Hide Your Wife – Or Be Ready to Pay Up

One look away and oops, she’s gone! Best advice for the groom? To keep his eyes on his bride. The sudden disappearance of the bride is a normal thing during a Romanian wedding reception. And getting her back does not come cheap.

Romanian bride poses with mock kidnappers holding a toy weapons at the Triumph Arch in Bucharest Romania
A Romanian bride poses with mock kidnappers holding a toy weapons at the Triumph Arch in Bucharest, Romania. The ancient Romanian tradition of bride stealing is getting bigger, brasher, and an increasingly common sight in the Romanian capital, the region's undisputed party town. Photo: AP / East News

If you’ve ever attended a Romanian or Balkan wedding, you know they’re loud. We don’t hold back from celebrating the newlywed couple. Music is blasting, people are dancing, and there’s food on and under the table, as well as questionable “water” bottles everywhere (if you know what I mean). In the midst of it all, people are having fun, not a care on their minds. In this wonderful mess, it’s easy to lose sight of someone, even if that someone is the bride herself. And once that happens, dear groom, you’re doomed!

The bride has been stolen – now what? In the crowded hall, silence prevails as the guests and, most importantly, the groom, await contact from the thieves. At the other end, the bride is enjoying her ride to another place or party. It could be a bar, a disco, a bridge, or a gas station. It really doesn’t matter.

A willing accomplice

What matters is that the groom has no idea of her whereabouts. Worse than that. It is the groom’s best men who are not only responsible for the bride’s disappearance but are most often behind the entire kidnapping! Usually, they have an accomplice – that would be the bride’s godmother or her maid of honor. So the bride, although stolen, is in good hands.

A cell phone rings in the wedding hall. The groom sighs in relief – but just for a moment. The joy of reaching his wife is soon to be overshadowed by the thieves who are just getting started on their plan. At this point, they are about to test the love of the groom for his bride. How much is he willing to pay to get back the love of his life?

I’ll leave it up to your imagination to figure out a sum. Just know that it is not cheap, and we’re not talking just money. The groom is often asked to sing or say a dedication towards his love. He is often asked for liquor bottles, but he could also be made to dance or reenact embarrassing moments of his life. There are no rules and everything the thieves want, they will get.

The groom pays a hefty price

Of course, negotiation is possible. The goal is to entertain both the groom and the guests. From money to gifts, from dedications to dancing with a broom and whatnot, from poems to vegetables (yes, we’ve heard it all), anything their minds come up with, the groom shall do. And if he doesn’t, well, we don’t know what happens, for there has never been a groom unwilling to risk his pride, and wallet, in order to get back his wife. 

Many justify this tradition by saying it reflects how things are in life. Uncertain, unexpected, and costly. Some see it as a metaphorical illustration of what can happen if you don’t look after your spouse. Others simply enjoy the excitement. As for the thieves, no need to mention their side of the story. So, next time you’re attending a Romanian wedding and the bride suddenly goes missing, don’t panic if you hear the bride was stolen, and above all, do not call the police. The party is just getting started.

Naomi Gherman

Master student in Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations at Babeș-Bolyai University, eager to share more about our world's most fascinating stories and people. Romania-based reader, writer and content creator with a strong interest in journalism, foreign languages and politics.

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