Hans and I met Galina Gorokhova and her husband Vitaliy at the Kenville Dance Studios, where we take ballroom dance classes. Recently, they kindly had us over for a Russian cooking class (more details to come in another entry) and shared their wedding pictures and some of their wedding video with us. In each picture, you can see how in love they are with each other. I so enjoyed hearing about the Russian traditions and what they decided to incorporate into their wedding in St. Petersburg that I asked Galina to write a guest blog entry on Russian weddings. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Thanks, Galina, for sharing your thoughts with us!
A Typical Russian Wedding
In Russia weddings have always been a tremendous three –day event where a large amount of people was invited.
Preparing for a wedding doesn’t take such a long time as in America for example.
Usually people go to a city hall two month prior to their wished wedding date. They write an application that they want to be married on that particular date.
All the nearest relatives take part in this event. Guests are sent invitations. If the celebration is not taking place in a restaurant then the women cook different meals. The cars in which the guests of the wedding will travel are decorated with tapes, flowers and balloons. No doubt the most beautiful one must be the car for bride and groom. It is decorated with huge rings.
Also before the wedding it’s important to choose two witnesses. One of them must be male and the other one – female. By the way groom usually chooses the male, and the bride chooses female to be witnesses. These are as a rule best friends, brothers or sisters of the young couple.
A lot of attention is paid to the clothes of a groom and a bride. In Russia the groom is usually wearing strict black suit and white shirt. The dress of a bride is to the contrary traditionally of white color. There is a veil on her head. Besides, the groom mustn’t see the bride in her dress before the wedding. In Russia it’s considered to be a bad sign.
An important custom is the buy-out of bride. The groom and his friends must come to the house of the bride. Guests from the girl’s side are waiting for them here. The guy must pass several trials to see and to take his bride away. For example he is asked to make compliments to the bride. Or they can check how well he knows her asking different questions about her. If he doesn’t know the answer to the question or is mistaken then he must pay money.
The groom is given the bride in the end. When a young couple goes to street parents sprinkle them with rice or coins. This is done for future prosperity and well-being of newly-married couple.
After that future spouses sit into the car and go to the wedding palace. Guests follow them. Decorated cars go on the streets in column. During the travel they’re certainly signaling so that all the associates paid attention to them and knew about the holiday
The official part of the wedding takes place in a registry office. It’s rarer for couples to arrange wedding ceremony at a church. During the wedding the groom and bride exchange rings symbolizing their love and devotion to each other.
After the official registration a newly-married couple goes to the trip through the city with guests. They stay at mostly important monuments and sightseeing. Besides, there is a tradition that the groom must carry bride on his hands through all the bridges in the city. Of course it is rarely executed but at least one bridge is necessary. As a rule at each staying guests say toasts for the young family. Usually people drink champagne.
At this time the parents of a groom go home. After the city trip all the others also come here. The groom’s parents meet a newly-married couple with bread and salt in front of the house entry. They wish the new family happy life together. After that they treat the groom and bride with bread and salt. It’s considered that the host in the house will be that of them who breaks off or bites off a bigger piece of bread.
Then guests go to a place where the celebration will take place. Here a magnificent table is waiting for them. The groom and bride sit at it first. By the way bride sits right of the groom, and the groom’s parents are right to bride. After that the other people take their places, and the celebratory dinner starts. It is accompanied with numerous toasts for happiness, health and well-being for the groom and bride.
Besides if you are at a Russian wedding don’t be surprised when you’ll quite often hear here guest shouts “Bitterly!” (Gorko) Sometimes even too often. Don’t think it far doesn’t speak that the food isn’t tasty. In fact when guests shout “Bitterly!” that means that the groom and bride must kiss each other. By the way sometimes you can also hear “Sweet!” (Sladko) And this moment witnesses must kiss each other.
Guests give presents to newly-married couple. Usually wedding presents are practical. Lots of guests even give money. Also different kinds of home appliances are popular.
Also there is a tamada (host or toastmaster) at every wedding. The tamada is a person who leads a wedding and tries to make it cheerful and memorable. He carries competitions with the participation of the newly-married couple, witnesses, the parents of the bridegroom and the bride and other guests. Often the future of the couple is defined by the results of such competitions. For example they find out who and what duties will carry out. Also often they bear two trays. Guests are offered to put money on one of them depending on whose birth they allow from the young family – a boy or a girl. After all who wanted have voted this way tamada counts money for a boy and for a girl. It’s considered that that of them will be born for whom the assembled sum is bigger. By the way the first piece of wedding cake is also supplied from the auction. Sometimes tamada sings. Actually music is present at Russian weddings. After the dinner guests always dance.
Usually weddings take part on week ends. On the second day the bride isn’t wearing her white dress. This day guests gather again together and continue having fun. There aren’t any special traditions on the third day.
All wedding look the same. You’ll notice that if you’re ever to choose the photographer or a cameraman. It is so dull to observe all traditions all the time. So when it came to our wedding we did a modern wedding.
First, we skipped witnesses because we didn’t what to make our friends ill at ease when choosing between them. They are all best!
Second, there was no white dress and black suit. White doesn’t go with my pale skin and we both hate black. We even asked our guests not to wear black. Nobody minded.
Third, there weren’t such stupid things as buy-out of the bride and “Gorko shouting”.
We thought it is silly to ask my future husband questions about me after 7 years of being together and make him pay money for me. Am I a thing or what? I found it offending as well as getting up and kissing whenever people shout; we are not circus dogs, aren’t we? Instead of shouting “Gorko” we gave each of our guest a bell to ring to make some noise to give way to emotions.
And fourth, there were not any games or tricks with money. We wanted our guests to have fun and not to spend their money.
Giving up a tradition is not an easy thing. We had some fights with our families on some of the things which didn’t go with traditions.
But after all it was our wedding and we successfully did it! And even those who didn’t believe it would be fun were satisfied. Because something new is always good!
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