The first period of traditional Russian wedding was matchmaking. The beginning of matchmaking started with a secret family soviet in a house of a groom. Then matchmakers were sent in bride’s house. An offer for bride’s parents was made in a humorous form. If bride’s family consented to this suggestion, some days after matchmaking they arranged a special dinner to tell all relatives about a coming wedding.
Then there was a rite of presentation of a marriageable girl. It was held in bride’s house over a week after matchmaking. This day bride wore her best dress but her face was hidden under a veil. She showed all her talents and abilities that day. So groom’s family had a chance to see if she kept house well. However, a bride had to keep silence and say nothing. If she was too talkative before a wedding, it was a great disadvantage. If groom’s father was pleased with a bride, he kissed her on both cheeks.
It was also a common experience when bride’s relatives passed bride’s sister or her pretty housemaid off as an ugly bride. Lie was revealed only on the wedding day, when a real bride appeared. In cases like this groom’s parents had a chance to ask priest to dissolve a marriage. But it happened very rare. In most cases husband had to live with his ugly wife for all his life. But in some cases he could even kill her secretly.
Nevertheless, not only groom’s parents could refuse a bride, bride’s parents could do it too. In this case, a bride went into a storeroom and take off her costume. If a presentation of a marriageable girl happened well, there was a special “tipsy feast”. Groom’s father had to bring wine and bride’s parents were to bring food. Humorous songs were sung while eating. After that bride’s female friends went to a groom’s house and asked him to come in. And he had to entertain them.
After a presentation of a marriageable girl, before a bride came to a groom, she lighted a candle in front of an icon. And then she cast babushka on a candle trying to blow it out. After that woman’s face was covered with another shawl. A groom could put off this shawl to see bride’s face. After that bride’s mother gave him a glass of honey. If he liked a bride, he drank it all, if not, he made only one swallow and gave it back. Then a groom came to a porch and told his relatives his impression from a bride even if he knew her from his childhood.
There were also hen party and groom’s gathering the day before a wedding. For a bride it was the last day she could spend with her friends.
Then, on the wedding day, a groom had to pay ransom for his future wife. It was a very significant moment in a ceremony because bride’s family lost a person who could do housework. The size of ransom depended on how much beautiful and hardworking bride was. However groom’s wealth played a great role too.
Then it was the most important part of the wedding – church wedding ceremony. At first, priest wore rings on fingers of newlyweds as a sign of the strength of their promises. Then he asked them if they married free or if they were bound with other people. After that he laid on crowns on their heads and prayed. In addition, newlyweds drank wine from the same chalice for three times and passed on lectern for three times too. I’d like to stress that church wedding ceremony is the only rite that hadn’t been changed through the centuries.
The last part of a ceremony was a wedding feast. Two tables were set. The first table was called “wedding”. Nevertheless, guests offered newlyweds different dishes, they didn’t have to eat anything from this table. They only had to accept congratulations from guests. After bride and groom left, feast went on. The second table, named “mountain”, was set. By this times bride’s relatives and guest arrived. They were met near a porch with vodka. Matchmakers were the first to come into a house. They asked groom’s relatives indignantly and angrily about bride’s abduction. After that groom’s parents confessed that they had abducted bride. And then newlyweds came to guests. Bride gave gifts for groom’s parents bowed low and kissed them. Some time later newlyweds seated at a celebration table. Relatives put two bottles of wine connected with each other with a red and pink neckbands. newlyweds had to take them when they went sleep. This part of celebration had always been held with songs and solemn congratulations. There was also a tradition to invite a special woman for singing songs professionally, called “velichalka”. She can be compared with today’s toaster. Because she had to say toasts like modern ceremony master. However the first toast was made by matchmaker. Then a special wedding cake was brought. After eating cake newlyweds knelt and asked their parents to bless their marriage bed. In the morning relatives came to wake up newlyweds. They had to go to a banya.