Bessarabien: Heimat im Bild
Heimatmuseum der Deutschen aus Bessarabien, Stuttgart, Germany, 1994
Usually 80 to 100 invited guests came to a wedding. Typically, the wedding reception was celebrated in the home of the bride's parents. Some rooms were cleared for the dinner. A pavilion tent was frequently erected outdoors. The incurred expenses were covered by the parents of both bride and groom.
Baking began as early as Sunday evening. Hogs and poultry were butchered on Monday and Tuesday to prepare a good chicken soup for the wedding and to ensure a good pork roast. Tischbuben and Geschirrmädchen went into action on Wednesday. They brought the necessary tables and chairs from relatives while the girls gathered the necessary silverware, plates, cups, glasses and what was needed to set the wedding table.
The Tischbuben had adorned their horses with colorful ribbons. They put a leather strap with small hawk bells around the horses' necks to draw attention from afar. Cracking the whip and pranking notions contributed greatly. The merrier and happier the Tischbuben were, the more a happy wedding was expected: a wedding in which the parish participated. The Tischbuben were anxious to gather the tables and the chairs in the morning, so that they could help their Geschirrmädchen in the afternoon getting the table china.
The Tischbuben harnessed the horses and urged the horses to travel faster to show-off with great pride and joy to the Geschirrmädchen, while parading through the streets. Their joyful laughter and whistling, as well as their joking notions and skillful cracking of the whips, attracted not only the curious youth but also adults in the streets who participated in this merry event.
On Wednesday evening, the invited bridesmaids and groomsmen met on the evening of the wedding celebration. On this occasion the boys chose their girls for the next day. They went home early to rest, because the next day required hard work.
Final details were completed on Thursday morning, so everything was ready for the wedding guests who often were invited for 2 p.m.
The boys and girls had already been invited during the week after the first public announcement. The "Kartenbuben", who delivered the printed or handwritten invitations, took care of inviting the other guests. To them it was an honorary task; and as appreciation, they were allowed one ride through the village in the wedding carriage. The "Häfa-Mädele", school girls, who assisted the "Geschirrmädchen" were honored in this way.
The guests as well as the boys and girls were gathered at 1:30 p.m. Now all were waiting with great expectation for the bride and groom who were picked up by a seamstress or by a good friend of the bride and taken to the house in the wedding carriage decorated with flowers. All eyes were on the young couple who were marveled and admired by all. The bride wore a white long dress [with traditional white waist sash], with a long veil and a wedding wreath in her hair. The groom had a boutonniere on his left lapel and usually wore a dark, black suit with a white shirt, a gift of the bride, with a festive neck tie or bow tie. The dress of the bride and the white gloves were a gift of the groom who was always seeking prized material from which the bride herself could select.
After coffee and kuchen, the sexton teacher or another teacher from among the relatives presented a speech. The wedding procession formed upon hearing the tower bell. The bridal couple went ahead; the man who gives away the bride and the bridesmaids followed in pairs. They all carried a bouquet of flowers. Then the parents of the bridal couple, followed by the invited guests.
They marched to church when the tower bells rang. Onlookers waited at the church entrance; they stood at both sides to form a guard of honor. Many of them followed the wedding procession into the church sanctuary and took part in the celebration; others waited outside the church until the bridal couple completed their vows.
Without mentioning entire details of the ceremony itself, highlights included the wedding anthem "Jesu geh voran", sung and accompanied by a pipe organ which was played at all ceremonies. Towards the end of the ceremony, the minister placed the wedding band first on the right ring finger of the bride, and then on the groom, as an outward sign of an eternal bond. Also, divorces rarely occurred in Sarata during 125 years because "what God has joined together, man shall not separate" was taken very seriously and often conquered a quarrel in a marriage.
After returning from the church, guests wished the wedding couple well. Each guest did this in person. Afterwards the couple drove to a photographer. In most cases, a photo of the wedding guests was taken.
