Albanian Weddings for Dummies

The first thing to do when invited to an Albanian Wedding is to stock up on cash: singles, fives, tens or whatever the currency is at the country the wedding is taking place. This is for the traditional bride-groom dance where all the family and guests go to the dancing couple and give them money, or attach them to the groom’s forehead and his pockets, bride’s hands, or if they are daring or drunk, down her dress. Then the father or a rich cousin usually, “showers” them with money, throwing them over their heads.
It is not the young couple that will benefit from this show, but the band. Years ago, the “throwing money” part was a custom of weddings on mid Albania only, but the bands made it popular with other regions as well. They liked the money so the custom was incorporated into most weddings throughout the country. Years ago, there was only one traditional bride-groom dance as well, but that is also changing, with the band striking up the wedding tune “Napoleon” anytime they feel they need more money.

The wedding normally starts on Thursday, with the viewing of the girl’s dowry. If you are on the bride’s side (especially a woman) you go and view all the displayed finery. It used to be that the bride to be sowed and embroidered all her dowry, but nowadays is mostly bought into the finest stores the family can afford. The dowry usually consists 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 in the new home. This custom comes from earlier times when the dowry was all that the bride was allowed in her husband’s house and her wealth was displayed in golden coins necklaces and belts.
Thursday is also the time when the bride starts her make-up preparations. Some families schedule visits for the less important or the less known guests and neighbors at this time.
Traditionally you are given a Turkish delight, and sweet sherry for a woman, or raki/hard liquor for a man. Please do not refuse it even if you hate alcohol or are a diabetic.
It is customary to leave some money at the tray or on the coffee table (usually around $10-$20 or the Albanian equivalent) in lieu of wedding presents. Only the very close members of the family give presents to the couple in form of a dowry. All these money gifts are almost always registered carefully and given to the bride and the groom to start them in their new life.
Friday is the day when the guests continue to visit for bride viewing and to wish good luck and congratulations at her home.
The bride is all in white and expected to greet each and every guest on 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. She is not supposed to smile or laugh very much, and sometimes is a very serious woman indeed.
Friday is also the night of the cocktail party or dinner for the closest social circle of the couple. It is more informal and the bride can wear white or other colors as she wishes.
Saturday, it is still visit day, but most importantly it 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 one who toast the party and it is advisable to raise the glass and take a sip of whatever you are drinking anytime they do so. Do not toast with water!! Usually you can leave the wedding after 12 at midnight but it is considered offensive to leave before. Same goes for the groom’s wedding dinner party.
Sunday late morning or noon, the groom and his party come by cab/limo/bmw/carriage to pick up the bride. There is a little girl with the bride’s bouquet. Rice and sugar is thrown when the bride leaves her father’s home. 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 groom take romantic pictures by the lake or a park or whatever view the wedding cameraman has chosen. Some couples have also incorporated the church/mosque or civil ceremony into Sunday morning tradition.
After, they are brought to the groom’s home where people are waiting to visit with and congratulate with the new couple. This is also called “qoke’ or “adet” (tradition, custom, duty). This is most likely to the groom’s father home, even if the young couple have a place of their own already.
Sunday night is the groom’s wedding dinner party. Bride’s close family and relatives come around 12. The first toast belongs to the groom’s father this time with the bride’s father or oldest male relative following closely behind. The bride’s party number is also odd, but they must have two more than the groom’s party of the previous night. Customarily a white “bachelor’s” handkerchief is doused with alcohol and burned during the traditional “Napoleon” Dance. Preferably the kerchief should be cotton since it burns so easily. Please stay away from polyester or rayon as they smell horribly and do not burn steadily. The kerchief should be aflame while the groom dances with it and it is not a good sign when it stops burning midway. Sometimes people fire shots in the air to announce the wedding.
Typically, the young couple goes to honeymoon immediately after.
Nowadays, it is not very often that people do separate wedding dinner parties. Usually they consolidate on a Saturday. More and more couples also prefer to hire a DJ and sometimes a Classical Singer or orchestra. They have also incorporated a “Master of the ceremonies” and a slide show telling the story of their love, as well as bride’s maids and groom’s men. The bride changes dresses at least twice, possibly into more informal and comfortable outfits as the party goes on.
If you have missed visiting the couple during the wedding days, or have not received an invitation, you can still go the month after and leave some money on the table or tray as a congratulatory gift. If the couple has moved into a new place, you ought to bring a housewarming gift as well.
These are the general proceedings. Each region has its own folk customs and traditions that sometimes are observed, like the bride entering on her right foot at the groom’s house for the first time, or dipping two fingers in honey and smearing some on the outer door. Some regions stage a mock fight between the bride and groom’s parties.
People living abroad try to observe as many of the customs as they can, but there are a lot of western weddings elements in Albanian weddings especially if one of the spouses is not Albanian. Either way, you must be prepared to drink eat and be merry for a really long time, because the tradition demands it.

