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Author Topic: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos  (Read 33511 times)

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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2007, 12:54:24 PM »
The tradition of the ransom goes back many centuries to the times when a dowry was paid.  In days gone by it would be the daughter who would care for elderly parents if unmarried.  Not just in old age, but even immediately her services as a dishwasher, laundrywoman, cook, etc, would be lost and the family would suffer without the benefit of her presence.  So to have some money set aside for old age the groom would come up with a pre-negotiated amount as a payment for the bride.
 
Sometimes even today in the very far East of Russia and China a dowry is still paid to the brides parents.  In modern day Russia the ransom of the bride is more of a game, but money does often change hands and one must be very careful because to give too little is considered disrespectful and to give too much is considered to be flaunting wealth.  I had to rely on cousin German to guide me.  

Asking my lady to guide me in how much was futile.  It was not proper for a bride to speak about it.  Her cousin was great about helping me in most things but on this he genuinely was hesitant.  Finally, although it's cosidered a private matter, he admitted the amount he had paid as a ransom for his bride Natasha.  That at least gave me a baseline of what to expect.

However when consulting my office assistant Oksana, she didn't believe that my lady's family would expect the same amount from a western man and that I shouldn't sweat bullets over the issue.  She clued me in that likely the amount, whatever it was, would be given by her mother back to my bride as a household gift.  That turned out to be exactly the case.

So with a modest ransom I decided to focus on a nice gift for Mother, something she could keep as a momento from the wedding.  In an Orthodox wedding the bride and groom stand and each holds a very tall and tastefully decorated white candle.  That gave sparked an idea.

Russian appreciate candles and so I obtained, with the help of my daughters, two silver candle holders.  Both are very large and ornate and decorated with grape leaf designs.  Cost for both was just at approx $100 at Burlington Coat Factory according to my younger daughter Louisa.  Each would retail well over that normally and they are lovely.

Daughter L had wrapped them in wedding tissue paper and this is what I presented to Mother along with a sealed envelope of the modest ransom.  Good choice--a hit with MIL and they are today proudly displayed in a glass shelf in the Moscow home hallway.


Total wedding cost:

I don't normally feel comfortable discussing such issues but understand also that many of our members will have a Rus or Ukr wedding and need to have some sort of a budgetary idea.

Dress, shoes, flowers, ransom to MIL, ransom to relatives, ZAGS documents, wedding photos and video, and the entire cost of the wedding dinner party at a restaurant (including entertainment) came in just under $5K.  

I'd have paid more than that amount just for the wedding dinner food and champagne/wine back in the good ole USA.

What I received in return:  priceless

Next:  Off to ZAGS.  What happens inside a Russian "wedding palace?"

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #31 on: November 01, 2007, 12:38:42 AM »
Oops...revised total.  Forgot the rings.  Add another $2K.  Sorry.

Briefly, RW tend to prefer small and rather plain bands.  Again, no engagement ring is expected or necessary.  Simple yellow gold will do for most.  Whatever ring you decide it will likely be much cheaper to buy in Russia or Ukraine.

However my bride is an artist and she trends toward the more artsy side of things.  She would have been very happy with the plain round yellow gold band but I didn't listen and had a jeweler friend back in Scottsdale custom matching designs but her's has more sparkle...by design.  He enjoyed the project and got to advertise that his custom work was international in scope--as far away as Russia, obviously giving me a great deal in the process.

It was interesting how he sized our fingers with him in Scottsdale and we in Russia.  Not trusting me to get the sizes converted correctly, he mailed to my address a key fitting guide.  It was a small chain with about 35-40 or so little plastic rings.  Each had a size printed on it.  He instructed me to select the closest fit for Aya and take it off the chain, then repeat the process for myself.  Then he instructed that the chain with the plastic rings be discarded and the two which matched our finger be mailed back to him.  It worked!

What she loved just as much as the ring was the presentation.  When I returned to speak to my daughters about the big step of their father getting married I picked up the rings from Randy the jeweler.  While shopping with one of my girls one day we spotted a little wedding carriage on clearance sales.  It was a large Quail type egg which had been carefully fitted with small wheels and a tiny door mounted on the side.  Looked just like a minature model wedding carriage.  When the door opened there is just enough room inside for 2 rings.  It was less than $50 and came with a little white box to protect it.  Magic!  Man, it pays to have daughters!

Have patience with your lady regarding her ring finger.  She will want to wear it on her right hand and want you to do the same.  That is normal in her culture.  For a lady to wear a ring on the left hand like we do in the west, signals to her culture that she is a widow and available for marriage!  When she comes here the adjustment will seem odd for her.  Be patient and don't browbeat her about it.

Let's talk about children in a second marriage:

It's not a subject tackled too often on such a forum.  But your courtship and marriage to a Russian/Ukrainian lady will have an impact on your children and your relationship with them.  It's why I traveled back to sit down and discuss it openly with my girls.

