Ukrainian Wedding Traditions

In the Ukrainian culture, a wedding celebration can last days (sometimes weeks!) as it includes lots of dancing, singing and feasts that typically include the entire community. The celebration is extremely rich in tradition and religion, as marriage is viewed as a partnership in Christ. There are also many aspects of a Ukrainian wedding that differ from North American weddings:

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Before the ceremony:

• The Blahoslovenya: Although in North American culture it’s believed to be bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony, Ukrainians don’t believe in superstitions. Before the ceremony, the bride, the groom and their respective families gather at the home of the bride’s parents. The parents of the couple state their official approval and it’s here where the families become one!

During the ceremony:

  • The bride and her father do not walk in together. Instead, the bride and groom enter the church together.
  • The ceremony is presided over by the starosty – two friends or family members (one from each side) that act as the masters of ceremony. Additional responsibilities include: offering the first toast, and repeatedly begging the guests not to clink their glasses with silverware.
  • The starosty also lead the procession and carry icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. These icons will eventually reside in the home of the couple
  • The couple must also drink wine three times to acknowledge the importance of the Holy Trinity
  • The Crowning: Viewed as the most sacred portion of the ceremony, the bride and groom exchange vows while crowns are placed on their heads to signify the dawn of a new kingdom
  • Their hands are then joined with an embroidered cloth called a rushnyk, to signify their new union. The couple then engages in the “Dance of Isaiah” by circling the altar three times.
  • At the end of the ceremony, the priest brings the bride in front of the Virgin Mary icon in order for her to kneel and present her with flowers

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At the reception:

  • The parents and starosty meet the newlyweds at the door to offer them bread, salt, honey and wine. The family then joins in a toast.
  • The korovai: This traditional wedding bread takes the place of a wedding cake.  The bread symbolizes community and is typically baked by the entire village. The korovai is decorated with a variety of ornaments, normally two birds to represent the couple. The entire bread is surrounded with periwinkle, a symbol of love and purity.
  • After the meals and toasts, guests begin a traditional dance called the kolomeyka, which includes a variety of leaps, spins and kicks.

The design of St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre (SVCC) strongly reflects Ukrainian culture and traditions with the décor depicting various forms of Ukrainian art. If you’d like to host your wedding reception with us, contact us. We’d love to be a part of your special day!

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