Weddings are wonderful, life-changing events. The blending of two people who are connected to two families of different ethnic origins is a delicate endeavor. How is a balance achieved?
When I became engaged to my husband, Don, who is 1/2 Dutch and 1/2 German, there might have been a twinge of disappointment that I was planning to dilute the Hungarian blood in our family, but my mom never let on. In fact, she and Don enjoyed a great relationship and it started early on by my mom going the extra mile as we planned our wedding.
Our wedding was pretty simple but nice. We had a brief reception at the church with cake, punch, and pastries. As a way to represent the combination of our ethnic backgrounds, my mom baked a lot of nut and poppyseed kalács (beigli) to serve and also encouraged us to secure Dutch letters from the bakery in Pella, Iowa for the “Dutch Touch”. I honestly do not recall what we did for the German emphasis but I am sure there was something. The dessert table included a traditional wedding cake as well as wonderful Hungarian pastries. It was a subtle way to sneak in the “Hungarian Touch”.
Not every wedding involving someone with Hungarian heritage will reflect something about Hungarian culture but there are options out there in case people are interested. Sometimes the proposal happens in Hungary or people go to Hungary to be married, others re-enact Hungarian culture and customs by being married in the U.S. but dress in authentic Hungarian wedding clothes. Others, like my mom, will choose to cook something for the buffet line or the dessert table. Maybe the ring bearer will carry a pillow made in Hungary or maybe the honeymoon will involve a trip to Hungary.
When our son, Landon, married lovely Grace in 2014, there were several Hungarian elements:
* A rehearsal dinner featuring Hungarian food: chicken paprikas, cucumber salad, cabbage and noodles, and rakott krumpli
* A pálinka toast at the rehearsal dinner
* Both walnut and poppyseed beigli/kalács were served at the reception
* Several richly decorated mézeskalács were used as decorations
* Szaloncukor was available for the guests to sample
* The wedding cake had a Hungarian theme made from fondant
* The bride’s father welcomed Landon to the family in Hungarian, it was so sweet.
When Lauren married Josh in 2015, there were also several Hungarian touches:
* We had a szalonnásütés in the days leading up to the wedding
* We shared pálinka
* We served homemade walnut beigli at the reception
* Lauren wrapped her bouquet with a cloth napkin embroidered in Hungary
While it is important to carry on Hungarian connections and traditions, the most important thing is to allow each couple to make their own decisions about how it will look for them. Experience and exposure go a long way in helping people connect to their Hungarian roots and it looks different in every family as well as changes depending on where they are in each stage of life. Don’t be dismayed if there wasn’t the Hungarian touch you were hoping for in a wedding in your family. Sometimes these types of things grow in importance as time marches on. Remember, there is a lifetime to share discover, celebrate, and share Hungarian heritage! Here are some suggestions:
*If you are serving wine at your reception, include one or more Hungarian wines. Include raspberry syrup and mineral water as a special treat for the children or those who don’t drink alcohol.
*Share Hungarian-themed gifts with the wedding party.
*Teach the wedding party how to say “Egészségedre!” ~ the informal version of “To your health!” for the wedding toast. It is best to teach and practice this before too many glasses of champagne!
*Have mézeskalács (the Hungarian style gingerbread-like cookie) with the names of the bride and groom and wedding date on it as a reception favor. Learn more about mézeskalács here!
*Serve Hungarian pastries or have a traditional cake decorated with a Hungarian folk art theme. We recently asked a local baker (who isn’t Hungarian) to decorate a cake like this and it was beautiful!
*Serve Hungarian food for the meal–stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikás or Hungarian-style salami and cserkész kolbász for the appetizer table.
*Incorporate Hungarian music during the ceremony or at the reception.
*Use Hungarian embroidery or Christmas ornaments for decoration.
*Consider hosting a good old fashioned szalonnasütés (bacon fry) for the wedding party or an informal get together to celebrate the engagement or introduce the families.
Let us know how you added a Hungarian touch to your wedding or share additional suggestions!
The Hungarian Stoire is a second-generation family business that began in 1988. Our mission is to provide you with resources and encouragement to discover, celebrate, and share your Hungarian heritage with friends and family! Sign up for the Hungarian Living e-newsletter HERE!
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