A few days before Victoria Ussyk (now Dueck)’s wedding to her husband, Tyson, she gathered with the women in her family for a special yet informal ceremony to weave together crowns made out of periwinkle, a plant that symbolizes eternal love in Ukrainian culture. During the wedding ceremony at St. John’s Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the crowns were placed on Victoria and Tyson to symbolize that they were king and queen, ruling side by side as equals in their household — and in the new life they were starting together. Following the ceremony, they took their first steps as a couple onto a rushnyk — an embroidered cloth — for good luck and prosperity.
Victoria opted for a white dress and veil, but notes that many Ukrainian brides will wear an elaborate flower vinok (wreath), similar to the ones that Ukrainian dancers wear. While, much like a white dress, these wreaths were traditionally symbols of purity, they are now just nods to a traditional Ukrainian look.
At the head table during the reception, a korovai made by Victoria’s brother-in-law’s mother was placed in front of the couple. The round, braided bread (decorated with birds and flowers made from the same dough) is meant to resemble the sun and symbolizes new life and good fortune. The korovai is considered sacred and a source of protection, and is not to be eaten.
“I still have these things in our home as a reminder from our wedding day,” Victoria says. “The korovai is dried out and in a display case, and we have used the cloth as a table display.”
According to Victoria, dancing is an important part of any Ukrainian celebration, so it was only natural for it to be part of their wedding too. For the kolomyjka (social dance), guests form a large circle on the dance floor and take turns performing Ukrainian dance steps (or any smooth moves) in the middle of the crowd. If either person in the couple has performed in a Ukrainian dance group, then the group would typically come and perform at the wedding.
“These were things I always grew up seeing and noticing at family weddings,” Victoria says. “I wanted pieces of my heritage included in my wedding for me to look back on, and to show my children one day. I know that my grandparents would have been proud that I had included these things.”
And, as a surprise acknowledgment of one of their favourite local traditions, the emcees provided every guest with Edmonton Eskimos thundersticks to clap together to request that the couple kiss.