Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Every traditional Ukrainian holiday or important event in the life of a Ukrainian family is filled with special meaning, a large number of rites, and many sacred rituals. The Ukrainian wedding was and is distinguished from other events by the richness of rites, each filled with symbolism. Everything mattered here - the dishes, the clothes, the signs and weather conditions, the songs, the customs, and so much more.
Preparations for this important event in the life of a Ukrainian family began long before the courtship, as each girl prepared embroidered ritual cloth, or rushnyky, from a young age, learning the art of embroidery from her mother or grandmother. These were not just beautiful ritual cloth, but talismans for the future family.
Even a very poor family would have had a number of embroidered rushnyky and other items for the day. For example, bread and salt were taken out on a rushnyk to the suitor; the hands of the newlyweds were tied at the wedding with a rushnyk as well as laid at their feet; icons were wrapped in rushnyky, and so much more.
It was equally important to have an embroidered wedding shirt, or sorochka. Having prepared clothes for her wedding, the bride had to embroider several sorochky for her dowry, as well girl take care of her future husband's embroidered sorochka. The ornaments used for wedding embroidery were located around the neckline, on the cuffs of the sleeves, and on the hem. There was a certain ritual to follow: the girl would pray before her work, used only a new needle, embroidered only during the day, and, where possible during Lent, as this was considered the best time of the year. Knots, a broken needle, or tangled threads were considered a bad omen.
No pattern on the Ukrainian embroidered shirt, especially the one for the wedding, was accidental. The embroidered shirt had its own peculiarities depending on the region, and the meaning of the ornaments was passed down from generation to generation. The most common patterns on embroidered sorochky are leaves of hops, grapes, bunches of viburnum, as well as geometric ornaments in the form of diamonds, circles, and endless lines. Also, there was a hidden place of the wedding shirt, both the woman's and man's, where there was a symbol embroidered with red thread that served as a talisman against all misfortunes. The tradition of this red thread has survived to this day, where red threads are tied on the hand or on a person's garments to offer protection from the evil eye.
On the eve of the wedding, friends of the bride arranged a hen party - an evening where the girl said goodbye to her virginity, sang songs, decorated the wedding tree with viburnum, flowers and ribbons, and wove her wedding vinok.
The wedding itself began in the morning. On the way to the bride's house, the villagers usually "demanded" a ransom from the groom in the form of vodka and food. It was believed that the more often they were interrupted, the better the future life of the new family, so the young man was not to refuse anyone. The bride's house also demanded a ransom, but for the bride. The bride's brother or girlfriends traded with the groom's suitors, and after that, the newlyweds were blessed by their parents. The young people bowed to the guests and off everyone went to the wedding. During this sacrament, our ancestors kneeled on the middle of the rushnyk: this place in the middle where there was no pattern is known as God's place. The wedding rushnyk served as a talisman for the young family and was passed down to their children, and their children's children.
Nowadays, the bride and groom can be seen quite often in embroidered sorochky. Ukrainian embroidery is not just a tribute to tradition, but also one of the most stylish options for a wedding dress. A classic white dress with embroidery, a simple dress, or even a blouse are all great options. All you have to do is decide what you like best.