What are the special traditions in your family? Here are some of my favorites:
• Decorating our children’s bedrooms for their birthdays.
• Cutting down our Christmas tree.
• Visiting the pumpkin farm for pumpkins, apple cider and caramel apples.
• Sharing the best part of our day each night during dinner.
• Celebrating our anniversary with a family dinner of corned beef and cabbage.
Last weekend we went to Pittsburgh for my brother’s wedding. His bride grew up in the Serbian Orthodox community there. The wedding and all the festivities were steeped in the rich traditions of their community. We could have felt like outsiders, but the members of the wedding party and the larger community opened their hearts and their arms to us.
The man they chose as their Kum fulfilled the role I think of as Best Man. However, being the Kum is a lifelong commitment and he will serve as godfather to their children, as well. The Stari Svat was the master of ceremonies for the wedding and the rest of the celebrations. The Stari Svat was the son of the bride’s Kum (her godfather). Both the Kum and the Stari Svat wore sashes with the colors of the Serbian flag. The American flag and the Serbian flag were included in all the ceremonies and events of the day.
The wedding day began Saturday morning with the Skup. As family and close friends gathered at the Serbian Club to await the arrival of the bride, we were given sprigs of rosemary tied with ribbon. We all moved outside and the band serenaded as the bride got out of the limo. There was a light lunch, lots of music and many toasts to the happy couple. The Stari Svat let us know when it was time to leave for the church for the actual wedding ceremony.
Having been to many weddings in my life, I can honestly say this was completely different. During the Betrothal part of the service, the Kum exchanged the rings between the bride and groom three times. In the Serbian tradition, it seems like everything happens three times, in remembrance of the trinity.
The priest bound their right hands together with a ceremonial cloth to symbolize their unity. Then he crowned them with beautiful crowns to symbolize that they are now the king and queen of their own little kingdom, their home. This was especially meaningful for the bride because the crowns were the same ones used in her parents’ wedding ceremony. After they drank from a common cup, the priest guided the bride and groom, along with the Kum and Stari Svat, on a ceremonial walk three times around the Sacramental table.
Once the ceremony was over, we moved outside where there was tailgating and music by the Serbian band from the Skup. Instead of rice, coins were thrown when the bride and groom emerged from the church. Because it was Pittsburgh, there are some great pictures of the bride and groom holding very large cans of Steeler beer (even though Steeler beer is brewed in Canada and not actually named for the much loved Pittsburgh football team.)
The reception was easily the most familiar part of the day for me. The cake was smaller than I usually see, but that was because there was a huge cookie table. The cookies, all homemade, were traditional Serbian cookies brought by friends of the bride’s family.
Did I mention the dancing? There was dancing at each event. There was some standard wedding stuff, but the highlight was the traditional Serbian dances. Everyone, young and old was dancing. I was impressed to see how the younger people have embraced their traditions. I really wish I had done some research so I could have danced along (I learned to salsa dance on the internet).
All in all, a wonderful time was had by all. The day was a celebration of love for the new bride and groom. It was also a tribute to the Serbian traditions and the people who honor them.