Russian Wedding Traditions
If you happen to find love whilst studying in Russia, you may like to know what is in store for you on your special day. Here are some Russian wedding traditions.
Historically, the engagement was the most important part of the ceremony. The parents of the bride and groom would sit down together and agree a date for the wedding. Nowadays, however, this has become rare and standard proposals are more commonplace.
A new concept in Russian weddings, which has been borrowed from western countries, is the exchange of wedding rings. The small difference is the hand on which the ring is worn, as in Russia the wedding rings are worn on the right hand rather than the left.
Stealing the Bride and the Ransom
Russian weddings also have some comical traditions! Prior to the ceremony, the bride’s family or friends pretend to steal her from the groom and he must pay a ransom for her return. Sometimes after paying the “ransom”, the family will bring out another girl dressed as the bride, and the groom must pay an ever bigger “ransom” for the real bride. After this, the couple make their way to the wedding ceremony. The bride may be stolen at other times during the wedding too, so the groom must be on the look out!
Often Russian couples go to the registry office (ZAGS). This service is very similar to a Western European service in a registry office. However, if the couple choose to also have a service in a Russian Orthodox church, there are some differences to a service in a Catholic or Protestant church. There are no church pews so guests must stand. The ceremony can last up to 2 hours, however, usually couples opt for a shortened version of the ceremony. In the Orthodox church a sign of marriage is the placing of crowns on the couples’ heads. The question, “Does anyone know of a reason why these two cannot marry?”, which is a common feature in a Western European wedding is not asked.
After the formal ceremony has taken place the bride and groom, accompanied by some of their closest friends, drive to historic sites in their city to take pictures and share a few glasses of champagne. In Moscow the most popular sites to visit include Red Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Victory Park, so don’t be surprised to see some brides among the tourists.
Gorko is another common tradition you may observe during the festivities. During the first toast, someone will shout “Gorko”, meaning bitter, to describe the champagne. All of the guests follow and together shout “Gorko”. In order to sweeten the taste, the bride and groom must kiss for as long as possible and the guests count while they kiss. If the kiss does not last long enough for the guests liking (a common occurrence!), they may insist that they do it again and repeat the routine.
Two Day Celebration
Russian wedding celebrations don’t end after the wedding night, there is still another day to go! This is usually held where the couple plan to live, such as the groom’s home. There is less structure to the second day of the wedding, but it usually includes many toasts. There is often someone designated to arrange the entertainment, called a Tamada.
Lawrence Toye, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow