Russian brides are actually “bought” during a wedding ritual, where the groom and his best mates have to go through trials in order to collect his beloved from her home. The bride doesn’t arrive to the church or ceremony on her own, the groom has to pick her up. But it’s not easy, with bridesmaids putting multiple obstacles on his way. And yes, he has to fork out some real money.
This is how this custom works.
How Russian Brides Are Bought
The youthful custom of buying the bride called “vykup” (ransom) brings lots of fun to participants, and takes weeks in planning.
The ritual comes from the Soviet times when Russian people were getting married at a young age, usually while studying at college.
College-type trials and challenges are still at the centre of the Russian wedding tradition of paying to collect the bride, although nowadays people get married later in life. Think of fraternity rituals, this is very similar.
The groom and his mates are made to do all types of silly things, solve puzzles and riddles, answer questions about the bride, as well as perform tasks. The passage to the bride’s apartment is decorated with wedding posters and guarded by her vigilant bridesmaids. The groom is only allowed to pass after successful completion of the trials.
Some Russian grooms are known to abseil from the roof to the bride’s apartment or climb fire stares or ropes in order to avoid the ordeal. However, the majority of men patiently go through tests and challenges, in order to collect their brides, as well as pay money to demanding guards if they couldn’t complete a task.
Many a couple were late for the ceremony, if the groom hadn’t been expedient enough in paying the price to reach his bride. The tests can take from a few minutes to an hour or more.
The groom is required to pay actual money for each wrong step on the way to collect his fiancée. Smart grooms are prepared with fake roubles or dollars, since it’s all for the fun of it.
The spectators, including Russian brides, their girlfriends and groom’s mates enjoy the show, with the poor husband-to-be having to perform tricks and make a fool of himself.
Once the groom manages to reach his girlfriend, he can kiss his bride and have a glass of champagne.
After that the train of cars is ready to drive to the registrar’s office. The groom and the bride arrive in separate vehicles to the registration, but after the ceremony the couple drives away in one car together.
Sale of Bride’s Shoe and Ransom Requests During Wedding Reception
After he has paid his way to reach his bride before the ceremony, the groom may have to buy her once again during the wedding reception.
The bride may be “stolen” and a ransom request could be made. Usually it is the groom’s mates or the bride’s girlfriends that set it up, with the willing participation of the newlywed wife.
In other cases it may be the bride’s shoe that gets missing, and needs to be purchased back.
The thieves may request actual money, or ask the groom to perform in another show or trial.
The groom has to keep a constant eye on his bride, in order to avoid forking out more cash.
The bride may be stolen more than once during the wedding, prompting some grooms to refuse to buy her back, and tears of his newlywed wife, offended at his neglect.
To be fair, the groom or his items can be also stolen, and in this case the bride will have to pay or perform to get her valuables back.
All in all, it’s a lot of fun.
If you find a Slavic fiancée and decide to have a wedding in Russia or Ukraine, be ready to pay to get her to the ring exchange ceremony.
Video 1: Traditional “Vykup” of a Russian Bride
The groom and his mates are made to do all types of silly things, from sexy dancing (which needs to impress the bride’s cute girlfriends) to playing music using kitchen pots as instruments and forking out some cash to pay his way to the bride’s apartment. Will he get through?
Russians are not allowed to consume alcohol at all when driving, so the driver who is shown drinking champagne in the video must be sipping water or lemonade from the vine bottle.
Video 2: The Groom Is Absolutely Squeezed for Money
On arrival the Russian groom is squeezed for money by a “traffic cop”, claiming that his car was speeding. The cop has to check his license to get married. (Marriage licenses do not actually exist in Russia.) “Do you have the license?” demands the cop. “If not, you have to buy it.”
For only $1500 he can buy the license to marry from sweet female traders (bridesmaids). If he doesn’t have the money to buy the license, he has to pass an exam. “It’s my break,” the cop says. “Come tomorrow”. “Let’s go home,” the groom says to his buddies. This changes the cop’s attitude: “Come back in an hour. I am on a break.”
It’s obvious she needs to be bribed… The crowd of little kids screams to him, “Money!” The groom seems to be stingy with money, but generous with his handshakes. “Let’s sort it out,” one of his buddies offers a bottle of vine instead of money.
“Let’s find out why you are marrying her,” the cop states. “Throw darts.” The groom obliges. “Are you getting married because you have no clean socks? This will cost you 500 roubles.” One of his mates pays. He throws another dart. “Are you getting married because your friends told you to?” The next dart results in, “Getting married because I want her to cook me borsch (Russian soup) and meatballs.” He has to pay again. The next one gives him what he was after, “Because I love her.”
After that, he manages to get into the building, but he is immediately stopped by the strict cop. “Who told you that you can go in?” she demands. “You still haven’t got the license.” “You have to pass the medical if you are fit to get the license.”
The doctor is not very happy. “One more? I am too tired. Get in a queue. I am too busy. Do you think that you are the only one here?”
“First of all, I am going to check if you are sober.” He has to step exactly on top of the pieces of paper, inconveniently placed on the pavement and walls. Luckily he has his mates to carry him around and get into the “steps”.
But it’s not easy to satisfy this doctor. “You have to blow into this tube,” she insists. Another bottle of vodka and a glass of champagne seem to make her more accepting of his fine medical condition.
“Now we have to check your vision,” she insists. He has to find the picture of his bride on the wall. The problem is, the images are of babies. He picks one. “Let me check your throat… Scream for me.” “Yulya!!!” the poor groom screams to his bride on the higher floor of the building. “I love you!!!” “Again,” the crowd gives its verdict. His mates join in: “Yulya! I love you!” “No, it’s some guy up there,” the doctor is not satisfied. “You have to get your bride.” At last, after a lot of screaming, the bride waves in the window from upstairs.
But the doctor is still not finished. “Let’s see how stress-resistant you are. You have 20 seconds to come up with 10 variations of the name Yulya.” The groom and his best man are struggling to come up with variations. He is 3 variants short but the doctor is happy with the results, “I can only give you one diagnosis… You are totally in love”.
The cop is back on the scene. Now the groom has to guess the meaning of the numbers that he is shown. Number 19? He doesn’t know. “You have been together for 19 months,” the bridesmaid states. “You haven’t guessed it, so you have to pay.” The next number… He is lost. He manages to guess one of the numbers, 27 (his bride is 27 years old). “Good boy!” the cop says. The groom is wrong with other numbers, he has to pay again and again. Luckily his best mate is ready with his wallet.
At last, they are allowed to move further. Now he needs to say what the signs on the wall mean. If he is wrong, he has to pay again every time.
The next challenge requires him to put a nappy on a baby, feed him, and make him asleep. His best mate plays the role of the baby. The cop is satisfied that he is fit to enter nuptials, and could be given the license to marry.
He just needs to have his photo taken. He doesn’t like the photo, so he has to pay to get another one. After purchasing about 7 different photos, one is glued to the license. Now, at last, he is allowed to get to his bride. Time for some champagne.
Video 3: Russian Groom Abseils from The Rooftop To Avoid Paying For The Bride
The bridesmaids are waiting for the groom to arrive for his torture/trial. But the smart Russian groom gets around by abseiling from the building’s roof into the window of his bride’s apartment.