A Russian wedding day is interesting and different from an American wedding. If you are a part of the complete celebration you start by gathering early in the morning at the bride's home. There you help with breakfast while the bride has her hair done and prepares for the wedding. In a small Russian apartment things can get crowded and chaotic but still be lots of fun.
The Bride Getting Done Up
As the bride gets ready for her day the groom makes his appearance. He comes to claim his bride and Russian tradition is that there are a few games to play and tasks to accomplish in order for him to "buy" his bride before he is allowed access into the apartment. Finally the bridegroom is welcomed into the apartment. He greets his bride and everyone eats a light breakfast together of cold sausages, cheeses, fruits and candies.
The Groom Coming for His Bride
Artyom and Masha
Karen Helping Set the Breakfast Table
After breakfast the wedding party drives to the “Wedding Palace,” a government facility where civil marriage ceremonies are done. In many ways wedding here are done on a “conveyor system.” If there are a lot of weddings to complete that day your wedding party has a specific time scheduled and you get in line to wait your turn. When your number is called the wedding party enters a small wedding hall were the civil officials, with much pomp and circumstance begin the ceremony. There is usually someone who plays wedding music through a PA system while the officials talk about the purpose of marriage and finally after about 10 minutes pronounce the couple Husband and Wife.
As in America the groom kisses his bride, photos are taken and everyone is happy and smiling. After the ceremony you can go to another room where a professional photographer waits to take the official wedding party photo.
At The Wedding Palace
Once the civil ceremony is complete the wedding party drives to several different places throughout the city to take more photos and video. This can take anywhere from two to four hours. The bride and groom often have favorite or traditional locations where they want photos to be taken.
It is a tradition for the bride and groom to visit the local WWII war memorial place her bouquet there and have photos taken. It is interesting that this happens both in large cities with elaborate memorial parks and in simple villages with only a small stone memorial.
After several hours of photo and video shooting we all gathered at a local restaurant to enjoy the wedding meal and celebration. Because this was a marriage of believers the pastor of our church did a short Christian ceremony in the hall at the restaurant. This is often the case for Russian evangelicals. Most churches do not own their own buildings, which makes it difficult to have a church wedding.
After the ceremony and a prayer of blessing we began the elaborate meal with many courses and lots to drink. As this particular wedding was mixed believers and non-believers there was a lot of wine available, but the traditional multiple bottles of vodka had been left out. In Russia most believers will not drink alcohol, though a few do on social occasions.
The Wedding Meal
Before the wedding party arrived
The wedding feast is broken up by games, dancing and lots of fun. Karen and I had to take part in a dance contest, where we were voted #1 and received a prize, but it wasn't because we were so awesome and light of foot! It was more like they were having fun as well as mercy on the old doddering American couple. The day was a long one, but we had lots of fun. We finally arrived back home at 10:30 PM, 14.5 hours after leaving in the morning.