Sunday, June 30, 2013

Something Fun - Mariana and Pavlo's Ukrainian Wedding

Hi friends,

Today's post doesn't have anything crafty, as many of you know my craft room is temporarily in storage, but today's post should be interesting.  Why?  Because I had the privilege of attending a really fun Ukrainian wedding as 'an insider.'  My daughter Sarah is a peace corps volunteer in Vishkovo Ukraine.  While there, she met a wonderful man, Ivan, and they are in love.  I had a business trip to Munich Germany recently and booked a flight to Ukraine after my business ended so I could see Sarah.  It just so happened that the weekend I was going to be in town, coincided with Ivan's younger brother Pavlo's wedding so I got to attend the wedding and participate like a family member.

It was really fun and I enjoyed witnessing the unique cultural experience of weddings in Ukraine, getting to know Ivan and his family and spending time with Sarah.

I arrived on Thursday night and Friday Sarah and I headed to the beauty salon.  Sarah got her hair done and I got a manicure.   Sarah had decided to get bangs and after a lengthy conversation with the stylist (in both English and Ukrainian) she got a really nice cut.

Next on the agenda was accessories.  Sarah had a nice necklace with little pearls, but no earrings to match. So we headed out to Lviv on Saturday to find earrings.  After 4 stores we had an extra necklace and earrings for her to wear.  Below is the fun little artsy-crafty store where we found them.

On Sunday we were all up bright and early.  The alarm went off at 5:30 and by 6:30 we were out the door.  After two bus connections we were in the village and Sarah and I headed to the hair salon.  Natalya (Ivan's mother) works in the space next to the hair salon so she is very friendly with the girls.  They did Natalya's hair and make-up and also did Sarah's hair in a fun up do.

Then we headed to Natalya's house to put on the finery.  Natalya is a seamstress and she made Sarah's dress.  It was a beautiful dark blue short dress that looked great on Sarah.  At the house were some last minute adjustments.  Natalya had been sewing late Saturday night to finish.

We headed outside to await the arrival of the bride's friends and took the time to get a few photos.

Then around 10:30am, the bride's friends arrived with gifts.  In addition to a shirt for Pavlo to wear for the wedding and gifts for Natalya, they also  brought about a dozen bottles of vodka.  Everyone had at least one shot to start the day.

We enjoyed fruit, sandwiches and juice to accompany the alcohol.  At that point in time I realized it was going to be a long day of partying.  I had about half a shot (to stay friendly) but passed on the next two rounds!

Next up in the festivities was heading to Marianna's house to barter for the bride.  Ivan's brother is holding a special wedding sweet bread.  It was decorated very beautifully and poor Sarhiy had to carry it all afternoon, to the brides house, to the wedding and finally to the reception hall.
Apparently Mariana was a very valuable bride.  I think it 'cost' Pavlo at least a dozen bottles of vodka. Of course, to stay with tradition, they opened one and had a few shots.  When the initial offer of vodka wasn't good enough (I think the first offer was only 3 bottles), Mariana's family sent out a 'fake' bride.  Luckily Pavlo was still sober enough to recognize that one of the male family members with a veil and apron on was not his beloved bride!

After the negotiation was done, Pavlo was allowed to approach Mariana's door accompanied by two lovely match makers.  After this next round of shots, Pavlov was quite happy and was glad to have the arms of the ladies to keep his stride steady.
In Ukrainian tradition, Pavlo greeted his bride at her door step and they went together to the church for the ceremony.
The church was beautiful and the day was warm and sunny.  The bride and groom entered the church accompanied by friends and family.
Sarah was the supplemental photographer.
The ceremony started with the priest and the entire service was in song and chant.  It was lovely but quite different from an American Catholic service.  Everyone stood the entire time, there was no processional, just the bride, groom and two other couples standing before the alter.  The whole thing took about 20 minutes.

