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Tying the Knot, Croatian style

The Mariner Creative Team's avatar By The Mariner Creative Team | 07 May 2018
love and marriage in Croatia

Croatia has a rich and interesting culture which is brought to life through the variety of traditions still observed today. A look at how weddings are celebrated, for example, provides great insight into the Croatian people, who don’t just value the past, but clearly love having a lot of fun as they maintain their historical traditions.  

Getting hitched in Croatia involves some of the more familiar wedding traditions: (usually) a white dress, a church wedding, a reception with lots of food and alcohol, dancing and the throwing of the bouquet. However, these are often coupled with some more unique, and fun, wedding traditions:

Fruit for the fiancée: Traditional engagements start with a piece of fruit, not a ring. The male will propose by giving his bride-to-be an apple, often with a coin inside it, known as an ‘Obiljezje’ (‘the mark’). Her acceptance of the fruit indicates she is now ‘marked’ as his fiancée.

A fake bride: On the wedding day, tradition has the groom and his friends approaching the bride’s house to ask for her to be sent out. Her family will usually refuse, and may try to trick the groom by sending out a ‘fake bride’. This may be anything from a male or elderly family member dressed up like a bride, to a doll wearing a wedding gown. Sometimes the groom also offers to buy the bride, with the family only agreeing to give her away for free when he promises his lifelong, loving commitment.

Carrying the flag, loudly: While the role of best man is considered a special honour in most Australian weddings, in Croatia it’s the role of ‘Barjaktar’, or banner-bearer, which is most important. This person’s role is to carry the Croatian flag in front of the wedding procession as it makes its way to the church. The Barjaktar, generally a male friend or family member of the groom, will usually make a lot of noise and generate excitement as the group proceeds to the church.

Who wears the pants? Sometimes still performed today, this is a game played during the wedding, where the bride and groom try to step on each other’s feet. Whoever succeeds first is said to be the one who will hold the most power in the marriage relationship – in other words, he or she ‘wears the pants’.

Shot-putting bride: The final task in a traditional Croatian wedding is for the bride to throw something over the roof of the newlyweds’ house before the couple enters. This is often a glass of rakija (a traditional alcoholic drink) or an apple. It is said that if the item thrown doesn’t reach the roof, but returns to the bride, she will eventually return to her family and the marriage won’t last. Perhaps a pre-wedding workout focusing on the throwing arm should be a must for all brides-to-be!