A Hutsul Wedding

The Hutsuls are an ethnographic group of Ukrainian pastoral highlanders living in the Carpathian Mountains. One theory of their origin is that the Hutsuls were originally inhabitants of Kyivan Rus’ who fled from the Mongol invasion into the Carpathian Mountains.

The bride and groom are known as a “prince” and “princess” for the day. Ukrainian ladies’ headdresses (called a vinok) symbolise virginity. In some villages, wedding vinky (plural of vinok) were made from feathers – linked to the idea that a young woman is like a bird. In addition, to the headdress, the bride held a bunch of coloured woollen threads which would protect her. Underneath her embroidered blouse, the bride wore a woven, red sash to protect the child-bearing part of her anatomy from witches. The bride and groom wear special woollen coats – white for the bride and grey or black for the groom.

Some traditional elements are still practised today, for example the couple walking around the table, bowing before their parents and thanking them for bringing them up and teaching them. A wedding tree is decorated – the top of a spruce with periwinkle, guelder rose, grasses and coloured wool. In some villages, on the morning of the wedding, the elderly ladies bring the bride’s dowry to the groom – special occasion traditional clothes, kilims (carpet – often woven from wool – which is used on floors or hung on walls) and beds.

Contemporary Hutsul couple