The traditions of wedding celebration in Russia.

The traditions of wedding celebration in Russia are incomparable with any other country. A wedding in Russia always resembled a real theatrical spectacle, each action of which was filled with a certain meaning. Any deviation from the accepted order was considered a bad omen.

At all times, the wedding ceremony in Russia was divided into several parts. Each stage required not only certain words and actions, but also other mandatory attributes – clothes, gifts, decoration of premises or vehicles.

The whole process took from one week to three months. This article will tell you about the main episodes of weddings in Russia: matchmaking, hand-making, collusion, bachelor party, bath, morning before the wedding, paying the ransom, wedding, crowning, wedding tables.

Wedding Clothes in Russia: How It Was.

An important role in the Russian wedding was given to the clothes of the participants of the ceremonies. The main colors are red and white. Red symbolizes male power, and riches, and white – women’s purity, innocence and beauty. Woven items were decorated with fancy embroidery with symbolic patterns.

By the way, only very rich people could afford red clothing in Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe. The dye was extracted from the shells of Mediterranean clams and was expensive. The Russians made red paint from Carmine (a substance extracted from cochineal insects). Therefore, even poor Russian bride could afford a chic outfit of a beautiful, dark red color.

Russian Wedding Suit of the Groom.

The main element of a man’s wedding suit was a red shirt. In the cold season, it could be replaced by a caftan of the same color. Masters often used  thin and elegant linen fabric for sewing a suit. The groom’s shirt was also decorated with embroidery, but in smaller quantities than the bride’s. Rich people wore fur coats in winter.

The groom often wore black pants, and boots. The lower part of a man’s suit didn’t really matter.

The groom’s headdress was necessarily a hat, regardless of the season. Furs were always expensive and meant a sign of wealth. Therefore, the groom could wear a fur hat decorated with velvet or pearls even in summer. Ordinary people wore hats made of felt.

Russian Wedding Outfit of the Bride.

Russian bride wore a shirt made of homespun cloth under the main dress. There were no underwear in those days, its functions were performed by this part of the wardrobe. The bride began to decorate and embroider her outfits even before the date of the wedding was determined. Red and yellow threads were often used.

Russian wedding sarafan (a dress with straps, without sleeves) was worn on the shirt. The color was almost always red, in rare cases – white or black with an abundance of colorful embroidery.

An apron was worn over the sarafan. It served as a kind of “business card” of the bride. Girls spent years decorating it with embroidery. The whole suit was fastened with one or more belts.

Russian woman put on sandals, bast shoes or woolen felt boots, depending on the season. Closer to the beginning of the twentieth century, leather boots were often used.

Separately, it is worth noting the headdress of the bride. In almost all regions of Russia, women wore kokoshniks. Only the shape or decorative elements could differ. According to tradition, the bride had to remove the kokoshnik only in front of her future husband, at the wedding ceremony. The priest placed crowns on the bowed heads of the newlyweds and began the ceremony.

NikNikolay Pimonenko. Matchmakers. 1882olay Pimonenko. Matchmakers. 1882
Nikolay Pimonenko. Matchmakers. 1882

Matchmaking. Combat reconnaissance.

Every Russian wedding started with the matchmaking. Matchmakers came to the bride’s parents and agreed on the upcoming wedding. If the parties made a joint decision, then the groom’s parents came to the bride’s house. They brought a collusive cake – a kind of parting word to the future bride.

The bride show ended with hand-making: the fathers of the bride and groom put the hands of the newlyweds into each other and hit them with a mitten.  The parents sometimes beat the cake on the cake or broke the cake in half during this ritual. After that, the wedding could not be canceled.

Nikolai Petrov. The bride's show. 1861
Nikolai Petrov. The bride's show. 1861

Then the period of preparation of the gifts came. The bride usually sewed or knitted some clothes for the groom: a scarf and gloves, underwear or even the entire wedding suit. A “chest” (a dowry) was also prepared for the celebration. Towels, dresses and bed linen were sewn and decorated with embroidery by the bride herself with close relatives.

Bachelorette party
Bachelorette party

Traditions Of The Russian Bachelorette Party.

Russian bachelorette party was arranged a few days before the wedding. A woman said goodbye to youth and parental care on this day. The bride gathered her friends, the girls sang traditional songs. They also sang at the bachelorette party “thanks” to their parents.

The culmination of the bachelorette party was the ritual of losing beauty (“will”). Singing a long song, the friends took off the bride’s headscarf, worn during the conspiracy, and unwound the girl’s braid, taking out the “will” – a ribbon that symbolized the girl’s beauty and freedom.

As a rule, the “will” was passed on to the bride’s younger sister, and if it was not there, then to the unmarried girlfriend. After this ritual, the bride, surrounded by her friends, went to the heated bathhouse.

Wedding Divination. Who is the Master of the House?

Before the wedding, the bride, the groom, and their relatives wondered to find out how the newlyweds’ life together would turn out.

