Ukrainian Wedding Night
The wedding ceremony (весілля) is the most absolute form of morals and manners in Ukraine. It’s divided into three parts: before wedding, wedding and after wedding.
Before wedding: the bridegroom’s proposition to the fiancée to become his wife, presentation of a marriageable girl (both parents visit each other, discuss everything and make wedding attributes – a crown for the fiancée and her bridesmaids, “flowers” for the bridegroom and his best man, and wedding round loaf baking (коровай).
The most important event is the wedding. It consists of some stage acts: the bridegroom’s ceremonial entry to his fiancée for the church wedding ceremony (in the past this ceremony was the official act provided by the church, but today the registry office plays this function), unbraiding the fiancée’s hair (it means to say goodbye to maiden life and name), entertainment of the guests, amusement, presenting relatives with the wedding round loaf and wedding night (шлюбна ніч).
The wedding night ends the main part of the wedding. But in the past there were some after wedding acts, for example, it was allowed to steal the neighbour’s chickens and cook “barge hauler” (“бурлацька юшка”), then the mother-in-law was wheeled in a barrow, etc.
In much research, people paid the most attention to before the wedding and the wedding event itself, and so the after wedding stories were forgotten. In every part of Ukraine, even in the villages, indecent songs were present. Only adult people were allowed to take part in these actions. Children were prohibited to stay with adults during this time.
The wedding night was called “storehouse” (“комора”) and, in the evening, two matchmakers from both families prepared the bed for the night and the bride was dressed into a white nightgown. Then they led the newly married couple to the bedroom and sang such words: “Oh, Mommy, Mommy, I’m being lead to the storehouse. – Go, my daughter, you’ll be given honey to eat…”
Matchmakers put the jug filled with honey on the table near the bed (maybe that fact caused the word “honeymoon”, and the mother-in-law prepared a honey drink for the married couple during the first month of their life together). Old residents say it was done for increased fertility. The married couple did not drink any alcohol during the wedding ceremony or during the month after.
The next day, the fiancée’s family came to celebrate the wedding night. They sang humorous songs about the married couple. In most cases there were aged people. They went to wake up the newlyweds. First of all they took the new wife’s gown off and examined it carefully for the spots of blood. If yes, they showed the gown to everybody. It confirmed the wife’s innocence, and her parents would be proud of their daughter. But there were accidents when girls lost their innocence before the wedding night and tried to hide this fact using animal blood or red watercolor. If deception was detected, this family was disreputed. That’s why every mother tried to bring children up with discipline.
Nowadays traditional wedding ceremonies have lost much of their unique identity and significance. Young people don’t follow the ancient rules. These days, weddings are more of a cheerful party with dancing, games, and jokes. And the wedding night is the time when the married couple can be one-on-one.
Ukrainians joke: a newly married couple counts money during their wedding night.
I remember our wedding night: my new husband and I were so tired and tried to sleep, but it was impossible to do because of our relatives stayed overnight with us. Everybody was excited about the wedding ceremony and wanted to discuss the details of the day instead of sleeping. That’s why we can only smile today when we hear wedding night jokes. We didn’t count money – we only tried to sleep a little bit!
Next day we saw our relatives home and spent our honeymoon together in our native town walking the streets, going to the theatre, cinema, etc. We turned off our cellular phones and enjoyed ourselves in silence.
Today, young people getting married try to plan their honeymoon according to their possibilities, for example, spa or seaside, ski resort or health resort. Our friends, for example, spent their honeymoon in trips to stay for a while with both families. But, as a rule, in Ukraine the pre-wedding and wedding event planning takes so much time to think about properly, there is less time for honeymoon planning.
That’s why I would like to say to newlyweds: may you live happily! Enjoy yourselves because life it very short and such special times you’ll remember all your life.