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Pre Wedding

Before matchmaking can begin, the families of the bride and groom must choose the matchmaker and his assistant. Although each family chooses matchmakers, the groom's matchmakers play a more dominant role. The groom and his matchmakers visit the bride's home with bread, salt, and spirits. Upon their arrival at the bride's home, they knock at the window or door three times. The matchmakers enter the prospective bride's home, present bread and salt, and begin the prescribed matchmaking dialogue. The most popular form of the dialogue begins with the pretense that the matchmakers are hunters who have traveled throughout the world in the company of their prince. Once the matchmakers have finished their dialogue, it is up to the parents to reply to the proposal. If the parents intend to refuse the proposal, the maiden brings out glasses, an alcoholic beverage, and a pumpkin on a plate to present to the matchmakers. However, if the maiden's parents accept their proposal, the maiden brings out two embroidered ritual cloths on a plate. The ritual cloths are tied over the shoulders of the matchmakers. She also brings an embroidered kerchief to place in the prospective bridegroom's belt. Then the maiden's parents signal their formal agreement to the match by ceremonially exchanging bread with the visitors. In turn, they offer liquor to the householders and make arrangements with them for the day of the betrothal.

Inspection provides the bride's family with an opportunity to verify the groom's family's economic situation, which will have a direct effect on the bride's future. Conducted by the bride's parents and relatives, the inspection takes place without the bride being present. If the bride's relatives are satisfied, then the day for betrothal is set. If the family is not satisfied with the economic situation, then the bread exchanged at the matchmaking is returned, and the prospective match dissolved.

Wedding Day

The wedding celebration usually takes place on Sunday and involves two parts: the church wedding ceremony and the traditional celebrations at the homes. The church service serves as the legal sanction for the union, however in the community's opinion, perhaps the most important part of the wedding occurs after the church service, during the vesillia at the bride's house.

The first rite of preparation on Sunday morning is the unplaiting of the bride's braid. She is seated on a bench, which is covered with a pillow. After the starosty bless her, the bridesmaids or the bride's brother comb her hair and sing ritual songs. After the bride's hair is combed, the bride's hair is braided again in a special way and placed on her head in the form of a wreath.

Once the ceremony of the unplaiting of the braid is completed, the bride is dressed in her wedding clothes. Her costume includes a pair of boots, which she received from the groom as a gift the day before the wedding. She also receives the wreath made during the wreath-weaving ceremony. The bride then waits for the arrival of the groom and his party. The groom's wedding attire includes an embroidered shirt that had been given to him by the bride as a pre-wedding gift.

Blessing. This is the ritual blessing of the bride and groom by their parents. It usually takes place shortly before the wedding ceremony. It may be done separately for the bride at the home of her parents and for the groom at the home of his parents, or it may be combined. In a combined blessing ceremony, the starosta first asks the couple's parents to sit on benches.

Once seated, a long embroidered cloth, rushnyk is placed on their lap, and everyone is given a loaf of wedding bread. The starosta recites a ceremonial text such as the following: "As these two children stand before their own mother, before their own father, before their uncles, before their godparents; maybe they did not listen to one of you, I ask you to forgive them and bless them." In Ukrainian, the word proschannia is used to describe forgiving someone of their offenses as well as bidding them farewell. Then the family members repeat "Bih sviatyi" ([May] Holy God [forgive and bless you]) three times. The couple then bows to their parents and kisses their faces, hands, and feet. This blessing is performed three times.

The bride and groom may go to the church together or, in some regions, in separate processions each from their own home. The bride and groom may walk, ride on wagons, or go by horseback, depending on the local tradition and the distance to the church. On the way to the church, musicians play music and the entourage sings until the group reaches the church.

When the bride and groom arrive at the church, they enter the church together. It is said that the one who steps into the church first will have the first and last word in the family's affairs. The priest blesses the couple in the rear of the church and leads them to the centre table [tetrapod] for the ceremony. During the church ceremony, the groom's senior best man holds a candle for the groom and the bridesmaid holds a candle for the bride. It is said that the couple will have a happy life together only if the candles burn brightly. The priest crowns the couple, and they walk around the tetrapod three times.

