traditional Weddings in russia
(about customs in russia: weddings and engagements)
About weddings in Russia,
wedding tradition & customs,
russian brides & grooms,
engagements in Russia.
Russian wedding today: a unique bouquet of different cultures
Nowadays, Russian weddings come in a variety of different forms. They can contain elements of a traditional Russian wedding and also hints of a European or American-style wedding. The latter have become more and more popular and modern in recent years. True Russian weddings are unique in the fact that they are always lavishly played out! We say “played out,” as a Russian wedding ceremony is usually conducted as though it were a theatre spectacle where there is a script and everyone knows their role.
In times gone by, a form of courtship would have taken place to secure the union of the happy couple. By tradition, the groom's parents would ask the bride's parents for their daughter's hand in marriage for their son. Nowadays, this tradition has become practically extinct and only from time to time will the groom ask the bride's parents for their daughter's hand in marriage or request an approval of their union.
As part of the Russian wedding ceremony, people still enjoy the tradition of ransoming the bride. Before the young couple leave to go to the ZAGS (Registry Office), the groom must go to his future wife's house where he will be greeted by friends of the bride, relatives and guests. They organise various fun games for the groom, like, for example, asking him challenging risque questions, persuading him to carry out certain tasks and demanding a ransom for the bride. The groom must fulfil all the tasks, namely, singing, dancing, reciting poetry, solving riddles and various other challenges. Then, as a ransom, he must give out sweets and money to all those who have arranged the obstacles along the way to him winning his bride (in other words, those who have set the groom challenges to prove that he is worthy of his bride.)
There is an age-old tradition that on the day before the wedding the bride will arrange a hen party and invite all her friends who will support and protect her in her new life. It is now also common for the groom to arrange a stag party; a tradition that has been imported from the West. The groom will say goodbye to his bachelor lifestyle whilst in the company of his friends.
Official documentations of marriage
After the registration in the ZAGS and (often) the ceremony in the church, the newlyweds and all their guests go to the reception which is usually held in a restaurant, a banqueting hall or at someone's house. By tradition, the young couple are met by the mother of the groom or all the parents who offer them bread and salt. The young couple must then take turns to eat the bread. The person who eats the largest piece of bread will be the head of the household. This equal opportunity ritual between the couple has only been observed recently as before it would have always been the male who would stand at the head of the household. As the young newlyweds enter the reception hall, they are showered with oats or wheat and occasionally rose-petals to make the scene more beautiful. This tradition is often neglected though.
It is while everyone is sat around the table that all the guests will pass on their good wishes to the couple, raise toasts and offer presents. The host of the celebration will then organise fun games and entertainment. By tradition, two toddlers will be put in the centre of the room, one dressed in blue to symbolise a boy and the other dressed in pink to symbolise a girl. The guests will then offer sums of money to whichever toddler they choose. The toddler who receives the most money determines the sex of the married couple's first child.
Old custom of Russian weddings
An essential part of a Russian wedding, whatever form it's in, whether traditional or European, is that someone will “steal” the bride (often her friends or relatives) and hide her somewhere. The groom then has to find her. His friends and relatives help him carry out the fun search.
Compulsory kiss in Russian wedding
A fundamental component of the Russian wedding is the cries of “gor'ko” where the newlyweds must stand and kiss for as long as possible. All the guests stand round them and count “1, 2, 3… 15…. 20, etc.” The longer the young couple can kiss for, the stronger their union will be. The guests always demand that they kiss for as long as possible. Often, the reception can be a tiring experience for the young couple as they have to entertain their guests by this kissing ritual.
According to European tradition, the wedding ends with the bride throwing her bouquet over her head to all the unmarried girls in the crowd. Whoever catches it will become the next bride. After the ceremony has ended, the young couple go off to their new house or hotel. At this point, the groom must take the bride in his arms and carry her across the threshold; a ritual that symbolises the strength of their union. As a rule, the young couple then happily journey off into the sunset for their honeymoon.
Author of article "Russian weddings": Alisa.
Russian-English Translation by: Lauren.
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