33 thoughts on “Albanian Weddings for Dummies

  1. perfect description dear..
    meqe ra fjala e kam pasur perhere tmerr ate menyren sesi ishin te detyruara dikur nuset e shkreta te buzeqeshnin apo te rrinin si hijerenda , qe me sakte i thonin “nuserim”..Psh.dikur ne nje dasem degjova dike qe tha “sa bukur po nuseron filanja”..
    Sa idiote mu duk si ide!

  2. ehh, nje here mora pjese ne pergatitjen e nje nuseje. fillonte qe te merkuren me te verdha veze e me birre ne floke, ne mungese te llakut. veglat e nuserise ishin vegla torture per mua. megjithate ca kohe me vone kujtimi i atyre diteve me bene te eksperimentoj me vajin e ullirit, vezen, karrocen e foshnjerise, motren, carcafet e vjeter te shtepise dhe dy perde te zverdhura nga tymi i duhanit. doli dasma mrekulli, por kur erdhi mami ne shtepi, na denoi te dyjave ne banjo, sepse iu desh te pastronte fund e krye.

  3. One important aspect you missed out is the bride cries (although now many tend to ‘fake it’) when she leaves her house…

    Great article though

  4. S.O.S i need help for an albanian project on customs traditions and celbrations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. i need help! to anyone who is albanian please email me! please! i want to be with a boy who is albanian. his parents have already turned me down because i am italian. but i will fight until the end i want to be with him i want to understand and learn the albanian culture and everything there is to know about albanian tradition and way of life because i intend to approach his family in a few years and let them see that this is what we both want! i am happy to convert religion and change my way of life to suite theirs! do you think there is any possibility of being accepted into their family or do you think i should just give up? do you think i am wasting my time? if theres anything that you could suggest to help me in this situation that would be so helpful.. anything that will help me to help them accept me and see that we love eachother! please!

    1. Hey Michelle, not every Albanian parent is like that. I am Albanian/Italian/Greek and my husband is black American. my parents have no issue with that. as my mom says: as long as i see that my daughter is happy and she is treated well, i am happy with whomever she chooses to love and spend her life with. We have a little girl now and my parents absolutely adore her.
      If you are having issues with his parents strickly because of your ethnicity it is up to your boyfriend to make them understand that he loves you and that you are going to be part of his life. It seems like his parents are very old fashion so just be very respectful. But like i said before it is up to your boyfriend to make them understand. I hope this helps.

    2. I am in a sticky situation just like you, I am an american dating an albanian, Im trying to learn albanian, cook and learn the culture. One way they would have to accept you is from what I heard from my boyfriend is they would only turn you down if you guys are only dating, they wouldn’t try doing anything unless its offical that you guys are engaged. They may not like you for a while but you just have to stick it out. It will take some time.

      1. Can you elaborate what you mean? If you can read my post bellow that would be very kind of you…because im in the same situation. And im not like dating dating (doing something that is unlawful sexually) but I see myself like engaged to him. In a serious relationship. And when he hints it to his parents he hints it out stating that this is a serious inquiry and he wants to go through with this. His parents are traditional.

    3. the best thing for you to do is run fast as you can, because if the parents don’t except you now, what makes to think it will happen once you convert!!!

  6. ey Michelle it seems that Albanian parents are to old fashioned and bring their sons to different countries and expect them not to fall in love with foreign chicks, im South african and my now husband is Albanian and his dad still wnt let it go. We have been married two months now without the help or going through that tradition because we tried and tried, we begged, bent backwards then we finally just ran away and started our own life we are so happy, his dad is just so controlling the mums seem very quite and humbled. My advise is if your’ll really love each other and would leave everything behin and start afresh like we did then try go to the parents but i doubt it will be what you expect so goodluck. Anywhoo we are now pregnant and his parents still will not accept it he still tries to get my husband to forget about me, tell me what you think of my situation. Lolz love is stronger than anythong and can overcome any obsticle dnt ever let anyone or anything take u you away from love cos it comes around once and once its gone it will be a long time before it comes again, it probably wouldn’t then you would spend eternity saying if only… Im happy with the little i have cos if u looking in from the outside thats wt it looks like, but its a hell of alot in my heart i have found my true love and im not letting anything or anybody take it away and he feels the same… His my husband, friend, lover everything i need… if there is anything a person should fight for its love, cos love is all we need.

