“Heritage – be proud of it for you will be its legacy. It’s your responsibility to carry on and learn your heritage. Otherwise, it will be lost.” ―
I was born in Belarus (an Eastern European country bordering Russia, Ukraine, and Poland) and while I have far moved on from the days I used to sing in a Russian choir and participate in regular camping trips with our big Russian crew in Ohio, I still keep where I came from close to me.
My husband was born in Michigan, with a Polish and Scottish background, but he has completely immersed himself into my culture by learning and practicing Russian phrases and getting into Russian foods (his favorite right now are syrki – these chocolate covered cottage cheese bars). I also recently got him a little book of Russian slang. It’s pretty hilarious, but soon he’ll know more than me because I don’t even know many of the phrases since they’re not something I typically use to talk to my grandma every week.
When we got married, we really wanted add some special touches that represented who we are and where we came from and looking back at it all now, I’m really glad we did! So today, I’ll give you a little peak into what those touches looked like! ♡
Pre- Ceremony aka the Winning Over Process
In Russia and Belarus, the morning of the wedding there’s a tradition where the groom comes to win over or buy out the bride while she is getting ready. The maid of honor typically creates a set of obstacles and questions for him to complete and the groom, with the help of his crew finish those tasks and use bribes such as alcohol, money, and candy to help with their efforts. However, there’s no real pressure because it’s more to get excited about the wedding and to entertain our close family before we gather with everyone else. Ultimately, the groom wins the bride in the end and in Belarus, they go to the Church to get married together from there.
Since my aunt had more experience with Russian weddings and traditions, I asked her to set something up for Frank and I… and dang, did she deliver. She made a poem to lead Frank through his little obstacle course where he had to locate the pictures of me within baby pictures of my family members, tie a towel as tight as he can to signify how strong our relationship will be, and then untie it to show how hard we will work to solve problems. Of course, he was also asked to do pushups, dance, and answer questions like what is my shoe size, credit score, and my moms birthday. He didn’t know my shoe size, but he nailed my credit score on the head ha! Frank came prepared as well with a Hennessy Cognac for my grandpa (his favorite drink), a piece on the violin* that his friend played, and a tons of dollar bills from him, his friends, and family. Once this was all over, Frank got to win his bride! But since in American culture you can’t see the bride before the wedding, we blindfolded him so I could give him a hug. The room started chanting “bride, bride, bride, bride” and comes out my uncle Zhenya in a bride costume prancing around as Frank’s “honey bunny” (cue the bunny ears). This was actually pretty hilarious, but then they chanted again and I came out to give Frank a hug. This whole thing was sooo much fun and broke the ice between the two families in the morning. It may have been my favorite part about the wedding.
*Frank comes from a Scottish background, and his Poppa (grandpa on his mom’s side) was a famous fiddler. Frank loves playing the violin, so that was something personal to him and his background to be able to have it there. However, he lent his violin to his friend for a performance so he could focus on all the other tasks.
We were going to have Frank’s brother play bagpipes before the ceremony as it’s a Scottish tradition, but things ended up not working out there. However, since Frank and I already eloped, our ceremony was really just a symbolic one rather than a legal one since our documents were already signed. So we had Frank’s dad Rodney perform the ceremony and boy was I happy we did that. Rodney acted as our officiant, and he did a bunch of research to make the best speech and incorporate our various cultures into it.
His speech included a Scottish blessing, a traditional Catholic reading (“love is patience, love is kind…”), and he looked for a Russian blessing but instead he found another tradition, one I knew very well. At a Russian ceremony, the bride and groom each usually breaks off a piece of a giant loaf of bread, dip it in salt and feed it to each other. I personally wasn’t sure what this meant but my uncle said that in Ukrainian tradition it meant that this will be the last time you bitter each other lives besides in food (because the salt is bitter). I think other people say it means that you’ll always have the necessities in life like bread, and will take care of each other. It was cute, and there was a piece of gluten free bread Frank got to feed me since I’m GF. Oh, and I had my grandpa (from my mom’s side) walk me down the aisle along side me and my dad because I’ve told everyone since I was a little girl that I wanted my grandpa to walk me down the aisle! I definitely got that wish! 🙂
Another cute little thing Rodney added to our ceremony was a shot! The idea was that we said in our vows that we will serve each other the rest of our lives and we were going to start with serving each other a drink- a shot of Jack to be exact!
At the end, Rodney cheered with us and yelled URA! The whole ceremony probably was a 15 minute ceremony, if that, but it was pretty perfect and ended with some fun music and bubbles blowing as we happily walked away.
I LOVE to dance, and I have a ballroom dance background (as I’m Eastern European- are you surprised?) so we weren’t going to have a wedding without a fancy dance. Frank was a straight G for being so open minded to all of this. He practiced hard and learned a whole choreography with lifts and spins and the whole shabam. I will admit though that I was severely anemic at the wedding and felt like I was going to pass out at any moment no matter how much water I’d drink or food I’d eat. Apparently, I still hadn’t fully recovered after donating blood over a year ago. Anyways, it wasn’t my best performance, but we made it through and it was awesome. I’m so grateful for him for giving this to me.
Did I mention I also stoned my own wedding shoes? I probably could’ve bought cuter shoes (and cheaper after I paid for all the Swarovski stones), but I really wanted to do something DIY and ballroom dancers love to stone everything so I thought it was another way to make my shoes more memorable.
Since I got my dance, Frank got his hockey. Franks dads love of hockey and dedication to finding ways to afford it allowed all 5 children in Frank’s family to play hockey (even Hannah!). Frank still plays adult hockey leagues (just like I still dance) and I love watching him do something he’s passionate about. So we got shirts of the fam’s favorite hockey team, the Red Wings, for all the boys.
Something that made our wedding date special (6-29-18) was that it was my grandparents 47th year anniversary. They were so honored that we shared our day with them so we gave them a shout out at the wedding and had people chant gor’ka. Gor’ka is a Russian tradition, similar to the glass dinging American’s do, that gets a couple to kiss on their wedding or anniversary. We did that and also gave them an honorary anniversary dance to make them feel special.
In Russian tradition, it’s also very common to give toasts… like all the time. Russians LOVE toasts. At dinner parties, when you’re having a drink with a friend, or obviously at any big event. We had even more toasts at the rehearsal dinner, but our wedding wasn’t low on toasts either. Two of my bridesmaids made a toast, two of Frank’s groomsmen (including Frank’s brother who won this privilege at his bachelor party LOL), and my mom. They were all short, sweet, but perfectly touching.
And of course, there was a lot of dancing- DUH. Frank also gave me a lil dance while getting my garter off to Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You because that will forever be my favorite scene from 10 Things I Hate About You (RIP Heath Ledger).
The night wouldn’t be right without a “Board Meeting” aka code word for taking a shot with the boys that Frank’s grandpa used to do. Who isn’t down for a drink with some good vibes at a wedding?!! (Well, besides me because I didn’t want to pass out from anemia and alcohol at my own wedding).
Lastllyyyy, would I be marrying Frank if his most prized possession (besides me of course) wasn’t part of it?? I’m definitely not complaining because I loved getting a ride around Kalamazoo on his motorcycle in my wedding dress.
I may be bias, but we had the BEST wedding (I mean for us). I think it’s not the decorations, flowers, food, dress, or hair that make the wedding but it’s the people and personal touches that make you FEEL something and make you feel most like YOU.
Photo Credit to Arielle Peters (she was the bomb diggity as well).
Peace, love, and lots and lots of more love,