father daughter dance... Whatever is traditional for the couple is what they should stick with. Love is a universal thing, and if the couple chooses to dance to an Algerian love song, the guests shouldn't mind. Even if no one understands the words, the bride and groom should at least know what they are. Everyone can see love, in the couples eyes, in the way they look at each other, hold each other.... that doesn't need a language to be expressed. 

Food:
Algerian cuisine differs slightly from region to region. Algerian cuisine has strong Berber but also Ottoman Turkish influence due to the Ottoman occupation. Algeria is mainly Islamic people and because of this pork is not usually served at weddings because it is forbidden in accordance with Sharia. The khabz, traditional Amazigh flatbread, is the base of Algerian cuisine and is eaten at all meals. An Algerian dish is izane, a spicy lamb sausage, that originate from the Atlas mountains. Other common dishes include berber couscous, chakchouka, Karantita, marqa bel a'assel that is a speciality from Tlemcen and the Chaoui dish chakchoukha. There are many different types of Algerian salads, influences by the French and Turkish, and can include some very individual ingredients such as beetroot or in some salads anchovies. There are also dishes of Spanish origin in Algeria, like the Gaspacho Oranais, an Algerian version of a Manchego dish. Algeria is on the Mediterranean sea and it enjoys the fish, fruits and vegetables that the sea has to offer (Algerian Cuisine). 
For a wedding in Algeria the best way to have a meal is by buffet. This way adventurous guests can try out the local cuisine and other guests can still stick with chicken or beef. There is no way to please everyone, however when it comes to foreign cuisine a safe bet is to always have something most people are used to seeing. 
As dessert, the couple can choose to serve only cake, or have a dessert table. On this table could include local sweets, candies, chocolates, and cupcakes. A great cupcake has to be the sunflower cupcakes. They are easy to make and not hard to assemble. Baking any kind of cupcake, even the box mixes, in a green cupcake tin and than adding dried pineapple ''leaves'' around a black center (made either by mini chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, or dried raisins).
   
(Image and Idea by Spoonful.com)

The Cake:
The cake should be a very easy part of the wedding. If the bride and groom have a picture of what they want their cake to be like, any baker/cake designer should be able to mimic it. Any cake can be made to match the theme of any wedding by simply adding flowers or ribbon or both. 



The cake topper doesn't always have to match the theme or the cake for that matter. In the picture above the cake topper is the couple's initials but for the couple that wants a traditional couple topper there is some out there with a sunflower theme. The same idea applies to the champagne flutes and the cake server. There are a lot of different options out there, not all of them include the sunflower theme. A great alternative would be just brown and yellow beads on the handle of the cake server and the stems of the flutes, or simply brown ribbons. 

Guest Favours: 
Guest Favours for weddings have become as unique as weddings themselves. A lot of themes can be matched to favours now of days and it's not hard to find something for everyone of the guests at any wedding. In this case, for sunflowers, there are sunflower soapssunflower seed packages, sunflower stickers for the bottom of chocolates and sunflower themed boxes so that any thing can really be given as a gift for a sunflower wedding.


Thank You gifts for parents and the wedding party are a lot harder to find to match the theme, however it's not always impossible. In this case for the members of the wedding party's gift could be a clock in the shape of a sunflower. While the parent's gifts and be a hand painted bowl with a saying and the design of sunflowers on it. 



Centerpieces:
Centerpieces can often times be the cheapest, and easiest part of a wedding. For sunflowers, simply placing a vase of some sort with a bouquet would be a great centerpiece and wouldn't be nearly as expensive as say a bouquet of roses for each table or something or similar cost. Also a great way to go is for the couple to make their own centerpieces. Fake flowers work great and last long, and there is a lot of ideas on the internet for beautiful, simple, cheap and easy centerpieces that look good.


Thank You Cards:
Thank You cards are always a great thing for a couple to send, especially if they add their own personal touch to it. Whether it is adding a specific comment about the wedding gift the guest gave or by simply sending a photo of the couple, Thank You cards are always greatly appreciated. 


