If you have taken the decision to marry in Ukraine, you should be prepared how the traditional ceremony looks like and what the procedures are. Probably your bride and her family will guide you carefully through this process but here is a short preliminary information.
The marriage is one of the most intimate and important moments for every family. Not only the bride but her whole family takes an active part in this. Usually they invite friends and relatives who are close to the couple.
A few hours before the ceremony, the groom and his family (or friends) visit the bride’s home. There they receive blessings from her father. This blessing is called Blahoslovenia and this is the formal approval for the marriage. This acknowledges the marriage in front of the parents and they agree to become one. A small trat is served and the two families leave for the ceremony.
Usually the bride is already prepared for the wedding ceremony. Ukrainians do not consider it bad luck if the groom sees the bride before the wedding. The father blesses the marriage and the two families go to the city council for an administrative marriage. It is a short procedure and has formal meaning. The true traditional marriage is the one in the church.
Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians. Local church authorities will require a certificate that both bride and groom have been baptized in an Orthodox Church. If you have planned the wedding ceremony you will have this arranged easily. The baptism is just a formality and can be done in a day.
The guests are waiting in front of the church or inside. The bride and the groom enter the church after all the guests have taken their places inside. Unlike western traditions, the father does not give his daughter away. The young couple walks in together, arm in arm, as equals. In addition, the father has already given his blessing during the blessing.
The first part of the ceremony is called Betrotal and during it, the man and the woman agree that they enter the marriage as equals. The priest blesses the wedding bands and places them on the young couple’s fingers.
At an earlier stage the family have chosen two friends whose task it will be to witness the ceremony. They are called starosty and usually are older and more experienced than the bride and the groom. They lead the wedding procession and carry icons on which are depicted Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Later these icons are taken to the home of the new family and function as a spiritual center of the household.
According to the Ukrainian marriage tradition the starosty generally host the ceremony and take care of the organizational activities. Their function is to guide and advise the young couple.
After the bride and groom pass the church aisle, they are crowned. This is the most important moment because on this step they are married in the eyes of god. They place their hands on the gospel and exchange the vows. Then the priest guides them and they walk three times around the small altar. These are their first steps in marriage.
The wedding ceremony in the church is about half an hour to an hour. There are extended rituals which can make it longer than four hours but these are too exhausting for both bride and groom and in addition the guests become nervous and tired. Do not insist on the long ceremony.
If you love your bride, respect her and treat her well, you will be happy together even without God’s blessing. Ukrainians are not very religious and will tell you the same. However, the Orthodox marriage ritual is a romantic experience and if you need mystery to bond your marriage, this surely will work.