Russian Wedding Day Traditions

What Russian Brides and Grooms Do on Their Wedding Day

••• Bride, groom, and their attendants beside an eternal flame. Susan Breslow Sardone.

Russian brides and grooms celebrate their wedding day much like romantic couples the world over do so, although they have certain traditions unique to their country.

June is the traditional month that weddings are held in Russia. That's when the sky is usually clear, the weather agreeable and the days long. Here brides seek out the fanciest dress their budget can afford (usually an elaborate white confection along with a veil) while Russian grooms arrange for an appointment at a civil office where the ceremony and marriage registration take place. Same-sex marriages are not performed in Russia.

Traditions Among Russian Brides and Grooms

Before the wedding, it’s tradition for Russian grooms to accomplish a few tasks. For instance, when he comes to pick up his bride, the groom may be handed a napkin bearing lipstick prints of the bride and her attendants. If he can’t pick out his bride’s kiss, he must pay a tribute, such as covering a shawl with rubles.

Once the Russian bride and groom exit the civil marriage registration office, it’s time for picture taking to commemorate the occasion. Friends and family members toss flower petals, coins, and sometimes release butterflies to wish the couple good luck.

And before they leave, it’s tradition for the groom to sweep the bride up in his arms and kiss her in front of all assembled.

A City Wedding Tour for Russian Brides and Grooms

In St. Petersburg, it is also tradition for Russian brides and grooms on their wedding day to visit three to five places within the city that hold special meaning for citizens. There they have post-wedding photos snapped.

To transport themselves and their guests in style, Russian brides and grooms hire a limousine bedecked with gold rings and flowers. Sometimes the couple’s names are painted on a side window. If the couple cannot afford a limo, any car suitably tricked out to identify the occupants as newlyweds will do.

For Russian brides and grooms, it’s not only a matter of showing up in a specific and often scenic location, it’s also a matter of performing a simple act to symbolically assure a long and happy marriage.

St. Petersburg Wedding Picture Locales

Out of tradition, Russian brides and grooms in St. Petersburg typically pay a visit to three to five of the following historically significant and/or notably scenic places after they are united in matrimony:

  • The eternal flame of the heroes of World War II and the Bronze Horseman statue and monument to Peter the Great dominating Senate Square.
  • To the sphinx embankment on Peter Vassilevsky Island to pet the 4,000-year-old Egyptian statues and stone griffons for good luck.
  • To the Rostrum Column, decorated with ship prows and surrounded by an iron-link railing. Side by side, couples pose for photos with their hands fitted inside the links to symbolize their new bond.
  • A few steps away, fountains gush in the shadow of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. It's tradition there for couples to toast with champagne then smash their glasses against a large concrete sphere. (Walk carefully there, avoiding glass shards.)
  • To the New Hermitage Portico along the city’s Millionaires’ Row, where giant marble Atlanti statues act as columns. Here Russian brides rub the huge marble toes for luck and pose fpr photos between the statues.
  • To emphasize the purity of their love, Russian brides and grooms sometimes simultaneously release white doves beside the waterfront.
  • Couples have themselves photographed beside spectacularly beautiful and religiously meaningful structures such as the onion-domed Church of Spilled Blood.

Can You Marry in St. Petersburg if You're Not Russian?

Although it takes quite a bit of planning, including a visa from the Russian Embassy and knowledge of the language or a guide who can translate, non-Russian couples are permitted to marry in Russia and their marriages will be recognized as legal.