A time to dance and eat heartily: the Hungarian country wedding

Foreign tourists in Hungary are often taken to see a traditional country wedding and its huge wedding breakfast. These events are by no means just a tourist attraction; they represent a living heritage. A great number of couples in both town and country still celebrate the happiest day of their lives surrounded by a mass gathering of relatives and friends, sharing a lavish feast and observing all the old customs.


Many and various are the wedding rituals that have been handed down through the ages: the earnest exhortations and the humorous rhymes of the best man, the weeping over the bride, the bridegroom’s farewell, and, of course, the wedding dance. During this, the bridegroom has to discover his bride from among several girls of the same height, all swathed from head to foot.

There are regional differences in the food, and the order in which the dishes are served, but they all have one thing in common: the table is so richly laden that there is plenty even for unexpected guests.

A time to dance and eat heartily: the Hungarian country wedding

Preparations for the feast begin days in advance. Crockery and cutlery are borrowed from relatives or ordered from caterers. Piles of pots and pans mount in the space to be used as a kitchen, along with mountains of food; there, an innkeeper, restaurateur, or cook with long experience of wedding feasts holds sway, directing with military precision the preparation of the wedding menu so carefully decided long before. Wedding celebrations are usually held in the open air in summer. A large marquee is set up to house the feast; the dancing takes place outside.


The meal begins with a rich meat soup containing noodle curls or “snails.” By tradition, these are made by the friends of the bride. Following the meal, the cooks are all invited to dance, or to take part in the “snail-stamping,” as it is popularly called.

The dancing continues through the night, traditionally accompanied by a band of gipsy musicians, though in these modern times, the music may come from a synthesizer.