My host parents seemed to go to a wedding every weekend. Whether it was due to how surprisingly young they are and all of their friends are getting married, or that they are simply that popular, I could not tell. I also could not understand why they would not leave for the wedding until nine or ten in the evening only to return late in the night. Fortunately, one of the weddings was at our house so I got an invite.
When I say that the wedding was “at our house” I mean it started there. My host parents were the nașii (roughly translated into English as “godparents”), which meant that they were to stand alongside the couple and be witnesses for the entire ceremony. The guests and the groom gathered at our house around noon for finger-food, drinks, and dancing before going to pick up the bride. We then accompanied the bride and groom throughout each step: the signing of the marriage certificate, the service at the Orthodox church, and, finally, the reception. The whole journey was made into a party. The long caravan of cars drove along with ribbons and bows, honking and making a commotion in the streets, which to my surprise, was greeted by smiles and waves from onlookers. At one point, the car in front of me stopped and someone inside handed a bottle of țuica (plum brandy) to a few construction workers on the road. Every time we reached our destination a three-man band would play and two men adorned with Romanian tri-colored sashes made sure everyone had their fill of țuica. When we finally arrived at the reception hall and it seemed close to the end, it was really only just beginning. It continued on for hours over a six-course meal and dance after traditional Romanian line dance until, finally, around 5 am they brought out the wedding cake and things wrapped up.
Of all the differences between American and Romanian weddings, the length was what struck me the most– A total of eighteen hours. As I though about this difference, the words of a Romanian friend came back to me: “Americans work too much.” I began reflecting on America’s commitment to hard work and how it can overshadow other parts of life. Maybe that’s cliché, but as I sat there in the reception hall wondering why there were people passed their middle ages still dancing at 4 am, I began to see the difference more clearly.