RELIGION
04/29/2016 04:38 pm ET

Stunning Images Of A Bulgarian Muslim Bride Reviving Old Traditions

Some young Bulgarian Muslim women are reviving traditional wedding customs that were suppressed during the communist era.
Emilia Pechinkova, a 24-year-old Bulgarian Pomak bride poses for a photograph following a face painting ceremony in the
NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
Emilia Pechinkova, a 24-year-old Bulgarian Pomak bride poses for a photograph following a face painting ceremony in the village of Draginovo, southeast of the capital Sofia on April 22, 2016.

Love is one of the most common human emotions. But it's celebrated in extraordinarily different ways around the world.

In the remote village of Draginovo, Bulgaria, Muslim brides are returning to the old tradition of gelina, or face painting, to mark their transition into married life. 

Emilia Pechinkova is one of those young Muslim brides. The 24-year-old is a Slavic Muslim, part of a group often referred to as Pomaks. The elaborate wedding rituals of the Pomaks were suppressed while the country was under communist rule. 

In an effort to recapture their forefathers' customs, Pechinkova and her fiance Tsanko Perchinkov celebrated their love during a traditional three-day wedding ceremony, according to Getty. The festivities were captured by photographer Nikolay Doychinov on April 22 and 23. 

During the gelina, Pomak brides are painted over with a thick cosmetic creme mask called belilo. An expert make-up artist spends up to two hours applying the mask and embellishing it with sequins arranged in floral patterns. Then, the artist applies lipstick and darkens the bride's eyebrows. According to CNN, the face painting process is a symbol of the bride's purity.

The gelina face painting ritual can take up to two hours.
NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
The gelina face painting ritual can take up to two hours.

In order to keep the mask intact for the next several hours, the bride usually keeps her face very still. After an imam says a blessing, she is escorted by her family members out of her childhood home and to her groom's house, where her husband will take off her makeup.

Although these rituals have been part of Pomak culture for years, they were suppressed during the time that Bulgaria was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. According to Reuters, the regime at that time tried to force Muslims to adapt the traditions of the country's majority Christian Orthodox population. The traditional Pomak wedding ceremony was reportedly banned and was only resumed after the end of the communist era.  

Today, Muslims are the largest minority religion in Bulgaria, making up about 8 percent of the population. 

Scroll down to see images of this fascinating wedding ritual.

  • A Bulgarian Pomak bride, 24-year-old Emilia Pechinkova, poses in the village of Draginovo, Bulgaria. 
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    A Bulgarian Pomak bride, 24-year-old Emilia Pechinkova, poses in the village of Draginovo, Bulgaria. 
  • Friends and family gather for Emilia's wedding to fiance Tsanko Perchinkov in the village of Draginovo, about 60 miles s
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Friends and family gather for Emilia's wedding to fiance Tsanko Perchinkov in the village of Draginovo, about 60 miles southeast of the capital city Sofia on April 23, 2016.
  • Dressed in traditional clothing, Emilia is escorted by relatives and friends during her ceremony.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Dressed in traditional clothing, Emilia is escorted by relatives and friends during her ceremony.
  • Emilia dances with her father, Mili Perchikov.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Emilia dances with her father, Mili Perchikov.
  • The bride's family publicly displays her dowry on April 22, 2016.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    The bride's family publicly displays her dowry on April 22, 2016.
  • Female guests and family members help Emilia get ready. 
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Female guests and family members help Emilia get ready. 
  • Emilia's face is painted in preparation for her wedding ceremony. This ritual painting is called 'gelina."
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Emilia's face is painted in preparation for her wedding ceremony. This ritual painting is called 'gelina."
  • The last touches are put on Emilia's bridal dress by female guests and family members.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    The last touches are put on Emilia's bridal dress by female guests and family members.
  • The gelina can take <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/01/world/cnnphotos-bulgarian-muslim-wedding/" target="_blank">up to t
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    The gelina can take up to two hours. 
  • The bride completes her look with a veil of silver tinsel.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    The bride completes her look with a veil of silver tinsel.
  • Emilia poses with her fiance Tsanko Perchinkov following the 'gelina' or face painting ceremony.
    NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV via Getty Images
    Emilia poses with her fiance Tsanko Perchinkov following the 'gelina' or face painting ceremony.
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