Traditional rituals on a Russian wedding
Fall of the Iron Curtain in 1980s has started the process of derivation of Western traditions and their adaptation to Russian realities; however, any
American will get shocked by amount of customs and peculiarities of traditional rituals of a Russian wedding that may seem strange to him. There are no rehearsals or bridesmaids (though, there is a maid of honor or the best man), traditionally celebration lasts for two (sometimes three) days plus pairs can have two ceremonies – civil and church ones. This article is aimed to prepare you to thunder-claps of wedding tradition in Russia (countries of CIS also).
How long is a Russian Orthodox wedding tradition?
Today many couples decide to enter into marriage not just at the department of civil services where all marriages are registered, but also affirm it in church. This ritual is full of deep meanings and aimed to create an eternal marriage. It takes from 30 minutes to an hour, there are several stages of action:
- Betrothal. Unlike Russian betrothal in its common sense it is a rite where rings are blessed. After the blessing a priest or the best man exchange wedding rings on bride’s and groom’s fingers three times (interestingly, here many rites are repeated for three times to symbolize Holy Trinity). After that rings are places on the third finger of right hand. According to this tradition all people in Russia wear wedding rings on the right hand unlike Americans or Europeans. Wedding ring on the left hand means that a person is divorced or widowed.
- A couple is given lit candles, they join hands and stand so until ceremony is over. Thus they show that intending spouses pray for God’s blessing and are ready to act as one.
- Crowning. Here a priest blesses Russian bride and groom by placing crowns on couple’s heads. In Russian language these wreaths gave name to whole tradition as they are called ventsy so ceremony, accordingly, venchanie.
- Drinking from common cup. This part of orthodox wedding ceremony means that from moment on newlyweds will share all joys and sorrows.
- Circling the altar. Priest with a couple go around altar three times symbolizing beginning of a new marriage directed by church
In fact, Russian church wedding ceremony is breathtaking and will impress even atheists with its solemnity. Tips for guests: wear sensible shoes as it is not allowed to sit in church plus women have to wear skirts that cover knees and cover head with a scarf.
Beginning of the engagement with Russian bride
Another surprise waits for you here: there is no such thing as engagement in Russia. When man proposes marriage to his chosen one, he doesn’t present her a ring, but may present flowers. Wedding rings are called engagement rings here and they are selected by both bride and groom (though man pays for them). After proposal couple hands an application to the department of civil services following which they have to wait at least one month before registration so they can contemplate important decision.
Ransom for the bride as the biggest nightmare of Russian groom
Common wedding ceremony traditions are also divided into parts and ransom is the first one. Usually it is a chance for bride’s relatives to show full force of sense of humor so future husband has to prepare himself to the most ridiculous jokes, riddles and tests to prove that he is a perfect candidate to marry bride. Paying the ransom is the oldest and funniest tradition: relatives praise maiden and demand a bigger ransom to be paid while groom tries to solve all riddles and fulfill tasks to drop the price. After “negotiation” he has to pay a ransom for the Russian bride plus handle neighbors and kids who clamor for candies and free drinks.
After ransom official civil ceremony takes place after which part of guests go to a restaurant waiting for newlyweds who go on tour to local sightseen. After return the feast starts and may last for two days.