In the small North Macedonian village of Galicnik, everyone gets married on the same day.

How would you feel if everyone you knew got married on the same day? At least you wouldn’t forget your anniversary!

In the Mijak village of Galicnik, in the western part of North Macedonia, tradition dictated that couples could only marry during a five-stay period in July, with the festivities culminating on St. Peter’s Day. 

Mass weddings took place in Galicnik until 1936. Now, the Galicnik Wedding is a symbolic event, the cultural highlight of Galicnik Leto (Galicnik Summer).

Couples from across North Macedonia, one of whom must have a family connection with the village, compete to win a wedding like no other.

Just one bride and groom are chosen, and some 5,000 guests will join them for the weekend-long celebrations,  transforming what is otherwise a sleepy little village with a population of two into the country’s liveliest party venue.

(© Tourism Macedonia)
(© Tourism Macedonia)

Festivities start on Friday night, and unwind with some 25 rituals, culminating with the Orthodox church ceremony and banqueting on Sunday. 

The groom is shaved in front of the Upija fountain, representing his transition to manhood. He and his groomsmen will ride to the bride’s house on horseback, carrying the Macedonian flag.

In the graveyard, the guests drink shots of rakija(local grappa) and pour some onto the graves so that the spirits of ancestors do not feel excluded from the event. 

The bride’s elaborate wedding dress can weigh as much as 25 kg; it is the gold filigree which adds to the weight.

When the groom arrives at the bride’s home, she will hold up her wedding ring and eye him up through its centre. If she likes what she sees, she will declare that she welcomes him into her heart, and process in her finery through the streets to his house.

Everything is accompanied by musicians beating drums and blasting wooden horns, an energetic soundtrack for the dancing.

(© Tourism Macedonia)

The bride and her mother-in-law both have dances to perform.

But it is the traditional Teskoto (“Hard Dance”) which really captures the attention of the crowds. 

One of the most difficult – but also most beautiful – Macedonian folk dances, it is danced by older members of the community.

It is a reminder of the hardships of the past, and the painful farewell to those who must now leave Galicnik and embark on their journey home.

How to attend the Galicnik Wedding

Tour operator Sherpa Horse Riding is based in Galicnik and has an active role in the organisation of the Galicnik Wedding. Contact them in the first instance.

Accommodation in the village is limited, but you can stay nearby at Resort Mavrovo.

Main image: The lucky bride and groom at the Galicnik Wedding (© Tourism Macedonia)