Love and marriage
Whether for romantic, affectionate, legal, financial, traditional, status-related or possibly even medical reasons - thousands of people get married every day. Lenka (30) and Pavel (29) from the Czech city of Pardubice have been engaged for five years and will get married on Friday 13 June 2008. This is their story:
`We have known each other for a long time`, says Pavel. `We were classmates in primary school and met up again in high school. We then got together and never separated again. We went abroad together to earn money so we could afford to buy a house, get married and start a family.`
Lenka (30)<br>Pavel (29):
`We got married after first spending 1.5 years in Ireland to save money for our new house`
Until the moment their house is built, Pavel and Lenka live together in an apartment block in Pardubice. `There`s no need to get married to live together in Czech Republic`, Lenka explains. `Young people may stay at home with their parents for financial reasons. Living together is at least a more affordable option than living in a flat on your own. Some people don`t even get married when they expect a baby. Single mothers get more financial support from the governments, so it`s even quite common for people living together and raising a child without being formally married.`
Lenka continues: `The average age for people to marry is about 25 for women and 27 for men. It used to be lower, and it has been increasing over the past decades, just like the divorce rate which is currently about 50%. Women are more likely to study, careers have become more important and life in general probably more demanding. Women are more independent. They no longer need need to stay with a man who doesn`t treat them right because they can earn their own money and lead their own lives. They too can have lovers like men can have mistresses. I think that many weddings are nowadays taking place in more of a rush, too. Life is much busier and hastier than before.`
`In spite of the slight degradation of marriage as an institute, a woman can still expect questions from people surrounding here if she doesn`t get married before say 27. Parents will start asking for grandchildren. Possibly even more than for a wedding, as marriage is mostly seen as a step towards having children. More so than the other way around. It would be stranger to get married and not have any babies than to have a baby without being married.`
Pavel explains that proposing is considered an act of bravery. `Contrary to getting engaged, which is more of a joint agreement. When I knew that I, one day, would want to get married with Lenka, I planted a rose in the garden of her cottage. Once the rose had come up, I showed her and told her that it was our flower. We got engaged, even though we did not exactly follow the tradition of getting married within a year. We first went abroad for a year and a half, trying to work and make some money so we could buy a house when we came back.`
Pavel remembers how he got sent off the first time he officially proposed that he and Lenka should get married. `Lenka likes Eastern-style meditation. I thought I would surprise her with a traditional Indian dress, handmade in India. I knew Lenka`s sizes from another less fancy dress that I had bought her as a Christmas present. I then selected tissue and asked an Indian colleague whether she could have the dress compiled and take it back to the Czech Republic after her holidays. Lenka was touched by my proposal, but she said she was not sure yet. So I waited a little and tried again a few years later. She had made up her mind and said yes the second time. She already had her present, so I didn`t need to bother about that twice`, Pavel says with a smile.
`I haven`t heard of a woman proposing to a man. She will give him hints, but the act of proposing is reserved to the man. Some people do it in the company of a group of friends, and it gains them quite some respect. After proposing, the next step is usually to buy flowers and a bottle of whiskey to take to the future bride`s parents and ask if they are willing to give their daughter away.`
Arranging the wedding
`In anticipation of the wedding, we are now starting to send out invitations to our friends, family and acquaintances. It is quite a delicate issue. Who to invite for which part of the wedding? We would like to keep it a bit modest: Fourteen people for the lunch and about 55 for the party in the evening. There are also people whom we like to inform about the wedding without really wanting to invite them. And of course, we disagree about some people. How to invite one cousin without inviting the other one..`, Lenka says.
`Beside sending out cards, we will also have small stuffed pastries delivered. That`s a tradition in the Czech Republic. The mother and/or grandmother of the bride will spend a day or so baking the pastries. They can be sent along with the invitations or separately. In our case, the schedule got a bit mixed up and we might deliver some of them personally.`
`The reason we are getting married on Friday the 13th is mainly a practical one. Since Lenka is now 2 months pregnant, we wanted to get married before she got too pregnant to make it through the day. That`s why we were looking for a date that was not too far ahead in time. Fridays and Saturdays are the common days for wedding, so that also limited the choice a bit. Fortunately, many people apparently do not want to get married on a Friday 13th for the bad luck it may bring. Consequently, the 13th of June was available as the earliest reasonable option.`
`Couples in Czech Republic are supposed to get married in the city where they live. The ceremony is free of charge and will be executed by the mayor of the city or a representative from his office. It`s possible to make a request to hold the wedding in another city, but it`s not too common and not free of charge. On the other hand, we are quite free in choosing the location. In our case, the official ceremony will be held in the city castle.`
`When we enter the hall, I will be guided by my father, while Pavel will be accompanied by his mother. Behind us will be the Best Man and Best Woman, who have helped organise the wedding and also act as legal witnesses. The ceremony is usually rather short, because there are many weddings on the same day`, Lenka explains.
`After the official procedures, or actually: during most of the day, the groom has to pay attention to a specific Czech tradition that consists of hi-jacking the bride. Whenever he doesn`t pay attention, some friends may carry out their conspiracy to take the bride to a pub and drink beer until the moment the groom finds them and pays their bill. Sometimes it`s turned into a game with hints and everything. If the groom takes too long, they probably give him a call to tell him where they are.`
`After the official lunch, there is some time for everybody to relax. Children can play games outdoors, some people may go home and the couple can take photos or spend some time with the lunch guests. In the evening, around 6 o`clock, all of the guests will gather at the party venue and bring presents. Some couples compose wedding lists, others just wait and see. Kitchen utensils, plates and cutlery are common presents. Money will be gladly accepted although it is not seen as the warmest possible sign of friendship. There will not be a dinner, just small bites and gulash soup. The couple usually pay for the guests` drinks, but it also happens that the strong alcoholic drinks are not included and have to be paid for separately. Or sometimes the couple only pays for drinks ordered before midnight.`
During the months following the wedding, Pavel and Lenka will await the start of their new house outside the city, and eventually, the completion of it. A short honeymoon to Kokorisnsko in the north of the Czech Republic is planned for September. `Our hotel has a private pool, which will be good for me and the big belly I will have by then`, Lenka says. She and Pavel await their first child in December of this year.
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