Its been a while since we've updated this thread so would you like to see a fresh view of a ЗАГС (ZAGS) wedding?
We'll walk you step by step thru this brief video.
- Arrive at the bride's home to "ransom" her. In some families you must "buy" her with gifts, from chocolate to the kids who guard the door to nicer gifts for her close relatives/parents.
- Provide the transportation for everyone to the ЗАГС wedding palace.
- Sign more papers, pay fees, stand in line, take photos, stand in line some more, and then stand in line with lots of other couples there to do the same thing.
- Lots of flowers (the grooms responsibility at the end of ceremony) will come from everyone.
- From 00 to 1:00 you see everyone standing, waiting.
- At 1:13 a man appears. He is carrying a large traditional loaf of wedding bread which will be part of the wedding party later. Notice that he has towels--one under the bread but also he has matching wedding towels across his shoulders. Those are symbolic and will used in the ceremony to represent two families becoming one, and the first towel to be used when the couple's children are born.
- 1:22 Inside ZAGS but still waiting.
- 1:28 An attendant gathers the party when it's almost time to enter one of the many wedding halls.
- 1:31 The attendant ushers the party inside the room. Depending on how much you paid for the wedding package, you may hear an organ or in some cases a small string orchestra to play the wedding march.
- 2:10 The man who carried the bread is just behind the couple, a girlfriend or female relative is standing next to the couple with the wedding towels.
- 2:12 The female official (it's almost always a lady official) takes over.
- 2:15 You'll notice that everyone stands, not always, but this is very common. Photographers must work fast because this is a marriage mill and in just 15 or so minutes, this room will be reserved for another couple who is already waiting outside the door for this ceremony to finish.
- 2:50 The main wedding towel is laid on the floor by the couple's attendants. This towel represents two families and the couple step out onto it to make a new family that integrates both sets of relatives. (If they have a religious wedding the towels will be used in the Orthodox or Jewish wedding ceremony also.)
- 3:08 Wondering if this symbol means anything in modern times? Take a look at the bride's face when she steps onto the towel.
- 3:20 The official brings the rings to the groom. He dedicated it and places it on her RIGHT hand (exactly opposite of how we wear them in the West). Notice that it is a single ring, engagement rings are not commonly used by FSU couples. She then places a ring on his RIGHT hand.
- 3:50 As soon as the rings go on the party claps--they are not officially married.
- 4:25 Now the couple must finish signing their marriage documents. It's official. In some ZAGS this is done while seated at a table but this ZAGS the couple stands.
- 4:45 The official introduces the couple before giving them a few brief comments of encouragement.
- 5:14 Just a note about wedding towels as the officiant present the towel to the bride. In the church ceremony two of these towels present would be tied about the couples hands, binding them together during most of the ceremony. In a Jewish wedding these towels have very similar meanings.
- 7:00 Notice that the photographers have been busy in the background? That is because this ceremony is over. The next couple is waiting outside and there is no time for lingering to pose for photos.
- Did you notice that although a civil wedding, it feels and seems more like something of a church styled setting? A big mistake WM think is that because it's a "justice of the peace" type ceremony, it must be cheap and casual. Nothing of the sort in most cases.
- The photos following were taken before the ceremony while the couple was waiting for their turn.
- This party is just starting. They will go en masse to at least one, if not several, parks or memorials to place many of their flowers on tombs of unknown soldiers and/or national heros, etc. They will stop at parks and plazas to open up champagne to make toasts and take photos while on the way to a wedding dinner party in most cases.
- 8:30 The assembled party chants "goika" (bitter) meaning that the wine and champagne they're about to drink is bitter, however the more the couple kisses, the drinks become sweeter and sweeter. There is a LOT of kissing at such a wedding...can't have bitter champagne, now can we?
- 9:12 Still in the parking lot and the celebration begins. The groom pops open the ceremonial first bottle of spirits. In some traditions their hands would be tied with the towels as they give each other a first taste of champagne.
- That big loaf of wedding bread will begin the first part of the wedding dinner ceremonies. As the couple enter the room together a family elder will approach with the bread. They'll each grab for a big of piece as possible because tradition says that whoever breaks off and eats the largest portion gets to be head of the house.
This next video is of a young couple with some different twists--more Orthodox in preparation for a ZAGS wedding.
-00:00 The groom has come to her apartment to collect his bride for the trip to ZAGS. Her family first present them with a traditional Orthodox wedding Icon, just like my wife's family did for us and as my wife and I did for our eldest daughter who was married 2 years ago.
- :30 Leaving the apartment.
- 1:30 Arrival at ZAGS.
- 1:40 Waiting, photos, more waiting.
- 3:00 Open the doors and enter to the traditional Mendelssohn's "Wedding March". For a country that fought Germany in a long war, Russians adore this music. For those interested, it was at the wedding of Princess Victoria, daughter of England's Queen Victoria, that Felix Mendelssohn's composition was used in a Royal wedding. She wed the prince of Prussia and Russians have loved that theme ever since.
3:30 Although musicians have been arranged (thru the ZAGS) and photographers, you can tell that this ceremony is more simple than the first.
- 4:30 In this ceremony the couple sits at the wedding table to sign their final documents.
- 6:13 Holey Moley, he gives her quite the kiss! Then the rings are exchanged.
- 8:25 Dang, this film editor is good--they've moved into the outer hall and I didn't even catch it.
- 9:45 A funny scene here and following: The first toast (again in the ZAGS parking lot) is given and the party starts up the "goika" (bitter) chant to which the couple kisses, and kisses, and kisses as the party counts: Raz (1), Dva (2), Tri (3), and counts to 12. Whether they intended or not, there is some signifance in counting to 3 and to 12--both are tied to the number of times a sacred "Lord, have mercy" is said at certain points in a liturgical blessing, including in the wedding sacrament.
- 10:52 The groom throws his glass to the ground to break it, a common custom in many weddings after the first toast.
Did you catch the old Babushka sweeping back at 10:04 to 10:14 on the porch steps? She will come out and sweep up the glass after the couple leaves. This was a smaller town ZAGS, one of the reasons why there was less pressure to leave the room immediately after the ceremony concluded.