And then it was done!  The bride, groom and maid of honor (called first girl) left the church. In Mariana's right arm was a decorated basket full of small candies.  In Ukrainian tradition, Mariana tossed candy to the crowd.  The kids LOVED it.
Then it was on the reception hall.  There was a receiving line and below Ivan is greeting the bride with a kiss.
We all headed into the other room where the tables were set already with food.  Alfred, Mariana's stepfather gave a starting toast and yes, it was time for more Vodka!  I chose to toast with champagne.
At each place setting were three glasses.  A shot glass, a water glass and a wine glass.  The food was yummy and I recognized a few things, but tried just about everything.  The Russian Caviar on toast was quite nice. The beef tongue in salt jelly, not so much.

So after we all ate our fill, the crowd starting singing.  Yup, I guess it's a Ukrainian tradition to have a group sing - often.  I said we Americans might sing at Christmas and Ivan said, yup - Ukrainians sing then also.  It was quite fun to hear everyone sing along to songs all generations knew the words to.  Of course I didn't participate since it was all in Ukranian!

All throughout the meal and singing, the crowd would periodically call out a Ukrainian word that translates to 'Bitter.' When the crowd yells this, it means the bride and groom must kiss.  The logic is that it is 'bitter' and seeing the bride and groom (young love) kiss makes it sweeter.

The couple had the first dance, surrounded by flower petals and candles.  Then everyone started dancing.  Most of the dances involved a circular motion (not sure how they did it so fast and with all that Vodka flowing AND the girls all had on ubber high heels to boot.)  Those Ukrainians are very coordinated.

Alfred asked me to dance.  I think it was some kind of polka.  I just followed his lead and thankfully I didn't get hurt.
So then Ivan brought me the 'real' Ukrainian vodka shot.  It was handmade vodka (read higher proof), chased by a pickle and then bread with pork fat on it.  I made them reduce the shot to 1/3 the normal size.

I guess all the Ukrainians love this.  As for me, well I'm not much of a vodka drinker.  I'm guessing it's an acquired taste.  Once the other gentlemen at the table heard that I had done the Ukrainian shot they all wanted to dance with me.  So, I polka'd around the dance floor for most of the evening.  It was fun because the men were the ones initiating all the dancing and it was a mix between traditional polka like dances and modern dances.  Everyone danced with everyone and it was a lot of fun.  Yes, we did the Macarana and yes we did the Chicken Dance.  All the other music was Ukrainian pop music.

Below is a fun video of Sarah and Ivan doing a dance game.  Here couples were to dance on a newspaper and then fold it and dance again, then fold it again.  I think Sarah and Ivan won the game.  Most of the other dance games involved dancing in a circle and kissing strangers.  I think the Ukrainians are trying to be match makers at the weddings or they want to give the older gentlemen something to look forward to!  Most all the kisses were on the cheek, and let's hope everyone was healthy!

It was pretty late, but the sun was still out.  Below is a photo that was taken around 9pm and the light is still quite bright.

Around this same time, everyone headed back into the dining area and they served another full meal of food. No-one went hungry and they served up one of Sarah's favorite dishes - Shashlik.  It's marinated pork, slow cooked on grill.  They also brought out ice cream and sweets and other drinks, like vermouth and sweet wines.
We all had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed talking to Ivan.  Very few people at the wedding spoke English so most of my other conversations were translated by Sarah, but Ivan's brother and aunt spoke a little English so we all did okay.

About midnight I was wiped out so Ivan called a taxi and Sarah, Ivan and I headed back to the city.  I got into bed around 1am and was glad I was able to sleep till at least 8:00am the next day.

It was a beautiful day and the Ukrainians really know how to celebrate.  Everyone was jovial and happy, everyone danced and sang and it was really fun to be part of the celebration.

It looks like Sarah and Ivan will be soon planning a wedding next summer.  We'll have to consider which traditions to include in her celebration.  I'm going to encourage her to throw candy at the crowd and while we may have some vodka on hand, I don't think we'll have one bottle for every 4 people!  And I don't know that we'll need pickles, brown bread or pork fat, but who knows.  It will be their special day to plan.