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Russian wedding traditions

Friday 16, January 2015, 2:26 pm Red

Love is a great adventure, and one of its most prominent landmarks is the wedding day. If you are about to get married, you may consider doing it in Russia. Also you can be lucky enough to attend a Russian wedding as a guest. In any case, if you happen to take part in a Russian ceremony, there are some traditions you should know about.

 orthodox
Modern eastern orthodox church wedding 

PAYING THE RANSOM 

In many countries, tradition warns that the groom and bride should not meet before the ceremony, or bad luck will chase them. But that’s not the case in Russia. Actually, you might find it surprising that in Russia the groom must go to the bride’s home to meet her, so they can go together to get married. 

But, that’s not an easy task. When the groom arrives, he’ll find that the bride’s friends are there waiting at the entrance. They won’t allow the groom into the bride’s home, unless he proves his love… with money, tests and right answers! So, if you’re the groom, get ready (and if you’re the bride, have fun with it): 

  1. You’ll be asked different questions such as, “Where did you meet your fiancée? What’s her favorite book? When did you kiss for the first time?” Each right answer will take you a step closer to your loved one.
  2. Dig deep into your pockets, because you’ll be asked for money. For example they’ll tell you “Fill up this glass with coins. The more you give, the happier you’ll be together”. We recommend you to take some spare money with you!
  3. Finally, you will have to complete every task that crosses the imagination of the bride’s friends. For example, they can give you an ice cube with a key inside and ask you to lick the cube until you get the key. Obviously, that key will be the one of your fiancée’s apartment. 

By the way, the groom’s friends can help out with those tests, to create an entertaining team challenge. All this makes a great, friendly tradition, which obviously ends with the groom succeeding. Once the groom has “paid the ransom”, the couple gets together, and everyone goes to the ceremony. 

tambov
A peasant wedding in the Tambov guberniya, Andrey Ryabushkin (1880)

WILL YOU BE HAPPY? FIND OUT BY BREAKING A GLASS

Russian couples can choose to have a religious service or not. What they need to do in order to be officially married, is a civil ceremony. It takes place at a ZAGS, which is the official body for marriage registration in Russia. In just 30 minutes you’re done: Congratulations! You’re married! 

But now, comes the moment of truth: Is this going to be a happy marriage? Usually, only time will tell, but Russia has developed a very sophisticated method in the shape of tradition. The newlyweds should take two glasses… and break them: the more the glasses shatter, the higher the chances of living happily for many, many years will be.

AND WHO WILL BE THE BOSS? EAT BREAD AND YOU’LL SEE 

Love and marriage is a long journey with its ups and downs along the way. But planning ahead will make your life much easier. First of all, there’s an important question that requires a clear answer: Who’s going to be boss at home?

Russian traditions are here to help us on the delicate matter of who will give orders at home. And it goes like this: The newlyweds will be offered a piece of bread. Then, they must bite off part of it without using their hands. The one that takes the biggest chunk of bread will be the “boss” in the family.


A couple eating the bread

ГОРКО! ГОРКО! (BITTER! BITTER!)

In most countries celebrating and drinking comes together, and Russia by no means is an exception. But we all know that alcohol leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. A remedy to bitterness is bringing some sweetness. So during the wedding party, guests will yell “Горько! Горько!” (which means “Bitter! Bitter!”) as a way to invite the married couple to kiss. The kiss is the sweetness that everyone needs to continue drinking and celebrating. This Горько! Горько! will be heard many times during the party. And, of course, the longer the kiss, the sweeter and the better!

We’ve learnt many things about Russian weddings, and we’re sure you can tell us more about it. Do you know any funny test for “paying the ransom” or more traditions and interesting facts about Russian weddings? We would love to hear about it!

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Online Russian lessons

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