Bride, 12, Storms Out of Romania Wedding
By ALISON MUTLER, Associated Press Writer
SIBIU, Romania -
It was billed as the Gypsy wedding of the
year. But the ceremony, launching a three-day party, got off to a bad
start: The 12-year-old "princess bride" — daughter of a self-proclaimed
king — stormed out of the church in protest in front of 400 guests.
"Leave me alone!" Ana Maria Cioaba
screamed at reporters Saturday, swearing at them as she sought shelter
in a nearby house. Her bridesmaids chanted slogans against the groom.
She returned to the church minutes later
and — though she would hardly look at him — was duly married off to her
15-year-old groom, a sign of the persistence of the ancient practice of
child weddings in the Gypsy, or Roma, culture.
Though the legal age for marriage in
Romania is 18, the country generally tolerates the Gypsy tradition of
arranged child weddings. Still, some young Roma women are starting to
rebel against the custom, said Gabriela Mihai, 17, a cousin of
"I don't want to marry, I am choosy and I have refused several marriage partners my parents presented to me," she said.
Ana Maria's marriage was performed by her
father, Florin, who claims the title of king of the Gypsies that his
late father took and made an immense fortune trading in scrap metal and
After the ceremony, the bride stalked out and refused to look at the groom, who walked uncomfortably two steps behind.
"What marriage?" Ana Maria said after the
ceremony. Her 12 bridesmaids supported her rebellion, chanting, "Out
with Birita!" — referring to groom Mihai Birita.
Even before the ceremony, it was clear the bride was reluctant.
"She has been crying all day, but the
marriage will go ahead with or without her," Dana Cherendea, adviser to
her father, said after the girl stormed out.
The adviser also said the bride would be punished — and suggested that meant a beating — for spoiling the lavish event.
The bride's family presented a dowry
worth tens of thousands of dollars, the wedding feast included suckling
pigs and thousands of bottles of wine, and the bride's Italian wedding
gown cost $4,000.
Her father arranged for a horse-drawn
carriage to carry the bridal couple through the city of Sibiu, 190
miles northwest of Bucharest.
"This is a happy day for the royal
household," Florin Cioaba, 39, said before the ceremony. "My youngest
daughter is getting married."
Official figures say more than 550,000
Roma live in Romania, but the real number is believed to be more than 1
million, out of the country's total population of 22 million.
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