Ukrainian weddings

The courtship


When a young man finds a young lady that he wants to marry, he would find two older men (called starosty= plural; starosta = singular) who would act as emissaries and speak to the lady’s father on his behalf.  The starosty negotiated the marriage deal and directed all the wedding traditions.

The young man and the starosty arrived at the bride’s house with the starosty with a bag filled with bread, salt and a bottle of alcohol, knocking thrice on the door. Even though they probably knew the family, they pretended that they were strangers and told a tale of how they were hunting and along the way they had met a prince on the trail of a marten in the form of a beautiful girl. They asked the family for help in capturing her and whether they would be willing to give her up or whether she still needed to grow up a bit.

The father then asked his wife and daughter what he should do. If the young lady did not like the young man, she would bring him a pumpkin on a plate.

If she liked the young man, she would present each starosta with an embroidered ritual towel (rushnyk) which was worn over the shoulder. She would present the young man with an embroidered handkerchief and tie it to his upper arm or it would be tucked into his belt. These embroidered gifts let everyone in the village know that a marriage had been agreed.

Painted by Olena Kulchytska in 1940 depicting married women in a village in Boikivshchyna. They are plaiting the head wreaths (made from periwinkle) for the bride and groom. In the centre of the table is bread with a candle and a locked padlock symbolising the bride’s purity.

In 1940, Olena Kulchytska painted a bride, seated on a cushion, having a wedding wreath placed on her head.

Olena Kulchytska was born in 1877 in the region of Ternopil’shchyna. She trained as an artist and worked in different media including oil, watercolour, textiles, ceramics, metal.