Sometimes it is not possible to match everything to a certain theme. In this case, the Thank You cards are called Classic Daisy, however the daisy looks very similar to a sunflower and because it is a Thank You card, it is usually not even noticed that it did not match the wedding invitations or the theme itself. 

Places to See:
There are many sites to see in Algeria that include 18 museums including Musée National du Moudjahid (a national historical museum), Museum (a Museum dedicated to the ruins of many tombstones and other funerary sculptures) Cirta Museum (a colonial-period museum) Theatre and Museum (a preserved theater dating back to 1902, accompanied by statues and columns in a Jardin Archéologique (an archaeological garden). Bardo Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography (built at the end of the 18th century as a residence of a Tunisian prince exiled in Algeria, today it is home to a collection of urban artefacts including fossils, copper tea pots, wooden furniture and impressive rock carvings and paintings) Palais des Raïs (the Palais is in fact a row of several large waterfront houses, joined up to form a single compound and now home to the Centre des Arts et de la Culture) and National Museum of Antiquities (the richness of Algeria`s heritage is brought home in the understated but well chosen collection on display in the museum). These all are wonderful places too see and only a few on the Lonelyplanet's list of museums to see in Algeria. The Lonelyplanet also has a list of 11 religious, and/or spiritual sights to see in Algeria that include Notre Dame D'Afrique, Grand Mosque, and Basilica St Augustine. The Lonelyplanet also offers a list of Archaeological Sites, Architectural Sites, Market Places, Bridges, Historical Sites, Monuments, Buildings, and Galleries

(Cityscape by: Peter Ptschelinzew for: Lonely Planet)

The next country alphabetically is Andorra, in Europe! 




Algeria

The country's official name is the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria. Sudan was originally the largest country in Africa, but once it was split up, Algeria became the largest in terms of land area. Algeria borders Tunisia in the northeast, Libya to the east and Morocco to the west. Almost 80-90% of Algeria is in the Sahara desert,, tourists can actually camel trek into the desert which is know for having vast endless seas of sand. The Sahara sand dunes are really high and extremely magnificent. Algeria's main languages are Arabic though french is sometimes used though out the country especially in politics and newspapers and almost 99% of the population is Muslim the 1% is made up of Christians, Pentecostal protestants and Jews. Instead of writing another Muslim wedding for this country like the last two, I am going to write just one wedding for Algeria. The theme will be the country itself and the ceremony will take place outside so that it can be adapted to any religion.

Getting married in Algeria is a little more difficult than in Afghanistan or Albania. To get married in Algeria both the bride and groom must be in the country for 21 days before notice of intention to marry is granted. If the couple is visiting and does not live in Algeria they will need to present their passports, a certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (Single Status Certificate by the Embassy) and Original Birth Certificate(s) (less than three months old legalized by the Embassy).


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Albania Wedding #2 - Red Poppy Theme (Red and White) Wedding

Some people who are not from Albania, but would like to get married there may choose to go a lot more ''Western" than the traditional Albanian wedding, but there are still some easy ways to keep Albania the focal point. Keeping with a red and black theme is a great option for Albania but it can easily be made more traditional to fit any person's dream wedding. If the couple is already married, a nice little ceremony outside for their family and friends is a great way to show case the beauty Albania has to offer.

(Agora ruins, photo by: Tony Wheeler for Lonely Planet)

Flowers:
The poppy worked well to show case the red and black of the Albanian flag, and it is the national flower, so using it would tie in the red theme and it would represent Albania well.  Not many people have ever seen a real poppy, most people are used to seeing poppies around remembrance day but the real things are very beautiful. A great option for the groom and his groom's men, and the father of the bride/groom would be brooch or fake flower. 

(Poppy brooches)                    

The Dress: 
A traditional Dashmas (Albanian Wedding) dress looks something similar to the wedding dresses of Afghanistan. And it is said that since weddings are so popular and such a big deal in Albania that there are dress shops on almost every street corner. Renting is always an option so, renting a traditional Albanian dress to have a ceremony in and take a few pictures in before returning it would be a great option. Celebrating in a white ''Western'' wedding dress would be a way to have both sides incorporated into the wedding day. Black on a wedding day, works just fine! In this case, a black and white wedding dress would work beautifully, the bright red of the flowers would be highlighted against the white and the black will add a little detail to the dress.


