A Hungarian-Finnish Wedding

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a wedding! But It was an unusual wedding in that the bride is Hungarian and the groom is Finnish. I had been warned that the wedding was probably going to be very different from what I am use to. I only vaguely remember the last wedding that I went to, so I really do not have much to compare it with.

The day started off with a 3 hour drive from Budapest to a city in the Southeastern corner of Hungary named Gyula. The actual ceremony would take place just across the border in Romania, and the reception was back at the hotel in Gyula.

After arriving at the hotel, we had an hour before we had to set out for the ceremony. Or so we thought. I was taking a mini nap when I realized that Romania is in a different time zone – they’re an hour ahead of Hungary! (Learning from past experiences you see) I asked to see if the ceremony was at 5PM Romania time or Hungary time. After double checking the invitation, it was indeed Romania time. It was 3:20 in Hungary and we needed to go ASAP to make the ceremony. We rushed to the border, waited and waited while they processed my passport (being a non EU citizen means longer waits at borders), and made it to the ceremony right before they exchanged vows.

The ceremony

The ceremony was held in a small village just off of the Hungary-Romania border. This area of Romania has a number of Hungarians living in it who all speak Hungarian, and identify as being Hungarian. Its only the political borders that divide them.

The vows were done in Hungarian and I was so impressed by the groom. He must have had to practice his vows over and over again to get the correct pronunciation. I could barely tell the difference when he was repeating them.

Following the ceremony, it is tradition for the bride and groom to lead the wedding party on a walk around the village. Traditionally, this is an opportunity for those in the village to see who got married and to whom – especially interesting if it is an inter-village marriage. Its also an opportunity to show off how many guests attended.

This was the part I was least looking forward to. This particular weekend, the temperatures were up to 38 degrees. Not the best weather for a stroll around the village in the heat. Thankfully, it wasn’t a long walk and soon we were on our way back to the hotel.

weddingThe bride and groom after walking through the village

The reception was like any other typical wedding reception – lots of food, lots of drinks and lots of people talking. It was interesting to have a wedding in two (sometimes three) languages. Everything that is said in Hungarian needed to be translated into Finnish and vice versa. Sometimes they threw English into the mix as well. I didn’t understand what was going on for most of it, but some things were translated for me.

starterThe starter: salad, salami, fried fat, liver and butter

The room we were in was unbearably warm. It was cooler to be outside than in. I guess that is to be expected when its 38 degrees out. The pace of the meal was very interesting. You would have one course and then wait a long while before the next course came out. We didn’t end up eating our mains still almost 11 at night. I don’t know if that is normal, but it was definitely different.

At one point in the evening, some wedding “crashers” came. They were all dressed up in funny costumes and had nylons over their faces. They are called maskarás who were there to entertain the people and to make a disturbance in the event. In exchange for their services and visit, they ask for leftover food and drinks. Traditionally, the maskarás are five individuals from the village and they take turns going to weddings – going as far has having a schedules for each weekend to determine who goes. Of course nowadays, this doesn’t happen and this was all part of the planned evening.


Then later in the evening, it was time for the Finnish side to get active. They kidnapped the groom and the bride had to do something to get him back. I was really tired and much too hot to pay attention entirely so I’m not sure what she had to do, but eventually he came back and all was well.

Another thing I noticed was that instead of clinking glasses with cutlery to get the bride and groom to kiss, they tapped on their bowls and plates. That was interesting. Its much louder and rather annoying. I much prefer the glasses.

Finally, the wedding cake came out and I headed off to bed well fed. All in all, there were some surprises, but no matter the culture or the language you speak, a wedding is a wedding. 

Wedding cake