Bride, 12, bolts 'gypsy wedding of the year'

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The Independent Online

It was billed as the gypsy wedding of the year, with 400 guests, a three-day party and a diamond tiara atop the princess bride's head. But it got off to a bad start last Saturday, with the reluctant 12-year-old bride storming out of the church in a rebellion against the tradition of arranged marriages.

"Leave me alone," Ana Maria Cioaba screamed at reporters, swearing at them as she sought shelter in a nearby house.

The legal age for marriage is 18, but the country tolerates the tradition among Roma, as Gypsies are also known. But they aren't legally binding unless the bride and groom are over 18. Ana Maria returned to the church 15 minutes after her escape. Her father, Florian Cioaba, a self-proclaimed Roma king who also served as the ceremony's minister, and the groom, Mihai Birita, 15, were waiting for her, and the service continued.

As it concluded, the bride left without glancing at the groomand said that she didn't consider herself a married woman. She dismissed a question about her marriage. "What marriage?" she said. Her 12 bridesmaids who fully supported her rebellion,were chanting "Out with Birita!"