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Customs and traditions of Ukraine: wedding

Birth, marriage and death have been the most important events for Ukrainian people since very old times. Numerous traditions have emerged through centuries. Today we will speak about marriage.

Category: AboutUkraine
Posted by: irina

You don't marry someone you can live with -
you marry the person who you cannot live without.


Traditional Ukrainian Weddings usually take place in autumn. Since traditions are best preserved in the country, traditional weddings with Ukrainian songs and competitions for guests are usually held in the country. Those, who live in the city, prefer European weddings.

Traditional Ukrainian wedding is a small festival. Autumn has been the season of weddings since the time of our ancestors. Also it is the most convenient time for people, because the harvesting is over; the rich harvest is taken; the period of fasting is over (there are several such periods observed by the Orthodox Church throughout the year), but the weather is still warm enough. In fact, it is really a season of many happy weddings in the Ukrainian country.

Preparations for the wedding usually begin long before the wedding ceremony itself and the observance of all the appropriate ceremonies and celebrations lasts for several weeks, so that everybody involved would fully appreciate the significance and the joy of the holiday.

The whole process begins with a party made by friends and relatives when the potential bridegroom with his parents comes to the bride’s place. They open negotiations and if the girl is willing to accept the boy’s proposal the next stage begins. If she does not want to marry that boy, she gives the delegation a pumpkin - a sign of refusal.

Usually all the guests know that girl will not refuse the boy, but everybody pretend that they don’t know what the girl’s decision will be. Marriage is supposed to keep two people together for all their life “until death separates them” and it would be improper to show any haste in the matter like this.

For several days before the wedding ceremony every day is special, sacramental, and mysterious. After the negotiations are completed, there are other traditional rituals - ohlyadyny (taking a look at the bride); vypikannya korovayu (baking special wedding bread); prykrashannya hiltsya (decorating a tree branch); divych vechir (a hen party); vinchannya (church wedding); pochesna v khati molodoho (reception in the house of the bridegroom); rozpodil korovayu (cutting and sharing of the wedding bread). All of these rituals are observed in Western and Central part of Ukraine, though there are some differences. Each region in Ukraine has its own peculiarities in celebration. Unfortunately in the Eastern regions of Ukraine many of these traditions are not observed because of the influence of Russian culture.

Traditional wedding in the country usually involves traditional clothing. The shirts of men and women are embroidered with colorful decorations. There are 180 different techniques of embroidery known! Some of the techniques are really complicated and time-consuming. But the results are always impressive. All kinds of symbols and symbolic patterns were used in decorating shirts and a country girl wearing such a shirt always looks like a beautiful swan.

The ethnographer O. Voropay who studied the traditions and peculiarities of Ukrainian wedding ceremony, claims that nowadays Ukrainian girls should abandon the international style of veils and white wide skirts and to return to old Ukrainian traditional weddings in the wedding costume with flower wreath.

This crown of flowers is not only beautiful — it has a lot of symbolic meaning as well. This crown includes many kinds of flowers that have different meaning in Ukrainian culture, for example: Periwinkle is a symbol of eternal and faithful love; Guilder rose — of female beauty; Yarrow — of strength and vigor; green shoots of garlic — of health, etc. Besides the flowers all kinds of fragrant herbs (basilisk, thyme, mint and others) are braided into the wreath, so you can imagine the whole picture and mixture of smells.

Marriage is a new period in the life of two people. Wedding is not just a celebration — it’s the time when you should think about the future. According to Ukrainian tradition it is the bride who leaves the home of her parents and moves to her husband’s place, and she must prepare herself for it psychologically. Her carefree days are over. There is always a day before the wedding when girls gather and sing very sad songs together with bride. The main theme of these songs is the forthcoming marriage. It’s just tradition, nothing more than just tradition. But there is something wise and charming in it.



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