America has always been known as a melting pot of cultures and it’s important to learn about and take pride in your roots. If you and/or your groom are of Russian descent, you can combine cultural traditions in your wedding by adding traditional elements to the day. Even if you aren’t Russian, these fun additions can make any wedding memorable.
Russian weddings are notoriously large and include lots of pageantry and celebration. Dancing, singing and a lot of food and drink are commonplace and festivities can last for up to a week. If you want to integrate this feeling on your wedding day, there are some Russian customs that are easy to recreate.
Paying the Ransom
This is a ritual that happens before the wedding but is so entertaining and fun that you might want to recreate it at your reception as a way to get the party started. Usually performed in a very light hearted and comical way in front of a large group of friends and family, the groom arrives at the bride’s home to pay her father a “ransom” for the bride (usually money or jewelry). Once the ransom is accepted, the family will bring out another woman or man dressed up as the bride. The groom will then demand the real bride be released, causing the father to ask for a larger ransom. Upon the father of the bride’s satisfaction, the family “gives away” the real bride to the groom.
Pearl and Turquoise Bridal Accessories
Traditional wedding attire for a Russian bride includes a strand of pearls and a pearl necklace. A strand of turquoise beads is also often worn to symbolize fidelity. Pearls are always a timeless choice for bridal jewelry so you can pay homage to your heritage without anyone even noticing. If you’re looking to add a pop of color with your jewelry, turquoise can certainly do the trick and convey a beautiful message of commitment to your spouse.
The Crowning of the Bride and Groom
If your wedding is taking place in a church, you might want to consider adding this classic convention to your ceremony. At the alter, the priest or officiant will read passages from the Epistle (an ancient Roman text) while members of the bridal party hold crowns made of metal or flowers over the heads of the bride and groom. At the end of the blessing the crowns are placed on the heads of the couple and worn until the reception.
The Crystal Glasses
Once you have been pronounced husband and wife, it is a Russian custom for the parents to offer the couple two crystal wine glasses–one for each side of the family–which they are asked to break by tossing on the ground. It is said the more shards of glass created, the more years of happiness they will enjoy.
Touring the City
Following the ceremony, many Russian couples tour their local city in a limousine or other lavish vehicle with their bridal party to view historical sites and visit with residents. This could be a nice way to relax and enjoy some private time with your groom and bridal party before heading into the reception. Historical sites can also add an interesting backdrop to photos and give your day an extra special “hometown” feeling.
The “Bitter” Toast
At the reception the first toast is made by the father of the bride to the bride and groom with a shot of vodka. As the shot of vodka is taken the guests will shout “Gorko, Gorko, Gorko” which means “bitter” in Russian, referring to the taste of the liquor. The couple will then have to kiss for several moments to remove the “bitter” taste of the vodka.
The Wedding Loaf
As a symbol of health and prosperity, a family member or close friend of the couple will bake a loaf of bread for them to eat at the reception. However, to find out who will be the “head of the family” the bride and groom are not allowed to use their hands to sample the bread but instead lean down and take a bite out of the loaf. Whoever takes the largest bite earns the honor.
As a couple you can create the wedding that best suits you and showcases your personalities and tastes. Borrowing Russian traditions adds an element of personalization to your celebration that everyone will remember. A Russian proverb about the New Year states that as you celebrate New Year’s, so you will spend it. You can carry this sentiment over to your wedding day and hope that the fun and special details you included make your life as wonderful as the day you were married.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.