Before talking about Gypsy weddings, it is good to understand first who the Gypsies are. The Gypsies are the Roma people or Romanies who are a diverse ethnic group living primarily in Western Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe, Latin America, United States of America and Middle East. They are thought to have originated from the Punjab and Rajasthan regions of India. They began their migration to Europe and North Africa through the Iranian plateau around the year 1050.
Gypsies are very traditional. They place a high value on the extended family. Virginity is indispensable in unmarried women. Both sexes are expected to wed someone within their tribe and most Gypsies kowtow by marrying someone within their group. If a Gypsy male marries a non-Gypsy, his community eventually accepts her if she adopts the Gypsy way of life. On the other hand, it is a worse violation of the marime code for a Gypsy female to marry a “gaje,” (term used for non-Gypsies) because the women guarantee the survival of the population.
The first step in Gypsy weddings is the selection of the bride. In most Gypsy tribes, the boy’s parents are the ones who choose the bride and arrange the marriage. According to the law, it is an important duty of the parents to find a suitable bride for their son. They cautiously consider all the young women in their group and evaluate their qualities. The potential brides are judged not based on physical appearance but on their merits in terms of health, strength, stamina, manners, disposition, and domestic skills. The character of the girl’s family and their reputation in the community is also taken into consideration. Once the girl is chosen, the boy courts her and his family gives a dowry to the bride’s parents. This payment is a compensation for the loss of a daughter and a guarantee that she will be treated well.
Gypsy weddings or ceremonies differ by tribe. Some tribes need no formal ritual as long as the two people have agreed to live and share their lives together. This for them already represents marriage. In some Gypsy tribes, the groom and bride join hands in front of the bandolier and promise to be true to each other. In other Gypsy weddings, the rites are centered on bread. There are instances where the bride and groom each take a piece of bread and place a drop of their blood on the bread. They then exchange and eat each other’s bread. In other ritual where bread is still involved, the couple sits down, surrounded by relatives and friends. Small amounts of bread and salt are placed on the knees of the bride. The groom takes some of the bread, puts salt on it, and eats it and the bride follows her groom. The joining of salt and bread symbolizes a harmonious future together.