We've been extremely close because I raised them as a single parent.  It was me who braided hair, walked them thru their "first" everything...from going to school to menstrual cycles to first dates to prom dances to college....you get the idea.  I had made a promise them when young that there would be no distractions or diversions.  Translation:  I didn't date for a very long time.  But it paid off in family stability as I watched friends around me put their kids thru hell in the yo-yo of single parent dating.  God was gracious—they are well adjusted and responsible young adults.

It is a decision I'd do again in a heartbeat.  But I did tell them that as soon as they left for college I reserved the right to change that part of my life, but would walk them thru any adjustments.  They’ve adjusted and our family has blended well thru the change.  My wife loves my daughters deeply and they know it.  She has gradually more and more become a real "mom" and that is especially neat since at their age--a mom is an option and not a necessity.

My stepdaughter and I have grown together also.  Her father has remained active in her life so instead of trying to compete with him, I've learned to be a compliment and supplement to him.  It has worked because we were both willing to work at it.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #32 on: November 01, 2007, 01:57:10 AM »
Finally, at ZAGS!

On the day of your ZAGS/RAGS wedding you'll arrive at her home.  Since timing is important you may wish to schedule yourself early, although with hair and clothes and relatives issues, she may be running behind schedule.  Once you collect your bride it's customary to leave together with the entire wedding party.  Perhaps you will carpool or you'll have arranged little buses in advance.  It would be considered impolite to do otherwise.

Likely this is the first time you will have seen the bride in her dress and she will be lovely!  There are several stages to a ZAGS wedding so let's begin.


Arrival:
Your car/limo/bus will pull up to ZAGS.  You and your bride will go to the registration counter where you will sign in.  There may be some fees to pay and often some documents to sign.  Get your writing hand limbered up.  You're just getting started.


Waiting:
Hurry up and wait.  This may be a wedding palace but it's also a assembly line factory.  You'll notice other couples ahead of you and others whose turn will come after you.  Attendants will likely assign you to an area--hopefully with seating.  This is a great time for photos because once the ceremony starts you have no control over the timing of the process.

Depending on how many weddings are scheduled, you may wait for an hour or more, or you may wait for only a few minutes.  Take photos, shoot video, make good use of the time.


Documents:
Before you go into the wedding hall there will be more documents to sign.  An attendant will come and lead the two of you before what is essentially a "notary" who will finalize the wedding license you will sign during the ceremony.

Now go back and wait some more.


Preparation:
A few minutes before time for your ceremony, an attendant will come for your group.  Straighten your suit and her mother will make last minute adjustments to her hair.  Bride and groom will stand in front of the big doors.  Your group will be organized behind you.  There is another ceremony ending in the room and as soon as it's concluded you'll be ushered in.


The entrance:
The attendant reappears and asks if you are ready.  He/she opens the doors and guides you in.  Bride and groom walk almost to the front of the room and remain standing.  Everyone else finds a seat.  Often if you've paid for them, hired musicians will play Felix Mendelssohn's popular wedding march.  Funny, he was German!  Oh well.


The speech:
Normally it is a female wedding official who takes charge of the wedding.  She welcomes the guests, looks down at her notes to get your names right (she may perform 30+ a day) and then gives you a short speech about the seriousness of marriage and the importance of family.  5 minutes later, or less, she stops speaking.


Sign more documents:
Next she will instruct the bride and groom to step forward and then sit at a formal desk.  There you will sign the actual wedding license.

(Note:  May I suggest that someone be taking photos during all this.  You will not believe how short this ceremony can be.  8 minutes to 12 or 15 minutes maximum usually.  And when you're done there is no time for photos because the next couple is lined up and waiting outside doors for you to finish and clear out quickly.)


Exchange rings:
A very quick part of the ceremony. 


The announcement:
The wedding official pronounces you as man and wife.  Your party claps.


Presentations:
Now the wedding official presents you with official documents.  Your wife's passport will have been stamped with the wedding date and information.  Both your passports will be returned to you.

Next to last, the wedding official presents you to your guests. 


A receiving line:
Now you and your wife will stand while everyone walks by and hands you a big bunch of flowers.  Your job is to hold 120 million ton of flowers and still be able to shake hands.  Tough job.   ;)


Get the heck out now:
Very quickly, and we do mean very quickly, the attendants will be guiding you outside to a hallway.  Your time in the limelight is over.  There is another couple waiting outside for their turn.  Get moving!



To help you see this process from start to finish let's watch this couple.  We'll pick up as they enter the large wedding room:


Its actually a very realistic video for those considering a ZAGS wedding...guessing by his hairstyle alone he's not Russian.  And do you see him looking around trying to understand what is happening.  Watch his eyes dart back and forth very quickly.  We call that "deer in headlights."  He depends on her for translation/explanation in both verbal and non-verbal communication.

But look at her:  calm, stares straight ahead.  She's been to these for family and friends and knows what to expect. 

He has been coached by the bride and answers 'Da" at the right time but the accent sounds very American.  He gets a couple of the signature lines correctly but the wedding official has to point out a line he missed. 

Next they're standing at a little round table.  With his lack of fluent Russian he misses the cue for the rings.  His bride shows him and they exchange rings.  Notice that the rings go on the right hand.

Now the official pronounces them as "muzh e zhena" or husband and wife.

