When we first set foot in selo Kosovo, we had just spend 2 weeks travelling the whole country on the quest for the perfect wedding location. Not only did it have to be big enough to fit all the invitees – although we still didn’t know how many that would be – it also had to fit our high expectations in terms of sustainability and authenticity. We only had 9 months left until the big day, and had just send about 80 invitations to our friends and family all around the world.
So there we were, middle of December, driving around the countryside for days, following information we found online, and hints we got from friends. We had been in many fairspots before, but in Bulgaria it was still difficult to find people with a real genuine and thought-through approach in the tourism industry. When we called up Svetlana the first time, she was not very enthusiastic about such a big wedding, especially because the infrastructure – both for sleeping and eating – hardly serves 50 people at once. We were in Plovdiv that day, so we decided to give it a go anyway, and drive up to selo Kosovo to meet the Ralevi and have a coffee.
And then the magic happened.
We found this little sleepy village nested in the most beautiful mountains of the country. Just after crossing some of the most uncharming communist settlements like Asenovgrad and Narechenski Bani !
It was cold, it was grey, but within a couple of minutes we could feel the amazing energy of the place. Then we walked up to the Mehana and met Svetlana and Hristo, and had a first chat about the wedding. It was not going to be easy, there was going to be quite some logistical challenges. And we had no idea how many of the invited guests would come. We proposed to make the party happen all over the village, with different music and themes in each house. And we would bring 40 helpers 3 days before the wedding, which we did.
We also asked our guests to bring some little cold speciality from home so we could organise a buffet in the Gavatovska house without having to cook. After sending out the first details about the location, we started to get excited as the confirmations from our invitees were coming back. And more confirmations. And more. In the end almost everyone came, and brought a partner or kids, and we had 123 guests. We organised a giant car-pooling to get everyone to selo Kosovo without too much unnecessary pollution. We ordered some delicious wine from Sasho, who makes amazing wines and had also fallen in love with selo Kosovo. We met him when visiting in Spring, just like Otets Nikolay, the priest, who showed us the little cute white church and proposed us to hold the ceremony.
Besides the stress in the last 2 weeks, everything turned out perfectly.
Our family and closest friends arrived 3 days before the wedding, stayed in selo Kosovo over the long weekend. They decorated the whole village with colourful strings and flags and prepared the cold buffet for the big day. Svetlana and her staff prepared an amazing slowfood buffet, which made us discover local Bulgarian dishes throughout the entire weekend.
At 9 am on Saturday morning on the 3rd of September 2016 all guests met in the church garden under the cherry trees. Most of them had never met each other ! They came from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, United Kingdom, Spain, Croatia, Holland, Belgium, Peru, Argentina, Portugal, USA and Australia. Everyone got a little guide to the village and the wedding, and an artisanal rakia cup to make sure no-one would stay sober too long.
It was such an excitement than no-one noticed that the bride was late. The weather was blue bird sky and nice relaxing 25 degrees.
During the traditional ceremony Otets Nikolay sang the old Bulgarian chants with his beautiful voice. Only we knew he has studied music at the academy and gives singing lessons. The moment was magic, and the guests exploded in a big joyful laughter when the bride dropped her crown on the floor. It was well-timed, as everyone could take a deep breath, and our best woman and best man continue their ceremonial duties. When it came to speaking our vows, we were so emotional that we had to improvise a bit, and the long written and learned poems turned into some few sentimental phrases coming straight from the heart. After all those emotions, we ran away to the hills above Kosovo for a romantic walk and pictures and only joined the guests later directly at the Gavatovska House.
And the afternoon went on with cocktails mixed by “the 3 cousins” from Manchester, marble cake from “Niko”, antipasti specialties from all over the world brought by the guests, organic trouts on the grill, and of course a lot of pictures. We had prepared little name tags, originally thought to label the dishes and glasses, and it was really funny to see that most guest wore them on their clothes instead.
Once all had gathered at Hadjiyska House, Ralfy and her musicians enchanted us with their remixed traditional Bulgarian folklore songs. Perfect call for an awesome surprise from our guests. We got a live A Capella of the Bulgarian song Zalibih si edno libe (I fell in love with a sweetheart) that they had rehearsed in the weeks before the weeding ! Our friends Johann and Michael continued the live vibes on to French classics and gypsy jazz with saxophone and guitar, and soon everyone had itchy feet. We finally opened the dancefloor at sunset, which from then on was crowded full until 2 in the morning. The “9monkeys DJs” did an amazing debut of their carrier, making us travel through South America, the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s all the way to present !
After a full day throwing the hell of a party, we almost didn’t make it out of bed. But the appeal of the first day of our new life was stronger, and we massaged our feet and made it to the brunch buffet by 10. Our families were waiting to open the day with a very personal speech, just perfect to make you cry of joy before all the funny games our friend Nevena had prepared for the day. We hopped around in big bags, we pulled ropes, we had the traditional quiz of “who is better in … ?” and we heard jokes from all over the world. The hangovers got cured with Bulgarian tripe soup and beer-pong, and the perfect weather rejoicing us just to start a new BBQ party as it got dark. It was the first day of married life, and it felt like every day would be a celebration just like that.
Overall we did it all upside down.
Half the world in one (too) small village, cake first, speeches last, and of course we forgot to throw the bride’s bouquet. Luckily that’s exactly what we love, and we had so so much fun, we would never have hoped for.
In total we have now spent over 20 days with Svetlana and Christo, and are looking forward to spent our Christmas holidays there.
No pictures can translate the feeling it is to walk around those little paths and where ever your look wanders, it hits the slopes of the mountains or the beautiful traditional architecture of the houses. Thanks to the initiative of the Ralev family, who have by now reconstructed 4 houses that were more or less in ruin, many other houses have been rebuild in the Renaissance style, with wonderful slated roofs and stone and wooden walls.
We are very thankful for their trust, collaboration and very warm welcome.