Civil Wedding Ceremony – Russian traditions, Rites that May Shock Americans

When you think about wedding, the first thing that comes to mind is a film frame: flower girl throws flower petals, beautiful bride in a white dress goes through the passage in church arm-in-arm with her father and happy groom awaits her in front of altar with a priest. They are surrounded by bridesmaids and groom’s friends in equal garments, little boy nearby holds a cushion with rings. But it is a Westerner vision of civil nuptiality.  Some progressively-minded Russian couples tend to follow Western customs, however, traditional Russian civil rites of matrimony looks nothing like that. Here traditions, customs and official narrative are closely connected so every word and action does not change through the years. Here we are going to answer any question you may have concerning solemnization of marriage in Russia.

What to wear for a civil Russian wedding ceremony?

As tradition demands, groom usually wears a sack suite, usually black or grey, seldom white. As concerns the bride, despite the fact that the most common choice is a white princess-style dress, process of selecting a wedding dress for Russian civil

What is a traditional Russian civil wedding ceremony
What is a traditional Russian civil wedding ceremony

ceremony may take months and sometimes maiden prefer sewing a dress on her own with help of professional tailors. It is preferable to purchase new dress or sew it tailored to a particular girl because brides are superstitious and do not want to wear someone else’s dress believing that it may affect future marriage. However, sometimes they take dresses in rent in case if a couple cannot presume purchasing new garment. Essentially, today many brides prefer to wear simple wedding dress for civil ceremony or even select casual look. Guests wear holiday garment, or select wear style distinguished in the invitation to the civil ceremony.

How to plan a civil wedding ceremony?

The process of planning civil wedding starts right after the bride’s Yes to the groom’s proposition and usually takes from 1 to 3 months (in some advanced cases up to 6 months). In most cases, families of future newlyweds equally take part in the preparation of the ceremony, but commonly it is the bride who organizes and makes decisions on everything from the selection of restaurant, music for civil Russian wedding ceremonies (usually Mendelssohn’s march) to choice of bride’s bouquet (though the groom has to buy it).
As is customary, the whole process is divided into parts:

  • The bride’s day starts in the beauty salon (or she does hair and make-up at home) or near the car in case of the groom (decoration of a car with flowers and balloons is his responsibility). Then he drives to the bride’s home with friends and participates in perhaps the oldest tradition – paying the ransom. It is a facetious rite where bride’s folk tries to get as much money as possible selling a girl to her future spouse.
  • After the ransom a courting couple goes to the department of public services and registers a marriage. Today there are options where to have a civil wedding ceremony with Russian bride: outdoor ceremonies with professional comperes become more and more popular so it’s up to a couple. The reasons are quite simple: official part is quite prosaic and takes no more than 10-15 minutes: par example, a couple doesn’t exchange standard wedding vows civil Russian ceremony, all they have to do is to say “I do” to the question Will you take this person to be your spouse? So when future husband and wife want to add more solemnity or romantics to civil part they select outdoor party.
  • After the registration a couple may also get through wedding service in a church. There are no such things as readings for Russian civil wedding ceremonies though church ceremony includes some with other traditional symbolic rites.
  • When the official part is over, newlyweds take their close friends and relatives to the sightseer of the city making photo shoot (usually by professional photographer).
  • Unofficial (but perhaps the most important) part is a celebration in the restaurant. It may shock foreigners as it is really loud, full of entertainments provided by hired toast master plus guests may drink enormous amount of alcoholic beverages. It starts with a presentation of bread and salt to newlyweds followed by breaking wineglasses and may last for two days. There are many russian songs for civil wedding ceremony that guests like to sing, listen and dance when hearing them. Guests from the bride’s side may also steal her shoe or a girl herself and ask out a ransom from the groom.