There’s been a certain amount of talk about weddings today, even in Kosovo where the TV has been full of Wills & Kate coverage in Albanian. And there’s a well-established connection between weddings and honey here.
The connection starts long before the honeymoon (which translates precisely in Albanian). Indeed, honey is traditionally baked right in from the beginning of a relationship, when a matchmaker goes to see the father of a potential bride with honey smeared in his shoes to ensure that the marriage will be sweet. Given that in any Albanian home you take your shoes off at the door, the mess you’ll make on your host’s carpet from this well-meaning bit of sympathetic magic seems unlikely to impress. I’ve never actually heard of anyone doing this (and of course these traditional matchmakers are far more rare these days, though they’re still used), but I do have first-hand experience of a honey ritual for the wedding day itself.
Once the sticky-stockinged matchmaker has done his job, the bride is brought on the wedding day to the groom’s family’s house which is traditionally where all the wedding festivities take place. The bride is escorted there by a cavalcade of cars which block Kosovo’s roads every summer in an untuned orchestra of horns accompanying the girl to her new home. Outside of Kosovo’s cities it is still usual for married couples to live at the groom’s family home with his parents and any brothers and their families, and unmarried sisters. so a wedding has more immediate implications for your family dynamic than just acquiring a daughter-in-law. You are welcoming the woman who will be cooking your food and hanging out every day in your front room. If she makes good rice pudding then you stand to gain; if she’s grumpy then it’s your home that will be soured. The bride must be aware of these expectations so she wants to reassure everyone of the good intentions she’s bringing with her.
I was inside my friend’s house at the Kosovan village wedding of her brother, Bekim, and was standing in the hallway so I had a perfect view of his bride arriving. She stopped at the threshold and dipped her fingers in a small cup of honey. Ceremonially she anointed the lintel with it, promising that she was bringing sweet things to this family.
With its conservative traditions, strong emphasis on securing an heir, and clear responsibilities to the wider clan, marriage into British royalty may have quite a lot in common with marriage into a Kosovan village family. Kate may use less straightforward means to convince her father-in-law of what she brings to The Firm but it’s still the same basic challenge faced by the bride in Lupc i Poshtem. Given Charles’ particular interests, I think offering him some honey would be an excellent starting point.
My book Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo is now available on Amazon