The Shoes:
With a long dress, the best shoes are always flat ones. A regular flip-flop, or a ballet flat would work well, in black or white. Any pair of plain shoes can be made more theme oriented by adding shoe clips to them. However with a long dress, chances are no one will see the bride's shoes so added glitter and such isn't needed. 


Make up, hair, nails and accessories: 
Make up always depends on the bride's complex and what colours she can pull off. A bright red lip stick would make the poppy red colour, but not every woman can pull off such a bright colour. Beautiful hair for a wedding is always having something simple and what the bride is used to is a key guide line. Loose and curly are always great options for a bride with long hair and by adding hair pins that incorporate the them would make it complete. 


                  
(Great options for the bride and/or the flower girl - Left: Ruby Red Poppy by: ayawedding; Right: Poppy Red Flower by: embellishingyou)

Etsy is a great place to find the unusual. Its sellers have all kinds of thing to sell that are mostly home made. Finding poppy earrings and necklaces are hard to do when they aren't made of gold or silver with diamond or other gems, but earrings, necklaces and bracelets don't always have to cost an arm and a leg, these cute pieces of art add a little extra to any bride's look. 

The Groom: 
For the groom, a traditional tuxedo will be worn to ''match'' the bride's modern wedding dress. Black naturally is the only choice for this wedding, with red and black being the theme. So any black tuxedo or suit would work fine. An Alfred Sung one-button notch-lapel jacket, coupled with a Microfibre white point collar shirt and a poppy or candy red tie would be perfect for a red and black wedding. Cufflinks for the groom and his groom's men don't have to match the theme of the wedding, but a nice Poppy Jasper Cufflinks incorporates the red and black well into the links themselves. 

The Invitations: 
Naturally, the invitations for this wedding would be black and red with poppies on them. Thought not always a popular choice, there are poppy invitations and options out there. The best option for Albania and its poppy theme would be the poppy set of invitations by Applyberryink.


Photographer and Videographer: 
Asking a local company really isn't the best way to go because a couple that isn't local has no idea who to get and who has a track record of taking great pictures. Asking a person to travel around the world just to shoot pictures and/or video would cost a small fortune. The best thing to do is to ask friends and family if they have any experience with taking pictures (beyond the point and shoot that everyone can master), it would be a lot cheaper if an already invited guest could take pictures for the big day. But just because they are there anyways, offering to pay them a small fee, or asking them do to it as a wedding present could go along way to getting someone to agree to do it.

Ceremony: 
If the couple isn't getting married in on of the major religions of the country, the best way to get married would be at a city hall, at home, and than have a ceremony for friends and family. But since Albania has may religious groups getting married there may be easier for certain people than others. Either way an out door exchanging of vows and/or ring could be beautiful no matter what religion. 

                    
(Red Poppy Jasper Rings; Left: Rustic Gunmetal Ring  Right: Antique Brass Ring both by: Distorted Earth (ETSY account). 

Reception:
A great wedding guest book would be a beautiful art piece framed, with a red surrounding. Works of art are so versitial that they can be made to fit any theme, or incorporate any detail. In the picture below, any cityscape can be added to the frame and the surrounding colour can be almost any colour. For this wedding the red works perfectly, and the city can be anywhere in Albania or where the couple is from, where they met, or just a city that means something to them. 


Table numbers and name cards, help minimize the confusion for guests. Having a seating chart, especially with a sit down meal is a key part of the reception especially if the couple and their family isn't around to seat guests. Table numbers aren't always needed, sometimes they take away from the center pieces and take up too much room on the table, but table numbers can be printed on the name cards to take away any confusion. A postcard would work great for this, on one side the table number, on the other the guest's name. Framing them, or having a stand of some kind to hold them up would complete the look, or simply laying them on top of a place setting would work find also. 


