Ukrainian wedding traditions have a long history. Unfortunately, at the present times, fewer and fewer of ancient wedding customs and traditions take place at a contemporary Ukrainian wedding. However, the most interesting traditions have remained. We will describe a contemporary Ukrainian wedding. So, the wedding ceremony begins 30-40 days before the wedding itself. The bridegroom, his parents and friends must ask the bride’s parents for her hand. The bridegroom’s parents come with a Ukrainian round loaf (homemade, round, big bread beautifully decorated). The round loaf is delivered on an embroidered towel made by the bridegroom’s mother, and on top of the bread there is some salt.
The bridegroom’s father and friends ask for “bride’s hand”. Usually, her father gives an answer, after asking his daughter about her decision, whether she wants to marry the young man or not. If the bride wishes to take this man as her future life partner, the bridegroom’s and bride’s parents discuss the time and place of the wedding party. But if the girl does not wish to marry the guy, she gives him a pumpkin! On the wedding day, dressing a bride is a special ritual. Bride’s friends have been with her since early morning. They put a gown on her, make a hair-do and put on a bridal veil? The bridegroom comes to his bride in a car decorated with flowers, ribbons and balloons. Sometimes, a doll dressed like a bride is placed on the car’s hood. When the car (or cars) comes up to the house of the bride, they start to honk. It means that the bridegroom and his relatives are ready to take the bride, her parents and friends to the church and city hall, to get married and register their marriage. When the bridegroom and bride walk out of the bride’s house, the bride’s mother throws seeds (symbol of wellbeing) onto their heads, as well as roseleaves (symbol of prosperity and health) and coins (symbol of financial stability in a family).
The official registration of marriage in the City Hall starts with the sound of fanfares. A Ukrainian embroidered towel is spread at the feet of the couple, they stand on it and the ceremony begins. In fact, at this place, the bride groom and bride become husband and wife. Exactly, in the City Hall, the long awaited phrase “Zoya, do you agree to take Oleg as your husband, to be with him in sadness and grief, to be faithful until death separates you?” is pronounced. After the ceremony, the spouses receive congratulations from friends and relatives. The “newly-made” husband takes his wife from the City Hall in his arms. The next stage is getting married in church. This is the most touching and important moment to the couple, their parents, friends and relatives. The priest blesses the new family for happiness, health, luck, faithfulness, understanding, love and respect for one another. God’s blessing is the most serious blessing for the new family. There are many prejudices connected with the ceremony in church. They say that if the bride’s dress catches the fire from a candle, it means that the marriage is doomed. So it is quite understandable that the bride’s mother is always very careful in church, and does her best to prevent any of such things. The third stage of celebration is the most joyful, surprising and unexpected things may happen this evening. The party takes place in a restaurant, cafй or at the home of the bridegroom or bride. All the guests come with gifts. In Ukraine, ordinary things can be presents at a wedding, which first of all, will be necessary in a young family: kitchen utensils, linen, home appliances, etc.
The party starts with congratulations from relatives and friends. After each toast, the guests shout “Gorka! Gorka! Gorka!” It means that the guests want to see the married couple kiss one another. One must note that the number of kisses at the wedding, as some bridegrooms have noticed, exceed the number of kisses received throughout the whole period of dating. When the guests have paid enough attention to the married couple, their attention goes to the bride’s and bridegrooms best friends. To be the best friends of the couple at the wedding is a very honorable and responsible task. The bride chooses her best friend (unmarried girl) who helps the bride with all pre-wedding preparations. It is she who puts down her signature in the document certifying the marriage. So, what is the role of the bridegroom’s and the bride’s best friend? They are called “witnesses”. When the guests shout “Gorko” to the witnesses, it means that the guests want to see them kiss, too! At one of international weddings which took place in our city, there was a funny thing. The guests were shouting “Gorko” to the witnesses. The bridegroom’s best friend spoke no Russian, so he was not really paying attention the shouts and continued to enjoy the delicious meal from his plate. When the interpreter explained to him what was required, the guy blushed. Anyway, he did not refuse from a kiss from the bride’s best friend. Later on, at the end of the evening, he asked the guests to shout “Gorko” to the witnesses again.
During the party, dancing is a must. Everybody dances, the guests, the parents, and the newly married couple. But a dance between the bridegroom and his mother-in-law and between the bride and her father-in-law is a must at each Wedding Party. Moreover, the bridegroom must prove that he will take good care not only of his wife, but also of his mother-in-law. In the presence of all the guests, the bridegroom declares that he will also be kind to his mother-in-law, and as a sign of his attention, he presents her with a pair of boots, which he puts on her! However a trial is expecting the bridegroom. It may happen that the bride may be stolen, and the guests will ask the bridegroom to pay 50-500 grivnas (10-100$) for her shoes, or even for the bride herself – even a bigger sum. All guests are sure that the newly married couple will be the happiest family. But it stirs everyone’s curiosity – who will be the head of the family – He or She? National tradition helps to clear up this issue. The newly married are given traditional bread and they try to break it apart. The head of the family will be the person who has got a larger part o
f it left in the hands! This ritual is more like a joke on the wedding party, but as time goes by it becomes obvious that traditional ceremonies are telling truth! At the end of the party the custom of turning the bride into wife takes place. The bride is dancing waltz with all the young, unmarried girls present at the party. This is a sign that every young girl has the right for happiness, family and children. However, which of the present young girls will be the first one to get married depends on who catches the bouquet thrown by the bride backwards, over her left shoulder!
After the bride says “good bye” to her friends (young girls), a bride’s mother’s friend brings the round loaf to the bride and uncovers her bridal veil. Instead, a Ukrainian national kerchief is placed
on her head. A young bride has turned into a married woman! The wedding is over! Long live a new family! .