The wedding documents are officially handed to them.  Did you notice that their passports had been collected and returned at the same time?

The only thing different in this video from the few ZAGS I've witnessed, in this wedding the couple was ushered out of the room before the guests could present flowers to them.

Did you notice the time/length of the ceremony?  It was over from start to finish in 8 minutes!


Finally, for a little fun, when you kiss your bride do NOT make facial expressions like this groom!


Next:  A couple of very important traditions come immediately after the ZAGS ceremony.




Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #33 on: November 01, 2007, 12:18:11 PM »
Footnote on Ransom tradition:

Some familes do not do the ransom tradition at all.  However others do it with a kidnapping of the bride during the wedding dinner/party.

If at all possible, I'd recommend asking your lady some very specific questions about expectations if her family plans a party kidnapping/ransom.  There are some things which don't mix very well, such as Vodka and money.

The drunker the guests, and while not all guests become drunk, some very well may, and the combination of Vodka and money could cause a fun celebration to turn ugly if someone under the influence feels slighted or offended because they didn't like your ransom amount.

If your bride's family plans it for the party, discuss with her the possibility of scheduling it as early as possible.  Remember the vodka bottle or champagne is already open and toasts have already begun as the family stopped at a popular square or landmark to release butterflies, or doves, or to lay flowers at a popular memorial. 




Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2007, 12:15:09 AM »
Immediately after the ceremony a line will form and friends and family will dump a mountain of flowers on you.  They will present them to your bride and your job is to hold them for her.  But you must keep a free hand to greet guests also as the two of you will be standing together.

Get someone like a family member or friend to stand behind you and if possible pass each bundle (they will be big) back to your helper.  In our wedding her cousin "my representative" was sort of my best man.  I say 'sort of' because you don't really have a best men in the same way we do in the west.  Likely you'll have a "witness" and so will your bride.  In our ceremony cousins G and N were our witnesses and stood close behind us.  But when it came time for flowers, cousin G was busy arranging the buses for our next stop.  A family friend came to my rescue.

What happens after the ceremony is over?

There will likely be one of three options:

1)  Leave ZAGS for an important landmark for photos and toasts, then go to Church for the 2nd ceremony, and finally off to somewhere for a wedding party/dinner celebration.

2)  Leave ZAGS for an important landmark, then go somewhere for a wedding party/dinner celebration, and have the church ceremony on a different day.

3)  Leave ZAGS for an important landmark, then go somewhere for a wedding party/dinner celebration, and not have a religious ceremony.


What is this "important landmark" tradition?

Each city seems to have it's own traditions.  Often in Moscow the destination after a wedding is the tomb of the unknown soldier outside the Kremlin walls.  It is in a beautiful little park area and the focus is the eternal flame and the constant ceremonial colour guard.  One Moscow tradition is to travel there and for the couple, then other members of the party, to lay flowers in honour of the unknown soldier.

When you think about it, this is a very beautiful and meaningful tradition.  New life is represented in a wedding where hope springs forth.  This new life owes it's existence to the eternal sacrifice, so precious and dear, that someone sacrificed not only life, but also their identity so that life in a nation could continue.

After the couple lays the flowers at the tomb, the party moves south into a park area and there celebrates with photos and toasts.  The party has begun!

In St Petersburg couples often travel to the great square at the gates of the Hermitage and the same idea of photos and toasts takes place.


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In Kaluga a favourite spot is the Museum of Russian history in the centre of the city or outside the city at the Russian Space Museum where the MIR space stations are on display.

At these destinations often the couple releases doves or butterflies.  It is a beautiful sight to behold!


Next stop is often (a church ceremony for some) but for many it's the wedding party!    


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #35 on: November 02, 2007, 12:19:26 AM »
One thing is almost certain...you'll have more attending the party than attended the ZAGS ceremony.  Get ready to rumble!

Sometimes it's a party to burst the seams of any self-respecting Russian apartment.  Other times it's in a restaurant or hotel banquet room.  Our ZAGS wedding took place in December during the 40 Orthodox fast before Christmas Day, 7 January.  Therefore we waited till after the fast to have our big wedding feast/party.  

We traveled from ZAGS to Red Square.  Being bitterly cold we didn't release any doves or butterfields...that would have been futile.  But we did quietly pray at the tomb of the unknown soldier and then moved to the edge of St Basil's Cathedral which was closed for foundation renovations.  It was freezing, so quickly we left for her apartment and a celebration meal of salads and fruits and breads...all things delicious and allowed during the fast.  It was a packed apartment and close to 35 people jammed inside, many staying the night.  Oh, that is another common tradition.  Your wedding night may not be as private as you'd have hoped.  Oh, well, there will be plenty of private nights in your future.

Two days later we left on our honeymoon--and I'm not kidding--part of a holiday history/cultural tour to St Petersburg.  I'll tell you about it sometime.  I could write a book just about the overnight bus ride on the trek north from Moscow.  It was a comedy of Russian errors!

Spending New Year's Eve in St P was wonderful, even with our Intourist class tour arranged hotel and our "honeymoon suite" with two rickety, and separate, twin beds.  Like I said, it's quite a story and someday I do plan to write about it.  

