Week 10 'Ransom of the Bride' - A Russian Tradition

Welcome to week 11 in our '52 Rituals in 52 Weeks'

The Russians have so many absolutely fantastic wedding traditions it's hard to know where to start. Some of these are performed in the lead up to the marriage, others during the ceremony and many more ocurring after. The traditions of many cultures started long ago and have evolved over time, often becoming more modern versions of the originals, while some have sadly faded away altogether.
For Russian couples traditions are still very much practiced with the couple often heading off to the official registration ceremony and then after the newlyweds and of course their guests usually participate in some additional traditional wedding festivities. Some of these include the ‘Ransom of the Bride’, touring the city (progulka), sharing of a wedding loaf (karavay), and a wedding feast.

Long ago in Russia, the ransom of the bride was a true folk theater performance full of color and rich in symbolism. The bride's family would stop the groom by putting things in his way. They would block the road numerous times during the groom's trip to his bride's house and they would not let him pass until he demonstrated that he had some skills and talents. He might be tested on his brute strength, or even perhaps his intelligence. They may also test him on various other things as they so desired. For example, he could be asked to solve a problem or riddle posed by the group or remove large objects that had been put up to block his way. If he failed any of their challenges, he would have to pay them with coins or lollies.

In modern-day Russia this ritual is usually performed on the way to the registry department or on the groom's trip to the bride's house. The organising of the ransom is usually conducted by the bridesmaids and the best man (called "witnesses" or svideteli).

In modern times the Ransom is comprised of funny challenges for the groom, such as composing a poem for the bride, writing her name in rose petals, etc. Although this custom is light-hearted and fun, in certain Russian provinces a ransom literally means a ransom and occasionally passing by babushkas may block the road until the groom pays to pass through.

While we don’t often see such extravagant rituals like this performed regularly in Australia, they are so rich in culture and tradition that they inspire us all to really think about our own cultural traditions and their significance. The Russian’s definitely know how to have fun and have an amazingly memorable wedding day!

The Wedding Guru’s