Ukrainian wedding traditions have a long history. The wedding parties were celebrated in different ways. At some parties the bride was “stolen”, at others her dowry was carried, but everywhere it was merry, “sweet and bitter”. Sometimes the party was going on for a week or two.
Nowadays Ukrainian wedding is very different from what it has been many years ago. Not so many traditions and customs take place at a Ukrainian wedding. Nevertheless, many interesting traditions have remained, and some of the rituals you will see here are rather mysterious.
Understanding a Ukrainian wedding can also be difficult as you do not know the language. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you get lost. Ukrainians are nice and hospitable people, ready to help you if you get lost.
Someday before the wedding ceremony the young people and their families gather at home. The bride and the groom receive the parent’s blessing. The parents convey their formal approval and wish the young couple all the best.
The wedding day usually starts rather early in the morning for the Russian girl. She has to get dressed with the help of her best friends. Dressing a bride is a special ritual. The friends help her make a hair-do, put a gown and a bridal veil on her.
In Ukraine it is not considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding. Many superstitions are popular in Ukraine, but not this one.
So the groom and his relatives come to the bride’s home in a car, decorated with ribbons, flowers and balloons. Usually there are several decorated cars, so that all the relatives will go together. In front of the bride’s house the cars start to honk. The groom and his relatives take the bride, her relatives, and friends to the city hall and then to the church.
The sound of fanfares welcomes the couple at the City Hall, and the official registration of the marriage starts. An embroidered towel is spread on the floor at the feet of the Russian lady and the Russian man, and they stand on it during the ceremony. The official asks the groom whether he agrees to take the lady as his wife, to be with her in happiness and grief, and be faithful until death separates them, and the same question to the bride. The young people also exchange the wedding rings. Then the official announces them husband and wife, and they kiss.
When the ceremony is over, all the friends and relatives congratulate the spouses. The husband carries his wife out of the City Hall in his arms.
The next part is getting married in church. Unlike the western traditions, in which the bride’s father walks her down the aisle, and “gives her away” to the groom, in Ukraine the couple enters the church together, arm in arm. The bride’s father has already given his blessing earlier, and the young people enter the marriage as equal partners.
The rituals in church are very touching and important for the couple. The priest gives his blessing to the young people. Some prejudices are connected with the ceremony in church. For instance, if the bride’s dress touches the candle and catches the fire, the marriage is doomed to failure. Therefore the young people are usually very careful inside the church.
The major part of the sermon in church is sung rather than spoken.
When exiting the church, Ukrainians throw flower petals, instead of birdseed or rice in the West.
The final part of the wedding is celebration. Very surprising, joyful, and unexpected things can happen this evening. The party may take place at a restaurant, big caf?, or at the groom’s or bride’s house. The guests always bring some gifts, usually some things that will be necessary in a young family, such as linen, kitchen utensils, home appliances, etc.
After each toast at the party the guests shout “Gorka! Gorka! Gorka!", which means “Bitter!”. The guests want the married couple to kiss.
After paying a lot of attention to the newly married, the guests also pay some attention to the bride’s and groom’s best friends. Being the best friend of a bride or a groom is an honorable task. The best friends are called “witnesses”, they should be unmarried, and they put their signatures in the documents certifying the marriage, and also help the bride and the groom during the preparation. The guests always shout “Gorko” to the witnesses too, and they also have to kiss.
The newly-married couple, the parents, and all the guests dance during the party. Dancing is a must at the wedding. Besides, many funny games are organized. There is also a trial for the groom. The guests might steal the bride’s shoes, or even herself, and make the groom pay some money to get her back.
At the end of the party another funny event takes place. The bride throws her bouquet backwards over her left shoulder, and the unmarried girl who catches it will be the first one to get married next.
Ukrainians really enjoy celebrating the weddings, and so do the foreigners. Amazing traditions turn the Ukrainian wedding into a fabulous event.