One of the things I couldn´t help to notice were all the weddings that took place while we were in Moscow. There were weddings everywhere. We saw couples in Red Square, parks and around the city. It was still very cold in April but the brides and wedding party braved the cold weather in beautiful wedding attire.Everywhere we went we practically bumped into a wedding. I took some of my favorite photos just by blending in with the crowd.
Andrey and I married in South Africa and I was curious to know what the difference was between our wedding and a traditional Russian wedding? I found out that there was in fact a big difference and it looked like a lot more fun.
There are no rehearsals, bridesmaids or flower girls (but this is changing as more and more Western customs are being adopted). The best man and the maid of honor are called “witnesses” or in Russian “svideteli”. The wedding celebration usually last for two days but can last up to a week. In the times of the Soviet Union people were not allowed to marry in the church (Nowadays people get married in the Russian Orthodox Church). But a lot of marriages still take place at the Department of Public Services or “ZAGS”. It is also here where you register the marriage.
So what is the actual wedding like?This is very interesting. The groom comes to the bride´s home with his closest friends and relatives. To get his bride he needs to pay some “ransom” to the parents of the bride. This is all a joke and both parties enjoy a little bit of humor before the wedding takes place.The couple now leaves the house (usually a limousine) to go for the marriage registration.
We did see a lot of limousines and now I know why! The couple get sprinkled with coins and rice. The youngsters in the neighborhood demand candy or coins.The Orthodox marriage ceremony takes 30 -120 minutes in accordance with the Russian orthodox tradition. Apparently these weddings are beautiful.The civil ceremony is less formal. The couple is greeted by the guests with bread and salt before the wedding. They exchange rings, say “I do” and sign the register. The civil ceremony takes 15 minutes. They walk out of the hall, husband and wife, to the music of Mendelssohn, played by the Russian Wedding orchestra (a recording in case you wondered).
After the official business has been taken care off it is time for the bride and groom, joined by their close friends and relatives to go on a city tour in the limousine. In Moscow popular stops are Red Square, Grave of the Unknown Soldier and Sparrow Hills near the Moscow State University. We saw wedding parties at all these places. Here they stop for photos and drink champagne.
Usually by the end of the tour many guests are already singing and dancing.Now it is time for the real celebrations to start. Russian weddings are very loud, with a lot of eating, singing and dancing. For the first toats people usually drink Champagne. After the first sip somebody says “Gor´ko! Gor´ko!. It means “bitter”! All guests have to shout “Gor´ko” together and the newlywed couple have to start kissing to make the champagne sweet. There is normally a lot of kissing at a Russian wedding. Guests also need to throw their champagne glasses on the floor. When it breaks it is a sign of good luck.
The party is held in a formal venue and a lot of work goes into the decoration of the hall. Decorations are carefully chosen by the bride and normally includes Crystal glasses, Chandeliers,Chair Sashes and table gifts.
The groom constantly needs to keep an eye on his bride because friends will “steal” her and then he has to pay a ransom! The ransom is normally not money but Vodka.Two crossed golden rings are Russian symbol of marriage that may be also seen on wedding invitations etc.