Serbian Orthodox wedding traditions and ceremony rituals: Vanja and Nenad

Like most eastern Orthodox weddings, Vanja’s & Nenad’s was a beautiful mix of modern and traditional.  It was full of profound symbolism that I decided to look into and understand the meaning behind them.  Below I have given a short description for the most common customs and rituals just in case you are interested to know what they are and what they represent.

First thing that you will notice at Serbian-Orthodox weddings is the Buklia.  It is a round, decorated, wooden bottle, filled with homemade brandy. It has a strap and can be carried around like a purse.  This is the only purse-like object that men will not resist to have:)  In modern day, cousins and uncles welcome the guests with the buklia, while in the past it was used as a formal invitation to weddings. It used to be that a family member would visit the invitees home with the buklia in order to give a personal invitation.  Btw at each wedding, there is always that one uncle, that if you happen to make eye contact with him, he will not let you go until you take a sip out of his fancy bottle. 

“Buying the bride” Back in the day, until 1846 the bride really was purchased with large amounts of money or Gold.  Luckily, today this custom is used for fun and to calm the jitters.  I like to call this a “Play” that always takes place at the bride’s house before church.  It is the the groom’s brother or cousin that negotiates with the bride’s siblings and of course the house is full of family and friends and most like to participate.   It turns into a really fun time when the two sides battle over how little or how much more they should pay.  Vanja’s family made it really interesting by having  “fake brides”.  One of them was a man wearing a dress and a veil, with a beer and a cigarette in his hand, pretending to be “the one”.  What a great way to get everyone into a laughing and joking spirit.  Finally, the bride comes out and the brother or cousin of the groom stays by her side to keep her “safe” until the ceremony. The father and mother of the bride take this opportunity to give their blessings.  I must add that Vanja’s dad gave a very touching speech and it made us all tear up.

Ring Exchange in front of the altar:  Ceremony begins with blessings of the rings.  The priest or the best man (Kum) exchanges the rings between the couples fingers three times which signifies that the weakness of one will be compensated by the other.  Most rituals in Orthodox church are performed 3 times to represent the Holy Trinity.

Candles:  After the rings are exchanged, the priest gives the couple lit candles to hold in their left hands.  The burning flames symbolize the couple’s spiritual willingness to receive God’s blessings.

Joining hands:  The priest joins the couples right hands together with a white garment while praying for their marriage. The tied hands are a symbol of “oneness” and they remain joined for the remainder of the service.

Crowning:  While the couple is facing the altar the priest places the crowns on their heads.  A crown alone is a symbol of glory and honour.  In church, on the wedding day, the crowning represents the royalty of marriage.

Shared cup:  The priest lets the groom and the bride take three sips of wine out of a common cup.  The cup represents life and symbolizes the couple’s mutual sharing of joy and sorrow.  

Walk around the table:  These are the couple’s first steps as husband and wife following the church (priest leading them)

Kum & Kuma:  Best man and maid of honor remain very important people in the couple’s lives.  Often times they become the Godparents of the couple’s children.  These families stay connected from generation to generation.

Coin toss / Candy toss:  After the ceremony, guests exit church and wait for the couple to come out.  When the couple crosses the church’s doorstep, the best man (Kum) tosses coins and candy in the air.  This gets kids to scamper around looking to pick up as many coins and sweets as they can hold.  This ritual is believed to promise  financial prosperity and a sweet life.

Lifting up a young child:  In front of church the bride will seek out the youngest child and lift him/her up three times which symbolizes good luck with childbearing.  The bride often has a small gift for the little one.

This list can be way longer depending on the origins of the families but for now these are the most common ones used at the eastern Orthodox weddings here in Canada.  The bottom line is despite the customs, rituals and traditions,  two souls destined to be together wed.  Everybody there is their witness and they are present to celebrate their love.

Thank you Vanja and Nenad for allowing me to be a part of your beautiful day!



Hi, I'm Sladana, call me Jana. I live in Kitchener, Ontario and I shoot weddings. I am a mom of three amazing boys. I went to school for economics but wedding photography is my passion. Camera and lenses are precious to me. Hot yoga is my thing. I love to watch sunsets. I don't like coffee but I love tea. Music, people and weather inspire me.

Tel: 519.722.2244
Kitchener, Ontario