Some wedding ceremonies in Russia helped to create a psychological portrait of the chosen one better than a horoscope. Relatives of the bride brought a chicken decorated with ribbons to the groom’s house on the morning of the wedding day. It run under the table and ate millet. If the hen clucked loudly and flapped its wings, then the groom should be prepared: the wife will be grumpy.

With the help of loaves, they “decided” who would be the owner of the house. Whose matchmaker (the bride’s or groom’s one) raised the loaf higher, this person will dominate the family.

Wedding train
Wedding train

Wedding train and Paying the Ransom.

Someone from the groom’s side (brother or friend) came to the bride on the morning of the wedding day. He brought a gift with him and left with a gift in return. Then the groom appeared on the doorstep. The groom went to the bride on the wedding “train”. The first horse in the team was the most elegant – with ribbons, bells and flowers. Relatives of the bride tried to block the path of the procession and “sold the road”. The groom paid off with liquor or gifts.

This tradition is called a “ransom”. Then girlfriends did not let the groom into the house to the bride until he gives them gifts, or does not perform certain tasks (contests, games). When the groom gave money and did all tasks – the entrance was available.

Crowning
Crowning

Wedding Day.

On the wedding day, the bride was waiting for a special ceremony. The girl was combed. Then she changed her headdress for a new one – a married one. The matchmaker covered her from the evil eye with a veil, braided two braids and laid them in a bun or “horns”. And on top of the hairstyle, a headdress was worn, denoting a new social status.

The wedding in Russia consisted of two parts (the betrothal and the crowning). The crowning is a ceremony of marriage according to the rite of the Orthodox Church. The ritual is the same nowadays. During the crowning, the chants of the Church choir sound, the priest blesses the common cup, and then the young people taste the wine diluted with water from it three times. The Holy veil and crowns are placed on the heads of the bride and groom, the priest joins their hands and circles them three times around the lectern, then the young people exchange wedding rings. A marriage sealed by the Church is considered indissoluble in Russia.

Arriving from the Church to the groom’s house, the guests took their place at the wedding tables. Relatives were seated in two rows (on one side – men, on the other – women). Food was brought to the tables, women sang great songs, and after the celebration, the young people were escorted to the bedroom.

Wedding Traditions in the USSR.

The Soviet era was rich in new amazing wedding traditions. One of these traditions was the decoration of the wedding procession with a doll. The doll was used as an image. Brides, future children, couples (if there were two dolls, a boy and a girl, two swans, etc.).
It was important not just to fix the doll, but to fix it firmly, not to allow a shaky position of the symbol. It wasn’t easy to do that.
The doll raced ahead on the hood, and caught all the enthusiasm, all the good wishes. After the end of the celebration, the doll was washed from dust and dirt (if there were any envious glances, they were also washed off with water) and kept all their life together. It should never have been thrown away or given away.

The Soviet period created another wedding tradition – the rite of visiting attractions. After the registration of marriage in the registry office, the bride and groom in the company of guests go for a ride in cars. Stops are made and ritual actions are performed at certain “special” points of the route (usually local attractions). Usually only young people participate in this activity. Older guests meet young people at the wedding table, where they come after skating.

Wedding Traditions in Russia Today.

Today, some elements of the traditional wedding ceremony (matchmaking, ransom) are preserved, but they are played out and perceived as a wedding entertainment.

Modern weddings are registered in the department of public services (known as ZAGS) by civil servants in the hall to solemn music (Mendelssohn’s March). The wedding is preceded by a betrothal, when those who wish to marry announce their intention, after which they are considered the bride and groom.

Today the wedding train is a pre-hired transport, decorated with ribbons and balloons with the image of crossed rings (wedding symbol in Russia).

After the marriage registration ceremony, the bride and groom are considered newlyweds. They accept congratulations, drink champagne and sometimes break glasses “for luck”. When leaving the place of the ceremony, the newlyweds throw coins under their feet, scatter rice, flower petals or something else, according to beliefs, bringing happiness or giving strength to the union of young people. The young wife usually throws the bride’s bouquet over her shoulder, turning her back to the guests.

After the ceremony of marriage registration, the newlyweds arrange a photo session for the wedding photo album and then arrive at a pre-ordered cafe or restaurant for a wedding dinner. During the wedding dinner, the newlyweds sit at the head of the table, and the feast is accompanied by periodic exclamations of “Gorko” (“Bitter!”), urging the young people to kiss.

A special part of a Russian wedding is the presentation of gifts. Guests are looking for unique and prestigious wedding gifts. Such gifts are often porcelain sets, which are produced by the best porcelain factories in Russia: Gzhel, Imperial (Lomonosov) and Dulevo porcelain factory.

Conclusion.

A wedding is the first family holiday. Today, there are no specific rules for celebrating this day. Depending on their preferences, circumstances, desires, social status and financial capabilities, each couple chooses the option that suits them best. However, many traditions of wedding celebrations have been preserved to this day. And in no other country is a wedding celebrated as boldly and brightly as in Russia.