Russian marriage traditions you should know about
Table of content:
- Paying money for releasing of the “captive”
- Official ceremony at ZAGS
- Betrothal in the church
- Smashing the glasses
- A grand photo session
- The function and all the fun
- The infamous “Gorko”!
- Kidnapping the bride
- Guests are supposed to pay
- Should you go for the Russian wedding?
- Some final words
When it comes for a Russian marriage, there are certain wedding traditions you should know about. If you’re going to marry a Russian woman in her home town, there are things that may come as a surprise. In the middle of the wedding you may find yourself wondering whether you’re doing a right thing by marrying a woman from this crazy lot! But don’t worry, Russian weddings can really appear weird for someone from the western world, but they are joyful, exciting and lots of fun.
Perhaps the right thing to do is to learn more about these strange customs well in advance. This way you’ll be prepared and nothing will sock you as much as it could otherwise. You’ll come back from Russia with your bride and live happily ever after in your home country. So, the list of strange rituals and traditions include:
Paying money for releasing of the “captive”
Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay much. There are lots of countries where a groom is obliged to pay a huge sum of money to his bride’s parents, but Russia is not one of them. It’s more like a fun ritual to have a good laugh at the grooms’ expense. When he comes to pick up his bride, her parents hide her away and don’t let her go.
Then bridesmaids set up a few embarrassing challenges for the groom in order to demonstrate the power of his feelings for his significant other. If he doesn’t feel like fulfilling a certain task, he has to pay a certain amount to the bridesmaids (the more the better) or give them chocolates and sweets.
Sometimes they even dress a cousin, brother or other male relative of the bride in a white dress and try to push him forward as the real bride. If the groom is not satisfied… yes, you get it right, he has to shell out some money again.
Official ceremony at ZAGS
Before anything else, everyone should visit a registration office called ZAGS. They say yes to each other, sign papers and listen to the speeches and congratulations. The whole thing takes no longer than half an hour, but it’s an extremely important part of the wedding, because only this way a Russian marriage is legally acknowledged.
Betrothal in the church
This part of the wedding may not or may not be skipped, depending upon how religious the newlyweds and their parents are. The coupe holds candles, listens to the prayers and scriptures, and gets blessed by a Russian Orthodox priest. They also put crowns on the bride’s and room’s head – this part of the religious ceremony is more important than putting wedding rings on each other’s fingers. Then a priests walks around the lectern and the couple follows him – this is supposed to symbolise their life journey together as a married couple.
Smashing the glasses
After the couple is officially announced a husband and wife, they are given two crystal glasses. After emptying the glasses (usually filled with wine), they are supposed to smash them with all their might into as many pieces as possible. Each of those shards symbolize a year of a happy married life. Does it sound crazy enough to you? Wait, this is one of the most innocent and harmless traditions of a typical Russian marriage!
A grand photo session
After visiting a registration office and church, the couple and all the guests set off on a tour around the city to take pictures near the most prominent landmarks. It’s a fun part of a Russian wedding when the weather is warm, but in winter is kind of challenging to take photos while you’re freezing to death. On this tour, a couple would usually do the following things:
- Go to the eternal flame and memorial of the WWII heroes (every major Russian city has a place like this).
- Visit a couple of monuments that the city usually associates with.
- Take photos in front of beautiful buildings in the city – museums, palaces, castle, houses of opera, theatres and so on.
- Pose for funny photos (a groom holds a tiny bride in his hands, a bride drags her groom to the registration office and so on).
- Perform a local ritual for good luck (like rubbing a part of a marble or bronze monument for good luck).
- Joke and laugh with family and friends.
To go on this tour, a couple usually rents a limousine or any other sort of expensive car decorated with ribbons, balloons and flowers. The guests follow them in other cars and buses. Those are beautifully decorated, too. Usually this cortege of cars go through the city streets honking and making lots of noise, letting everyone know that a new family has just been created.
The function and all the fun
After that you can expect the funniest part of a Russian marriage ceremony. Everyone heads to the restaurant where a lot of eating and drinking takes place. There are also a lot of games, and these are as crazy as it can be. For example, the newlyweds bite off huge pieces of a pie to demonstrate who’s going to be the head of the family – a person with a bigger piece is obviously going to be the leader.
Or they have a competition to see who can put a diaper onto a doll symbolizing their future child. The guest would vote for the gender of their first kid by putting money into either blue or pink onesie.
The infamous “Gorko”!
Every toast at a Russian wedding (and there are many of them, as you can imagine) is accompanied with a shout of “Gorko”! This word literally translates as “bitter”, and it’s used a signal that a couple is supposed to kiss. The origin of this custom is rather hard to explain, but they say that the sweet taste of their affection for each other has to negate the bitterness of drinks. As if this is not weird enough, all the guests would count aloud to see how long the kiss of the couple would last. Needless to say, the longer it lasts the better – it’s a sort of indicator of how strong their love for each other is.
Kidnapping the bride
Russian brides also get kidnapped during the celebration. In the middle of celebration, when a groom is distracted for a minute, the guests may kidnap his bride. If he wants her back, that’s right, he has to pay once again.
Guests are supposed to pay
When you’re invited for a Russian wedding, you’re expected to bring an expensive gift or a certain amount of money. This is supposed to help the newly created family at the very start of their life together. The country’s economic situation leaves much to be desired, and the more money is given by guests to the couple the better.
Apart from that, at the reception you should be ready to pay for the most unexpected things, so make sure to take your wallet with you.
For example, you can be expected to part with a certain amount of money for the privilege of getting a fork, a cup or a plate.
Should you go for the Russian wedding?
Well, why not? If you’re going to marry a Russian woman, most probably she’s going to leave all her family and friends behind in order to move to your home country. Getting married in Russia is the right thing to do if you want her to gather all her relatives together before the leave and to have the wedding she was dreaming about. Russian marriage is lots of fun, and if you manage to relax and just go with the flow you’ll really enjoy it.
This is something to remember for years to come and tell your grandchildren about when you’re old and grey. You’ll have lot of fun photos to go through and even more fun memories. If you can invite you family and closest friends to come to Russia, do that by all means. They will have lots of fun at your wedding, too!
Some final words
These are only some wedding traditions one can observe in Russia. The rituals and customs may vary depending on geographic location, social status of the newlyweds and many other factors. One thing for sure, it’s always fun!
A sure way to enjoy Russian weddings is to stay open minded and ready to embrace new experiences.
An international marriage is full of cultural challenges, and a wedding is not the hardest one of them. But don’t worry, perhaps you’ll be so charmed by your stunningly beautiful bride that all the weirdness will not affect you at all.