Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer - the season for "I Do"s in Russia

I travelled to Moscow and St Petersburg in the month of July a few years back
(2008) to experience the famous "White Nights". This curious phenomenon is most evident in St Petersburg due to it's very northerly geographical location. At 59 degrees 57' North, St. Petersburg is the world's most northern city, and it stands at such a high latitude that the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark. In fact night becomes curiously indistinguishable from day, so much so that the authorities never need to turn the city's streetlights on!

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The phenomenon begins from late May to early July, with the brightest period, the White Nights, normally lasting from June 11th to July 2nd. 

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These pictures above, were taken after 9PM!

This is apparently also a popular season for weddings in Russia, for wherever we went, we were surrounded by beautiful Bridal couples. It appears to be some sort of tradition to have their photographs taken in front of popular monuments, churches, palaces and gardens. So gaping at all those beautiful brides, visible at every tourist spot that we were visiting, was an added plus on our holiday.

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Curious about weddings in Russia, I read up on them when I returned. As their traditions are a somewhat unique, I thought I would share some information about it with ayou (courtesy :, along with the pictures I took on my Holiday.

Russian wedding protocol is quite different from what you are used to. For example, there are no bridesmaids, a best man and flower girls. 

First of all, let's start with engagement. Frankly speaking, there is no such a thing. A man asks a woman if she marry him, that's it. No rings are given; no one is informed about the event excepting closest friends and family. If the man is gallant, he will give his lady flowers, but this is not mandatory.

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The wedding is usually planned soon, within 1-3 months. The couple is supposed to apply in writing to the department of registrations asking to register their marriage. The department will give them available dates but according to the law there must be at least 1 month of "waiting period", probably because people in Russia marry early, mostly at the age of 18-22, and this may give them some time to rethink in case they have made a hasty decision. During Soviet time this period was 3 months, so the two had time to cool down.

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After the couple has applied to the department of registration, they are considered as being a bride and a groom; but Russians do not talk about being engaged, they say "They handed in the application".

Russians call "engagement rings" the rings that the couple exchanges during the wedding ceremony. The two buy them together; the groom pays; this is the necessary part of the wedding tradition. Russian engagement rings are in reality just plain wedding bands of gold, without diamonds or stones, and they wear them on the RIGHT hand on the finger next to the "pinky". (An "engagement ring" on the LEFT hand on the same finger will mean for Russians that the person is divorced or widowed, i.e. is not currently married but was married before.)

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The bride's dress is usually made specially for the occasion because it's cheaper than buying it. All Russian women can sew (sewing is compulsory in the course of 'domestic labor' subject for girls in Russian schools - boys learn to make furniture and fix taps etc). Many girls sew beautifully; so brides often opt for making their wedding dresses themselves.

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The necessary part of the wedding ceremony is a wedding train of several cars. Big black cars are considered as luxury in Russia (they used to be available for Soviet government elite only), and usually if the couple has money, they will hire at least one for the bride. The more cars participating in the wedding train, the more proud the couple will be. Usually they ask all their friends and relatives who have cars to join the ceremony. The cars are used to collect the bride, and go to Department of registration for the ceremony.

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You'll probably be interested to note that a Russian wedding lasts for 2 days!! (Well, at least. Some weddings last as long as a week, and this is something to be proud of and remember for years: it means the couple had enough liquor to go on and on, and enough devoted friends to stay.)

Read more about Day 1 of a Russian Wedding here : Russian Wedding Day 1
Read more about Day 2 of a Russian Wedding here : Russian Wedding Day 2

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