HomeCulture & ArtWedding Customs Around the World: Ukraine

Wedding Customs Around the World: Ukraine

This stop on our tour around the world of wedding traditions and customs, we are visiting Ukraine.

Just like many other countries, Ukraine is rich in wedding customs and traditions. Some of these special wedding details are centuries old and not widely practiced. Many brides will still weave some of the old customs into their wedding, along with more modern practices. 

You may be asking yourself, “what makes a Ukrainian wedding special?” Brides-grab a glass of wine and your wedding planner, we are about to find out!

The Formal Engagement

When the potential groom is ready to marry the love of his life, he will need to ask her parents. This is known as a formal engagement and paves the way for the rest of the wedding festivities. The groom visits the future bride’s parents, usually along with two older men from his family. At this time, he will ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. 

If the bride’s parents approve, great! Full-steam ahead! 

If not, he is to be sent home with a pumpkin, as a conciliatory prize. Tradition states that he is to be given the pumpkin, as to not go home empty-handed. 

If you need a gorgeous, traditional space to hold your wedding in New York City, check out the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, part of the Ukrainian Institute of America. The mansion is a gorgeous space with a beautiful architect, just waiting to be photographed. It is conveniently located at 2 East 79th St. New York, NY surrounded by beautiful co-op buildings like 21 E. 79th.

Purchasing the Bride

Once in the formal engagement period, the wedding festivities can continue. On the day of the wedding, the groom needs to “buy” his bride. The groom will take his family and friends with him to the bride’s home. Beforehand, the groom will need to prepare a gift or “payment” in order to purchase his bride

When arriving at the home, the groom will present his payment to the bridesmaids and other family members present. A popular form of payment is fresh-baked bread, other foods, and of course, cash. 

This portion of the festivities is usually lighthearted and not taken too seriously. The bridesmaids may request more “payment” from the groom. Sometimes, the family will dress up a man in a veil, sillily trying to convince the groom that he is the bride. At this point, they will convince the groom to pay more, since she is surely worth more than her imposter.

Many times, the bride’s family will ask the groom questions about her. If he answers incorrectly, the bridal price increases. 

Veselka is a traditional Ukrainian restaurant, located at 88 Essex St in the Lower East Side. They have an extensive menu and catering options. They just may have the perfect thing for your bridal payment!

Ceremonial Details

Once the ceremony starts, Blahoslovenja(blessings) are given. The parents and grandparents of the bride and groom participate in this portion of the ceremony. The bride and groom are blessed by the family members and the ceremony proceeds.

Next, both the bride and groom will step on a rushnyk, an embroidered cloth, traditionally used in Ukrainian weddings. Whoever steps on the rushnyk first will wear the pants in the new family!

Near the end of the ceremony, the groom will put a wedding finger on his new wife’s hand. Interestingly, the Ukrainian wedding ring finger is on the right hand, not the left. 

Visit Greenwich St Jewelers for endless wedding band options. 

Reception Fun

Traditionally, special wedding bread is served at the reception. This bread is known as korovai and many refer to it as the actual wedding cake. The koravai tends to be very ornamental and extravagant. Some are adorned with flowers that are also made of bread.  Many couples will receive a loaf of bread as a gift at their wedding as well. Some brides will now serve a traditional wedding cake at her ceremony also. 

It’s not a wedding without someone being kidnapped, right? Many times during the reception, the bride will be “kidnapped”. The bridesmaids usually “kidnap” the bride into another room. It’s the groom’s duty to rescue her. Of course, this is all done in dramatic fashion and sometimes, the groom must complete feats of strength or dares to get his bride back. 

Nita’s European Bakery specializes in European pastries and special orders. Located Sunnyside, be sure to order in advance.

Have you ever attended a Ukrainian wedding ceremony or reception? We would love to hear your stories! 

Kristi Hill is a freelance writer who loves to travel, cook and watch college football. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually listening to classic rock and spending time with her dog, Chico.

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