Russia enjoys a long history and rich traditions. This transcontinental country spans from Eastern Europe to Northern Asia. Traditions seep into all aspects of Russian lives, especially wedding traditions. Weddings fall under the Russian Orthodox Church and involve dancing, toasting, and singing. Read this article for the answer to the question of what are Russian wedding traditions.
Russian Wedding Traditions
A Russian wedding involves many fun rituals from kidnapping and obstacle courses to being crowned during the ceremony. Make sure to enjoy yourself at a traditional Russian wedding.
The couple does the betrothal ritual, the first Russian wedding tradition. They stand at the church’s entrance and the priest blesses them. In their Russian wedding dress, the couple receives lit candles which they need to hold onto during the ceremony. The ceremonies comprise Orthodox prayers and scripture readings.
The Russian Orthodox Church considers a wedding one of the seven sacraments. Friends or family members hold a crown above the couple’s head. The couple drinks wine together and follows the priest three times around the lectern. The couple exchanges Russian wedding rings. In the olden days, the couple would wear the crown for eight days after the wedding, but now, they remove the crowns after the Russian priest confirms the marriage.
Now, the fun Russian wedding customs begin. The couple’s parents give them a crystal glass each. The couple smashes the glasses into as many shards as possible; every glass piece represents a year of happy marriage. Sometimes, brides release a balloon with their maiden name written on the balloon since this means that she accepts her new name.
The wedding gets registered after the Russian wedding ceremony and the couple goes on a mini road trip with family and friends. The group visits the major landmarks for photos and carries out traditional things at each site.
In St Petersburg, couples go to:
- Senate Square for photos with the Bronze Horseman statue, the eternal flame of the heroes of World War II, and the monument to Peter the Great.
- Peter Vassilevsky Island to touch the Egyptian statues and stone griffons for good luck.
- Take photos while placing their hands inside the Rostrum Column as this symbolises their new sacred bond of marriage.
- Head to the Peter and Paul Cathedral and smash their crystal glasses on the concrete sphere near the fountains if they haven’t done it yet.
- Come to the New Hermitage Portico and touch the toes of the Atlantis statues for good luck.
- Visit other religious and meaningful structures for Russian wedding photos.
Sometimes, these road trips take two days so the wedding reception happens the following day.
Russian wedding culture includes a wedding reception. Guests experience fun games, eating, lots of fun, drinking, pranks, and being merry at
Cleaning the floor: The guests arrive at the wedding reception and they drop money (real or fake) on the floor. The bride must pick up all the money since it is her responsibility to clean the floor.
Kidnapping the Bride: Bride napping is one of the strangest Russian wedding rituals. The bride’s friends and family steal her away from the groom. Then the groom pays a ransom for the bride’s return. The ransom could be a champagne bottle, a chocolate box, or money.
Wedding Toast: Russian wedding toasts boast being fun also. They end with a shout of “gorko” (meaning bitter) implying that the wine is bitter in taste. So, the couple sweetens the drink with a kiss and the guests count how long the kiss is. A long kiss implies a strong marriage. The guests finish their drinks when the kiss ends as part of the fun.
Bread: As the couple starts to leave the Russian wedding reception, they must finish one last task. The couple takes a bite of traditional salty bread, Karavay. According to superstition, whoever takes the biggest bite is the head of the household.
Russian Orthodox Wedding Traditions
Weddings under the Russian Orthodox Church have wonderful traditions which have evolved over time. But certain things stay the same.
Traditional Russian Wedding Dress: Russian brides wear colourful wedding dresses and red is the dominant colour. White is a sacred colour and therefore not suitable for a wedding according to old Russian wedding traditions. Traditionally, brides would wear a Sarafan (a long pinafore dress) with a blouse.
Wedding Headdress: Sometimes, brides wear a headdress or Kokoshnik along with their Russian wedding dress traditional.
Russian Wedding Band: Russian brides and grooms wear their Russian wedding band on their right hand’s ring finger. Three metal bands interlock to make up a Russian wedding ring. The bands are plain and thin without any extra details. The bands overlap each other so that they move as one. Some couples take inspiration from western countries and wear a Russian wedding ring with diamonds.
The bands have different meanings.
- The bands are gold in different colours. Usually, the bands are yellow, rose, and white gold. Yellow represents fidelity, white represents friendship, and rose represents love. All three colours combined symbolise eternal love.
- The bands also symbolise the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- The wedding ring signifies the past, present and future. The yellow represents the strength of the union, the rose represents true love, and the white represents flexibility.
Russian Wedding Food: The wedding feast boasts several delicious local dishes. One just dish is the Karavay, a round Russian yeast sweetbread. The bakers decorate the bread with items like a wreath, ears of wheat, interlaced rings, etc. Another dish is the Kournik or Kurnik, a multilayered dome-shaped pie. The couple’s families both bake a Kournik; the bride’s pie has pastry flowers and the groom’s pie has human figurines made from dough. For a long time, Kourniks were ceremonial Russian wedding cakes. Of course, a Russian wedding feast is incomplete without alcohol.
Russian Wedding Customs
Weddings are a great way to learn about different cultures. Russian weddings can last from two days to one week. The best thing about Russian wedding ceremonies is that families and friends truly enjoy themselves.