                           

Traditional weddings in Albania are held at the homes of the parents, so a first dance for the bride and groom isn't traditional and a dance for the bride and her father isn't either. However because of Albanian's new embrace of modern weddings certain Albanian songs are becoming more popular. Any Albanian slow romantic song would work fine, but for a couple and their guests that don't understand Albanian, a song in their native tongue may be better or an Albanian song with a wonderful melody would work well. 

Food:
There is usually a lot of food at an Albanian wedding, some say 10 times more food than an American one. Food is usually on the table as guests arrive and they are free to help themselves as music is played and they dance and celebrate even before the bride and groom get there. If the couple is having a reception in a hall than having a buffet waiting for them as they arrive would be a way to stick close to tradition. If they are going even more traditional and having just a house party as a reception, any pot luck type items would work very well. Usually, a lot of speeches are made at an Albanian wedding and a great set of champagne glasses would be anything with black and red Incorporated, maybe in a ribbon thing, or like the glasses below. Like Afghan weddings, a garter isn't usually worn or thrown at the wedding but if the couple chooses to add that tradition to their wedding, there is a beautiful garter set that matches the champagne glasses below.


The Cake: 
The wedding cakes in Albania are very much like those in Afghanistan, layered and usually very expensive. Cakes are usually four layers, but they aren't traditionally layered like a ''Western'' cake, each layer has its own stand. Some traditions do not serve the wedding cake or eat it at all, the bride and groom simply there for display and for the bride and groom to cut it. But cupcakes can be served for desert, and they can be topped with beautiful individual red poppy picks.


Any flowers can be chosen, ones with darker centers perhaps or fake ones, or real ones which ever the couple likes better. The serving set can simply be any set with red and/or black ribbons or it can be a red poppy set that matches the champagne flutes. Also the wedding cake topper can be any thing the couple likes but the one below would work well with the poppy theme also. 


Guest Favours: 
Guest favours aren't usually given at an Albanian wedding, however when having the ceremony in a hall instead of at the home of the couple's parents, it is best to give something as a sign of thanks to all the guests, the way an open home with a steady stream of food and drinks would be a thank you gesture on the family's part. Like Afghan weddings, frosted almonds are a part of the wedding traditions and are given out throughout the celebrations. Frosted almonds, and/or any other kind of candied nut or roasted nut would work find as a gift, or a mix of nuts would be fine also. Any type of eatable favour would work find.


These gift boxes can be a keep sake also, with the couple's name and wedding date along with a picture on top and a thank you note on the back, it makes a perfect favour box for guests. A special gift for everyone involved in the wedding, would be a beautiful poem, framed that matches the theme of the wedding to commemorate the special day.



Centerpieces: 
Sometimes simple is the best way to go. A small bowl with clear water, and a poppy floating in the middle would be beautiful. Surrounded by black stones, or red petals, or even jelly crystals would be beautiful. A few light candles around and it would have the natural glow from the fire and still be inexpensive. Like the picture below or something on an even slightly larger scale. Also, adding paper poppy flowers, or black stones to any table, especially to receiving tables  cake table, or the buffet table would add a little something to a plain table.


Thank You Cards: 
A beautiful card with a picture of the couple is always a wonderful thank you card. Sometimes, the invitations don't have a matching thank you card to go with them and the couple has to scramble for something after their wedding. A lovely picture of the couple, is always a great alternative to this. But mixing and matching work well too. 


Places to see: 
Constructed in 1789 the Mosque of Ethem Bey  is situated just at the center of Tirana, the capital of Albania.  Together with the Clock Tower, they make an important historic part of Tirana. Skanderbeg Suare is a main plaza of Tirana, named in 1968 after the Albanian nation hero Skanderbeg, a monument can be found of Skanderbeg in the plaza. The Tirana International hotel, Place of Culture of Tirana, National Historical Museum and an Opera House can all be found in  Skanderbeg Square. The Fortress of Pertrela is located at the south of Tirana on the right side of national road linking the capital with the city of Elbasan. IT was built in the middle ages, and was commanded by Skanderbeg's sister, Mamica Kastrioti. Also the Fortress of Preza is a castle from the fifteenth century that has a dominant position in front of Kruja Mauntain.  The Kalasa Citadel ruins is also a great thing to see, along with the Agora ruins, and  Castle ruins. Finally, the Martyrs Cemetery which contains the ''Mother Albania'' monument, and the Tomb of Kapllan Pasha, built in 1814 to honor Kaplan Pasha, who ruled Tirana in the early 19th century, are must sees (Sites to see ). 

(Sky Club Panoramic Bar and Restaurant, Albania. Photo by: Doug McKinlay for The Lonely Planet)



The next country alphabetically is Algeria, in northwest Africa!



Albania Wedding #1 - Country Themed (Red) Wedding

Albania is a small and mountainous country with very few natural resources. The main language of Albania is Albanian but because of its close proximity to other countries, other languages spoken in Albania include, Vlach, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma. More than half the country is Muslim, so many of Albania's traditions are similar to that of Afghanistan but it also has more ''Western'' traditions blended in.Conveniently, the colours of the Albanian flag, and it's national flower are the same, black and red which is the simplest colour theme to follow for an Albanian wedding.

(Albania's Flag)

Flowers: 
The red poppy is Albania's flower and is becoming very popular in wedding bouquets. Poppies are very beautiful and would make a great bouquet for the bride and her flower girl.


The Dress: 
The Albanian wedding dress is very similar to the Afghanistan wedding dress. It is very long, long sleeves, with basically no shape to it. This is tradition but for couples that aren't Muslim than the traditions may differ when it comes to wedding dresses, and ceremonies. Lately, in Albania, weddings and tradition have been modernized slightly. It isn't uncommon to see a bride in a white ''western'' dress and her groom in a tuxedo. (For the purpose of this wedding, I will highlight traditional Muslim wedding attire, however not every one in Albania is Muslim,  the second wedding in Albania that I write about will be completely westernized.)

(Example provided by: Zosia of the blog Albania or Bust)

The Shoes: 
As seen in the photo above, the average shoe for an Albanian wedding dress would be something flat, like a sandal or a flat ballet type shoe. With a slightly shorter dress, a shoe with a little bit of a heel would work fine, and a little thought should be put into the shoe since they will be visible the entire evening.

Make up, hair, nails and accessories: 
Thursday night, the night of the bride's ''bachelorette  party'' the bride starts her make-up preparations. The bride's hair, nails and make up are all planned ready for the day of her wedding or the day before. If the bride chooses to wear a traditional or western veil than the hair style may not be as complex as a hair style chosen to show off.

Invitations:
Invitations aren't traditionally sent for an Albanian wedding, usually they are informed of the dates when the couple calls to announce their engagement or at a later dated my the couple or their parents. However if the couple wants to send out invitations a simple card would work great since there is no need for reply cards.


Photographer and Videographer:
Photographers and Videographers are not traditionally part of an Albanian wedding, usually the family will leave cameras around the house for the guests to snap pictures at their leisure or the couple asks their friends or a family member to take pictures for them.

Engagement:
To get engaged, traditionally in Albania, the man has to go and ask the girl's parents for approval in order to get engaged to their daughter. Once the parents give their approval, the next step is for the couple to date and go ring shopping. Right away, the couple must go ring shopping and everybody must be informed about the news. After the couple has informed their relatives and friends of their engagement, they start wedding plans.
Throughout the time the couple is engaged, they also have to plan their future. Now is the time they talk about where they will be living, how many children they will have, who will take care of their children, will the wife work or not, etc. Traditionally, if the son is the youngest boy or the only boy his parents have, he and his wife have to live with his parents.



Ceremony: 
Traditionally, Albanian weddings are arranged by parents or by an intermediary or matchmaker. The festivities  may begin a week before the wedding (jav' e nuses - ''marriage week''). Usually, an engagement ceremony is held between the two families and the bride is given a gold coin as a token of the engagement. A celebration is held at the home of the bride's parents and refreshments are serves as the future bride is given gifts and sweets. A second celebration is given by the family of the groom and the bride's family attends. At these celebrations, small favors of candy-coated almonds (kufeta) are exchanged.