After the Christmas fast was over, we celebrated with friends and family at a Chinese restaurant in the Russian Olympic training center in Moscow.  They prepared a menu specifically directed by Aya and her mother.  It was very Russian with traditional salads, raw fish, cooked fish, steamed fish, marinated fish....you get the idea.  

We also had chicken and some other meats inside various dishes.  Those dishes just kept coming from the kitchen.  I didn't think the eating would ever end.  We'd dance or the DJ would entertain with quizzes and games and then they'd announce another round from the kitchen.  I was beyond stuffed even while trying to pay attention to all the toasts, etc.

When we walked in the restaurant there was a HUGE fish at the head table.  It was LONG and BIG.  Decorated with flowers, etc, I thought it was stuffed or for show.  However poking my finger it it's side brought a frown from my wife who informed me that "it isn't cooked yet.  Don't touch it."  Holy mackerel!  Sure enough, about midway thru the second round of salads two guys came out of the kitchen to hoist this "whale," or whatever it was, into a large serving cart and then they took that dude off and cooked it!

Don't be surprised at how freely the vodka flows.

Don't be surprised at how freely the champagne flows.

Don't be surprised at how freely the wine flows.

Oh, and you will making and receiving toasts during this time.  As the groom you will make one of the first toasts and you will be expected to convey to the guests your delight at your bride and her family, the wonderful ceremony, and thank the guests for coming to enjoy your special day together.  You will also be expected to tell a little bit (very short) about your family back in the USA, UK, etc.  This is crucial:  You should covey greetings and well wishes from your family overseas to your new family and friends in Russia as part of your toast.  Very crucial and a big error if you fail to do this.

How do you stay sober?  That is up to you but I'm a light drinker in real life and it doesn't take much to put me in a state I don't enjoy.  My wife had a remedy hidden under our part of the head table.  There was a couple of large bottles of carbonated water, also bottles of grape juice, and 7-Up.  Do you remember Ludmila the "fearless mushroom hunter/English teacher" from my poison mushroom experience?  She is mother's best friend and sat next to us sat to my left.  Ludmila and mother's job was to keep us sober.  That meant that while everyone else was paying attention to either the entertainment or to us, Ludmila was quietly rotating our wine glasses and shot glasses with juice, water and 7-Up.  They had a system:  7-up when champagne was the focus, grape juice for wine, and carbonated water for vodka.  It worked about 80% of the time, enough to make us comfortable.  There were times when you simply couldn't escape a shot of vodka or wine or champagne and we didn't mind some...just not to excess.

You will be expected to perform a dance with your bride.  While everyone watches.  I'd advice you begin to practice immediately.  

Just watch:


You might want to dance by yourself...given enough vodka....watch this guy:


After your dance with mother in law and other important females relatives, you and the men in the party will circle the dance floor.  You will stand it the middle.  Your bride will dance for you, very likely she will call upon the Tatar and Turks history within Russia and do a very middle-eastern and sensual dance for you.  Enjoy.  In this video the men are dancing together (get used to it cause it will happen) and your bride will join you.  

Just watch:



Your wedding party will be unlike anything you would see in the USA or UK.  Guests will read poetry, some of it historical Russian verse and some will have been composed in honour of your wedding.  Guests will entertain by singing songs.  Get familiar with some old traditional Russian folk songs as the entire party will sing those in unison.  And some of them will perform.  

Watch this:


And watch this:



We'll leave this with a slice of ethnic wedding tradition within Russia:


Coming up, a specific assignment for guys who plan to be married at a RAGS in Ukraine.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #36 on: November 02, 2007, 12:56:58 AM »
This is a nice overview of a Russian wedding party:


I forgot to mention a tradition which Russians share with the West.  After each toast the bride and groom must kiss.  And kiss, and kiss.  At our wedding the guests were given little silver bells and they rang the bells and chanted "gorka" which means that the wine is bitter and only by kisses of the bride and groom can the wine be made sweet again!


For a little review, here is a video of a groom arriving at his bride's apartment and oh, my, the children announce that she has been kidnapped!  But of course if the groom will pay they will let him in!  Very cute:


Watch this entire party sing together!  And they will tell the couple that the wine is bitter:


Okay, for guys who plan to marry a Ukrainian lady, whether there or in your country, here is your assignment:

1) Research about Ukainian wedding eggs.  You've heard about their beautiful Easter painted eggs, but do some research on wedding eggs.  Report to your lady what you've learned.  Ask her if she enjoys this tradition.

2) You learned about the ransom of a bride, but what about the Ukrainian tradition of ransom of her shoe!  Ah, hah.  Thought you'd slip that one by without the rest of us noticing, didn't you?  Talk with your lady about it also.  What does she think of that tradition?


