Russian Wedding: Traditions and Vocabulary

Posted on February 10th, 2013

In lieu of the Valentine’s Day, I’ve come up with a few interesting lessons to help you learn romantic vocabulary in Russian. You already know how to say “I love you” and a few more romantic phrases in Russian, you also know how to form Russian diminutives and terms of endearment, so today we will talk about the weddings in Russian culture and learn some interesting wedding words in Russian.

Russian Engagement

Russian wedding is slightly different from the wedding in the Western culture, but, I must say, many traditions have been adopted from the overseas, so don’t be surprised if you notice similar customs in the modern Russian wedding.

First things first. Let’s start with an engagement. Traditionally, a long long time ago, the engagement or betrothal were considered the most important ceremony, even more important than the actual wedding. Parents of both families sit down and sign an agreement that indicated the date of the wedding.  Then a ball or a party was organized to celebrate the engagement.

Nowadays, the engagement is not celebrated in the same way. Usually a guy proposes to a girl in some sweet and romantic way, she says “yes” (that’s if she does) and they set the day of the wedding. The tradition to give an engagement ring is getting more and more popular nowadays.

After the couple decided to marry they need to apply in writing to the registry office, asking to register their marriage. The register office will ask them to pick a date from a few available dates. There is one month of waiting period, but usually all Russian weddings are planned out very fast within 1-3 months.

Помолвка [pa-MOL-fka] engagement
Помолвочное кольцо [pa-MOL-vach-na-ye kal’-TSO] engagement ring
Девичник [dee-VEESH-neek] hen party, bachelorette party
Мальчишник [mal’-CHEESH-neek] bachelor party, stag party

Russian Wedding Planning

The planning of a Russian wedding involves buying or renting a wedding dress and a groom’s suit, hiring cars, booking a restaurant, hiring a photographer and a cameraman, and hiring a DJ or a band, and тамада [ta-ma-DA] toastmaster. A couple that wants to also get married in church, will need to meet with the priest to discuss the details.

Russian Wedding

When the day of the registration arrives, the couple arrives to the registrar office for the official wedding ceremony. The groom and the best man pick up the bride and the maid of honor. According to the Russian wedding traditions, the groom is asked to pay a buyout for his bride and overcome many different obstacles organized by the bride’s family before he can pick her up. The obstacles can be questions about the bride and her family, and he also might be asked to sing or dance or tell a joke.

Russian wedding car

Russian wedding car
Image by daneen_vol on Flickr

The bride and the groom drive in different cars to the ceremony. The cars are usually decorated with flowers, ribbons, or balloons, and two crossed circles: one bigger and one smaller that look like golden rings. Crossed golden rings symbolize wedding and marriage in Russian culture. After registering their union at the registry office, the couple goes on a city tour, where the photographer takes a lot of pictures of the couple.

Then the newlyweds come back to the reception and the merriment begins. The toastmaster makes sure the wedding is entertaining and fun. He makes toasts and jokes, and organizes contests and games. There is usually a lot of dancing at a Russian wedding.

You will probably hear guests shouting “Горько!” [GOR’-ka] at a Russian wedding. “Горько!” can be translated as “bitter”. By shouting “Горько!” the guests are saying that the alcohol is bitter, and the couple needs to start kissing to sweeten the drinks. The couple kisses for as long as possible while the guests are counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5….”, if the couple doesn’t kiss for long enough, the guests might should “Горько!” again. Nowadays, some couples ask the toastmaster and their guests not to shout “Горько!”, if they don’t want to kiss in front of their guests.

During the traditional Russian wedding, the bride gets stolen by the groom’s friends, who ask him for a ransom, as soon as the ransom is paid, the bride is returned to the groom. If the groom is not careful, the bride can be stolen several times. Bride’s friends often steal a bride’s shoe also asking the groom for a ransom.

Traditionally, a Russian wedding lasts for 2 days or longer, but again nowadays some weddings last only a day and then the newlyweds go away for a honeymoon.

Now, let’s learn some of the most important Russian wedding words:

Бракосочетание [bra-ka-sa-chee-TA-nee-ye] marriage, wedding, nuptials
Свадьба [SVAD’-ba] wedding
Свадебный (adj.) [SVA-deeb-niy] wedding (adjective)
Свадебный торт [SVA-deeb-niy TORT] wedding cake
Свадебный букет [SVA-deeb-niy boo-KYET] wedding bouquet
Свадебное платье [SVA-deeb-na-ye PLAT’-ye] wedding dress

In Russian you will need to use two different words for “get married”:
If you would like to say that a man is getting married you will use word - женится [ZHYE-nyat-sya]
If you would like to say that a woman is getting married you will use word – выходит замуж [vi-HO-dyat ZA-moozh]
For example:
Павел женится в эту субботу.
Оксана выходит замуж в эту субботу.

Жених [zhee-NEEH] fiancé, bridegroom
Невеста [nee-VYES-ta] fiancée, bride
Подружка невесты [pad-ROOSH-ka nee-VYES-ti] bridesmaid
Шафер [SHA-fyer] best man
Свидетельница (на свадьбе) [svee-DYE-tyel’-nee-tsa na SVAD’-bye] bridesmaid
Свидетель (на свадьбе) [svee-DYE-tyel’ na SVAD’-bye] best man

Смокинг [SMO-keeng]
Костюм [kas-TYOOM] suit
Свадебное платье [SVA-deeb-na-ye PLAT’-ye]
Фата [fa-TA] veil

Церковь [TSER-kaf’] church
Венчание [vyen-CHA-nee-ye] (church) wedding ceremony
Венчаться в церкви [veen-CHAT’-sya f TSERK-vee] church wedding ceremony
Венчальное кольцо [veen-CHAL’-na-ye kal’-TSO] the wedding ring used at the wedding ceremony in church

ЗАГС or загс is abbreviated for Запись Актов Гражданского Состояния [ZAHS] registry office
Рaсписаться в загсе [ras-pee-SAT’-sya v ZAG-sye] get married in ZAGS
Свидетельство о браке [svee-DYE-tyel’-stva a BRA-kye] marriage certificate
Свадебный марш [SVA-dyeb-niy MARSH] wedding march
Марш Мендельсона [MARSH meen-del’-SO-na] Mendelssohn’s wedding march
Обручальное кольцо [ab-roo-CHAL’-na-ye kal’-TSO] wedding ring
Свадебное кольцо [SVA-deeb-na-ye kal’-TSO] wedding ring
Обменяться колцами [ab-mee-NYAT’-sya KOL’-tsa-mee] exchange rings
Целовать [tsee-la-vat’] kiss
Поцелуй [pa-tse-LOOY] kiss
Молодожёны [ma-la-da-ZHO-ni] newlywed
Свидетельство о браке [svee-DYE-teel’-stva a BRA-kye] marriage certificate
Тамада [ta-ma-DA] toastmaster
Тост [TOST] toast
Медовый месяц [mee-DO-viy MYE-syats] honeymoon
Горько! [GOR’-ka] bitter

Have you ever been to a Russian wedding? What do you think about the Russian wedding traditions?

Have fun learning Russian! :)


Related Posts:


Study with Maxim Achkasov


The courses of Russian as a foreign language with Russian4real take place online via Skype. The teacher works with adults individually since he is convinced that each person must receive maximum time for practice and professional attention while learning a foreign language.