Am not the expert when it comes to Slovak traditions, but since I have been to more weddings in one year in Slovakia, than in all the years before in Belgium, I can say this:
Expect a river of alcohol. At least compared to a Belgian wedding.
Also expect to have more fun. Belgian weddings are usually quite stiff, the location may be a bit more modern perhaps, but it won’t be as cosy as a Slovak wedding.
It starts outside the church. Young men and young women run around and hand out drinks, cakes and cookies.
The men will give you a plastic shot glass of borovicka or slivovica. It’s ok to refuse, Slovaks are not pushy in this the way Russians are. I’m sorry, but some Russians will really take offense if you refuse a drink. Slovaks will greatly appreciate it if you down at least one shot, but they will not become obnoxious if you don’t.
The bride and groom are usually already in front of the church when most of the guests still have to arrive. Friends and acquaintances come and greet the couple. Only after the wedding ceremony do they congratulate them. They line up and everyone kisses the bride and shakes the groom’s hand. Sometimes rice is thrown, but most people don’t do this, as it can get stuck in the bride’s beautiful hairdo, for example.
Contrary to wedding ceremonies in Belgium, the sermon of the priest is considered very important and people listen up when the priest talks. In Belgium this is often a purely ornamental part of the ceremony, here in Slovakia you will hear people comment on the sermon later. Couples also have a preference when it comes to which priest performs the service. In Belgium we don’t have enough priests to allow for much choice in the matter.
All guests are then photographed with the bride and groom, there will also be group pictures. This can take a while, but no worries, the boys and girls keep handing out cakes and liquor.
It’s customary to also congratulate the parents of the bride and groom.
At this point you don’t give any gifts, unless you’re not invited to the party, then you give your gift now.
After this the whole group takes off to party at the venue.
Some people may honk the car horn, but considerably less frequent than is typical for a Turkish wedding for example. People will wave along the way, especially when driving through villages and not cities.
Once there you do not immediately enter the wedding venue. First there are more pictures, usually with the entire group.
The venue is often something like a ski resort, a lot of the guests will also spend the night there, just like the bride and groom.
One of the waiters will break a plate at the entrance to the party room.
The bride and groom need to clean up the broken pieces. For every piece that they miss they will have one child. It’s typical for the guests to sabotage their sweeping activity. You can kick the dust pan just when they are almost finished.
After that the groom will carry his bride over the threshhold.
You will then enter and look for your place at the dinner table, seats are almost always indicated with your name and indicated beforehand.
The best man of the groom will give a speech, as will the father of the bride. These speeches are often funny. If you want to have a funny speech at your wedding you can contact Šimon Dian, who’s a true professional.
People will then stand up and sing this song: https://youtu.be/bDQlcj9sFd0
There will be an alcoholic drink like martini ready for you.
You get an appetizer, soup, a main dish and cake. Expect to eat a lot, but it doesn’t get decadent, like at certain – again, am sorry- Russian weddings.
A bit odd for westerners is that all kinds of bottles are put on the table while everyone is eating. Bottles of wine, all sorts of spirits and beer will appear. Surprising, to western eyes, is that often women will take the lead in this and start drinking shot glasses of liquor at a dazzling speed, without really getting drunk. They always seem to stay capable of coherent conversation.
You will be expected to dance, but if you really don’t want to, nobody will get mad. Nobody except professional musicians will expect you to be a good dancer, so you may as well join in, it’s very much appreciated. Even Wooden Legged Will (that’s me) joined in, and I hereby wish to apologize to all women whose feet received some damage because of my openness to Slovak culture.
If you are a westerner at a Slovak wedding and the other guests find out, you will get a lot of questions. They will mainly be surprised that you want to live in Slovakia. When they ask how on earth I ended up in Slovakia I say: ‘By bus.’ Most Slovaks think that their country must be a living hell if you’re from the west, which is of course pertinently untrue.
People will be in a fun mood. For example, one guy I had never met before thought I looked like Charlie Sheen, dragged me in front of other guests and made a quiz out of it: who does this guy look like according to you? While he was singing ‘meeeeeen.’
People will try their utmost to see that you always have a drink in your hand.
There are some east-west differences within Slovakia itself. It’s assumed that people from East Slovakia will drink much more than the rest, and that there will be a lot of them, because they have larger families. Possibly because I speak a bit slowly, being a non native speaker, I’m often taken for a Slovak from the East or from Ukraine. Or they think I try a lot and have many children… (none I know of…)
If you have gifts for the newly weds you give them after dinner. What you give is not publicly announced as it is in other cultures. Slovaks are very discrete.
Oh, at around midnight some sort of buffet will appear with more food.
An other custom is called čepčenie, it’s basically a form of theatre in which the bride is almost kidnapped by actors dressed up in traditional clothes. They try to convince the bride to run off with them and abandon the groom. She always stays of course (At least I think so).
You can expect a warm atmosphere, lots of conversations, you’ll meet lots of new people, and the mood gets more and more pleasant as the evening continues.
If you also stay the night you will also have breakfast with the other guests. This can include gulash and kapustnica (a kind of soup). It’s possible to keep drinking alcohol if you want, but at this point coffee is in much higher demand.
You will not leave without gifts in the form of a bottle of wine, borovicka or slivovica, and a huge box full of cakes and cookies.
This most is dedicated to Martin and Hana who got married on Saturday, the 7th of October.
This was their artistic wedding invitation, designed by Zuzana Pištova: