Ukrainian Wedding Traditions: Korovai

Ukrainian wedding celebrations are extremely rich in tradition and religion, as marriage is viewed as a partnership with Christ. There are many aspects of a traditional Ukrainian wedding that differs from a North American wedding. Korovai, also known as Ukrainian wedding bread, is one of the differentiators.

Wedding bread, “Korovai,” is not just any bread served at the wedding table. This significant wedding bread is intricately woven and decorated with unleavened dough, marshmallow, or whipped eggwhites. Village women typically bake this bread as an expression of support for the newlyweds. The bread accompanies the prospective couple from the very beginning of their wedding day.

The making of the Korovai is an important ritual in itself. The process of making the wedding bread should start on the Friday or Saturday before the wedding at the bride or groom’s home. Members of both families should participate in the ritual as a symbol of the families connecting.

It is most common to have women who are married making the Korovai. The women should be in their first marriage and have a happy family life. Participation of widows is frowned upon, as there is a superstition that the women making the wedding bread will give a piece of their fate to the prospective couple.

There are many ritualistic actions involved when baking the bread. For example, women who would be making the dough would be bound with a special embroidered towel and the baker’s hands are only to be washed with holy water. When the dough is ready, one of the women would make the sign of the cross on the oven or on the bread itself. Only after silent prayer would the Korovai enter the hot oven with extreme care.

The family anticipates that the bread will come out nice and evenly baked – without any cracks, as this is usually a sign of bad luck for the couple, symbolizing divorce. The Korovai is present at all wedding events from beginning to end. When the loving couple goes to the church to obtain blessings, the Korovai is taken with them. During the entire ceremony Korovai takes it respectful place by the alter. After the church service, the bread is taken to the place where the couple will be celebrating their marriage, to the reception where it is in a highly visible location. At the end of the celebration, the Korovai is dived among all guests.

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