Visiting a town or city in Russia on a Saturday, particularly in July, we are guaranteed to witness several wedding parties. Following the marriage service, it is customary for the entire wedding party to drive around the city in convoy visiting local beauty spots and landmarks. The bride and groom look extremely young; they arrive in the first of a procession of cars, decorated with plastic flowers and ornaments, all the vehicles pulling up in a cacophony of loud beeping.
On this particular Saturday we had arrived in Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The city boasts a magnificent, high-walled, 16th Century, white limestone Kremlin; a stunning sight against the vivid blue sky. A Kremlin or ‘fortification’ is the stronghold of a city, housing important government buildings and places of worship within its huge, imposing walls. Tartarstan bridges Europe and Asia, so this Kremlin contained both a beautiful turquoise-topped Mosque and a blue and gold-domed Cathedral. As this is the major historical site in Kazan, we witnessed 4 separate wedding parties tour the site, periodically posing for photographs. The glamorous female guests totter on vertiginous high-heeled shoes that should come with a safety warning, the brides in white range from elegant lace chic to burlesque, risqué Barbie.
The bride and groom are flanked by 2 witnesses; identified by wearing a red sash, they are typically the best friends of the bride and groom. A procession of friends and family clutching bottles of Russian ‘champagne’ and beer follow them; complete inebriation by the end of the day is a necessity for all guests. A new tradition seems to be the fixing of initial-bearing padlocks and ribbons at scenic spots; we have come across several of these sites including river pagodas, bridges and railings overlooking a view.
We have been lucky enough to be bystanders at many wedding parties as we travel throughout Russia, although we have now left the Kremlins behind us in the West we hope that there will be many more weird and wonderful traditions and celebrations along the way.