Case Study - Weddings in Bulgaria: Urban/Rural Cultural Divide

The issue: The growing polarization between the rural and urban lifestyles of young people and the fast disappearance of traditional rural culture.

The case study: The following is an analogy which portraits and compares the experiences of two young couples on what should be the most memorable day of their lives – their wedding.

Roles: Ivan (19) & Maria (18) Hristo(25) & Kremena (24)     

Setting: Bialo Imare Village Strandja Mountains, South Eastern Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgarian Capital, Western Bulgaria

Time:     7.00 am Ivan has been up for the last hour and a half. Has seen to the live stock, done the usual household chores, washed, dressed, checked on the weather forecast and is presently nervously drinking coffee in expectation of his mother’s final inspection of his suite and tie. Maria is in the company of her mother, 2 sisters, 3 aunts and numerous cousins, meticulously arranging every detail of her wedding dress and for the last time going over every aspect of the coming ceremony and following festivities. Hristo and Kremena are still asleep.Hristo - onthe floor, in a friend’s apartment following an all night binge.Kremena is in the studio which the two share. 9.00 am The groom, in the company of his close friends has checked whether the priest is sober and capable, helped with the arrangement of the tables at the village hall, and supervises the food and drink preparations in the local restaurant. The most important thing on his mind is whether the 90+ cases of assorted booze are going to be enough for the 300 expected guests or if another truck run will be required to the local distillery.The bride is listening for the 11th time the tale of her aunt ( also called Maria ) of her own wedding and varied details of her subsequent married life Hristo and Kremena are still asleep. 10.00am Ivan surrounded by the multitude of his family and friends is waiting nervously in front of the village church, while Maria’s party is has already dispatched an 11 year old cousin to make the run from the bride’s house to the church and calculate the precise time they need to leave the house to arrive for the 11.00 ceremony. Hristo is still asleep. Kremena has awoken, dressed for the 11.00 wedding appointment and is trying to call Hristo on his mobile phone with no success. 10.30am Ivan’s party is holding their position, while Maria is pacing nervously in front of her house waiting for her mother’s signal to proceed. Hristo being kicked in the ribs by his friend the host, wakes up and takes Kremena’s call. After listening with a painful expression to her verbal abuse, he borrows a suite from his friend and hurriedly proceeds with his entourage of 4 male friends to a taxi outside 11.00am In all her splendour the bride enters the church to the sound of gasps, cries and cheers originating from the hundreds of gathered guests. Kremena, surrounded by about a dozen friends, her mother ( there has’t been any communication with her father since the divorce ) and brides mate ( her sister ) is located in front of the district wedding office, being urged by the attendants waiting for the next scheduled wedding appointment to “get on with it”. Kremena communicates her views on the subject back to them in a rather overt manner. 11.30am In the glint of golden icons, surrounded by plumes for mirth the couple take their wedding vows and exchange rings. At this point the pitched crying by female family members takes the form of continuous loud sobs. Sweating and panting Hristo exchanges vows with Kremena, who’s ominous sarcastic grin says volumes as to the expected nature of their first wedding night. 12.00pm In a shower of rice, confetti and candy, the couple lead the 300+ strong procession from the church to the village hall, where dozen’s of tables have had to be placed outside to be able to accommodate all the guests. In a cafe near the couple’s studio the 8 or so guests who have chosen to stay are saluting to the marriage and discussing the couple’s future prospects as well as each other. 3.00pm Toasts are still being delivered by close relatives to the sound of whistling and cheers from the seated crowd. The bride sits next to her husband exhausted from having accepted hundreds of personal greetings and presents. Hristo, Kremena, Kremena’s mother and sister are parting in front of the café. 5.00pm two days later The last of the guests have finally departed (or being carried) home. The bride and groom have already departed to a seaside resort for a week- long honeymoon. Hristo and Kremena have just finished their day at work. Kremena on her way to meet her sister and planning to do some shopping on the way, while Hristo is heading to meet his friends at a local bar.

by Peter Stanev

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