The day of the wedding traditionally starts with Blahoslovennya ("blessing" in Ukrainian). A few hours before the couple leaves for the church, the bride and the groom join their parents at the home of the bride’s parents for the Blahoslovennya or "blessing". The young couple kneels on an embroidered ritual towel ("rushnyk" in Ukrainian) in front of their parents. Usually the oldest relatives from the groom’s family called starosty stand on the both sides and hold the icons of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, which are draped with embroidered towels. The parents bless their children, wishing them a joyous, prosperous and healthy life together. The parents hold korovai, the ritual wedding bread. At this moment the two families officially become one for the first time.
Unlike most western marriage ceremonies, in Ukrainian tradition the bride's father does not "give away" the bride. Historically, equality and teamwork has been a centuries-old tradition, that's why Ukrainian bride and groom enter the church together arm-in-arm as willing and equal partners.
During the Betrothal, the priest meets the young couple at the rear of the church. Now, the ceremony begins. The bride and groom affirm to the priest that they are both entering into this union of their own free will. The priest then blesses the wedding bands and places them on the fingers of the bride and groom. At this point, the priest takes both their hands and leads them to the altar symbolizing that God is leading them into matrimony.A Ukrainian embroidered towel is spread before the altar where the couple will stand. The use of rushnyk symbolizes the hope that the newlyweds will never face poverty or "stand on a bare earthen floor". After the ceremony, the couple will place the wedding rushnyk around an icon and place it in first Easter basket, which is an elaborate affair in Ukrainian tradition. This embroidered towel will be the symbol of their family for the rest of their lives.The tradition dictates that whoever steps on the towel first will be the head of the family. Of course, Ukrainian folk wisdom declares that man is always the head of the family but it is the woman that is the neck that turns the head. During the ceremony, the hands of the bride and groom are joined together with an embroidered rushnyk to signify their union.
The newly married couple walks out of the church into the world as a husband and a wife to the choir and assembly singing "Mnohaya Lita" ("Many Happy Years"). It will be sung throughout the reception as well.
Ukrainian wedding receptions begin with a ceremony welcoming the bride and groom into the community at the entrance of the reception hall. Parents and starosty meet the newlyweds at the door with a tray of symbolic gifts: bread, salt, honey and wine. Bread represents nature’s bounty, salt is a necessity of life, honey is the sweetness of life and wine symbolizes prosperity.
Understanding Ukrainian wedding events can be difficult, especially if you don't speak the language. Foreign guests at Ukrainian weddings will be surely awed by the beauty and authenticity of the traditions and rituals.
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