How to attend a Croatian wedding
A Croatian wedding called vjenčanje is a 24-hour party, which includes enjoying good traditional food and drinks, chit-chatting, celebrating, and dancing past dawn. The wedding party usually takes place in a fancy restaurant in the city or at a resort surrounded by nature.
Some Croatians organize the wedding ceremony to include all the traditional practices. Others are more fashionable, so they like to leave out traditional parts and prepare a crazy party. No matter which type of Croatian wedding you are invited to, it is always fun to attend it.
If you go to a wedding, it is vital to be prepared for the party, traditions, and rituals. And thus begins our guide on how to attend a Croatian wedding!
In this post, we cover:
- Wedding guests
- Crucial participants
- Gathering at groom’s
- Gathering at bride’s
- Wedding ceremony
- Wedding gifts
The facts are these…
How to attend a Croatian wedding
A typical Croatian wedding gathers approximately 70 to 300 people. As you can see, weddings are usually quite big here. Some invite fewer people if they want to make it more private, up to 30.
The bride and the groom usually invite their families, a wide circle of relatives, all of their closest friends, and sometimes even their work colleagues.
Inviting your relatives can sometimes be tricky. If you invite one, you have to invite all of them. Otherwise, one might be offended. Croatians take weddings very seriously, and nobody wants to be left out.
[Read: How to get married in Croatia]
The official witnesses at the wedding ceremony are:
- Kuma (maid of honor)
- Kum (best man)
A kuma helps the bride with all the wedding preparations before the ceremony. On the wedding day, she helps the bride get dressed and keeps up positivity and happiness throughout the whole day.
A kum is the groom’s right hand. He maintains a good atmosphere and entertains the guests.
Bridesmaids are usually the bride’s best friends dressed in beautiful ceremonial dresses of the same color. They follow the bride through the day, care for the ceremony’s flow, entertain guests, and inspire everyone to dance and party.
An important part of the Croatian wedding tradition is to have a barjaktar (a flag carrier) at the wedding.
Who is barjaktar?
Barjaktar is the groom’s friend, brother, or relative who carries a Croatian flag throughout the day. He is always at the front of the crew, waving the flag. Barjaktar carries a bottle of rakija or some other hard liquor and offers the drink to guests. The barjaktar is the chief entertainer and a very energetic person.
It is a tradition that the groom’s guests gather at the groom’s home before the ceremony. The gathering usually starts around 14:00, sometimes even earlier, and sometimes people start celebrating in the early morning. The kum, barjaktar, the groom’s best friends, and the family make a toast and celebrate.
The groom’s family and friends prepare many tasty traditional Croatian food and drinks. There will inevitably be a toast with homemade rakija, a traditional Croatian strong hard liquor that usually contains 50% alcohol. Just be careful and don’t drink too much rakija, because you have the whole day and night before you!
Tamburaši are responsible for the music and entertainment. Tamburaši are a traditional Croatian band usually made of 4-6 members. They play tamburica, acoustic traditional guitars, a double bass, a button accordion, and other traditional classical instruments. The band plays emotional Croatian traditional songs. Everyone sings, celebrates, and gets a bit tipsy.
After a few hours, it is time to go after the bride. All the guests go to their cars and form a car motorcade with the barjaktar waving his flag at the front. As the cars slowly drive towards the bride’s house, the barjaktar sits out of an opened window of the lead vehicle while waving the flag and shouting. Everyone else in the motorcade honks their horns.
The procession is very loud, and everyone can hear from afar that there is a wedding ceremony in their town!
When the procession arrives at the bride’s home, the groom usually goes first and knocks at her door. This is a nice old tradition but rarely seen at modern weddings. The groom is supposed to talk with the bride’s father and argue whether he will give him the bride or not.
His kum may help him out to get the bride. If her father isn’t satisfied with the negotiation, he can send a fake bride to the groom. A fake bride is usually a guy with a blanket over his head, so this can turn into a real show!
The bride finally arrives wearing her fancy dress, which is when the groom sees her for the first time that day. In Croatia, seeing the bride before the wedding is considered bad luck. Tamburaši continue to play, and people hang out.
The bride’s family also prepares something to eat and drink. The home is decorated with flowers, balloons, and other wedding decorations. There is also a tradition that bridesmaids stick a small branch of rosemary to every guest’s clothes, but sometimes they are given as bracelets instead.
People mostly get married at the church, as most Croatians are Catholics (more than 90%). The church is usually decorated with flowers and other wedding decorations. The wedding ceremony lasts for approximately 40 minutes, during which the guests are quiet and concentrated on the ceremony.
After the wedding ceremony, guests form a big row outside the church, and everyone waits to congratulate the newly-married couple as they exit. To congratulate them, you may say čestitam, which means congratulations.
It is a trend to throw flowers or blow bubbles at the married couple. A professional photographer takes a bunch of photos in front of the church, and people hang out for a while.
Sometimes a couple decides to get married at the registry office instead of the church. The process is a bit shorter and lasts around 20 to 30 minutes.
Croatians mostly like to throw a wedding party at a restaurant with a fancy atmosphere or a reception hall. Live music is inevitable, and newlyweds usually arrange a band, which plays until the early morning.
After the initial toast by the best man and maid of honor, a couple opens the dance floor with their so-called prvi ples (first dance). They usually pick a song that has a special meaning for them. Everyone gets emotional and joins the dance floor at the song’s end.
After midnight, the bride throws the bouquet, and all the non-married girls compete to catch it.
Traditional Croatian weddings are well-known for plenty of traditional food and drinks. Guests enjoy several courses of food during the night.
First, a casual dinner consisting of soup, different meat and vegetable plates, and side dishes is served. The type of food served varies depending on where the wedding takes place and what part of the country the couple is from.
Plenty of cakes, wine, beer, hard liquor drinks, and, of course, Jamnica (Croatian mineral water) are offered at the table. Being hungry isn’t an option as the whole night consists of eating and dancing combinations!
In Zagreb, it is tradition to serve goulash around 3 or 4 in the morning, while in Split, cuttlefish risotto and peka may be served. At midnight, the wedding cake is served and then the coffee.
During one part of the evening, guests bring their presents to the couple and usually put them into a special present box. In most cases, the gift is an envelope with a lovely congratulatory card and money which covers the restaurant cost for you and your companion.
You can give the newlyweds up to 200 euros, depending on how close you are and how much you like them. Any more than that, and you’re considered to be a show-off.
Another option in lieu of cash is to get a few friends together to give them a substantial gift like a TV or something big they need or want.
[Read: How to give a gift to a Croatian]
Enjoying the Croatian wedding party
The party is when you can finally eat, drink, dance, and celebrate until the early morning. Prepare to go strong until at least 6:00 and sometimes as late as 9:00 or 10:00.
People like to meet each other, sing, and dance together, and almost everyone gets drunk at least a bit (or a lot).
No excuses. It will be a whole night’s (or weekend’s) celebration! 🙂
View our other partnership posts
- All types of marital unions and partnerships in Croatia
- How non-EU/EEA family members of EU/EEA nationals can get temporary residence in Croatia
- How non-EU spouses of Croatians can apply for residence
- How to adopt a child and adoption by foreigners
- How to apply for temporary residence in Croatia based on family reunification
- How to get married in Croatia
- How to get married in Croatia if at least one spouse is a foreigner
- How to obtain a life partnership for same-sex couples in Croatia
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.