Ukrainian Wedding Traditions
What immediately makes Ukraine wedding unique is that we never say we “celebrate wedding”, but always “play wedding”. It comes from the old Ukrainian wedding traditions, when a wedding was not just a party but a complete set of rituals which symbolized the creation of a strong foundation for a new family and its future well-being. It was more a theater play than a party where the solemnity and merry-making played together. If you’re lucky, you can still watch this kind of mysterious play and possibly even become a part of it in some Ukrainian villages. The traditional Ukrainian wedding differs in details from village to village, but all of them follow the same pattern in the order of wedding events.
The very first event in the Ukraine wedding process is a formal engagement. The groom invites two married men, starosty, to visit the home of the bride and to request her parents for her hand in marriage. If the bride agrees, she will drape the starosty with traditional towels – rushnyky; both parties then exchange the gifts and loaves of bread. Occasionally, if the prospective bride doesn’t want to marry the suitor, visitors can get a pumpkin – garbuz, instead of a loaf of bread.
The Ukraine wedding ceremony starts at least one week after the engagement. Usually on a Thursday or Friday they bake special wedding ritual bread – korovai and shiskas. Then the groom and bride walk through the village together and give shishkas to their wedding guests as an invitation. Before the wedding, both the groom and bride have separate parties with their close friends. At the girl party, devich vecher, they make a ritual tree,giltse. Together with korovai it stays on the wedding table as a symbol of youth and beauty of the bride and groom. Saturday and Sunday are the days of the main civil marriage ceremony or the church service. After the ceremony the groom takes the bride to her parents home and returns to his own home. Both families then have a meal with their friends and relatives, after the meal it is time for the groom to take a wedding train, poizd, and finally bring his bride to his home.
At the bride’s house the groom has to pay a ransom to be admitted into the house to join the bride’s family at the table. At the end of the day the bride and groom travel to his home where they will live after the wedding.
A very next day after the wedding.
The next day is a day of merry-making, frivolity and pranks. The wedding guests, who are dressed like gypsies, visit houses and take gates off of hinges, steal chickens, hide equipment and commit other silly behavior. They seat the parents of the groom or bride in the decorated cart and pull them to the water. There they overturn the cart and dump the parents into the water, to make them completely wet. All these actions may seem silly and irrational, but they have absorbed the wisdom of the ancient Ukraine traditions preserved through hundreds of years and are full of deep meaning to Ukrainians. A wedding in a village doesn’t happen every day; it is a remarkable event which people will discuss long before and after the wedding.
What about new Ukraine wedding traditions? Time changes and so do traditions. It is not easy to find that almost theatrical wedding action which took place one to two hundred years ago in Ukraine. But even today every wedding in Ukraine has the elements of the ancient rituals preserved in people’s memories. Still there is something which has not been changed during the centuries. That life is continuing here on the Earth and every year we will meet happy newlyweds like any young couple in Ukraine and watch their weddings – two days of their life which can never be forgotten.