    1. Traditionally, there are two weddings, and the bride’s mom only attends the second one as a guest (or not at all) for a defined period of time. The daughter is considered “taken” once the groom’s party takes her from her home and her mother-in-law is her new “mother” so to speak and fulfills all mom obligations in the second wedding

  7. Bravo Blerta, great post!
    It’s a funny coincidence, as i was planning to contact you for some project regarding albanian wedding haha.
    I’ll give you a call tomorrow.

  8. Hello!

    I am getting married this September to an Albanian and I have read about the traditional 7 day wedding ceremony but we are not following that as we are getting married in Canada.

    Is there anything specific we could do during the actual wedding ceremony or reception to bring in the Albanian culture?

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Congratulations!
      There are some things you can incorporate in your wedding, after finding out which part of Albania your future spouse hails from. Usually, people from my area dance the “bride and groom dance” (you can go to you tube and watch “Dasma Tiranase”) and learn “Napolon”. Alternatively, you can symbolically burn the “bachelor kerchief” (but check the fire code in your wedding hall first).
      If you have Albanian friends or in-laws, I advise to hit them for advise as well.
      Best of luck,

  9. I’ve been invited to an Albanian gypsy (Roma) wedding in Greece. I know the family well, they are from Tirana. Does the article apply unchanged? What Roma aspects might be different? Thanks for any help.

    1. I am not sure, but it does not hurt to pit some small denomination paper currency in your pocket. Please write back your impressions, i am curious too!

      1. Their wedding program (my Albanian Roma friends) is slightly different to that described in the article. Thursday is viewing the dowry as described, but the wedding party is on Friday night in a restaurant, not Saturday. Saturday morning there’s something on at the home. I’m invited to all three events. The bride leaves Saturday afternoon.

        I’ve been invited to sit at the family’s table at the party, presumably a considerable honor. But does it imply any lasting commitments on my part? I have already given a serious gift plus cash.

      1. they are having close relatives and friends from 11am to 1 pm, at a venue, close to home for sweets and coffee etc. and then reception at 6pm. some other place how do I dress for the first one. and when do i give them the present

  10. I am Palestinian Arab who wears hijab (scarf) and I am currently in a relationship with an Albanian guy. We are totally in love. He is my best friend, and God willing my soon to be husband. I stumbled upon this blog, and I am quiet impressed. Seems sorta similar to Arab weddings. What I found totally amazing is the comments. It seems like I am in the same predicament as some of you. We would like to get married veryy soon but the only person that is stopping us is his mother. His father is open to “multi-racial” weddings, but he seems to be on his wifes side and its like a 2 on 1 fight. He has been at it for about 7 months. He tells me its different for him, and that its hard for his family and its not something Albanians do. His mother hasnt met me yet, she thinks im dark, hairy, uneducated, lazy and no sense of fashion. LOL! All she knows is that Im Arab from Palestine (in which she confuses with Pakistan, LOL, and that I might be an extremist because I wear a scarf (btw they are Muslims too). Im the totally opposite and I have a great personality and can make friends with just about anyone, and I am defff not extreme. He didnt show her a picture of me yet moreover hasnt really went into details with her regarding me because he wants to find the right time when she is relaxed because everytime she brings it up here and there she throws a fit and “crys”, but sometimes she jokes about it like “oh are u talking to her future wife.” So I feel that maybe she might give in. I tell him that he needs to sit her down and tell her who I am and show her a pic so she can chill. But I feel like he is scared what her reaction might be. We love each other very much and it hurts the both of us that maybe we are not meant to be. I absoulety love East European culture, and I am veryyy respectful to other people’s culture. An issue she brought up is language and family reputation. She and her husband speak broken english, and she feels like there will be a huge gap between my family and I and them, which i feel we can make it work. I do not know what to really do but to pray to God to make it work. I am just sorta shocked that this is coming from the grooms side…because its known that the girl marries the guy and marries his family as well, but its never the other way around. It is the guy that takes the girl away and she becomes incorporated with the ways of her husbands family. Any advices from any Albanians out there? Im hoping his mom has a change of heart:/ My soon to be (hopefully) wants to appease all sides and I understand that. I dont want his parents to shun him, I want a big happy family with less drama.

