Although the Web is actively crushing cultural barriers and destroying decades-old stereotypes, the phrase “Russian wedding” still makes minds of some picture a loud, bustling feast, with gallons upon gallons of vodka, red tablecloths, and bears, dancing to the sweet, cheerful sounds of the balalaika. Of course, the real picture has nothing to do with all this, except for vodka, maybe. A traditional ceremony is much more sophisticated and elaborate than it may seem, yet it has some quirks and features, some of which date back hundreds of years. In case you’re looking for some exotic ideas to spice up your wedding, feel free to take inspiration from these classic Russian traditions.
So, the wedding day begins. The groom rounds up the matchmakers, friends, and his best man and heads to the bride’s house only to find out that the bridesmaids (yes, there may be more than one) hid his future spouse somewhere, and now they demand the ransom for her. But that’s not all. In addition to paying actual money, the groom must go through an “obstacle course,” solving a few riddles and puzzles. For each unsolved riddle, he must pay with either a gift or even more cash. Once he finds his bride, the two head to the town hall or registry office where the official Russian ceremony begins.
For some reason, several major wedding traditions in Russia are associated with taking the bride away from her beloved groom. This ritual is very old, and it wasn’t fun originally. When serfdom (debt bondage) came to Russia, a custom appeared, according to which, the serf bride had to spend the wedding night with her master. Surely, the groom couldn’t let this happen, so the master sent his lackeys to kidnap the bride in the midst of the wedding ceremony. If the groom was wealthy, though, he could buy out the bride. Now, it’s usually the groom’s friends who steal the bride, and it’s nothing more than a game. The groom can get her loved one back by paying “the kidnappers” or by solving another riddle.
This is the most popular tradition, but its origin is a mystery. According to one of the versions, Russian ancestors were superstitious. They seriously believed in evil spirits that loved to spoil the fun at celebrations. These spirits hated to see people happy. That’s why, trying to deceive the evil, all guests at the wedding shouted “Gorka!” (from the Russian “Горько” which means “bitter”), thereby showing that the life of the future spouses is full of not only joy but bitter moments, as well. Hearing this, the spirits left them alone. Today, the bride and groom must kiss every time they hear “Gorka.”
Have you ever wanted to feel like a monarch? Try Eastern European women dating, and you’ll get a chance to become one but just for a couple of hours. Back in the day, the Russian tradition of placing crowns onto the couple’s heads was sometimes even more important than the exchange of rings. During the ritual, the groom and his bride stand on a piece of cloth while the priest covers their heads with crowns. After that, the two must take a sip of wine from a cup. Today, the tradition isn’t as popular as it was, unfortunately.
That’s the part where stereotypes meet the reality. A Russian wedding celebration is a huge feast, with endless toasts, loud music, dances, and, of course, contests. These are fun games that keep the guests entertained.
Overall, Russian wedding traditions are a fascinating mix of old, new, and weird that turns even the most humble ceremony into an unforgettable experience, both for the newlyweds and guests.