With oodles of tradition and celebration, weddings in Albania are on a whole new level of madness.
We were not able to tick all the boxes in our Albanian wedding – it just doesn’t work when the bride is from overseas, rather than from the neighbouring village – but we tried to stick as close as possible to the real thing.
Weddings traditionally lasted a whole week with days of dancing, exchanging gifts and celebrating in the days leading up to the main event. Modern life makes this more difficult so these days weddings commonly last two days. The Bride’s family host her party (for Catholic families, this is usually a Saturday) the day before the Groom’s party (for Catholic families, this is usually a Sunday).
Usually the Groom and his family do not attend all of the Bride’s wedding party. A small group will turn up part way through the evening and stay for an hour or so.
Seeing as my family are all overseas, and 90% of my friends in Albania are cousins of my husband, my fear was the Bride’s party would have been a little low on attendance! However, we did have a wonderful bunch of friends and family travelling from NZ, UK and Germany. Amazing! So Saturday night we hosted a dinner party and blended our close family and friends – more in the style of a rehearsal dinner.
Normally the Bride is also glammed up in one of several wedding dresses hired for the weekend. I only had the one wedding dress, bought over from London so decided to opt for something a little simpler instead!
So about 40 of us gathered for a relaxed meal under grapevines. We feasted, drank and danced. It was so cool to see my non-Albanian friends mix and mingle with my new family. It was the perfect way to ease into the madness that lay ahead on Sunday.
Albanian wedding are all about the sparkles, frills and glitter. It’s the wedding nine-year-old girls dream of – all Cinderella and fairy tale princess.
So while it is quite possibly going to be the polar-opposite of our London wedding last October, it is, nevertheless going to be quite the occasion.
So, here’s the how-to for an essential part of Albanian wedding sparkle – the wedding favour.
(Think of me while you read – I’ll be all dolled up and dancing round in circles!)
- 200 x ivory bags with ribbon drawstrings and glitter dots stuck all over them
- 200 x little red roses made out of some sort of wetsuit material with green paper leaves
- 200 x individually-wrapped pieces of faux Turkish delight
- 200 x white sugared almonds
- 200 x pink sugared almonds
Place one piece of faux Turkish delight, one pink sugared almond and one white sugared almond into the middle of one ivory drawstring bag.
Grab the strings, pull, realise you’ve grabbed the same string and the bag ain’t going nowhere. Find the other string and pull drawstrings in opposing directions, bringing the edges together.
Tie strings in a bow. It’s fiddly.
Take one wetsuit fabric rose and twist the wire around the neck of the bag. Arrange to hide any messiness.
Now make the other 199.
Knowing our Albanian wedding would be big, manic with a lot of frills, we were very keen to have a small pause before the madness. The idea that we could have a small wedding blessing in the church built by hubby’s father in the village he grew up in was completely blissfully perfect for us.
So last weekend we took my parents (who had made the looong journey from NZ) and a close friend on the spectacular drive to the family farm. The highlight of our visit was the wedding blessing. On Saturday afternoon, in baking 30-something heat, we got dressed in our finery, put on our walking shoes and hiked over the hills and through the fields to the village church, 45 minutes away. We picked roses from bushes rambling along the side of the road and made up some sort of a posy. We sat under the trees outside the church while preparations were made. And we took the obligatory family pics. At the allotted time we traipsed into the church and took our seats.
The church is beautiful inside: cool and calm, peaceful with its exposed brick walls and wooden ceiling.
The priest led a short blessing in Albanian and then we filed outside into the sun and stood on the steps for photos before heading back to the farm for food and drinks.
It was everything we wanted.
My dear readers, we have the extra leg! In fact, we got the extra leg a few days ago and it has been tried and tested and approved of. It took five trips up to the prosthetics centre at Kukes hospital over two months for the measuring, casting, and testing of the leg.
Full credit to the committed team at Kukes. They have scarce resources and many people who need their skills and talents. One prosthetic technician to look after the 800 survivors of landmines and UXOs in Albania is hardly adequate.
Next up: arms. This is going to be the big challenge!
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