A wedding in Russia is a day filled with unique and romantic traditions.
From undertaking the ransom for the bride to shouting ‘Gorko!’, Russian wedding customs make it a day to remember.
Ransom For The Bride
On the morning of her wedding, a bride in Russia will undergo the same fairy tale transformations as brides across the Western world. Her hair will be sculpted, her make up immaculately done, and she will wear a beautiful white dress.
Dressed, made up and ready to go, the bride is ready to take part in one of Russia’s most famous wedding traditions: the ransom for the bride.
Instead of meeting in the wedding venue, the groom in Russia must take a detour. The bride may have agreed to be married to him, but her family needs convincing. They hold the groom up on the way to his fiancé and invoke the ransom for the bride custom.
Historically the groom would have been stopped on the way to the bride’s house and asked for money by her relatives. Nowadays, though, the ransom for the bride has a more romantic and amusing side. The bride’s family set riddles and tasks for the groom to undertake, such as composing poems or uncovering a decoy bride. He may need to pay a little money or give gifts in the process, but in the end he will win the hand of his bride.
Once the ransom for the bride has been paid, the bride and groom are free to make their way to the ZAGS office to register their marriage.
All couples who marry in Russia must contact the ZAGS (Zapis Aktov Grazhdanskogo Sostoyaniya) office in advance. Once documents and passports have been confirmed, ZAGS can schedule the civil wedding 32 days from registration date. If you are getting married in Russia, we recommend you find out more from the British Embassy.
Brides and grooms will exchange vows, sign a registry and wear that classic symbol of eternal love, the wedding ring. In Russia it is customary to wear wedding bands on the right hand, rather than the left, as right is traditionally seen as ‘good’.
After the ceremony, there are a variety of Russian wedding customs that newlyweds can participate in.
Many newly married couples in Russia will tour the city of their wedding in a limousine, vintage car or even horse drawn carriage with their family and friends. The tour of the city will take in famous landmarks, stopping for wedding photos of the happy couple. Champagne will be enjoyed on the tour, and pigeons or butterflies may be released.
The Russian wedding feast is an important part of the day. The tamada, or master of ceremonies, heads up the wedding feast and reception. They introduce the guests to the bride and groom, lead toasts, holds contests and makes sure everyone is having a good time. A tamada can be a friend or relation of the bride or groom, or a hired professional to help things go smoothly.
After the tamada toasts the happy couple, the wedding guests will often be heard to shout 'Gorko!' Gorko means bitter, and when it is shouted the bride and groom must kiss to 'sweeten' the vodka or wine being served. It may be shouted many times through the wedding feast.
Another Russian wedding tradition is for the newly married couple to each take a bite from a loaf of bread, without using their hands. It is said that whoever takes the biggest bite of the wedding loaf will be the head of the family!
There are more Russian wedding customs that people honour, like filling a champagne glass with money for the couple, and smashing plates. Familiar Western customs like throwing the bouquet, cutting a beautiful wedding cake and dancing to a DJ set are also part of a wedding in Russia.
Find Out More
You can find out more about planning a wedding in Russia at the Wedding Festival in Kaliningrad on 01 February 2014.
This annual event is a great way to see examples of beautiful table decorations, delicious cakes, gifts and jewellery, and see stunning wedding dresses.
The Wedding Festival takes place in our Radisson Hotel, Kaliningrad, in the heart of the city’s attractive main square. What's more, visitors to our hotel can find out more about our unique and elegant wedding package to celebrate the perfect wedding in Russia.
What’s your favourite wedding tradition?