Marriage traditions in Ukraine

A wedding is an important event in every person’s life and in every culture it is filled with interesting traditions, Ukraine is not an exception. To tell you the truth, Ukrainian customs at a wedding have been the same for hundreds of years. However, as our life cannot stay unchanged, they also have to transform to correspond to present times, but at the same time keep some very important things without changes: the respect to parents, love between a husband and a wife and longing for exuberance of high spirits.

Since old times in every village there was one person who was responsible for creating families – a matchmaker. It was usually a woman, known by everyone and according to a tradition she was the one to go to the future bride’s parents and ask for the girl’s hand. It is interesting, that a decent girl was thought to refuse to get married at the first proposal and the parents of a potential bride said “No” for three times. If the girl finally agreed to get married, she came into the room and scratched the furnace. In case she did not like the man, she brought a pumpkin to the matchmaker.

Nowadays, they are not so closely connected with this historical matchmaking. Today a young woman and a man to organize a special meeting to introduce their parents. During this meeting they decide on how to organize everything, when and where it is going to take place. Who is supposed to pay for the wedding?

It is very personal, each couple manages their budget differently. But usually the biggest part is on the man. Because parents must see that you are responsible, but they will also participate in the process financially.

The next inseparable part is bachelorette party. You will never believe what ceremony was its prototype… it was ritual weeping. Yes. The brides’ friends were supposed to show their grief caused by the brides’ going to live to her husband’s house. However, after weeping the girls sang songs and made jokes, which made the occasion a joyful event. Another difference from today’s hen parties was that all the girls’ relatives came to a celebratory meal, and the bride went to a bath-house with her friends. Nowadays it is different. Girls organize this special event in different styles, either it is a closed karaoke party, where they are all dressed in the same outfits apart from the future bride, drink champagne and sing the songs in all the languages even if they don`t really know how. This is what happened on one of my best friend`s hen party. There were eight ladies, the party consisted of two parts, the first one was a surprise for her, we ordered a big gorgeous cake with the pictures of her and her fiancé on top of it, each of us prepared a special gift (either it is a beautiful sexy lingerie, a Spa massage, make up session or a photo album with all their pictures of significant moments), then we prepared different games for her and card questions, had a photoshoot with all friends and her separately. After the pre-party, we had a karaoke suite ready for us, so we were singing there and having fun, all girls were relaxed and could sing any songs, it was private, so no one could judge the singing. So some of the ladies felt like Britney Spears or Whitney Houston, Celine Dion or Jenifer Lopez. It was a blast.

And finally, describing traditions we can tell a lot of things about the wedding ceremony itself.

Choosing a wedding dress is a sacred moment for a Ukrainian lady. Each girl is dreaming to have the most gorgeous dress ever, like in a fairytale or in the movie. So she starts making a choice a long time before the wedding together with her mum, sister or a best friend.

In the morning everything starts with the groom’s coming to the bride’s house and ransoming his future wife. The bride’s friends prepare different tasks for him and his friends to do, like sing the bride’s favorite song, guess which lip print on a piece of paper belongs to his beloved. If the groom or his friends cannot fulfill the task, they give money or sweets as payment for the bride. When the groom’s company finally gets into the house, the bride comes out, all the guests drink champagne and go to the civil registry office. A part of wedding ceremony for Ukrainian orthodox will be held in church. It might a be a separate event on another day. Becoming husband and wife, they exchange their vows in church, it is a blessing for Ukrainian wedding. At this moment God blesses a family for many years and having kids. But before this, a couple must follow some rules:

  1. Before the church wedding a couple has to fast for three days.
  2. A groom can be present at a church in his suit, but a bride must not show her bare back, arms or breast. Her wedding gown must be modest and covered with a scarf in case some bare parts of her body are revealed.
  3. A bride must not wear a veil, because here her face needs to be open in front of God.

When the marriage is registered, newlyweds organize a short photo session in the places of interest of the city and then go to a restaurant where their parents and guests are waiting. They greet the newlyweds at the porch of the restaurant holding a loaf of bread called “karavai”, which is one of the food traditions in Ukraine. Newlyweds have to break off or bite a piece of it. The one who gets a bigger piece will be the head of the family.

After that everyone sits at the festive table. During the celebratory meal you can hear someone shout “Bitter (gorko)”, but it does not mean that his food is bitter. After hearing this “Bitter” the newlyweds have to stand up and kiss – the longer the better. The guests usually count aloud how long the kiss lasts, meaning that every next kiss must be longer than the previous one.

Each wedding is not only about wishing all the best to the bride and the groom; it is also about having fun. Here are some wedding wishes in Ukrainian:

  1. “Schastya molodim” – Wish happiness to newlyweds.
  2. “Z dnem vesillya” – Congratulations on the wedding day.
  3. “Khai mizna bude simya” – Let your family be strong.
  4. “Bazhayu schastya” – Wish you happiness.
  5. “Dorogi molodyata, vitayu vas vid dushi” – Dear newlyweds, I congratulate you from all my heart.

So it is quite a usual thing for guests to steal the bride’s shoe or the bride herself. To return every stolen item, either the maid of honor or the best man has to fulfill the task given by “tamada”, a person who is in charge of entertaining guests.

Some modern traditions like throwing a bouquet to the unmarried girls and dancing the first dance remained from old times. Usually it is a very exciting moments for girls, they all gather behind the bride and are ready to catch a bouquet, which means she is going to be next. At the end of the celebration the bride’s mother-in-law unplaits the bride, takes her bridal veil off and covers her head with a kerchief. This ceremony shows that the bride is already a married woman.

Frankly speaking the marriage traditions are more numerous than we have managed to describe in this article. That is why, you must definitely not miss a chance to visit this event or even become one of its main characters. You will absolutely like this experience.