As I mentioned a few times in my articles, Ukraine has a rich and diverse history full of important traditions, especially when it comes to celebrating one’s wedding day.
The many ancient traditions and rituals involved in a Ukrainian wedding ceremony are an integral part of incorporating Ukrainian culture into your new married life.
Many of these practices originated centuries ago, and although some customs have likely been lost, many of these conventions are routinely practiced today.
Ukrainian wedding tradition #1: “Gorko, gorko…“
One of the most frequently seen traditions at all Slavic weddings is for the guests to chant, “gorko,” which translates literally to mean bitter, but in the context of the wedding is known to mean “kiss.” This custom originated from when the bride would carry a tray filled with glasses of vodka to each guest.
Upon take a glass, the guest would leave money on the tray and then after tasting the drink exclaim, “gorko” as a way of reiterating that the drink was in fact vodka and not water. The guest would then also offer the bridge a kiss.
Since then, this tradition has evolved so that when the guest say “gorko” or “kiss” it means that they want to see the bride and groom kiss each other.
Ukrainian wedding tradition #2: “Rushnyk“
A particularly meaningful part of the Ukrainian wedding is the towel or the “rushnyk.” Historically, the towel was a significant part of the bride’s dowry. Oftentimes, the towel will have two birds embroidered on it, symbolizing the new couple.
These special towels were frequently also given out to each of the guests. During the wedding ceremony, the towel is placed over the altar. In general, the bride will have embroidered the towel herself.
Ukrainian wedding tradition #3: “Korovai“
Ukrainian weddings have a traditional loaf of bread known as korovai. A braided brea, the each section of the korovai has symbolic meaning. Originally, instead of a wedding there would be a korovai.
Surrounded by a wreath, the korovai is always extremely ornate, decorated with bread shaped doves that symbolize the couple and pine cones. The bridge and groom begin by taking a piece each. Then, whoever takes a second piece is considered the “master of the house.” Eventually, the korovai is divided up for all of the guests to enjoy.
Who should pay for the wedding in Ukraine?
In Ukraine, the Ukrainian bride and groom’s families will generally come to an agreement about who will pay for what. It is not usually assumed that one party or the other will be paying. Often, the decision is arrived upon spontaneously.