Traditional Russian Weddings

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Traditional Russian Weddings

If you plan on marrying your Russian Bride in her very own home town and she has a big family, it would behoove you to read up on this particular blog entry rather carefully to make sure you are fully prepared for what’s in store. I know that lead-in may have come off as a bit ominous, but my intent is not meant to scare you, but instead inform you. It is imperative you understand the importance of the ritual that is the wedding in the Russian culture.

Dating as far back as ancient times, there were scads of Slavic tribes scattered about Eurasia, each with their own customs and rituals. In regards to the rite of marriage, some of the more civilized tribes held this in an almost sacred regard resulting in symbolic sacrifices being made to make the union official. Elsewhere, other more barbaric tribes thought nothing of marriage, often resorting to simply kidnapping their “lucky” lady. Over time some of those wedding ceremonies managed to trickle their way to the now and evolved into the process that it is today.

There are several stages to a traditional Russian wedding ceremony. As part of the long-standing tradition that is the Russian wedding, a dowry, or money/goods/estate that is offered to the family of the bride for her hand in marriage, is involved. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what can and often does happen at the initial phase of the traditional Russian wedding process.

  • The groom and his party of family and close friends knock on the door of the bride’s home. The bride’s faction of family and friends sit almost as a jury in a litigation suit as they hear out the groom’s offer for the bride’s hand in marriage.
    It’s not as cynical or business-like as it sounds. More symbolic than anything, the bride’s side of the family is not willing to give the bride to the groom that easy.
  • In a playful fashion, the bride’s family may first try to sell the bride’s shoes for a certain price. Whatever they come up with depends on their creativity and sense of humor.
  • As soon as the groom gets his Russian Bride to be, they go to the department of public services registration, where the civil ceremony is conducted. The ceremony lasts about 20 minutes and once the couples say the marriage oath, exchange rings, and sign the book of registry, they are married.
  • Upon leaving the registration hall, family members and friends of both the bride and groom salute the couple and sprinkle them with rice. After the registration, the couple usually drives around the city. with one of the main places to stop by being the eternity fire, where the newlyweds usually leave flowers and make pictures.

According to Russian traditions, the groom has to bring the bride by his parent’s place to formally introduce  her to his family. This is where the groom’s mother will greet the couple with a loaf of bread and salt. This ritual is known as the bread ceremony.

Before the groom carries his bride over the threshold to their home, there’s another little lesser known nuance to the whole rite of passage that is Russian matrimony. The couple must take turns stepping on a plate similar to what couples, who get married in the Jewish faith go through. The meaning behind this tradition is to determine, who will act has head of the house and therefore have be the leading authority in the soon-to-be family. Whoever breaks it first is the head of the family. Most often, the groom breaks the plate first, but the point is not in the spirit of competition, but more a way for the bride to let the groom feel important. Russian ladies always let their husbands win this contest.

There is of course a reception where all the guests and relatives get to party and congratulate the newlywed couple. This typically takes place in a restaurant. During this portion of the night, there are more fun and games as the groom must constantly keep an eye on his bride as his friends and relatives attempt to whisk her away from his side. If this happens, the groom will have to pay a small pittance like truth or dare.

These celebration can last for days on end, but because most people have to work and there are only so many days in a weekend, the celebration last for about two days on average. The second day of the Russian wedding celebration is usually even more fun than the first. If you want to truly experience how Russians get down and party, never miss the second day of the traditional Russian wedding celebration. There are all kinds of games and different performances taking place throughout the night.

That’s pretty much it. Whether you are the groom or just invited to the wedding, this is what you can expect from a fairly typical, traditional Russian wedding. Stay tuned to our blog for more interesting facets and tidbits of Russian culture.

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