Tuesday, December 4, 2012

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)

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 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.

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.

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)

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.

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).

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.

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)

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