Ukraine 101: Ukraine Wedding Traditions

Ukraine Wedding Traditions

There’s one important thing you should know about Ukraine wedding traditions — They’re big. Unlike Western wedding services with a church, reception and a slew of planning beforehand, a Ukraine wedding involves years old of tradition in line with how modern weddings are today. Although Ukraine weddings have evolved throughout history, there are some things that were kept the same as the old times. It’s very dominant in most Ukraine wedding ceremonies, and some are very difficult to explain. So, we’ll give you the gist of what you should know.

Over time, people really change, as do their preferences and lifestyles. Some traditions will never change though. One of these things that won’t change is having a wedding ceremony. In Ukraine, a wedding is a very symbolic celebration, especially in Ukraine culture.

The usual traditions that haven’t been taken out in Ukrainian weddings are matchmaking as well as buying out the bride. However, these have been modified to fit the 21st century. Another wedding ritual in the Ukraine tradition is the betrothal, which is strictly performed due to the religious connection of the sanctity of marriage. Understanding Ukraine wedding traditions may be difficult because of the language. However, these are some of the questions that are often asked about Ukraine wedding ceremonies by foreign men.

  • What it’s like to be at a Ukrainian wedding?
  • How to get married in Ukraine?
  • What is a Ukrainian wedding blessing?
  • What is the purpose of wedding icons?
  • What is the “buyout a bride” tradition?
  • What is the traditional Ukrainian wedding cake?

With these questions in mind, let’s try to find the answer to each of them.

What it’s like to be at a Ukrainian wedding? What is the “buyout a bride” tradition?

Many foreign men from both Europe and North America have said that they’ve had amazing experiences when invited to a Ukraine wedding ceremony. Those that have experienced the routine of a Ukraine wedding know that there are a lot of steps required to actually have a wedding.

One of the most important steps is to go to your bride’s home and “buy” her from her family. This means a groom will have to offer some money like fifty grivnas, close to about a dollar or two. The whole family and possibly relatives will be there to witness this.

In Russia, beyond offering some money to “buy” the bride, a groom will usually be asked several other questions like “What are the color of her eyes?” and possibly, “What is the middle name of her best friend?” Stuff like that, but don’t be afraid. These are usually just to poke fun at the groom.

So, once you’ve bought your bride, she’ll be unveiled in her room. This means when you first arrive, the bride will be covered behind a sheet that’s usually held by her family members. Once you’ve paid, they’ll lower down the sheet and let you take her to the ceremony. A Ukraine wedding ceremony is usually done because of religion, so you can expect religious icon photos together with prayers. The prayers will usually need to be recited at least three times.

Afterwards, you two will go to the car (which is blessed too), where a live band will be playing outside the home. Beyond these, the wedding ceremony will have to involve a large cake, more icons, and the throwing of candy to the neighborhood children. The car will bring the groom and the bride to the church.

Once there, there would be a lot of things going on, including the two best men holding heavy crowns over the bride and the groom’s heads. Here’s an excerpt of a groom who’s gone through a Ukraine wedding tradition:

“Things I remember here include the binding of our arms in a single, knotted rope, with each knot representing a child we might have. There’s a special carpet one first kneels beside, and then walks around (three times, of course.) And various icons in the church that need to be kissed and so on.”

When the ceremony at the church is over, there’s a wedding party. However, before the wedding party, the wedding couple usually goes around the city and goes to all of the major sights and monuments and takes wedding photos. So, after that’s all said and done, the reception will be held. There will be Ukrainian folk groups, lots of dancing and drinking. Overall, a Ukraine wedding is a lot of things and a very memorable one indeed.

How to get married in Ukraine?

Getting married in Ukraine may be quite a hassle with all the applications and numerous papers you’ll have to sign. However, if it’s what you’ve set your heart to, then, by all means, we’re here to help. First and foremost, you’ll have to present certain documents from your country of residence. Department of Vital Statistics and Civil Status Registration, also known as RAGS, will be the correct department to process a marriage application for a Ukrainian national. The marriage laws in Ukraine are regulated by the Family Code of Ukraine.

So, you’ll have to present the following documents to RAGS, and you’ll have to wait about a month to receive any feedback. Once you’re registered, you’ll get a Marriage Certificate in the Ukrainian language that has been approved by the Ukrainian Ministry. However, the certificate will still be subject to Legalization and certified translation. These are all according to the Ukraine Embassy.

  • Ukrainian certified/notarized translation of the first page of foreign passport (just send a scanned copy of your passport);
  • Birth certificate with proper authentication (Apostille or Consular legalization obtained in your country). Altogether must be translated to Ukrainian and certified by Notary in Ukraine (the original one should be sent in);
  • If you’ve been married before, divorce decree or divorce certificate, court judgment on marriage annulment, or spouse’s death certificate if any (these documents must be presented only by individuals who have been previously married). Proper authentication to be performed in your country (Apostille or Consular Legalization). In Ukraine, it must be translated to Ukrainian and certified by Notary.

What is a Ukrainian wedding blessing? What is the purpose of wedding icons?

So, as the sacrament of marriage is going to be celebrated, Ukrainian weddings mean getting blessed. A priest will bless the couple to help provide them with a long and happy marriage. The groom will receive a blessing with the icon of Jesus Christ while the bride will receive an icon of the Holy Mother of God. These are usually referred to as wedding icons or matrimonial icons.

When planning a wedding, these icons will be purchased. But, remember to pay attention to the content as one icon should have the image of Jesus Christ (adult image), and the other icon should have a picture of the Holy Mother of God. These are usually pre-arranged to come in pairs in most religious stores.

Although the price and size aren’t important, the couple should choose what they want and think is appropriate. The priest will bless the set of icons with holy water a week before the marriage ceremony takes place. This is done due to tradition. Before, wedding icons are passed from parents to their children. Wedding ceremonies that were passed down from parents to their children signify that the blessing is powerful especially if the parent’s marriage is healthy and successful.

What is the traditional Ukrainian wedding cake?

It’s called Korovai. This is the most important part of a Ukraine wedding ceremony. It looks like a big cake, but it’s actually bread. It can range from one to five tiers and is usually decorated with dough, marshmallows, or meringue. This bread accompanies the couple from their wedding day until the reception, where it’s shared with the guests. It’s similar to a cake in Western weddings, but the purpose of this bread is to provide everyone with a treat.

Now that you know some of the main traditions of Ukraine wedding traditions, let us know if you’ve ever experienced some of these. If you noticed other things in a Ukraine wedding that you’d like us to add, don’t hesitate to comment below! 

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