Coming soon:  An Orthodox Church wedding.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #37 on: November 05, 2007, 11:10:32 PM »
Sorry that it's been a few days since posting on weddings.  There is a huge European art exhibition coming to New York in February of next year and I had to do some traveling on behalf of my wife in regard to preparations for the exhibit.  Now my pen is being sharpened and we can get back to the the next topic:

Marriage in an Orthodox Church.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #38 on: November 06, 2007, 12:17:21 AM »
How to be married in an Orthodox Ceremony:


In days past it was often possible for non-Orthodox man to wed a RW/UW in an Orthodox church wedding.  It should not have been easy according to Canon law, but it was for a variety of reasons.  Today however the clamps are tightening and such a wedding is again becoming less common.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the change was the re-joining of the Russian Orthodox Church and the exiled "Russian Orthdoox Church Outside Russia."  Just a brief lesson in history is in order to help you understand how this could effect your chance of an Orthodox church wedding.

Peter the Great abolished the office of Patriarch in the Russian Church.  He had no spiritual right to do so, but he ruled Russia.  He got his way.  For several hunderd years there was no Patriarch, only the Holy Synod, a group of the highest ranking Archbishops.

Then a few years before the 1917 Revolution, the office of Patriarch was restored to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).  In naming the first Patriarch in almost 300 years, the Russian Holy Synod reached across the ocean and selected an American citizen, Archbishop Tikhon of San Franciso, California to become the first Church Patriarch since the year 1700.  He served as Patriarch of all Russia and America for 7 years.  At that time the Russian church was the "mother church" of the Orthodox Church in America.

Although an American citizen, Tikhon was  born in Moscow in 1865 as Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin (Василий Иванович Беллавин). He was murdered by the Soviet government in 1925.  

During the early years of Communism, as churches were torn down and clergy imprisoned, some church leaders escaped and formed what is known as "ROCOR" which stands for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.  At first ROCOR saw itself as the friend and moral support for the beleagured Russian Church.  But over time the ROCOR movement began to realize that the KGB had thoroughly overtaken most of what was good in the Russian Church and replaced good clergy with many who were nothing more than KGB agents in black robes.  The two churches grew apart.

These churches are represented by members of this fine forum:  DonAZ and his lovely wife are active in the ROCOR.  Manchester and his lovely lady are part of the ROC.  My family is active in the ROC when in Moscow and active members of the OCA in our Arizona hometown.  There may be others also?

In America the dominate Orthodox movement in more recent years has been the Greek Orthodox Church but the oldest and ranking body in the USA has been the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) simply because the Russian Church historically has been the mother of the Orthodox movement in America.  After the death of the Russian/American Patriarch Tikhon, the American church was left without it's leader and it relied very closely on mutual and moral support from two other Orthodox countries, Greece and the middle Eastern "Antioch Orthodox Church."  In the mid-1970's Russian finally granted independence to the American Church which now rules it's own affairs and is in communion with all the other Orthodox Patriarchs around the world.

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For decades the Russian Orthodox Church and the exiled Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia remained in a virtual state of "divorce" and mistrust.  Exiled, the ROCOR formed local churches in America, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and other western countries.

However earlier this year a wonderful and historic event happened.  The Russian OC and the ROCOR agreed to come together again in spiritual unity and to begin the process of re-merging their churches back into one church!  That event was witnessed in Moscow by representatives of the other Orthodox bodies such as the Orthodox Church in America, Antiochian OC, the Bulgarian OC, Romanian OC, OC of Japan, OC of China, the Greek OC, the Syrian OC, etc.  It took several years of work to make it happen, but the end result is something wonderful and special.

Anytime you have a significant re-joining there will be some negotiated changes.  Doctrine in the Orthodox Church is the same worldwide.  There cannot be a change in doctrine without a worldwide Synod and the last Synods in the Eastern World were almost 1500 years ago and completed the doctrine of the Trinity and the final canon of Holy Scripture hundreds of years prior to the split of the one Catholic Church into Eastern and Western (Roman Catholic) jurisdictions.  

So if church doctrine cannot change, what can?  Certain non-doctrinal practices and customs.  A central requirement of the re-merger of the ROC and ROCOR was that the ROC would stop allowing marriages between Orthodox and non-baptized persons.  And as much as possible, the non-Orthodox Christian would be expected to become Orthodox before a church wedding is allowed.  That is recent and it is being inforced more and more.  As you can imagine, such a policy will effect men from every country who wish to marry a RW/UW in her church.

It makes sense when you realize that an Orthodox wedding is a holy sacrament.  And at the very least the sacrament should be given only to baptized Christians who affirm the validity of such a sacrament.  If a person is a non-believer or cannot agree with the deep meaning of an Orthodox ceremony, then it is offensive to expect to be given the sacrament of an Orthodox ceremony.

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Next:  There ae some things which make an Orthodox wedding somewhat different from a western-oriented church ceremony.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #39 on: November 06, 2007, 01:41:10 AM »
To under some "whys" we'll lay some groundwork.  For example, the Orthodox "day" is calculated from sundown to sundown, just like in Jewish custom.  When is Sunday, then?  Good question:  Sunday is from sundown Saturday evening to sundown Sunday evening.

Why bring this up?  Because you won't be granted a wedding on Saturday.  Each week a mini "fast" begins at sundown on Saturday.  A good Orthodox Christian does not eat any food from sundown Saturday until the fast is broken by taking communion at church on Sunday morning.  If you had a wedding on Saturday, there would also be a party afterward, right?  That party would last late into the evening, at least, right?  Would you have food at your wedding party?  Naturally.  But that would break a sacred fast, so Saturday weddings are rare.

