Archive for the ‘Wedding Traditions’ Category

Ukrainian Wedding Traditions

A Ukrainian wedding ceremony called “vinchannia” is filled with symbolism and tradition.  In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament in which a man and a woman solemnly declare before Christ and in the presence of the priest, family and congregation their love and faithfulness to one another for life.

Parental Blessing, the “Blahoslovenia” or blessing of the bride and groom by the parents is performed before the church ceremony to formally convey their approval and good wishes.  The Parental blessing has biblical roots and recalls the royal priesthood of every baptized person.  Parents bless their adult children to impart wisdom, and to invoke ancestors and saints to be present at this moment to ask for God’s blessings on the about to be married couple.    It may be done separately for the bride at the home of the parents and for the groom at the home of his parents or it may be combined.  The to be married couple ask their parents to bestow a blessing upon them for a long, healthy, happy and prosperous life.  It is at this time that the two families become as one.

Wedding Icon or Icons – Parents bless their children on this important life journey holding an icon or icons.  After the parents’ invocation, the bride and groom cross themselves and kiss the icons.  Then the icons are carried reverently into the church and placed on the tetrapod or held by the “starosty” (wedding elders).  This is the first wedding gift, which afterwards the newlyweds place prominently in the home or an icon corner to serve as spiritual center of the household.

The Betrothal Services is celebrated in the narthex (vestibule), before the doors of the Church.  It consists of a series of short petitions, blessing of the rings and a concluding prayer.  The couple to be crowned in marriage and their attendants assemble in the narthex and the clergy go out to meet them. It is kept separate from the Crowning service.  In the EarlyChurch this was a civil ceremony which was followed with a church service.  Today it is part of the Order of Crowning, a full liturgical service.

The rings – are visible signs of the commitment, faith, and love the couple have for one another.  The essential meaning of the rings is beautifully expressed in the prayers the priest recites with references to rings in the Sacred Scriptures.  The priest makes the sign of the cross with the ring of the bride over the bridegroom and with that of the bridegroom over the bride, as he blesses the rings.

The Entrance into the church – The priest takes the censer and leads the couple before the tetrapod.  The Entrance itself may symbolize the entrance of marriage from the world into the church: into the world to come.

Candles – are held by the couple throughout the service.  Candles symbolize the lamps of the five wise virgins who, because of their foresight, were able to go out and greet the Bridegroom & Christ with light.  We too, are called upon to do the same.

Ritual Cloth (Rushnyk) – is an oblong white cloth decorated with Ukrainian embroidery.  Rushnyky – in plural is a ceremonial towel.  It’s usage attributes special respect.  When draped over an icon, it shows reverence to holy things.  Two rushnyky are needed for the marriage ceremony.    The first, on which the couple stands, symbolizes the newness of their married life, and the sacredness of time and place where they now stand.  The second rushnyk is used to join their hands,  to symbolize their oneness in marriage. After the ceremony, the rushnyky are given to the Bride and Bridegroom for their new home.

The Holy Icons – The Ukrainian tradition calls for the blessing of the married couple with the Icons of Jesus Christ and the Holy Virgin Mary.  They are adorned with embroidereed cloths or “rushnyky” and are carried into the church by the godparents and placed on the tetrapod for the priest to bless during the ceremony.  They are given to the bride and bridegroom to symbolize the approval of the union and the desire for them to lead a rich and full Christian life.  The Icons also serve as a reminder that in prayer the betrothed received their blessing and as a married couple, they must remain in prayer throughout their lives.  Afterwards, the Icons are placed in their home and serve as a spiritual center of the household.

The Crowning – is the most solemn moment of the marriage service.  The wreaths, or crowns are placed on the heads of the couple.   The priest proclaims: “Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor!” (Psalm 8:5) The entire psalm is a hymn to dignity of man who was created by God to be master of creation, king and queen of the kingdom of heaven on earth.  In the Early Church these crowns were worn for eight days.  Now they are removed at the end of the service.  The symbolism of wreaths and crowns are similar.   Wreaths remind the rewards of winning a mighty challenge.  The crowns have dual symbolism – the young couple are crowned as rulers of the most basic cell of society, the family.  They are also crowned as martyrs (Greek for witness), for as the martyrs of the Church, they are witnesses to the truth of Christ even to the point of death, and like the martyrs, the young couple will also bear witness to their love for each other no matter the cost.

Ceremonial Walk– The wedded couple are led around the tetrapod (a small table in front of the Royal Door of the icon screen) by the priest to remind us that we should center our lives upon Christ who is present and speaks to us in the Holy Gospel.  The priest represents the Church as he leads the couple around the Holy Things. This brief walk comprises their first steps as husband and wife.  It is fitting that their life revolves around Christ.  A hymn to the Mother of God is sung as well as troparia to the Holy Martyrs who have received their wreaths of glory, that they may intercede for the couple before the Lord.

Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary – Toward the end of the ceremony, the priest leads the Bride before the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  As the priest offers up prayers on her behalf, the Bride kneels in front of the Virgin Mary and presents her with a bouquet of flowers.  Here the Bride asks for her blessing and for God’s protection.

The Blessing -When the priest removes the wreaths, or crowns, he blesses the couple with these words: “Bridegroom! Be exalted like Abraham, blessed like Isaac and multiplied like Jacob, walking in peace and righteously doing God’s commandments.”  Then, “An you, o bride! Be exalted like Sarah, gladdened like Rebecca and multiplied like Rachel, being happy with your husband and keeping the precepts of the Law!”

The Recessional – With the singing of “Mnohaya Lita” (Mno-ha-ya Lee-ta– Many Happy Years) the Crowning service has ended.  The couple walk out of the church and into the world.  They do so with the prayers of their family and friends and the blessing of the Church.

The Wedding Reception – Besides sharing joy with family and friends, the wedding reception has two distince features that once again underline the dignity of the person and personhood.  The human being, created in the image and likeness of God, is a complete individual, an independent entity.  At the same time each person has a profound need for wholeness and completion of self in communion with another.  Awareness of self depends on relationship with others and self fulfillment can only be attained when one person faces another.  The married couple is the most intimate relationship from which flows the relationship to their immediate family and community at large.

Recognizing the personhood of the new union there are two distinct customs, one welcoming the newlyweds as they enter the reception room and the other, the sharing of the wedding bread by the newlyweds.  This entails two different breads.  Generally speaking bread is rich in symbolism – the Eucharistic bread, the staff of life, a summation of human toil and generosity, and more.

First to welcome  the just married couple are the parents of both, the bride and the groom. They blessed this union before marriage and now they welcome them with bread and salt and wine into their midst as a sovereign unit into their family and community.

The korovai – is the second bread.  It is an elaborate, large round wedding bread, symbolizing the sun and completeness of the union.   It is light and rich in texture, its top decorated with symbolic baked-on dough birds and barwinok (periwinkle – a symbol of love and purity)  the Korovai represents community, health and natures’s bounty.  The salt is a symbol of perseverence, and the wine – prosperity.   During the reception korvai together with the wedding icons  rests in a place of honor.  At the end of the reception the couple shares the korovai with all the guests.  It is an affirmation of  their place in the family and community by being generous hosts at their very first festal reception.

Darovania – After the bride and groom dance, the bridal party returns to the head table for the receiving line, or darovania.  Guest may take this opportunity to share their good wishes with the couple and join the bridal party in a tost.

Veil Dance – During the reception, the mother of the bride will replace her daughter’s veil with a kerchief, or chustyna – signifying the beginning of her married life.  The bride then dances with her bridesmaids and guests (placing her veil upon the heads of the single women).

Kolomeyka – Towards the end of the reception, the band will play Kolomeyka, which is a traditional Ukrainian dance.  It is an energetic dance signigying the joy of life and belonging to a community.  The guests form a circle as dancers enter the cneter to perform traditional Ukrainian dance steps.

Matrimonial Traditions

You’re getting Married and now you need to plan your Wedding.  What does that mean?  Wedding?  A Wedding is a ceremony performed to unite two people in marriage or similar unification.  Most wedding ceremonies take place as a formal celebration.  However, in some states it is required by law to obtain a marriage license first.  The wedding ceremony is usually conducted by an authority figure such as a Judge or a leader such as a Priest,  Pastor or Rabbi.  Some ceremonies are done by enlopement where others are publicly proclaimed.

The couple to be wed speak vows of proclamation accompanied by an exchange of a gift, usually wedding bands.  Certain cultures may give different forms of symbolic gifts, such as flowers or money.

The Bride is usually adorned in a wedding garment such as a gown or bridal dress.   The Groom usually in a tuxedo or suit.

The Wedding Ceremony is followed up by a reception to celebrate with family and friends.  Wedding receptions vary in theme.  The most common includes a form of receiving line or announcement of the bridal party, cocktails, dinner and dancing. Although, the wedding/marriage ceremonies are somewhat similar, diffferent cultures celebrate with different customs and traditions.

What’s Common Among all Cultures?

Adopted from the traditional Western custom is wearing a white dress/gown.  The white gown illustrates the purity of the bride to be.   A face veil is also sometimes worn.  The wearing of a veil indicates virginity.

Wedding bands or rings given during the ceremony illustrate perfection and never ending love by its circular shape.  Traditionally, the wedding bands are given during the wedding ceremony uniting the couple with love, faithfulness and commitment to their union of marriage.

Common among most wedding receptions is the ritual of Best Man Toast of the newly weds, first dance as husband an wife, and my favorite, the cutting / sharing of the wedding cake.