Every culture therefore every country has their own traditional weddings. Everything may differ: starting from the number of guests that usually attend the wedding ending with the traditional colour of the brides dress. And here is what a traditional Ukrainian wedding looks like.
A long time ago Ukrainians used to get married in spring. This was the best season for marriages as it symbolized the beginning of a new life. But when the country was Christianized this tradition died as spring is the time for the great fast which means that entertainment, parties and fun weren’t allowed.
From that time Ukrainian weddings can be held at any time of the year but late spring, summer and early autumn are the most popular dates due to the good weather conditions. The traditional Ukrainian wedding consists of several steps. The first step is wooing.
This is when the first meeting of the two families takes place. Traditionally the male relatives of the groom visit the family of the bride. They bring a loaf of bread and start the conversation about the organization of the wedding. If the girl doesn’t agree to marry her family will present the representatives of the groom a pumpkin. If she agrees and her family likes the family of the groom they will cut the bread and put it on a towel embroidered by the bride, then they will give it to the family of the groom as a present and as a sign of their agreement.
Then the bride had to meet her future mother-in-law. She had to show her best skills, most important of which were the cooking skills. The future mother-in-law had to approve the skills of the bride in order for the marriage to happen.
If everybody agreed on the wedding the next step was the hen-do which was very different to the nowadays girls parties. The girl friends of the wife-to-be had to wash the bride and she had to be very sad and even cry repeating certain phrases showing how sad it is for her to say goodbye to her childhood friends.
On the morning of the wedding day the groom had to go and kidnap his future wife. The relatives of the bride were putting different “traps” for the groom, asking him questions and giving tasks. If the groom couldn’t complete the task or answer the question he had to pay some money, give wine or some other present to the relative. After getting to the bride they both would go to the church.
After the church the newlyweds were given the special bread called “Karavay” symbolizing wealth and prosperity on the traditional Ukrainian embroidered towel. The groom and the bride had to break of a piece of bread. The person with the bigger piece was believed to become the head of the family.
In the middle of the celebration the groom calls his new mother-in-law to the center of the room, washes her feet and puts new shoes, bought by him in advance on her. This symbolizes his good intentions and respect towards his new family.
When the newlyweds are officially married the sad part of the wedding happens. The new mother in law and the groom undo the bride’s braid, take the flower wreath off her head and put a scarf called “ochipok” which symbolizes the new status of a married woman. The bride then takes the wreath and throws it towards the unmarried girls at the wedding without looking at them. There is a belief that the girl who manages to catch the wreath would be the next one to marry.
On the second day of the celebrations two people, a man and a woman dress up to look like the real newlyweds. Everybody at the wedding pretends not to notice the lie and they continue to celebrate just as the day before. This strange tradition comes from pagan times. This people believed was to turn the evil eye away from the real newlyweds and bring them more happiness in their family life.
Nowadays not all of these traditions are followed. Some of them were partly changed, for example nowadays not many girls have a wreath that’s why they throw their bouquet of flowers to unmarried female guests. But the fashion for the traditional Ukrainian wedding clothes has come back. That’s why today you can often see the newlyweds dressed in traditional Ukrainian shirt and red wide trousers for men and an embroidered white blouse and a red skirt for women. Let’s see, maybe some other traditions will come back soon.