Everything you need to know about russian marriage

14 Feb 2023·19 min to read
Everything You Need to Know About Russian Marriage 01

Russian marriages are celebrations that take place to commemorate the love between a man and a woman. Over a million people get married in Russia annually. Traditional marriages in Russia can last anywhere between two days and a week. Most marriages begin towards the weekend on Friday and last for a couple of days based on the couple’s preferences. Due to the Russian climate, most weddings are held during the warm summer months. However, registry offices are still packed during the winter months with couples trying to get married. 

Most marriages in Russia include both a civil ceremony and a traditional ceremony. The civil ceremony revolves around getting a marriage certificate and being recognized and protected by law as married. The traditional ceremony is often the second part of marriage procedures. It involves singing, dancing, toasting, and several other ceremonial rites. The wedding party includes a best man and a maid of honor, called Svideteli in Russian. 

A lot of the traditions of western marriages and the order in which they are performed are the same in Russia. However, these traditions are extended to last several days. The couples must share their vows and exchange rings on the first day of the wedding ceremony. Let’s go straight to the rest of the article, where Russian marriage laws, traditions, and more are explained in detail.

Traditional Marriage Ceremonial Rites

Unlike most ceremonies that only last a day or two, Russian traditional marriages sometimes take up to a week before they are concluded. They are performed in a unique manner, and there are several rituals the couples and other members of the family and wedding party participate in. The bride-to-be is to wear her first set of earrings during the ceremony. The first earring is to be placed on her by one of her friends who is already married, while the second one is placed there by the husband of her friend. Some of the most popular marriage traditions and rituals in Russia are listed below.

Paying the Ransom

This part of the ceremonial rites is called Vykup nevesty. The groom is required to pay a ransom when he gets to the bride’s home. This act is meant to be for entertainment purposes, where the groom and the bride’s family, as well as other friends involved, share a laugh. On the arrival of the groom to his bride’s home, he gives some money or jewelry to the family of the bride. 
Once this is collected, the family brings in a different woman or man, wearing a veil, and presents the person as the bride. Once the groom checks and sees that the person under the veil is not his bride, he is compelled by the bride’s family to pay a significant amount of money before he gets to see the bride. After the bride’s family is satisfied with the new payment made, they then give the actual to her husband-to-be.

The Traditional Ceremony

The bride and groom may decide to hold their traditional ceremony in a church. This is referred to as Venchanie, which is divided into two parts: The Betrothal and the Crowning. The ceremony usually kicks off in the morning after the Devine Liturgy is celebrated. During the course of the ceremony, the wedding rings are placed on the Holy Table or Altar to bless them.

The Betrothal

This is often done immediately after the actual wedding ceremony. Here, the bride and groom stand at the entrance of a door as a priest blesses them and offers them each a lit candle, which must be held throughout the ceremony. The Litany (Ektenia) is led by the deacon with special petitions made for the couple. After this, the priest says a short prayer for the bride and groom and blesses the rings, after which they are placed on the couple’s right hands. Shortly after, the priest says a prayer for the couple and blesses the betrothal. Instances of rings being used in the Bible are mentioned.

The Crowning

This ceremony is called the Mystery of the Crowning. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, holy matrimony and marriage are sacred mysteries marked by the placing of crowns on the heads of the couples, as opposed to the exchange of rings during the betrothal. The ceremony starts when the couple is led to the center of the church by a priest. The center is often decorated with a new rose-colored fabric that the couple must stand on. This symbolizes their beginning of a new life, and the bride and groom publicly profess their love for each other; they marry of their own free will and love. They must express to each other that they have not been promised to any other person. 
Once this part is concluded, the Ektenia begins with long prayers for the couple. Crowns are then placed on the heads of the bride and groom by the priest, after which they share a common cup of wine. This is followed by a procession where a priest wraps his epitrachelion(stole) around the couple’s hands. He leads them and the people holding the crowns three times around the analogous place where the Gospel book was placed. This procession represents the pilgrimage of wedded life.

Civil Marriage Ceremony

In Russia, a civil marriage, rospis v zagse, takes place after the traditional marriage. It is held at the Department of Public Services, ZAGS. The ceremony lasts a short period of time, usually 10 to 15 minutes. At Zags, the couple are greeted by members of the family with bread and salt. During the ceremony, they exchange rings and are pronounced husband and wife by the authorized celebrant. 
During the ceremony, the parents from both families offer the newlyweds two crystal glasses, which they are asked to break. According to popular belief, the more shards of glass married couples make, the more years of happiness they will share together. The couples then release balloons or two white doves to symbolize their love written in the sky. The bride also releases another balloon carrying her maiden’s name to bid her farewell.

Required Documents

There are certain documents that are requested from couples during marriage registration in Russia. These documents are to be submitted in due process. The required documents are stated below.

A filed application form

Passport with a valid visa 
Certificate of no impediment. This is to show that the couples have no ties with anyone or legal issues that may make them unable to get married. 
Proof of marriage dissolution or death certificate. This document is only required if either or both of the couples were previously married. 
Proof of residency 
Receipt of all fees paid 

Original and notarized copies of the documents must be submitted, and all foreign documents must be properly certified and translated into Russian.

Everything You Need to Know About Russian Marriage 02

Getting Married as a Foreigner

Foreign citizens are allowed to get married in Russia. There are certain documents that must be submitted and approved before a marriage certificate can be obtained. Any foreign citizen planning to get married in Russia must present a valid passport to the ZAGs officer. The rest of the documents needed are the same as the ones above. However, the foreigner has some additional things that must be ensured. These are stated below.

