Every bride wants to have a special day that’s not only special, but also memorable. By incorporating elements of heritage into any ceremony, you too can have the wedding of your dreams that will leave your family and friends’ talking about it long after it is over. This is especially true if you are of Russian decent.
If you have a Russian ancestry, like many brides in the U.S., you have the distinct advantage of drawing from a long history and culture of wedding traditions that are unlike any other in the world. They are some of the most romantic and joyous occasions anywhere and ensure that traditions are honored and valued.
Here are just a few of the customs you may want to incorporate on your wedding day:
o Since no ring is given and no announcement is made to signify an engagement, notification to family and friends of the impending nuptials is done in a casual manner. Once notified, however, the Russian groom will visit his bride’s home in search of her a few days prior to the wedding. While she hides, he will bribe family members in the hope they will help him find her. This game of hide-and-seek is great fun and gets the family involved as the date of the nuptials draws closer.
o To ensure her future happiness, a bride should never wear her dress prior to the day of the wedding. The same thing goes for her shoes. Her mother may not wear either prior to the wedding day otherwise it will bring very bad luck to the marriage. Since all women in Russia can sew, the majority of brides will make their own wedding dresses. Since this garment is not usually passed down to future generations, it is usually sold after the wedding is over. russian grocery store
o Since the law does not acknowledge a church wedding, it has few traditions so many Russian couples participate in a civil ceremony instead. Even those choosing a church wedding must still have a civil ceremony, as well, in order for the marriage to be considered legal. As a result the couple has no attendants.
o Receptions are very important to the people and often last between two days and a week, depending on how long the liquor and food hold out. Guests must be entertained at all times so it is not uncommon for activities to include music, skits, games, etc. During the first day the civil ceremony is held. The bride and groom arrive separately and family and friends do everything they can to keep the couple from meeting. Once they meet they each must then travel in separate cars of a train to the location of the civil ceremony. The couple is then taken throughout the city in order to present their union to the world as well as to visit the deceased in order to honor their memory. This is then followed by the first part of the wedding reception during which a feast is held. Games are played during this event such as kidnapping the bride in order to make the groom pay a ransom in order to get her back or stealing her shoes. The celebration continues until the guests are too exhausted to continue. On the second day of the reception, activities begin at the newlywed’s new home. Since this early period of the day is less hectic, chaotic, and formal usually only close friends and family continue the celebration. When food and drink are served no silverware or glasses are made available and guests are expected to “buy” them in this way further helping the young couple financially. Later in the afternoon or evening guests are treated to a feast after which the bride has to “clean the floor.” This may sound heartless, but in reality the floor is littered with money by the guests who keep dropping money on the floor in order to make the task more difficult for the bride. This is much like the “money dance” held at U.S. weddings.
o At the reception, “sharing the loaf” is common practice. As the newlyweds attempt to take a bite from a loaf of bread without the use of their hands, guests cheer them on. The leader of the new family is the one, it is said, can take the biggest bite from the load.
o Liquor is a must at wedding receptions as well as an abundance of food. It is not uncommon for guests to eat and drink themselves into a state of unconsciousness.
o Much like kissing to the sound of ringing bells in the U.S., in Russia couples must kiss to the chanting of the Russian equivalent of “bitter taste,” gorko. They must hold the kiss until the chanting stops, which can be a real challenge for a shy young couple.
o To bless a couple’s marriage with prosperity, the guests at a Russian wedding will drop coins into a champagne glass. The more money the couple accumulates, the more abundance they will receive during their lives together.
o Just as in Greek weddings, in Russia the couple also breaks a plate. The different is that just like “jumping the broom” at African American weddings, when the couple jumps over the shards of the plate, it signifies their movement in the future.
o The presentation of salt and bread to the couple during the reception is used to ensure their continued good health and prosperity in their marriage.