Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Ukrainian Wedding

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The traditional Ukrainian weddings differ in details, but all of them follow the same pattern in the order of wedding actions. The very first action of the Ukrainian wedding is a formal engagement. The groom invites two married men (they call them starosty) to visit the home of the bride and to request her parents for her hand in marriage. The wedding ceremony starts at least one week after engagement. Usually on Thursday or Friday they bake special wedding ritual bread – korovai. Before the wedding both groom and bride have separate parties with their close friends.

At the girl party (divych vechir) they make a ritual tree (giltse). Together with korovai it stays on the wedding table as a symbol of youth and beauty of the bride and groom. Saturday and Sunday are the days of the church service or the main civil marriage ceremony. Before the church ceremony, the bride, the groom and their families meet at the home of the bride's parents for the blessing, the blahoslovenya. At the blessing, the parents express their approval and good wishes for the couple. The most touching and important moment to the couple, their parents, friends and relatives is the church ceremony.

The priest blesses the new family for happiness, health, luck, faithfulness, understanding, love and respect for each other. God's blessing is the most important blessing for the new family. After the ceremony the groom takes the bride to her parents home and returns to his own home. Both families have meal with their friends and relatives. After meal it is time for the groom to take a wedding train (poizd) and bring his bride to his home. The most joyful, surprising and unexpected things may happen this evening.

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There are many fun wedding party traditions involving everybody. Little children adore weddings of their older sister or brothers, because this is the time for them to steal a bride’s shoe and then demand any ransom for it. The party takes place in a restaurant, cafe, at the home of the bridegroom or bride. All the guests come with gifts. The word "Vesillja" is derived from "fun". The wedding ("vesillya") was meant to be fun for the young couple too, but the newlyweds in ancient times did not have the right to drink anything bitter.

They ate honey, bread and they had a little wine for the evening, but nothing more. There is usually a master of ceremonies, the “starosta”, who plans the party with toasts, endless jokes and games, making sure that every guest is involved. Dancing continues often until morning. At the end of the wedding party guests sing the song called “Mnohaya Lita”. It is a song of good wishes and means “many happy years”. Time changes, so do traditions. But even today every wedding in Ukraine has the elements of the ancient rituals preserved by people memory.

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