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Traditional Old Russian Wedding
December 25, 2007 21:23


In the Old Rus’ it was a custom to marry quite at a young age, starting from 12. It was taken for granted that the bride and the bridegroom did not know each other very well before the wedding or, often, had not even seen each other. Parents decided about the marriage and informed a youth about “his fate” shortly before the wedding. In some regions, however, it was not that strict: a boy could choose his prospective wife himself, but was obliged to ask for his parents’ approval to marry her. If he was lucky in that, the parents would send matchmakers with gifts and bread to the girl’s family.

It happened also that parents of the would-be bride initiated the wedding. They sent a close person to the young man’s family to propose the match. If the boy’s parents agreed, then they proceeded with a regular matchmaking. Some girls' parents resorted to cunning: if their daughter was not that beautiful they could demonstrate a prettier servant or a younger daughter instead of the proposed bride. The fiancée had no right to see his future wife before the wedding, so when the trickery came to light the marriage could be dissolved. Yet, it happened very seldom.

 

Matchmakers usually went to the girl’s parents together with relatives. They brought presents, wine, beer and various pies to the parents. According to the tradition the father was supposed to refuse at first to give his daughter. After all, following the results of the “deal”, the father gave his blessing to his daughter’s marriage. Before singing the paper about details of the forthcoming event the parents of the bride and the bridegroom would for some time sit in front of each other keeping silent. In the agreement the bride’s dowry was also specified. Usually it consisted of her paraphernalia, household things, and, if the family was well-off, money, servants and some landed property as well. If the bride’s family was poor, then the bridegroom had to hand over a certain amount of money to her parents, so that they could make semblance of dowry.

On the eve of the wedding a stag party and a hen party were arranged in the homes of a bridegroom and a bride, respectively. The bridegroom’s father or brother invited many guests to the stag party: they visited their homes and brought presents when inviting the guests.

At the hen party the bride was getting ready for the coming wedding: with other girls she was charming evil spirits away. Quite often the bride would lament over parting with her family and maiden living, and facing the unknown lot in the new family. Sometimes the bride’s friends would sing songs in a choir.

 

Usually a wedding lasted for three days, but sometimes could run for a whole week. During the Marriage church service the bridegroom was to hold the bride’s hand and not release it for a second. They brought bread wine with them, and the priest treated them with it for three times. After drinking it for the third time the bridegroom threw the wine goblet on to the floor and trampled down on it. Afterwards, according to one tradition, the newlyweds did not hurry to the wedding feast, but separately went home: each of them had dinner at one’s parents’ place. After getting the final blessing of his parents, the bridegroom went to the bride’s home. This is when wedding games started. To get hold of his wife, the newlywed husband had to buy her out and then symbolically lashed her several times so that she would obey her husband ever since. Afterwards the celebrations moved to the bridegroom’s place.

According to a different tradition the wedding feast on the first day took place at the bride’s home. The newlyweds could eat or drink almost nothing. On the eve of the wedding the bride’s matchmaker went to the bride’s home to prepare the nuptial bed. There was a belief that evil spirits put a curse on the home where a wedding was celebrated. So the newlyweds never slept inside the house on their first night. Usually a barn was used for that purpose.

On the second day the wedding moved to the bridegroom’s home. On the third day the newlywed wife already boasted with her cooking skill and treated guests with her pies.

This is roughly how the old Russian wedding used to be held. Some traditions have kept till date and in modified versions and interpretations are still used nowadays.

Look also:: On Russian Wedding Traditions of the Past

Sources:
    svadba-online.ru

Pictures:
1) Arrival of a Sorcerer at a Peasant Wedding. By Vasili Maksimov (1875) (from www.picture.art-catalog.ru)
2) A Village Wedding. By Lomakin (the 1960s) (from www.antik.su)


Tags: Russian Customs Russian Wedding    

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