RUSSIAN Wedding ceremony and traditions...

...One unique Russian Orthodox tradition is the “crowning of the couple.” ... “In the hope and wish that their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved — because they will be shared — during the ceremony the bride and groom also drink wine from the 'common cup,' toasting to a better life.”

...A traditional Russian wedding can last between two days and one week. The celebration involves dancing, singing, toasting, and banqueting. The best man and maid of honor are called Witnesses or Свидетели in Russian. The ceremony and the ring exchange take place on the first day of the wedding.

Buying the bride

During the wedding, the bride's friends kidnap either her or her shoe and the groom and his friends must pay a real or symbolic price for the stolen maiden.

Wedding master of ceremonies Sergei Sokolov recalls a specific occasion: "Once, the guests decided to steal the bride but did not say how she could be bought back. I said: ‘Ok, so now the bride is stolen, but how are we going to buy her back?' The guests said: 'Have the groom drink eight shots of vodka.' But if he were to drink eight shots of vodka, he’d be as good as gone too… In the end, we just organized a dance battle."

Proving your love

For this ritual, a groom must tie a knot in a kitchen towel that is as strong as his love for his bride. Then, he must untie this knot as easily as he will be able to solve future family problems.

Feed me

In the old days, there was a tradition where on the first day after the wedding, the new wife would bring water to her parents-in-law and help them to wash. Then, she would help them to dress before preparing breakfast. In modern Russia, the mother-in-law tests the bride's domestic capabilities right at the wedding. Prior to the wedding, the master of ceremonies asks the groom's mother which dishes he likes to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The groom’s mother creates a list of several dozen dishes and the bride must identify the groom’s favorites. If the bride guesses all of her beloved's preferences correctly, she wins the respect of her mother-in-law and is rewarded with a book containing recipes for delicious, healthy meals.

Distribution of household chores

Various objects such as fishing floats, brooms, frying pans, car keys and remote controls are placed into a big sack. The bride and groom take turns choosing objects from the sack without looking. For example, if the groom takes out the frying pan, he will be responsible for preparing meals while if the bride selects the float, she will have the honorable task of going fishing.

Know your husband by his kiss

Demonstrating to the guests how well the bride and groom know each other, and how perfect they are for one another, is a traditional part of the wedding. In this contest, the bride is blindfolded and men, including the groom, volunteer to kiss her hand. She must then guess which kiss came from her husband.

Fill the glass

Two participants, a man and a woman, are selected from among the friends of the bride and groom. The woman holds an empty glass between her knees and the man, who stands a good distance back from her, holds a bottle filled with water. His goal is to approach the woman and, without spilling the water, fill her glass.

Predicting the baby's gender

In order to determine the gender of the couple’s future child, you will need a glue-stick, rings of pink and blue paper and a large drawing of a baby wearing diapers and a bow. The master of ceremonies blindfolds the bride and groom and invites them to tie rings onto the bow. At the end of this game, if there are more pink pieces of paper on the bow then the child will be a girl, if there are more blue ones, however, the child will be a boy. There is also a new version of this game that uses votes by text message. "I have a program," says Sokolov, "that can help you guess the gender using text messages. It is all very modern."

The frying pan and the ladle

This contest involves making a lot of noise. A ladle is tied between the male participant's legs with a frying pan placed between the lady's legs. The goal is for the pair to make as much noise as possible by using the ladle to hit the pan before time runs out.

Sokolov admits that each year less of these old traditions take place at modern weddings. "A wedding is a celebration of the birth of a family and it can be done without these old traditions, especially if only young people are present at the wedding. However, there has never been a wedding without parents and some things must be done to please the older generation For mothers and fathers these things are important."

Amazing Russian wedding traditions

...From kidnapping and obstacle courses to literally being a royalty during the ceremony, there are so many amazing wedding traditions to be found at Russian weddings.

The ransom

While in some countries, a very real (and often expensive) dowry needs to be paid before a wedding. In Russia, the bride’s ransom is more of a fun tradition.

The bride’s parents “steal” her away and hide her before the ceremony until her partner completes a series of challenges set up by the bridesmaids that are designed to show the strength of his love and, ultimately, embarrass him.

If a task cannot be completed, a payment of either real cash, chocolates, or flowers must be made to the bridesmaids as compensation.

Other versions of the ransom quest include dressing up a male relative of the bride in wedding attire and refusing to hand over the real one until a payment has been made, or presenting the fiancé with a napkin covered in the lipstick prints of the bridal party. If the fiancé cannot identify the bride’s print correctly, he is also up for a payment.

The ceremony

Russian weddings can take many forms, but a marriage is only legally recognised once you have made a trip to the registration office, the Zapis Aktov Grazhdanskogo Sostoyaniya.

