The Kalaidzhi is an orthodox Christian subgroup in Bulgaria’s Roma community. Annually the semi-nomadic people hold bridal markets to sell young women for marriage. The potential brides, usually aged between 14 and 17, parade encrusted ball gowns, curled hair and whitened faces. Whilst men wear thick jewellery and even grow their little fingernail long to signify wealth. The money paid for the bride goes towards a wedding and their future lives together.
At the market, Girls and boys stand separately in groups observing each other and occasionally shaking hands and taking selfies together. The parents, acting as chaperones, spectate in the background, ready to approach anyone showing sincere interest in their daughter where they would then commence negotiations. Mothers and grandmothers dress in traditional Kalaidzhi long skirts and their long braids, partially covered by floral scarves, hang low against their backs.
While the Kalaidzhi community’s approach to finding love may seem feudal in the western world, the bride market is a tradition that the Kalaidzhi are proud to celebrate, and is a defining aspect of their identity and culture.