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A Lithuanian Wedding

Lithuanian Wedding Food | www.myfoododyssey.com

Everyone loves a wedding. The romance, the rituals, the gathering of friends and family and, of course, the food. Weddings are different the world over. While the end result is the same – the joining together of a couple in love – the ceremonies and customs can vary enormously.

Last weekend saw the wedding of two of our close friends, Julius and Asta. They’re a lovely couple and we were delighted to share in their big day. It was only my second time to attend a Lithuanian wedding and as the first was several years ago, I had forgotten how different they are from Irish weddings.

Lithuanian Wedding Carp | www.myfoododyssey.com

Rather than being hosted in hotels, Lithuanian weddings tend to be held in small “sauna houses”. A sauna house is generally built of wood and situated deep in the countryside, often beside a river or lake. There is usually a large open area downstairs for eating and dancing and a small number of rooms for guests upstairs. And there is always a sauna, either within the building or in an outbuilding. Partaking of a sauna, followed by a dip in the river or lake, is part of the “morning after” celebrations, when make-up and hair are no longer of concern.

For me, one of the most significant ways in which Lithuanian weddings differ from Irish weddings is in the amount of food and drink that is provided. I don’t mean to suggest that Irish weddings are stingy in this regard – they most certainly are not. But they are a bit more contained than Lithuanian weddings. At an Irish wedding there may be canapés and wine or champagne on arrival, then there is a formal sit-down meal of several courses, and later in the evening there may be sandwiches or snacks, principally laid on for those invited to the “afters”. (For those unfamiliar with the concept, the “afters” is the part of the wedding after the meal and speeches – the “party” part. It is common for extra guests to join the party at this stage.) Wine is usually served with dinner and often a drink of your choice is provided to toast the bride and groom. Outside of that, any drinks are purchased at your own expense. If you opt to stay over at the hotel it is at your own expense, as are any meals or activities the following morning.

Lithuanian Wedding Table | www.myfoododyssey.com

In Lithuania, everything but everything is included. Your room is included. (You may need to share, but no one seems to mind.) The tables are laid with plate after plate of food and dozens of bottles of spirits and wine. These bottles and plates are replenished as needed during the course of the evening – nothing ever runs out. Platters of snacks are hidden in just about every corner. There is not just one cake – there may be several. There may be a keg of beer with a stash of glasses beside it to help yourself. Despite the delicious array of cold dishes already available, a hot course is served – a meat-and-side course similar to what would be served at an Irish wedding. It’s non-stop food!

Lithuanian Wedding Canapés | www.myfoododyssey.com

Of course there are traditions to be followed – speeches, toasts, cutting the cake and the first dance. The formal element actually runs for longer than at an Irish wedding, but there is plenty of food and drink to sustain you throughout. But the party doesn’t end when you go to bed. The following morning, the cold platters are again laid out for a breakfast banquet. After a few strong coffees it’s off to the sauna to sweat out all that alcohol. A quick dip in the river ensures you are fully awake before you return to the main hall for a hot lunch. Then it’s squeeze through the door of your car, push the sit back a bit to make room for your bulging belly, and off home you go, well and truly sated and exhausted from 24 hours of partying.

Understandably, Lithuanian weddings tend to be smaller than Irish weddings, with maybe just 30-40 guests. This means you get invited to fewer weddings, which is probably just as well. If I was to consume that much food on a regular basis I’d be as big as a sauna house!

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Lithuanian Wedding Cake | www.myfoododyssey.com

Lithuanian Wedding Cake | www.myfoododyssey.com

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Caitlín #

    I have just found your blog, June! Let me say how happy I am to find another Irish girl as in love with all things Lithuanian, as myself! I am interested to know did you have your wedding in Lithuania or in Ireland? I am torn between what to do myself!…Considering my partner is Lithuanian. I love the set-up of Lithuanian weddings, they’re so intimate. I have been searching but I cannot find anything similar to a “sauna house” in Ireland. I really do not want to have the ‘afters’ at a hotel… :/ I have been to Lithuanian weddings before and loved them.

    Like

    November 22, 2017
    • Hi Caitlin. We got married in Ireland, but we didn’t have a traditional wedding, partly because only my side of the family would have been there (his extended family and friends would not have been able to afford the trip) and partly because that just wasn’t me. So we had just immediate family on the day (which was in a church – at the time that was the only option outside of a registry office, which did not appeal) and then went to a local park (Castle grounds) for Champagne and nibbles. Most of the photos were taken there. We then went for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. There was only 12 of us so we sat around one round table. Afterwards, there was dancing, which was part of the restaurant’s regular Saturday entertainment. We danced with all the other diners! The next day we had a big party for friends and extended family in our back garden. We bought a cheap marquee and got in a local caterer to do the food. We bought all the drinks ourselves. There was no dancing, but there was a big sing-song at the end of the night! So that day was quite like a Lithuanian wedding. We had a similar party in Lithuania a few months later for LTN friends and family. I haven’t come across a sauna house in Ireland, but you might be able to take over a nice hostel for the weekend. Most have recreational rooms you would use for dining and dancing. People could share rooms – it’s just a place to put your head down. There are some lovely hostels around the country that might work. Whatever you do, enjoy it! It’s your day!

      Like

      November 23, 2017
  2. Very nicely written and beautiful photos! And so true of Lithuanian customs. You gotta love them or hate them..

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2014
  3. How honest and refreshing it looks amidst all those designed, overpriced wedding parties.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 21, 2014
  4. I was relieved when I saw that there are only 30-40 people at the weddings, I was thinking of the expense!
    I attended the evening part of a wedding recently, two neighbours had got married, almost everyone there knew each other which is quite unusual nowadays as it usually happens that one side only gets to know the other side on the wedding day.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
    • Yeh, that happens sometimes at country weddings and it makes them even better fun. There’d be no staying off the dance floor at that wedding!

      Like

      August 21, 2014
  5. longchaps2 #

    I also attended a wedding this weekend. Something about young love that lightens the heart and makes you squeeze your man’s hand just a little bit harder, huh? American weddings aren’t quite this decadent, which is a mercy for my waistline judging from all this glorious food, lol. Glad you guys had such a good time. Loved the story and the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 19, 2014
    • Thanks! Yeh, we’re both gone a little mushy. Even ended up dancing cheek-to-cheek in the kitchen after dinner! It’s all good, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 19, 2014
  6. I gain weight just by looking at it! I wouldn’t be able to get into my car! Looks and sounds like a lovely time.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 17, 2014
  7. Oh this was such an interesting topic! I loved all the pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 17, 2014
  8. That looks like great fun! I never did get invited to a Latvian wedding but I imagine it’s pretty similar!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 17, 2014
  9. “Everyone loves a wedding”? NOT me. I’ll do anything to get out of one, anything. To me, they are the most boring and onerous of social affairs. I actually prefer funerals, because they tend to be much shorter.

    Love the food pics – looks delicious and home-made.

    Liked by 2 people

    August 17, 2014
    • You obviously haven’t been to an Irish funeral, Simone – they go on for days! I know what you mean about weddings being onerous – I’ve been to a few that were quite tiring. But mostly I love them. I have a big extended family and weddings are one of the few occasions when we all get to hang out together.

      Like

      August 17, 2014
      • In Spain, someone dies, funeral is the next day, done and dusted!

        Oh my… extended family… one more reason to avoid weddings! Luckily there are no young people in my family, so phew!

        Liked by 1 person

        August 17, 2014

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