Couples can choose to have a small civil marriage registration affair, where the couple literally sign papers in an office and head off to party, or they can accompany this with a civil ceremony, which lasts for 15 to 30 minutes, or go the whole hog and have the longer traditional ceremony as well.

Some couples choose to sneak in this formality before their wedding day to leave more time for the fun stuff.


The betrothal is the first part of a traditional Russian Orthodox ceremony. This is where the couple stands at the entrance to the church and is blessed by the priest.

They receive lit candles, that they then hold onto throughout the ceremony, which includes a prayer and scripture readings.


Because a wedding is considered one of the seven sacraments for Russian Orthodox followers, there is more importance in placing crowns onto the heads of the couple than there is in exchanging wedding rings.

The crowning is the second part of the traditional ceremony and is where the couple stand on a piece of rose-coloured cloth and the priest places the crowns onto their heads. These can sometimes be held in place by relatives or friends.

The couple shares a cup of wine and follow the priest three times around the lectern to symbolise their journey into married life.

Traditionally, the crowns would be worn for eight days after the ceremony, but they are now taken off after the priest announces the union and says the benediction.

Smashing good time

Once the couple is announced as newlyweds, their parents offer them a crystal glass each. They then muster all of their strength to shatter them into as many shards as possible, as each piece signifies a year of happy marriage.


It is also traditional for the bride to release a balloon with her maiden name written on it, as she begins her new life with her new name.


It was once a legal requirement for Russian weddings to include two witnesses at the official registration of the marriage. While this is no longer necessary, couples will still choose two witnesses for their wedding day, who will get to wear a special sash to identify their position.

These witnesses are often what we would call the maid of honour and the best man.

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The grand road trip

Once the official registration has been carried out, the newlyweds set off on a well-worn path to visit landmarks to get photos and carry out traditional things at each site.

Russian newlyweds could do these tasks alone but often travel around with a small group of friends and family.

Couples who marry in St Petersburg will often do several of the following things:

  • Head to Senate Square to get photos with the eternal flame of the heroes of World War II, the Bronze Horseman statue and the monument to Peter the Great.
  • Visit Peter Vassilevsky Island to pet the 4000-year-old Egyptian statues and stone griffons for good luck.
  • Pose for photos with their hands inside the Rostrum Column to symbolise their new bond of marriage.
  • If they haven’t yet smashed their crystal glasses, they can head to the Peter and Paul Cathedral and do so against the concrete sphere near the fountains.
  • Go to the New Hermitage Portico and rub the toes of the marble Atlanti statues for good luck.
  • Visit any other religiously meaningful structures for photos.

Road train

The road trip posse will need transportation to get them around to all of these landmarks, so the couple will arrange for limousines or a series of cars decked out in gold rings and flowers to take everyone around in.

The second round

Because the road trip segment of the wedding day is so time-consuming, most Russian weddings last two days.

As day two rolls around, the couple is no longer in their formal wedding attire but still dress smartly. This is when the reception kicks off.

Let the games begin

There is lots of eating, drinking, and being merry. And because traditionally, Russian couples marry earlier (before they are 24 years old), there are a lot of fun games that are played during the reception.

These include pitting the newlyweds against one another to see who can put nappies onto or dress a doll the fastest, allowing guests to vote for the gender of their first baby by placing money onto either a pink or blue plate, and having a fake couple show up, sending the guests into a flurry to find the real couple, who will be hiding somewhere.

You stay, you pay

If you are a guest at a Russian wedding reception, you will need to be prepared to pay for the privilege of a glass, plate, and cutlery to be able to fully enjoy the food and drink on offer.

The reason guests have to pay for these items is to help the newlyweds to get an extra boost to their coffers as they start their new lives together.

Cleaning the floor

As guests arrive at the reception, they drop money (either real or fake) onto the floor and it is the bride’s responsibility to clean it all up.


As if being ‘captured’ before the ceremony isn’t enough, reception guests can also choose to bride-nap her during celebrations, forcing her new spouse to cough up a ransom in order to get her back.


Wedding toasts are often wrapped up with a shout of “Gorko!” which means bitter. This is a signal for the newlyweds to kiss. Tradition says the sweetness of their kiss will enhance the ‘bitter’ drinks.

Guests will also count aloud how many seconds the kiss lasts for, and this is said to show the strength of their love for one another.

Just so that the newlyweds aren’t having all the fun, the guests then have to finish off their drinks straight away.

Take a bite

Before the newlyweds head off from their reception, they take a bit of a traditional bread loaf that is heavy on salt. The superstition dictates that the person who takes the biggest bite will become the head of their future household.