You might be granted a Thursday or Friday wedding but most offen your wedding will be on Sunday.  Usually the wedding is simply attached to the end of the Sunday liturgy.  Now in Russia, that is not a problem.  There are people there anyway so lots of folks will come to your wedding...by default!  You won't have to send out invitations...people will just show up normally!  And since it is not the custom of churches in Russia to have attached cultural or "fellowship" halls, you don't have to worry about all those extra people crashing the party and driving the cost of catering thru the roof.

But in Western countries where most churches do have attached halls for cultural, fellowship, or activity meetings, you cannot simply choose to exclude fellow worshippers from your party simply because they happened to attend the liturgy service which included your wedding.  Fortunately, most Orthodox churches in Westen countries tend to be smaller and you just manage to tell the caterer to "add a few extra beans to the pot."  Also, many Orthodox weddings schedule a wedding party in a separate location by invitation or return to the church later for a catered reception dinner, which then begins aound sundown so the couple doesn't violate the spirit of the "Christian Sabbath."

So if you're married on Sunday morning, what happens beforehand?  Just like normal the bride and groom "fast" in preparation of taking their first cup, Holy Communion, together.  That means no bachelor party the night before church.  

Quickly a word about Orthodox communion:  Unlike our Roman Catholic "separated brethern" we have both the living body and blood of Christ present in the ceremony and in the cup.  During the "consecration of the Holy Gifts" the priest mixes the wine and bread together.  During communion he dips a small spoon into the cup and gives each parishioner a portion of both the wine and bread (blood and body of Christ) from that spoon.  

The rite of Holy Communion is a holy event and that means two things must have happened the night before:

1)  The couple came for confession the night before the wedding.
2)  Each fasted the night before the wedding.

Therefore the couple comes to the ceremony free and sin and pure to receive the wedding sacrament.

Fasting is important to the Orthodox faith.  A mini fast means that for a short period you give up food, wine/alcohol, sexual activity, meat, oil and dairy products.  Yes, sex is absent during a fast.  The very purpose of a fast is to encourage discipline, denial of self, and driving one's self to prayer instead of comfort and pleasure.

In an extended fast, some foods are allowed in moderation but it's not all that unusual for a couple to mutually decide to give up sex during the 40 days prior to Easter or prior to Christmas.  It can be done.  A priest will counsel you to make such a decision mutually otherwise it's not a good idea.  However, the strict diet is enforced for those who are healthy.  The elderly, the very young, and those sick or traveling are not required to follow the fast.  But many, especially the elderely, do so anyway out of deep devotion.

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A wedding may not be scheduled during any fasting period.  If you're doing wedding planning, rely on your lady to help make the exacting schedule decisions.  For help, go to www.oca.org and click on the menu regards to fasts:  http://www.oca.org/FSCal.asp?SID=4

To help with any confusion understanding Orthodox fast and feast calendars, every FEAST begins first with a FAST.  How can you "party hardy" until first you've done without?!  Deep in mind that our calendars are not the same as in the Eastern world.  We celebrate Easter and Christmas about two weeks apart.

Times when you cannot have a wedding include the Lenten season; the Advent and Epiphany seasons (from late November 28th through January 6th the night before Christmas Day); the Fasting season preceding both the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (in June) and the Feast of Dormition (in August); and special one-day fast periods.

Dress:  The Bride wears a veil during the wedding service and her arms and back should be covered.  In some traditions she will continue to wear her veil during the reception that follows.  The man wears a suit.  While there are no bridesmaids and best men in an Orthodox wedding there can be witnesses and ushers.  The most important two people in addition to the bride and groom are their representatives/sponsors.  These persons must be Orthodox because they will participate in the sacrament.  One female for the bride and one male for the groom.  One of the things they will do is to hold the crowns above (without placing them on) the heads of the couple during the ceremony.

For questions about who can be married in an Orthodox church:
http://tinyurl.com/2nwnoy


Coming up next:  An explanation of the service, step by step.

For now, watch this Russian ceremony:


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #40 on: November 06, 2007, 01:55:11 AM »
From the Orthodox book of prayers:

THE ORTHODOX PRAYER OF MARRIAGE

     Bless our marriage, O Lord our God, as You blessed Abraham and Sarah.  Bless them, O Lord our God, as You blessed Isaac and Rebecca.  Bless them, O Lord our God, as You blessed Joachim and Anna.  Bless our marriage, O Lord our God, as You blessed Zacharias and Elizabeth.” 

     “Preserve our marriage, O Lord our God, as You preserved Noah in the ark.  Preserve us, O Lord our God, as You preserved the three Holy children from the fire.  And let that gladness come upon them which the blessed Helena had when she found the precious Cross.”

     “Remember our marriage, O Lord our God, as You remembered the Forty Holy Martyrs, sending down upon them crowns from heaven.  Remember (wife) and (husband), O Lord our God, and the parents who have nurtured them, for the prayers of the parents make firm the foundations of houses.”
   