On Thursday with the viewing of the bride's dowry and this is the Albanian version of a bridal shower. Women, especially the bride's family, come to see her dowry displayed. Now, most of the dowry is bought at the finest stores the family can afford and consist of gifts for the groom's family, nightgowns and lingerie, linens and bedcovers, jewelry and whatever else the bride will need to start her life with her husband. Traditionally, a Turkish delight and sweet sherry, for the women, or raki/hard liquor, for the men, are given out to the guests.

On Friday guests continue to visit the bride to view her dowry and wish good luck and congratulations. The bride is usually all in white and expected to greet each and every guest in the living room or the women's room. (Sometimes the men stay in a different room, sometimes not.)Sometimes the bride stands the whole time, while the women around her sing. A cocktail party or dinner is held also on Friday for the closest social circle of the couple. It is more informal and the bride can wear almost any colour she wishes to him (Albanian Weddings). Friday and Friday night is also the groom's night for his ''bachelor party'' Usually the groom will party all night with friends and family.

Saturday, is the bride's wedding dinner party. All her friends and relatives gather and the groom's party comes around midnight. The groom's party must be an odd number. The bride's father and the groom's father are usually the only ones to toast the party and once they do guest are welcome to leave, but it is considered offensive to leave before midnight at least (Albanian Wedding).

On the day of the wedding, the bride is dressed, given a sip of wine by her parents along with their good wishes. Other family members give her money. The vellam (best man) brings the bride her shoes filled with rice and almond candy, wrapped in a silk handkerchief. Accompanied by singing women, the vellam puts the shoes on the bride and gives money to the person who assisted her in getting dressed (Albanian Culture). Late morning or noon Sunday, the groom and his party go by cab/limo/bmw/carriage to pick up the bride. With the bride is a little girl that holds her bouquet (flower girl). The cars have to circle half the city and cannot go back by the same route. This is also the time when the bride and goom take pictures by the lake or park or wherever they have decided. It's at this time, the couple would make their was to a church or mosque or civil ceremony if they choose to incorporate that into their wedding.

(Ethem Bey Mosque. Photo by: Doug McKinlay for The Lonely Planet)


Reception:
The party itself starts without the newly weds. Food is already on the table when the guests arrive and it is around the time the first guests start to arrive that the music starts playing. Sunday night is the groom's wedding party. This is the same as the bride's party, friends and family come to party and at midnight the bride's family and friends join them with an odd number of people and two more people than the groom had to her dinner party. The father's toasted at this party too, and the party continues well into the early morning hours (Albanian Weddings) .

With a modern wedding, guest numbers range in the 250-300s, to go with up to 14 bride's maids! Weddings are usually about showing off with big and bold centerpieces and two or three limos, with the best music money can buy. But for a more traditional wedding, family and friends are either invited to the bride's home or the groom's home to celebrate with them.
Wedding gifts for both a modern and traditional wedding are usually money. In a traditional wedding, guests will leave money around the house, on coffee tables, or a designated tray for the couple; while for a modern wedding guests will leave envelopes with money. Usually, the only gifts given are by close family members and they are included in the bride's dowry. The rest of the guests give money so there is no need for a gift table.
If the couple is having a more westernized wedding, the couple may have a ''first dance''. During this dance, the guests and a rich relative of the couple showers them with money, the guest putting money in the grooms pocket, on his forehead, to the couple directly or just shoving it down the bride's dress if they're daring. This money doesn't go to the couple but to the band for playing such music. The wedding song usually played is called, "Napoleon'' and the band usually plays it when they feel they need more money (Albanian Weddings). When there is no first dance, the song, ''Napoleon'' is played as a white handkerchief (symbolizing the groom's bachelorhood) is doused in alcohol and burned.

