In Russia, there is a tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy that forbids marrying during strict Lent. You can imagine that after a period of forty days during which no one marries, couples flock to the altar. Well, maybe. Certainly the largest number of people marry the first Saturday after Easter.
In Russian weddings, the couple is expected to invite all their relations, even if they have only met one time. Add in friends and coworkers and that is a huge guest list. Many couples opt to marry at a civil registrar with only close family and friends because of the expense of a wedding.
After a simple civil ceremony the couple then goes to a park and takes photos with statues. On a side note: I really did see this. On Valentine’s Day there was a couple taking photos in a park called VDNH (that’s right; there are no vowels) that has one of the two largest outdoor skating rinks in Europe. On another occasion I saw a photo session at a beautiful wooden palace. The palace really deserves it’s own post so look for more on it later. One need not look far to find a park with statues. Moscow has them everywhere. Take a look at this small sampling.
Following the photo session, the group has a party at a restaurant. It seems this reception is similar to what happens after a wedding. People play games during the reception. For instance, they can take something from bride and try to sell it or sell the best piece of cake. Auctions can be held to raise money for the couple. Like the American tradition of tapping on glass or ringing a bell, guests can shout Gor’ko (meaning bitter) and the couple must kiss. The brides throws her bouquet and the single girl that catches it is said to be the next one to marry. The same is applied to the single man who catches the garter the groom throws.
And what Russian wedding is complete without drinking and dancing during the reception? It seems there are few that do not include it. Guests also decorate the couple’s going-away car, very simililarly to a wedding in the U.S.
Let me leave you with a final note. There is a unique post-celebration tradition that is fascinating. The morning following the celebrations, all guests that are able dress in costume (different types of animals or characters) and go to the open market to buy gifts for their relatives. It’s a thoughtful way to end the celebration, don’t you think?