During spare time, one hour, was used by the youth to play like "wutt wutt von herum..., der Bauer nahm sich ein Weib, ..." The large house yard was ideal for such games where the young boys could prove their skill and speed. They were singing, joking and laughing.
The adults watched the youth or talked at the tables. Cookies, kuchen and wine were available to all.
The wedding feast was ready toward 7 p.m. Meanwhile, the minister arrived to pray the meal blessing. The young people were gathered in the parlor room, the adults in the family room and the children in the large living room. There was room for everyone to feel comfortable. The couple sat at the head of the table with the boys and girls to their sides. Fathers and mothers had everything well prepared; they looked after their guests themselves. The dinner servers were to care for the food and the service. The cook was busy in the kitchen preparing good chicken-noodle soup, the pork roast and especially rice pudding with raisins. Some cooks gained quite a reputation for culinary skills.
The servers with their long, white aprons and wide, white sashes on shoulders and chest were always striving for a joyous and merry spirit. The good wines were praised, not desiring if somebody had drunk more than he could handle. Drunkenness never occurred at a well-conducted wedding banquet, even when great happiness was desirable.
There was much talking and singing after the meal. Children of relatives recited poems as good wishes. During this time, the bridegroom had to be watchful that the bride's wedding shoe was not stolen; otherwise he would have to redeem it in ransom.
The "Sakuska", a cold meal, plus more, platter was served at 9:30 p.m. Here local specialties were served: Pepper sauce, "Ikra", vinaigrette, "Maslinen" (black olives), various sausages/cold cuts, ham baked in bread, boiled Bessarabian brats served cold, smoked goose thighs and goose breasts, and finally liver pate. The minister leaves at 10 p.m. after he had taken monetary donations for the benevolent institution 'Alexander-Asyl' by passing a plate.
This signaled an indication to start dancing, for which the youth were anticipating. A button accordion was playing. Dancing was not desired at all weddings but was tolerated. The youth wanted to dance and were merry. Even older couples could not resist dancing to the 'Saratzki' and the 'Oira'.
At midnight, the great moment had come when the bride was 'abgekränzt' [uncrowned]. First, the girls formed a circle within which the bride sat on a chair. When the song 'Schön ist die Jugend' was sung and the girls danced in the circle, the bride was 'abgekränzt'. When the bride held the wreath, she was blindfolded, the singing stopped and upon a signal with her hand the girls stopped in the circle. Now the bride approached one of the girls and whomever she touched with her hand first received the wreath. This was accompanied by hand clapping because it signified that this girl was to be the next bride. Now the same was repeated by the groom being in the center of the circle of boys, who sought out blindfolded one of the boys by placing the boutonniere on his chest. The two "Begränzte" danced the honor dance drawing applause from the wedding guests. The wedding celebration was not over, however. Soon afterwards the couple took leave and retreated to their new home, while those with never-tiring enthusiasm danced until early morning.
On Friday morning, the helpers especially the "Tischbuben" and the "Geschirrmädchen" were busy. They must return the tables and chairs and the meal dishes. Then everything must be prepared for the next afternoon's celebrative gathering.
On Friday afternoon, the boys and girls arrived again at the home for the "wedding after", "Hochzeit vergraba". They brought wedding gifts which were displayed on a table for viewing. There were many gifts so that most anything was not lacking in the new household. A few gifting strategies had been made. Prankster gifts were not missing either.
The young couple must serve their guests at the "wedding after". It was a matter of honor for the young wife and the newly-wed husband to serve hospitality to their first guests with best ability. This was not difficult because everything was well-planned.
On Sunday afternoon, the young couple received their first guests in their own home. The new furniture and furnishings, as well as the dowry, were admired at this visit. The bride brought with her as dowry: furniture for the kitchen and home as well as the necessary bedding and linens.
Translation from German to English by Brigitte von Budde, Fargo, North Dakota.