     “Grant us fair children and concord of soul and body.  Let (wife) and (husband) behold their children and grandchildren around their table like a newly-planted olive orchard, that, obtaining favor in Your sight, they may shine like the stars of heaven.” 

Amen.

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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #41 on: November 07, 2007, 01:44:31 AM »
Finally...The Orthodox Wedding Liturgy!

Sometimes it's better to use a wheel already invented instead of reinventing the wheel all over again.  So, for a description of the Orthodox wedding liturgy we turn to the popular russian-crafts.com website.
http://russian-crafts.com/customs/marriage.html

(Each heading represents an important segment of the wedding service.  I'll simply add videos where appropiate and perhaps some commentary.)


Marriage in the Orthodox Church
HOLY MATRIMONY is a one of the Mysteries of the Holy Orthodox Church in which a man and woman are united by the Holy Trinity. Their conjugal union is blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ through the Church. God's grace is imparted to them to live together in His love, mutually fulfilling and perfecting each other.The Mystery of marriage of the Holy Orthodox Church is steeped in ritual and symbolism. Each of the acts has special meaning and significance.


The rings  (called the "bethrothal service")
The rings are blessed by the priest who takes them in his hand and, making the sign of the cross over the heads of bride and groom, says: "The servant of God ...is betrothed to the maid of God ... in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."The couple then exchange the rings, taking the bride's ring and placing it on the groom's finger and vice-versa. The rings, of course, are the symbol of betrothal and their exchange signifies that in married life the weaknesses of the one partner will be compensated for by the strength of the other, the imperfections of one by the perfections of the other. By themselves, the newly-betrothed are incomplete: together they are made perfect. Thus the exchange of rings gives expression to the fact that the spouses in marriage will constantly be complementing each other. Each will be enriched by the union.

Comment:  The rings are a continous circle, without beginning or end, such is the love God has given for a man and woman to be united in marriage.


The candles
The Wedding service begins immediately following the Betrothal Service. The bride and groom are handed candles which they hold throughout the service. The candles are like the lamps of the five wise maidens of the Bible, who because they had enough oil in them, were able to receive the Bridegroom, Christ, when He came in the darkness of the night. The candles symbolize the spiritual willingness of the couple to receive Christ, Who will bless them through this Mystery.

Comment:  These candles are not plain.  They are white representing purity and adorned with white flowing lace which represent the angels sent to protect the couple.


The joining of the right hands
The right hand of the bride and groom are joined when the priest reads the prayer that beseeches God to "join these thy servants, unite them in one mind and one flesh." The hands are kept joined throughout the service to symbolize the "oneness" of the couple.

Comment:  In most traditions the hands which have been tied together with those wedding towels we learned about earlier are temporarily untied for the ceremony.  The priest may re-tie them later.


The crowning
The service of the Crowning, which follows, is the climax of the Wedding service. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home - domestic church, which they will rule with fear of God,wisdom,justice and integrity.When the crowning takes place the priest, taking the crowns and holding them above the couple, says:"The servants of God, (names), are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The crowns used in the Orthodox wedding service refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.

Comment:  Your "representatives" stand behind you during the entire service holding these crowns above your head, but never touching your head until the priest takes the crowns and blessed them.  They are then put on your heads and worn the remainder of the liturgy.



The common cup
The service of crowning is followed by the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. The Gospel reading describes the marriage at Cana of Galilee which was attended and blessed by our Lord and Saviour Christ, and for which He reserved His first miracle. There He converted the water into better wine and give of it to the newlyweds, in remembrance of this blessing, wine is given the couple. This is the "common cup" of better life denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow, the token of a life of harmony. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys as well as sorrows, and that they are to "bear one another's burdens." Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared.

Comment:  By now you've noticed that there are no pews in a typical Russian church.  The entire liturgy is a prayer and Russians always stand (never kneel) for a prayer.


The walk    (Circling the table)
The priest then leads the bride and groom in a circle around the table on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross, the one containing the Word of God, the other being the symbol of our redemption by our Saviour Jesus Christ. The husband and wife are taking their first steps as a married couple, and the Church, in the person of the priest, leads them in the way they must walk. The way is symbolized by the circle at the center of which are the Gospel and the Cross of our Lord. This expresses the fact that the way of Christian living is a perfect orbit around the center of life, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.During this walk around the table a hymn its sung to the Holy Martyrs reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage - a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved.

Comment:  Often it is here at the start of the "circle walk" in which the priest ties the couples hands again with the wedding towels.




The blessing
The couple return to their places and the priest, blessing the groom, says, "Be thou magnified, O bridegroom, as Abraham, and blessed as Isaac, and increased as Jacob, walking in peace and working in righteousness the commandments of God." And blessing the bride he says, "And thou, O bride, be thou magnified as Sarah, and glad as Rebecca, and do thou increase like unto Rachael, rejoicing in thine own husband, fulfilling the conditions of the law; for so it is well pleasing unto God."



