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Big Gypsy Wedding: Eyewitness Account From A Guest!

There's more to it than those reality shows let on.
When we envision a Gypsy, or Romani, wedding many of us may not consider the cultural and ethnic group that it is actually associated with. Instead, we think of Western weddings adopting or even appropriating elements that mass media has taught us are exotic and ‘Gypsy-esque’: colorful scarves, bangles, and wagons adorn the setting and guests. Or at worse, our opinions are influenced by offensive reality shows like My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, which portrays Gypsies as aggressive and melodramatic.

I am here to tell you that there is so much more to the Romani peoples and their traditions. Specifically, their wedding traditions. While there is bound to be some variation given the extensive Romani diaspora, certain elements remain cornerstones of the ceremony and many early traditions still hold.
Big Gypsy Wedding
Perhaps most notable is how much they value family. Family members attend weddings (and other major milestones) en masse. Certain family members even have an instrumental role in the couples’ relationship. When I asked the newlyweds how they’d met, I was surprised to hear that the groom’s parents sought out the bride for her many admirable qualities. And while parental-sourced matches don’t guarantee a happy marriage, this couple seemed genuinely smitten with each other.

Like many weddings around the world, the Romani celebrate such joyous occasions for several days. This was no different with the wedding lasting a busy three days—three days of pure delight as we danced, ate, and sang in this tight-knit community. I danced to the brilliant and melodically fast music, even a little flamenco, too! I dined on some of the finest roasted chicken, potatoes, and garlic-infused vegetables I’ve ever experienced. And I mingled with these two very loving families.

Unfortunately I missed the first day of festivities, which other guests told me was quite the spectacle. Per tradition, there was a staged kidnapping of the bride preceded by dowry negotiations (the bride’s father is compensated for the ‘loss’ of his daughter). The bride’s family tried to hold the fort, so to speak, while the groom’s side arrived to carry out this fun and benevolent abduction.

And as far as aesthetics go, I must say that the bride’s dress is an absolute work of art. Her gown was completely bespoke with chiffons, laces, and crystals in bold sapphire. Their tradition really fosters uniqueness and personality in their wedding garments, with fantastic results.

On the final day as we saw the couple off to their newlywed home (with the groom’s parents), the bride underwent one more tradition. The bride’s family (in this case, her mother and two younger sisters) unbraided her long hair, as to communicate that she is now a married woman. Then, the groom’s mother tenderly tied a scarf around her head, to always be worn in public from now on. I feel incredibly honored to have been invited to such a beautiful event with this amazing group of people. While I am, admittedly, honored to be invited to any wedding, this one holds a special place in my heart. It also opened my eyes to Romani traditions that, in many Western cultures, have been muddied by stereotypes. So to everyone who has a chance to attend a Romani wedding: trust me, you should go!

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 17th December 2016.
Sophia Mest
Sophia Mest is a contributing writer at Inspiration Unlimited eMagazine.

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