Ukrainian Wedding Traditions to Honor Your Heritage
Weddings represent two people coming together to start a new life together. However, it's also a time to honor your cultural heritage. Many Ukrainian wedding traditions have been passed down for generations and are deeply rooted in symbolism and history. However, there are many ways to incorporate traditions of the past in a more modern way. After all, your wedding should be a reflection of you, your partner and your future together.
Whether you're looking to incorporate some of these into your own wedding day or you want to know what to expect as a guest, we're here to share and explain some Ukrainian wedding traditions you need to know.
A Brief History of Ukrainian Wedding Traditions
Ukrainian wedding traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. Many of the traditions involve multiple family members and begin early in the engagement period. From centuries-old customs like buying out the bride and stepping on the cloth, to celebratory toasts and delicious bread, these Ukrainian wedding traditions can be easily incorporated into your wedding celebration.
Ukrainian Prewedding Traditions
Buying Out the Bride
The Ukrainian wedding ritual of buying out a bride is one that dates back centuries. The groom shows up to the bride's parents' house on the morning of the wedding. He is greeted by the bride's friends, godparents and family members, who ask the groom questions about the bride that he must answer correctly. He also praises her and may be asked to answer riddles about her. It's a jubilant tradition that results in the groom paying an adequate ransom to the bride's family that highlights her worth. The form of payment may be horilka (Ukrainian vodka), candy or some other gift.
It is traditional in Ukrainian culture for the parents and godparents of the couple bless the nearly-newlyweds. This may take place in the bride's house or in the church. The families then make their way to the church for the church ceremony.
Ukrainian Wedding Attire
A very traditional Ukrainian bride might wear a richly embroidered shirtdress, blouse, long skirt, an apron and a crown. Jewelry is also a big part of the attire — including layers of necklaces. However, many Ukrainian brides today opt for a more modern look. There are many Ukrainian wedding dress designers that offer all-white gowns that are more reflective of today's bride.
Ukrainian Wedding Ceremony Traditions
During the marriage ceremony, before they take their vows, the couple steps on a traditional embroidered cloth known as the rushnyk. It is a symbol of purity as well as hope for the couple's future. It is also a symbol of Ukraine and connects the couple to their ancestors. The main color of the embroidered towel is red, as it symbolizes life and fertility. Ukrainian tradition says that whoever steps on the rushnyk first will "wear the pants" in the relationship.
The crowning portion of the wedding ceremony is a very important ritual. Wreaths are placed on the couple's head, deeming them the king and queen of their respective home. They also share a cup of wine to signify that in marriage, all things must be shared equally.
In America, brides wear the wedding band on the left hand, but it's Ukrainian custom for brides to wear the band on their right hand.
Ukrainian Wedding Reception Traditions
Ukrainian weddings are known for their toasts. Many people speak, including siblings, aunts and cousins. They all want the opportunity to raise their glass and wish the couple a happy life. At the end of each toast, the person speaking says "hirko," which means bitter. The newlyweds are then supposed to kiss, because things that are bitter can be sweetened with a kiss.
Ukrainian Wedding Food, Drink, Dessert
In lieu of a traditional wedding cake, Ukrainian wedding receptions serve korovai. Korovai is intricately woven bread made of flour and decorated with flour figurines. It can have anywhere from one to five tiers. This bread is representative of the Ukrainian community and their blessing of the marriage. Typically the bread is made a few days before the wedding and many family members from both the bride and groom's side pitch in to help to symbolize their families coming together as one. It is present at all the wedding events from the beginning to the end, but it's customary for the newlyweds to have a bite before the reception begins. Some couples today decide to serve the korovai alongside a traditional wedding cake.