Comment:  Notice that no vows have been exchanged as in western church wedding services.  In the Orthodox liturgy it is understood that it is God who has brought this couple together and He makes a vow to them that His grace will be there for them in every moment of their lives.  They in turn, by accepting the sacrament of marriage, by their presence have made a vow to trust God for their life together in marriage.


Now that know something about the Orthodox wedding, watch this Russian wedding and pick out the different segments of the wedding liturgy.  Each segment we described will be shown here:




No matter the length of service, it will be a blur:





Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #42 on: November 07, 2007, 01:54:31 AM »
And before you know it, the reception will be upon you and time for the first dance!


Check out the table and food at this Ukrainian reception dinner:


Guests will entertain at your wedding reception:



Do you remember the wedding bread?  Check out this wedding bread presentation to bride and groom:


Thanks for your patience, your comments, and your investment in learning about a wedding at a Russian ZAGS  or Ukrainian RAGS, and thanks for your committment to learning more about the wedding service of the Orthodox Church.

Sincerely,
Mendeleyev and family

Offline DonA

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #43 on: November 07, 2007, 10:04:01 PM »
I must say that in all my years on these board this has to be one of the very best threads I've read.

Many many thanks Mendeleyev!!!

DonAz

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Inside a ZAGS wedding....complete with videos
« Reply #44 on: November 07, 2007, 11:54:09 PM »
Honeymoon....Leningradskaya style!

I hinted much earlier about our honeymoon so have decided to post it here. Here is the "short version:"


Our ZAGS wedding took place in late December to accomodate my daughters schedules.  Because this was during the 40 day Orthodox fasting period before Orthodox Christmas, we delayed having a wedding reception dinner party until early January after the fast was concluded.  And I will say that it was quite a party!

So we decided to take our personal honeymoon between those dates.  Her home, her cousin N's apartment, and my apartment were packed with guests for the ZAGS wedding and the first days afterward so we really, really needed a honeymoon--to get away from everyone!

Our honeymoon was a gift from her mother.  Just weeks before the wedding she announced that her mother was giving us this honeymoon and it would be a gift.  Great!  And she announced that it would be part of a tour.

Now we should stop right there and talk about tours.  Part of my job included taking tours to cover susposed news stories or historical or cultural events of interest.  I had been all over the FSU on "tours" during my posting in Moscow.  My visions of a tour on a crowded bus or train was probably different from an organized historical tour. So when the word "tour" came up I wondered if she was simply using the term to help me understand the context, or were we actually going on a "tour" for our honeymoon?

The brochures were brought out and there in living colour was the description of a "tour" to Russian's northern capital, St Petersburg.  (My MIL calls it Leningrad to this day.)  So it was a tour, a historical tour, no less.  

Это нормально? (Is that normal?), I inquired of my soon-to-be-bride.

She looked at me funny, as if I had just asked a silly question.

I put the question back in my pocket.  Maybe I could bring it out again later.

"Later" came the next day in my office at Radio Mayak.  Oksana, my trusted assistant and personal courtship guide, the person who had helped me learn Russian courtship traditions and manners, the one who could take a lot of credit for helping this marriage come into existence, surely of all people, my dear confidante Oksana would help me.  Oksana would tell me the truth.  

Oksana was no help:  just another silly look from a female, with a facial expression which resembled something very close to a "did you just ask me a very stupid question?" kind of look.

Okay, when all else fails, ask Sasha.

I should introduce Sasha.  Sasha and Lyuda were two personal guides of the Russian Press Department assigned to a small group of journalists.  Each journalist is part of such a group for what the Russians call "internal accountability."  I was part of Sasha and Lyuda's group.  Sasha is a choc-a-holic and non-stop smokestack.  He lives to smoke.  Smoking, chocolate, and his family are his passions.  Probably in that order, too.

Sasha was also our driver for official (and sometimes very, very unofficial business...so much for any notion of "internal accountablity").  Sasha was also an electronics whiz.  From laptops to digital cameras, he was your man if you had a problem.  My friend Sasha would tell me the truth, and he was always easy to find.  Just look for a trail of smoke and follow it in like a heat-seeking missile.  Or when high technology fails, just stick to the ground and follow the trail of chocolate foil wrappers.  Either would work.  Bingo, there you are Sasha.

So I asked Sasha.  He was outside smoking.  (Gee, what a surprise.)  In mid-puff he looked at me and the wrinkles on his forehead began to move up and down in unison like a series of tsunami waves coming in to pulverize some backward and unsuspecting Pacific hamlet.  

Что? (What?) he asked.

Is it normal?  I repeated.

He turned away from me to throw his cigarette on the ground.  He always does that when he doesn't want to look you in the eyes.  Turning back around as he ground it into the snow he only quickly glanced at me with a sly grin and reaffirmed, "Its a gift from your mother-in-law?"  Then he grunted, "Tak."  ("So.")

You hear that a lot in Russia.  

People walking around muttering to themselves "Tak" (So).  It says nothing.  

But it says everything.

Certain that his cigarette would not be contributing to any new fiery rampage of Moscow, he stomped back inside.  As the door slammed I wondered what did he mean by "so."

Guess we're taking a historical tour.  For our honeymoon.

Tak.