Traditional Ukrainian Wedding Customs
Weddings are both a solemn and celebratory affair in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian wedding traditions merge the celebration and merry-making with the formal rituals of the wedding ceremony. In my opinion, understanding the rituals and traditions of the country shows respect for Ukraine brides who come from traditional families or who live in a village rather than a large city.
The Ukrainian wedding traditions start with a formal engagement. During the engagement rituals, the groom and older married men, or the starosty, come to the bride’s parents to ask for her hand in marriage. The groom presents a bottle of strong liquor, called horilka, as a gift to the family. If the bride accepts the groom, which is common since they court before the engagement, she drapes the starosty with a rushnyky. The bride and groom then exchange a loaf of bread to complete the engagement rituals. Lengths of engagement vary depending on the couple and their families, but in the Ukraine a minimum of one week is required for any engagement.
Korovai bread, which is traditional Ukrainian bread for weddings and anniversaries, is baked on the Thursday or Friday before the wedding. The day after baking korovai bread, Ukraine brides and grooms along with a friend take a shyshka bread to call their wedding guests. The Friday before the wedding ceremony, the bride is given a goodbye party and the ritual tree, which is called a hiltse, is made.
In the Ukraine, a civil wedding is signed on Saturday while the religious service for the wedding is held on Sunday. Once the service is complete, the bride and groom separate and return to their family homes. A meal is presented at both homes.
Upon completing the meal at his home, the groom then travels with the wedding train to the bride’s home. The bride’s family and friends then play a game with the groom. The groom is charged a fee to enter the bride’s home. The groom is allowed to enter the house and sit at the family table only after he pays an entrance fee and provides another bottle of horilka.
A wedding cake and gifts are then provided to the Ukrainian bride and groom before they travel to the groom’s house. At the groom’s house, a second feast occurs. The bride and groom are provided a second wedding cake and then the groom’s guests give their gifts to the new couple.
On the morning after the wedding, a ceremonial breakfast with all of the guests and both the bride and groom’s family occurs. The formal wedding rituals are then complete, though the frivolity and merry-making continues throughout the day.
In my opinion, the traditional Ukrainian wedding is an enjoyable experience for any participant, particularly the bride. 🙂
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