The marriage application issued by the officer of the law must be filed in-person by both spouses. This cannot be done online or through postal means. 
If a foreign spouse does not have a valid passport with them, a notarized copy may be used. 
The immigration documents to be submitted must be original, and a copy must be submitted with ZAGs 
If a case arises where any of the documents to be presented are missing, the couple may still be allowed to complete the application process.

Post-Ceremonial Rituals

After the main wedding ceremony is concluded, there are some post-wedding traditions that Russian couples participate in with their wedding party. Some of these rituals are stated below:

Taking a city tour

After the civil ceremony, the married couple are escorted by friends and other guests who travel with them in a limousine to tour various historical sites in the country. A lot of the events in this part of the wedding are quite memorable. The newlyweds pose at the different historical locations they visit as they are snapped by accompanying photographers. 
The wedding limousine car used is usually decorated using ribbons and a doll. It has to be very flashy and appealing enough to draw the enthusiasm of people on the road as they pass. After the city tour is completed, the doll is removed and washed. It is kept by married couples as a symbol of luck.


Following the city tour, the newlyweds proceed to the wedding reception. Receptions in Russia are often elaborate and last several hours. One of the most anticipated events is the first toast made to the newlyweds. After the first shot is taken, guests begin shouting "Gorko," which means "bitter. The couples must kiss each other for a long time after taking the shot to counteract the effects of the bitterness of the vodka or champagne. 
As the ceremony progresses, a second toast is made to the parents. This then leads to the couple’s first dance, where they have to step on the dance floor and showcase some moves as they are cheered on by the guests. Family, friends, and all other attendees join them in dancing. This usually involves a lot of singing, dancing, eating, and playing games. For the next couple of days, the members of the family continue to eat and drink.


This is a tradition that is performed as ceremonial rites in marriages across the world. This Russian tradition involves the playful kidnapping of the bride by her friends. They leave clues for the groom to find her, and after she is found, the groom often has to pay a ransom before getting his bride back. 
This tradition is usually filled with fun and games and may last several hours. Sometimes, the bride may not be found until late in the night. The bride is usually accompanied by her friends and members of the wedding party she prefers. She may be taken to a local bar or pub where they will play games and take shots. They do this until the bride is found by the groom, and it is customary for the groom to pay for all the drinks ordered during the course of the game.

Guests' Payment

This tradition is quite unique to Russian marriages. During the wedding reception, guests are required to pay for the utensils they will be using. Items such as glasses, cutlery, and plates are privileges which must be paid for. Guests must make a payment to enjoy the food and drinks served. 
This ceremonial rite is held as a way to raise money for the married couple and help them boost their coffers in preparation for the new lives they are about to share together. There is usually a lot of celebration going on, and this rite is carried out with joy by all the guests. Guests often give other items apart from money to the newlyweds too, such as gifts, clothes, jewelry, etc. The wedding celebrations often take at least two days as there is always a lot to do by the married couple as well as their family, friends, witnesses, and the guests at large.

Everything You Need to Know About Russian Marriage 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

Under Russian law, polygamy is prohibited. A husband is only allowed to be married to one wife and vice versa. Same-sex marriages are not recognized by law in Russia, and all civil marriages must be held at registry offices. Family members related by blood are not allowed to get married, and if there is any case where two close relatives marry, the marriage is null and void under the law. A marriage will be annulled if one of the people entering the marriage conceals an existing venereal disease. It will also be void if a person is coerced or forced into marriage under any circumstances. 
A marriage is terminated when a spouse is deceased or when they are pronounced dead by law. A marriage can also be terminated by its dissolution when an application is submitted by either or both spouses. Each spouse is allowed to choose any occupation of their choice, provided that is legal. One of the spouses has the right to change their surname upon marriage. If a marriage is terminated, the spouse is allowed to continue using their pre-marriage name.


The average cost of getting married in Russia is $15,000. This price range is for traditional marriage ceremonies, and some of the major expenses include transportation, food, music, decorations, and photography. Couples often hire several photographers for the main reception event and the vehicle procession. The total cost of a wedding in Russia largely depends on the financial status of the spouses involved. Spouses often pool their resources and wealth together alongside family inputs to organize their ceremonial rites. 
Civil marriages cost way less than traditional marriages. The major activity involved in these marriages is the registration process. There are fees to be paid, which are all less than $1000. The amount of money spent on traditional weddings in Russia is relative, and couples can have their ceremonies according to the size they want.


There are certain duties and responsibilities married couples have to each other as well as to their children, if applicable. Marriage laws in Russia are based on equality between husband and wife. Spouses usually have a mutual agreement on the roles of each person. The husband is expected to take care of his family and provide the basic necessities for them. The wife is expected to take care of her husband and children. 
Both spouses are to be treated as equals, and they can have a joint account for their incomes or keep their assets separately. They are to mutually agree on the payment of bills, purchases, maintenance of the home, and other financials. The husband and wife are to respect and love their children. Both spouses must still carry on their duties as parents to their children in the case of divorce.

Final Thoughts

Marriage in Russia can be a very long process. Couples are allowed to hold both civil and traditional marriages one after the other. For a marriage to be recognized and protected by law, it must be duly registered at the department of public services. Couples can hold traditional marriages according to their beliefs, customs, and community. 
As stated earlier, certain documents are required during the marriage registration process. All couples must submit the right documents at the right time before getting a marriage certificate. Most marriages take place during the summer months in various beautiful destinations across the country. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to know about marriage in Russia.