Traditional Doukhobor weddings and their procedures date back to the sect’s origin in Russia when, clan style, the young man and his family would arrive, with horse and buggy, to ‘take away’ the young bride and her trunk-full of homespun, home-quilted trousseau. In those early days, after the wedding ceremony, the delicious meal, and the evening festivities, the bride would go with her young man to his parents’ village and take her place in their extended family life-style.
To this day, it is still traditional for the groom and his family to arrive, early on the wedding day, at the bride’s home and take part in a blessing ceremony (similar to that of the engagement party, approximately six weeks earlier) with close relatives, after which the two families are considered united into one.
This same procedure is repeated later in the day, in a more extensive fashion, with full congregational participation, at the wedding’s designated location. The building in which the day’s events take place is not of great spiritual significance and is chosen according to the young couple’s own wishes. Practically speaking, however, the Doukhobor centre is usually the most expedient location, since it has kitchen facilities for the cooking groups and a space big enough to accommodate the traditionally large celebrations.
Doukhobor weddings are unique in that they are based on the young couple receiving their blessings from the entire group of attending guests rather than from one individual. They believe that ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God,’ and that those people who know and love the bride and groom are filled with such powerful positive messages of good wishes and heartfelt love that they will strengthen the young couple future direction and give them added spiritual sustenance to begin their life together.
The bowing to the ground throughout the ceremony signifies humble thankfulness to beloved friends and relatives, to Mother Earth, to the God in each of us, and pays respect to a new, enriched, enlarged family unit. Love, best wishes, and bits of wisdom, are passed on to the young couple through psalms, poems, and original words from those who feel moved to express them. The official ceremony is also intertwined with a cappella group singing which enhances the people’s good wishes by spiritually connecting everyone in a powerful unified< >Whole Force of blessings.
Then the banquet begins. The traditional meal, lovingly prepared by friends and relatives, symbolizes the warm hospitality and open sense of love and sharing that is to be incorporated into the new couple’s life-style. The obligation of sharing life’s basics is symbolized by the read, salt and water, which is considered ‘the staff of life’, by which they are to be guided.
In general, basic procedures for Doukhobor weddings, though old in origin, can nevertheless be seen< emerging in many twentieth century trends, in that they reflect the belief that all people are equal, and that the collective well-wishes of loving, caring people help set a stronger footing on which a couple can begin building their future, through which they could help in their organization’s future, and also contribute their responsible part for a more harmonious future of the entire world community.
With permission from “Hospitality, Cooking the Doukhobor Way, 1995”