Ukrainian wedding ceremony: traditions and customs

Ukrainian wedding is one of the most symbolic ceremonies in Ukrainian culture and can’t be compared with any other celebration by its wide scope.  It is rich on different traditions and customs that haven’t been changed for many centuries.

Wedding preparations

Wedding dress

Usually wedding preparations start several months before the solemn event with the choosing of wedding dress. As wedding dress is a bride’s symbol women pay special attention to its selection.

Ukrainian wedding dress
Ukrainian wedding dress

In Ukraine the traditional color of wedding dress is white, the color of purity and prosperous light future. Beige colors or ivory are also popular nowadays.

There are various variants of Ukrainian wedding dress style, but the traditional is a long gown embroidered with beads, pearls or other elements.

Groom usually wears western-style black suit supplemented with tie or bowtie.

Ukrainian groom suit
Ukrainian groom suit

There is an omen in Ukraine that the wedding dress should be only new. Borrowed stranger’s dress may bring problems to family life.

An integral part of the wedding dress is a wedding veil. It is the symbol of innocence and purity. Our ancestors believed the veil protected the bride from evil spirits. Modern fashion doesn’t specify the length or the shape of the veil, the only nuance it should fit the dress.

Wedding rings

Ukrainian wedding rings
Ukrainian wedding rings

The most important wedding attribute is a wedding ring. Round Ukrainian wedding rings made of precious metal symbolize serious and sincere people’s intentions to belong to each other for the whole life. The traditional wedding ring is made of gold or silver, rarely platinum, and has no jewels.  It can be decorated with diamonds or the combination of two precious metals.

Traditional Ukrainian towel “rushnyk”

Ukrainian rushnyk
Ukrainian rushnyk

It is hard to imagine Ukrainian wedding without the traditional embroidered towel “rushnyk”. The main color of rushnyk embroidery is red, the symbol of life, sun and fertility. There are several types of Ukrainian wedding towels depending on their purpose:

  • Basic rushnyk. During the civil ceremony the couple makes their first step on it. Traditionally the one who steps first will be the leader in couple.
  • Union rushnyk. It is used to tie up bride`s and groom`s hands.
  • Guest rushnyk. Groom’s parents welcome married couple with traditional bread korovai on rushnyk.
  • “Nabozhnyk”. Rushnyk that is used for decorating icons.
Wedding rushnyk
Wedding rushnyk

Wedding invitations

When the date and place of wedding ceremony are determined, bride and groom send invitations to their relatives, friends and colleagues. Invitations may be bought or handmade and include the information about the date and time of the ceremony, dress code or wedding thematic.

Wedding invitations are usually made according to the general wedding style, taking into account colors, floristry and accessories.

Wedding ceremony traditions

Wedding Ukrainian traditions have some differences depending on the region of Ukraine. In western regions, especially if the wedding takes place in the village, the ceremony is a colorful event with traditional rituals in which almost all villagers are involved.

Wedding tradition in Ukraine - Buyout
Wedding tradition in Ukraine — Buyout

The traditional Ukrainian wedding ceremony starts early in the morning with an interesting Ukrainian ritual “Buyout a Bride”. Groom with his groomsmen come to bride’s house and try to buy out his beloved. Bride’s family and bridesmaids in their turn put the price for the fiancée and the bidding begins. After two parties agree on price (it can be money, candies or champagne), groom and his company are asked to complete some tasks.

Official wedding ceremony

Official wedding ceremony in Ukraine
Official wedding ceremony in Ukraine

When all the obstacles are overcome and the bride and groom are reunited, they go to the registry office to exchange vows and to register their marriage officially. There is the Ukrainian tradition according to which after the couple becomes husband and wife they drink sparkling wine and then throw champagne glasses on the ground. It is believed it brings newlyweds good luck in their married life.

Some couples prefer outdoor weddings when the Registrar leads the civil ceremony in the open air. In that case Ukrainian wedding ceremony length and program may be regulated and determined by the groom and bride.

Outdoor wedding ceremony in Ukraine
Outdoor wedding ceremony in Ukraine

After the official part ending the newly married go for a long photo shoot process. They are taken to picturesque landscapes and city places of interest to memorialize the most significant day of their life.

Parent’s blessing is one of the most important Ukrainian wedding traditions. According to it parents meet the married couple with Ukrainian wedding bread salt (korovai) on rushnyk and the icon. Children in their turn ask for parents’ blessing and make three bows. After then members of their family wish newlyweds love and affection and give them an icon.

Church wedding ceremony

If the bride and groom origin from religious families and want to entrust themselves to each other for eternal life, they do the church ceremony.

Ukrainian church wedding ceremony
Ukrainian church wedding ceremony

According to the Orthodox the church ceremony takes place only after the official marriage registration. This ceremony is considered to be one of seven sacraments and must be prepared responsibly and beforehand. The Orthodox marriage ceremony consists of two parts: “betrothal” and “crowning”. During the betrothal a couple holds two candles and exchange the rings. After then broom`s and bride`s friends hold sacred crowns above couple’s heads as the symbol of union people with Jesus Christ and participating in His Kingship.

Catholic wedding ceremony has some differences comparing with the Orthodox wedding. Catholics do not separate official registration and church ceremony, they are equivalent. The groom and bride are allowed to have several best friends. Bride’s father also plays an important role in Catholic wedding by escorting his daughter to the altar.

Wedding celebrating traditions

Ukrainian wedding celebrations at restaurant
Ukrainian wedding celebrations at restaurant

After all official and church events the couple continues wedding celebration in a restaurant. Ukrainian wedding celebrations are usually very interesting and joyous, full of funny competitions, dances and folk songs.

Ukrainian wedding songs play an essential role in traditional Ukrainian celebrations. They are usually written in a comic manner and describe the relationships between husbands and wives, sons and mothers-in-law.

There are many diverse wedding customs in Ukraine that are kept and honored for many years:

  • Daddy dance. There is a touching tradition, when the bride has a wedding dance with her father, thanking him for upbringing and protection.
  • Stealing the bride (or bride`s shoe). Groom with his friends should pay the ransom or to fulfill the other kidnappers` requirements in order they gave his beloved back.
  • “Girko” bowing. In the intervals between eating and dancing guests usually give toasts and bow “Girko” (“bitter”) that means they want the newlyweds to kiss each other.
  • Gift giving. Each guest one by one greets the newly married couple, gives them best wishes and gifts (usually they gift money).
  • Covering with the kerchief. By the end of the wedding ceremony bride`s mother-in-law takes off her veil and covers her head with the kerchief that means she has become a wife.
Ukrainian wedding cake cutting
Ukrainian wedding cake cutting

Wedding cake cutting finalizes long and exciting wedding day. The bride and groom thank their parents and guests for sharing that special day with them, take their presents and flowers and depart home to have their first wedding night.

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