Russian wedding

Bust chest for dowry. Arkhangelsk Province. Late 17th - early 18th centuries. Russians
Newly-weds after wedding ceremony in the church. Tula Province.1902. Russians. Photo-archive of the RME
Transportation of the bride’s chests to the husband’s house . Vladimir Province. Russians. Photo-archive of the RME
Festive horse yoke. Russians. Russian North. 1817.
Beer mug. Russians. Olonets Province. Late 19th - early 20th centuries

Russian wedding


Russian wedding

From old times every stage of the traditional Russian wedding was given a special symbolic meaning. When a bridegroom and a bride became husband and wife, for the family creation that was considered to be an extraordinary event, which was possible only through the symbolic death of unmarried couple and their subsequent resurrection…

Symbolism and pragmatism of the wedding

In the Russian tradition a wedding ritual is the most logical embodiment of the symbolic language of culture, realization of the "material" - momentous, and spiritual desires of the ethnos. Being a ritual, the wedding gets up and regulates the creation of a new family, and in prospect it guarantees the change of generations, continuation of the community life through times. According to myth-poetic concepts the change of a person's status - in this particular case, the transformation of the bridegroom and bride into wife and husband - is possible only through the symbolic death with the subsequent resurrection.

Bride after successful matchmaking

When the proposal was made, the girl changed sharply in behavior: she rarely went out of the house, tried to move around the dwelling quietly, communicated with the help of lamentations, gestures, objects, she thoroughly followed food bans. Her appearance also changed: she wore very plain clothes, a long sleeved shirt, and covered her face with a shawl. All these details were the signs of her symbolic death. To a certain degree this motif gave a certain drama, tension to the Russian wedding.

Bridegroom after successful matchmaking

For the bridegroom such changes in behavior were not very actual because the Russian wedding as a rule is described from "man's" point of view. That's why the antagonism between the two parties (bridegroom's and bride's) is so brightly expressed. These relationships are often characterized as relation according to the model our people/strangers (alien) or even alive/dead. In this sense the mobility of the husband party on a pre-wedding stage is not surprising. This is the sign of his vitality. He visits various wedding rituals such as public showing, girls' party where the exchange of gifts takes place together with meals. This can be considered as an attempt to overcome the barrier, become closer to the bride and her family, and in the prospect - to create a new family.

Wedding ceremony

Ceremony was the culmination of the whole process, and it was held the day after the girls' party. Bride and bridegroom went to the church in different sledges: the best man was driving first, then the bridegroom with the master of ceremonies, then the bride with her godmother, and then all other guests. The wedding ceremony was followed by the exchange of the rings, praying, blessings and putting crowns on the heads of the newly-weds that was regarded as an imposing of the God's glory.

Wedding feast

Beer played a special role at the wedding feast. It served as a mediator. In fact, getting a beer was the symbol that the girl got married - there is even an expression "to brew beer" which means "to prepare for the wedding". Central ritual of the wedding was the feast, which was the sign of the approval of the wedding by the community. After the first night the rituals were oriented towards returning the newly-weds back to life, including them into the new social structure. The end of the wedding as the end of a certain state for all the participants was followed by the visits of the bridal couple to the parents' house and by the joint meal.
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