After the church ceremony, the bride and groom each return to their respective homes. The bride's procession returns to the bride's home in the same order as it left. Her parents and guests welcome the bride by sprinkling her with grain - a symbol of fertility. The groom is welcomed in similar fashion at his own home.

The wedding celebrations take place in both the bride's family's and the groom's family's houses. All participants are served with a generous meal. The guests celebrate the wedding, toasting and dancing.

After a time, the groom prepares his best men and other attendants to travel to the vesillia at the bride's house. The members of the group depart after a blessing by the groom's parents.

Once the groom and his group depart for the vesillia at the bride's house, the young men of the bride's neighbourhood or village bar the groom's passage and ask him to pay a "treat and ransom." The groom may meet such a barrier several times. Only after negotiations or a ritual "fight" [bii] is the groom allowed to enter the bride's house. At this point, the bride is seated in the posad, her head bowed forward onto the table and covered with a kerchief. The groom must again symbolically pay for the bride and fight off her brothers before he can sit next to her behind the table, remove the kerchief from her head, and kiss her.

The families of the bride and groom exchange gifts. In some regions, the groom's svakhy and his best man distribute the gifts to the bride's family. The best man calls out the recipient's name and the person steps forward to accept the gift. The bride's mother sometimes receives boots, which she lifts into the air to display. She puts them on, dances in them and sings. After the gifts from the groom's family have been distributed, the bride's family presents the groom's family with embroidered rushnyky. The bride's mother gives all the rushnyky to the best man. He calls out the recipient's name and presents him or her with the rushnyk.

After the starosta blesses the main wedding bread, the groom's senior best man cuts it and passes the pieces to his assistant, who places each piece on a plate. The bride and the groom each receive a piece of bread first and then the bride's parents are served. All members of both families and all the wedding guests then share this special offering as a symbol of their union.The assistant calls out each recipient's name and gives them their piece of wedding bread (korovai). The recipient presents a small monetary gift to the couple.

After the supper, the bride says farewell to her friends and parents. To the accompaniment of songs and music, she departs with the groom's party for his family's home. They take her dowry and belongings with her.

When the bride and groom and their entourage reach his house, the groom's parents greet them. While the groom's father holds bread and salt, his mother, wearing her sheepskin coat inside out, holds a kerchief and grain. After the couple bows before the parents, the father blesses the newlyweds and the mother sprinkles grain behind them. Following the blessing of the couple, celebrations in the groom's house intensify. Another meal is served for the couple and guests.

Post Wedding

The ceremonies of the wedding continue into Monday when the perezva takes place. This is a post-wedding party, hosted in the groom's home. Guests continue to celebrate the wedding by eating, singing, and dancing.

The honouring of the bride's family is the next event. The groom's family invites the bride's relatives to the groom's house. In some communities, the visit starts with a humourous little ceremony. When the bride's relatives arrive at the groom's home, a "mock bride" greets them, played either by an older woman or a man. "She" is dressed in rags and a wreath of nettles, and "her" face is smeared with ashes. The bride's family exclaims that this is not their bride, and a jovial debate arises challenging each family's reputation and status. Finally, the real bride appears and greets them. The families exchange gifts. The couple approaches each guest to offer a drink, and receive a small gift in return.

From Tuesday until the next Sunday, the wedding celebrations continue. Village people perform rituals called tsyhany or tsyhanshchyna. A group of men, dressed up in costume, masquerades as the wedding party, and travels through village, stopping at the home of each wedding guest. At each home they might ask for gifts such as chickens, geese, piglets, and other farm goods. The men later auction off their booty so that they can buy alcohol to continue their celebration. The tradition of tsyhanshchyna provides a release of tension and adds humour, for many of the other wedding rituals are quite serious in nature.

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