The Unique Muslim Wedding Ceremony in Bulgaria’s Village of Ribnovo

You might have a dozen of images for a ideal wedding in your mind, but this one filled with rich Bulgarian culture is sure to be different from any of them. Believe it or not, it is extremely beautiful and mysterious.


In February, Fatme Robova and Refat Atipov held their wedding ceremony in Ribnovo, a small village in Bulgaria. Few thousand Pomaks, or Bulgarian-speaking Muslims inhabit here, on the top of the remote Rhodope Mountains. Boryana Karsarova documented the unique 2-day wedding ceremony with the camera.


Dressed in traditional garments, Robova was the heart of the ceremony with elaborate face paint on. This valuable face-painting called “gelina” by the locals is indeed a specialized art, which symbolizes of the bride’s purity. It is reported that only 4 communities in total perform this kind of art on their wedding, which makes the technique rare and precious. “There are only a few women in this village who know how to paint brides,” said Katsarova.


In Ribnovo, people work in spring, summer and autumn. And winter is the only season when they get married and hold these incredible wedding ceremonies. Sometimes there could be more than 10 marriages in one winter. Romantically, people celebrate whenever snow falls.


Weddings usually last for 2 days, first day for the bride’s family and the second for the groom’s. The bride’s family presented gifts and items which curated throughout Robova’s lifetime in the new house for the couple. All those dishes, blankets are more than gifts and represent the family worth. People would gather for meals and dancing “horo” together.


And in the second day, the custom requires totally different things to do. The groom’s family leads a parade with presents and music while they walk through streets and escort the bride to their new home.


Whenever there’s a wedding, the streets are crowded by people in colorful clothes. Dancing and music playing brighten the whole atmosphere.And obviously, the bride is the most special role in the wedding, with all the fantastic traditional clothing and make-up. “We love the clothes. We feel like a woman on the inside.” an local young lady explained to Katsarova.


They don’t have expensive champagne and wedding dresses, but the characteristic winter wedding is full of pure happiness and romance, which matter most. And anyway, the culture it delivers is truly amazing.