Traditionally the Ukrainian wedding is understood as a cheerful and impressive action, full of dramatic events, songs and fun. Since the old times people got prepared and waited for it impatiently. It was one of the major events in a person's life. Moreover, people often got married once and forever.
When people hear about the wedding, they imagine the bride wearing a white dress with a veil, wedding cortege, luxurious banquet in a good restaurant, a lot of guests and gifts. Yes, it is a modern version of “the best day”. But during the wedding preparations there is no a person who thinks about the wedding traditions and their origin. Where did the contemporary Ukrainian wedding rituals and traditions originate, and what is the origin of the wedding ceremonies, which now keep the newlyweds?
There are a lot of variants for wedding celebrations in the Ukraine. Frequently the traditions differed from each other not only from region to region, but even from village to village. But all the Ukrainian weddings has just one thing in common – furious happiness and a sense of celebration that could last for a whole week.
In ancient times, a wedding in the Ukraine consisted of many different rituals and traditions. Over the years they have been transformed and got completely different, the information about some of them remained only in the writings of anthropologists, who live until now. The wedding ritual - is a cycle consisting of matchmaking, bride-show, engagement and finally, wedding celebration.
What do people do today? Dolphins in dolphinariums wed some couples, some dive in a diving suit, climb mountains and some arrange real weddings at home. Shortly, having a wish, fancy and some money one can create something impressing, though not always looking like a wedding. However, the majority of young couples wishing to get married prefer sticking to the traditional Ukrainian wedding rite.
As well as in ancient times no one cancelled a tradition of marriage proposal. Although, now it’s a bit different ritual. Here no one gives a non-matching fiancé a pumpkin, while one goes to make a proposal to a bride only ready for it. Now a marriage proposal is rather a meeting for parents and a couple for discussing the event and all material and organizational issues. However, one goes to make a proposal with bread and traditional words like ‘You have goods, we have a buyer’ and others as one used to do before.
According to Ukrainian tradition a wedding itself begins in a couple’s house. A bridegroom gets dressed at home with a thrill of anticipation to see his bride in a wedding dress which he shouldn’t see before wedding according to superstitions. The bridegroom should necessarily take a wedding bouquet, a ransom and bread. If a distance from house to house is not big a bridegroom usually walks on foot to the music and jeers of his relatives. If it is quite a distance he goes by a wedding cortege entering a bride’s yard with a deafening roar of claxons. The future bride often wakes up early in the morning and goes to a wonderworking hairdresser, stylist or a make-up designer where she tries to sit quietly overcoming her pre-wedding agitation. When a wedding hairstyle and make-up are ready the bride proceeds with dressing her wedding dress. Oh, how long has she been dreaming of this day, and how did she want to wear it, just this one, inimitably breath-taking and queenly dress.
To the sounds of music and roar of claxons a wedding cortege of the bridegroom enters the bride’s yard. All neighbors stick out their windows wishing to see this inimitable event. A traditional wedding ransom is performed by bride’s relatives with the bridegroom, his relatives and the best man. Today bridegrooms get fancy and prepare for ransom a sack of coins (usually small ones), some produce one’s own currency, putting on dollars and euro their own faces (abilities of modern technology are great), some give bundles of money in small bills. All this is accompanied by loud fun, jokes, and humorous sayings. Having got a ransom, relatives take the bride to the bridegroom, parents bless them with icons for long and happy life, all according to the ancient traditions. Later the couple’s hands are bandaged with a towel or a kerchief over bread and they are taken to the yard where dredged with corn, sweets or coins. All this is very symbolic and means wellness, sweet life and fertility of the couple’s family life.
Later the couple goes to a registry office in a wedding train to the same roar of car claxons. Although, they can go on a yacht to perform the act of marriage there, but there is another article about it. Among traditional wedding events in the registry office only an exchange of rings, a snow-white towel and loaf on luxurious embroidered towels in warden’s hands exist. Some beliefs and superstitions are connected with every of them. One judges who will be the head of the family by the towel and the loaf. The one who is the first to step on the towel in a marriage hall will take the lead. The couple coming out of the marriage office is greeted with a loaf.
Wedding rings symbolize the full union and a vow of fidelity to one another. In the Ancient Egypt young couple exchanged rings making an alliance to the very death. Egyptians strongly believed that if to put a ring on a middle finger of a left hand one can keep love in the hearts of both. There is a wedding tradition to take a bride out of a wedding office in one’s hands and to take her to the house the same way. It also harks back to the ancient paganism. It was believed that a bride is a honey pie for dark forces and an easy catch for malefice and hoodoo. One carried a bride in hands to fool cunning beings. There were no traces left, so there was no bride as well!
Between a wedding feast and the marriage office there is usually a wedding walk. A newly-married couple, or already a husband and a wife accompanied by friends are placed in service of a professional wedding photographer. They visit monuments, enjoy, pose for photos. In general, they just perform the whole ritual of magic of a wedding photo session and video recording.
A wedding feast never takes place without festive cries ‘Bitter!’ It’s also a Ukrainian wedding tradition which was transformed nearly beyond recognition. Once a bride went round every table with a tray and treated her every guest a glass of vodka. A guest drank the treat with the words ‘Bitter!’ which meant that it was not water that he had drunk. Then he put some money on a tray with a glass and kissed a bride. Those who put no money just looked at her having no right for a kiss. Now ‘bitter’ is a joking racketeering of newly married couple for new kissed for guests’ fun.
Nowadays another wedding tradition has left – bride-napping. The best man is bearing responsibility for bride’s safety. That is just he who either pays money or shows his artistic talents in case when guests are able to steal the girl.
When the wedding feast is coming to an end there still are another four main traditional wedding rites without which a modern wedding scenario is unfinished. These are throwing of the wedding bouquet, throwing of a garter, taking bride’s hair out of a braid and cutting of the wedding loaf.
Modern wedding traditions and rites of Ukrainian wedding in every region have their own zest, and it is very difficult to describe the whole fullness and abundance of the folk which is the richest with its rites. However, one can surely say one thing: Ukrainian weddings are always merry, rich and they are never boring.
If you want to find a bride from Ukraine, be prepared to have an impressive wedding no other country in the world doesn’t have. The wedding tradition in Ukraine has been changing through the years but managed to save the very first signs of it.