Marriage being sort of a turning point in life, wedding ceremony and everything related to it has always been accompanied with variety of traditions and beliefs, some rooted in hoary antiquity, some recently devised, but all targeted at bringing good luck to the newlyweds and averting misfortune from them. So if your bride or bridegroom is Russian or if you have been invited to a Russian wedding only as a guest so far it might be helpful for you to know a bit about this abstruse wedding ruse.
Nowadays Russians still believe that marriages contracted in May are destined to be unhappy. There are even some sayings about this, like Good people do not get married in May. He’d be happy to wed, but May does not let. Those married in May will always pine. May is considered to be a “difficult month” and so any initiative undertaken in May is reportedly doomed to failure. Such a prejudice most probably owes its existence to the fact that “May” in Russian (mai) sounds common to the word mayatsa, i.e. “pine” or “suffer”. Words rule!
Nobody should cross the path in front of the bride and bridegroom neither on their way to ZAGS (Registry Office) and/or church and back. In Russian villages they still believe that only sorcerers and ill-wishers “cut the path” of the newlyweds to harm them. It reminds of the English token of a stone that rolls across the road in front of the newlyweds.
It is believed that it is the one of the newlyweds who first steps on the wedding carpet in Registry Office, who is going to be the head of the family. The master of the house is also defined according to who is the first to step into the house (compare to similar English beliefs: who contrives to step out of the church building first or who enters the new house first will be the head of the new family). In some places there is a nice custom suggesting that the bridegroom steps across the threshold of the house carrying the bride in his arms. When meeting the newlyweds back from the Registry Office the in-laws treat them with khleb-sol (a round loaf with a saltcellar put on its top); the bride and the bridegroom must take a bite of the bread without touching it with their hands. Who takes a bigger bite is going to be the head of the family.
If during the wedding, while putting the wedding ring on, the bride or the bridegroom happens to drop it, this is really bad omen. After the bridegroom has put on the ring onto the bride’s finger, she should not take the empty ring box. It is usually taken by the bridesmaid, who is willing to be married soon: then she is guaranteed to be the next to wed.
Another piece of advice to those eager to be married soon is to secretly pull to oneself the tablecloth at the wedding dinner. Or else, unmarried girls exercise in catching the bride’s bouquet, which she throws (only one time!) standing with her back to them.
It is bad omen if something happens to bride’s shoes during the wedding; in particular, if the heel breaks off. By the way, there is a similar Celtic belief concerning a wedding glove, that happens to be torn, or a shoe, etc.
However, shoes can also harbour luck! There is a well-known custom in Russia to put money into the wedding shoes. Russian brides like to put a coin under their left heels as they believe it will bring them luck. In the traditional Russian wedding, however, it was bridegroom to put money into his boots. Before the wedding night the bride would take his boots off in token of her obedience and he would give her that money.
Another interesting belief that stands fast all around Russia (I guess this country is not so original about this) is as follows: on the wedding night (no matter whether it is the first one or not) making love is a must for the newlyweds! If by this or that reason it fails (let’s say the wedding party has been too wild and long, the guests have stayed in all the night, the bridegroom is drunk, etc.) they believe that the newlyweds will not be happy in their family life. This somehow explains why the bride and the bridegroom are traditionally expected not to eat or drink much at the wedding feast.