Food:
Albanian dishes usually are influenced by the regions surrounding it, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, and Syria. Recipes have often been adapted and altered to suit American tastes. Albanians enjoy a variety of appetizers, soups, casseroles, pilaf, pies, stews, and desserts. Salads (sallate) are made with cabbage, lettuce, onions, peppers, olives, and feta cheese. Sallate me patate is a potato salad. Soups are made with a variety of ingredients such as beans, chicken, lentils, and fish. Albanian pies, lakror-byrek, are prepared with a variety of gjelle (filling). Fillings may be lamb, beef, cabbage, leeks, onions, squash, or spinach, combined with milk, eggs, and olive oil. A brushtul lakror is made with cottage and feta cheese filling, butter and eggs, domate me qepe is made with an onion and tomato filling. Stews are made with beef, rabbit, lamb, veal, and chicken, which are combined with cabbage, spinach, green beans, okra, or lentils. Favourite stews include mish me patate (lamb with potatoes), comblek (beef with onions) and comblek me lepur (rabbit stew). Dollma is a term applied to a variety of stuffed dishes, which consist of cabbage, green peppers, or vine leaves, and may be filled with rice, bread, onions, and garlic. Another Albanian American variation of the traditional Greek lasagna-like dish, moussaka, is made with potatoes and hamburger instead of eggplant (Albanian Culture).


Cake:
In some traditions the cake isn't even eaten, so getting a four level cake is costly and with no reason. Getting three fake cakes and one real one for the bride and groom to cut would work fine. There are a lot of other desserts in Albania to enjoy so the fact that there is no cake won't really be missed.

Albanians enjoy a variety of candies, cookies, custards, sweet breads and preserves. Halva, a confection made with sugar, flour, butter, maple syrup, water, oil, and nuts is among them; te matur, a pastry filled with butter and syrup, baklava, a filo pastry made with nuts, sugar and cinnamon, and kadaif, a pastry made with shredded dough, butter and walnuts are all popular (Albanian Culture).

Guest Favours: 
Traditionally, the are no guest favours. The favour is opening up their home to guests, offering them food and alcoholic beverages. However, should the couple or the couple's family choose to offer frosted almonds or other candies that would be considered a guest favour.

Centerpieces:
Most traditional weddings take place at the parents homes, so only one centerpiece is needed at each home. Something simple as a duplicate of the bride's bouquet would be beautiful especially since the bride won't be carrying her bouquet around with her the whole time. A nice arrangement of poppies or any other flower for that matter would be a great centerpiece.



Thank You Cards:
In Albania, for a traditional wedding, there isn't usually any need for thank you cards. Most guests visit the couple after their wedding. The couple should be prepared to accept company almost a month after their wedding, this is when the couple would thank their guests personally. Also, people that were not invited to the wedding may take this time to visit and leave a gift.


Places to see: 
Constructed in 1789 the Mosque of Ethem Bey  is situated just at the center of Tirana, the capital of Albania.  Together with the Clock Tower, they make an important historic part of Tirana. Skanderbeg Suare is a main plaza of Tirana, named in 1968 after the Albanian nation hero Skanderbeg, a monument can be found of Skanderbeg in the plaza. The Tirana International hotel, Place of Culture of Tirana, National Historical Museum and an Opera House can all be found in  Skanderbeg Square. The Fortress of Pertrela is located at the south of Tirana on the right side of national road linking the capital with the city of Elbasan. IT was built in the middle ages, and was commanded by Skanderbeg's sister, Mamica Kastrioti. Also the Fortress of Preza is a castle from the fifteenth century that has a dominant position in front of Kruja Mauntain.  The Kalasa Citadel ruins is also a great thing to see, along with the Agora ruins, and  Castle ruins. Finally, the Martyrs Cemetery which contains the ''Mother Albania'' monument, and the Tomb of Kapllan Pasha, built in 1814 to honor Kaplan Pasha, who ruled Tirana in the early 19th century, are must sees (Sites to see ). 



(Castle ruins with Adriatic Sea beyond, Himara. Photo by: Tony Wheeler for The Lonely Planet)