    1. Don’t know if you will ever receive this, but I am an albanian girl who is in a committed relationship with an American who totally doesn’t understand the culture. Albanians can be supremely stubborn, and it takes an apocolypse for them to admit defeat or wrongdoing. When I first informed my parents about my relationship, they were horrified and had the temerity to demand that I end it. Months later, they have come around, but not before my partner made an effort to learn a few albanian words and eat all of my moms food, (when I know he would prefer mcDonald’s) . Politeness and respect will carry you into their esteem, even if they don’t particularly deserve it, based off their judgementleness. Albanian parents can be far too controlling and overprotective; and while your partner will want to show respect to his parents, he also needs to respect YOU as a potential life partner. To a point, he mustn’t let his parents walk all over you and your relationship, or disrespect you. It is important that he does this to show his parents you are worthy of their notice and respect. He could talk about your positive qualities (education, hobbies, cooking skills, earning power, etc) to his mom and dad. if he is truly considering you as a life partner, he will want you and his parents to get along and will do everything in his power to make this happen. If the parents are from an old family, prestigious in Albania, they may feel entitled to certain things. MY parents certainly do!! Flatter them and be charming, but you and your partner should present an unified front, an unpenetrable fortress of support for your relationship. In the end, the love of the parents will translate to acceptance! Good Luck!

  11. SoMe of these comments have made me smile, laugh and cry. I have a very similar situation to some of you but I believe mine is by far more upsetting.
    I’m black European girl from Portugal, I have been dating an albanian guy for nearly 4 years now.
    When we first started dating his parents found out about us and demanded that he finish with me, he never did but avoided me for days I finally aaked him why he wasn’t speaking to me, he told me that his parents are racist and dont want him to date me. I have never in my life felt so hurt and ashamed to be myself. We never broke up just kept seeing each other in secret. 3 years later I moved to a different town because of uni and my boyfriend followed and started working there, we also started living together, everytime his parents came to visit I would leave and stay at a friends. I was at our apartment one afternon whilst my boyfriend was working, the doorbell rang and it was his parents, I seriously froze didnt know what to do but I opened the door and said hello, they looked more shocked than I was, at first they were asking were my boyfriend was in a normal tone of voice, but then the mum started shouting at me in the little english she could speak, I had no idea what she was saying but I was so terrified that I started crying and just left them standing on the porch and walked to my friends house. Because of the shock I couldnt sleep for weeks I went to my doctor and found out I was 3 months pregnant!! I told my boyfriend this and he was happy about it and wanted to have the baby, he also promised that he would take me away and not have contact with his family because if they canr accept me now they will no doubt deny our baby, he got engaged and was looking forward to getting married. , the future for me was looking good finally I could live in peace with the man I truly love.
    Im so embarrassed and ashamed to say, but its 2014 we have a 6 month old baby, my fiancé is living with me and our baby in my house. His parents dont know that we are living together they dont even know that we’re still together!! I doubt they even know he has a child!! He says he has already told them but they dont approve, he goes to see them everyweek.
    All throughout this relationship I have felt abused and non human, I have cried so much the stress I carried when I was pregnant is heartbreaking. All the promises his made were lies and I dont think he will even marry me, he says he loves me but he doesn’t even have the back bone to put his foot down to his parents! Am I fighing an unwinnable battle??
    Any advice would be much appreciated this is the first time I shared this.
    Prancer90210@gmail.com

    1. I think you should just throw him out and take h to court for child support. There are plenty of Albanians happily married to foreigners so if he is strong enough, he will be with you. If not, you don’t need weak guys around you who will not stand up to the pressure of being in a biracial relationship. You are young and pretty and educated so you should not be hiding yourself and your family to please narrow minded people. Good luck!

    2. Well darling, I am going to tell you something, may be the topic is a little bit different, but in a point there are similar. I am an Albanian girl, loving another Albanian girl. For sure, my family wont aproove that, and her family also, but I think if someone love you loves you for who you are. If my family love is conditional, from the right I have to love, I am sorry but I do not need this kind of love. It is preety fair to stay with the person you love. I will not let my girlfriend alone, even if apocalypse is happening due to that. Everyone should take their responsibility, and in your case is your lover´s responsibility to take care of his issues and not to hide. It is realy such a big a shame, you are staying with a coward, is that the kind of father you need for your child? Is that the right example of a family he is giving to his own child? I don´t think so. Show him the responsabilty, or to take the courage to solve this situation, or leave him and go on with your life. I know and I understand you love him, but he must give you a proof of his love, he must solve his issues to be fine with you, if he can not, you just do not need him, and for sure you do not desrve all those tears, why to stay in this situation? It makes no sense to me, even with the fact that love is important for me, love means courage to protect and be near the one who you are loving, and not to hide.

  12. Hi sandy I wish to good luck on your wedding with the Albanian guy but u mentioned something about Pakistani girls…may I ask what do u know about Pakistan, its culture and girls ? I bet u r missing alot on Pakistani girls…I suggest u to visit Pakistan specially Islamabad and Lahore and you will clear all your misperceptions on Pakistan and its culture and girls… 🙂

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