Ukrainian Wedding Customs

Traditional Ukrainian wedding customs are made up of various ceremonial stages sealing the union of the groom and bride. Younger generations are in some cases following Western wedding customs, however, those from more traditional families or couples in villages still observe the wedding customs of Ukraine. A wedding in Ukraine is a solemn occasion involving important religious rituals, but it is also a time of great joy and fun-filled parties.

The Ukrainian wedding begins with the formal engagement when the groom approaches the bride’s parents along with some older married men (starosty) to ask if he may marry her. A bottle of horilka is presented by the groom and the bride will drape a rushnyky around the starosty. They then exchange a loaf of bread. The period of engagement may differ but is a minimum of one week.

On the Thursday or on the Friday before the wedding a korovai bread is baked. The following day the groom and bride along with a friend will carry a shyshka bread through the village to call to their wedding guests. On Friday evening a party is held for the bride to say good-bye. On this night they also make a ritual tree called a hiltse for the wedding table. The civil marriage contract is then signed on the Saturday. If they are to have a religious service, this takes place on Sunday.

Following the main ceremony the couple is separated. A meal is presented at each respective home. The groom’s mother will then send him with the wedding train to the bride’s house. A type of game is played where the groom is refused entry and has to pay for entrance. After giving money and horilka, he is allowed to sit at the family table. After the meal a wedding cake is cut for all to enjoy whilst the guests provide the couple with gifts. The group now make their way to the groom’s house for further celebrations and the bride is given a wedding chest. Once again they all feast, cut cake and receive gifts. The next morning the couple enjoys a ceremonial breakfast with all. At times they may present the proof of virginity. Once the official wedding customs are over a great time of frivolity is experienced throughout the village with the playing of pranks and fooling around, all adding to this truly joyful occasion.

Perhaps when you are traveling through some of the villages you will come across a traditional Ukrainian wedding in progress. It is a bright and lovely affair, a wonderful sight to see, and even better, to be a part of.

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