Sunday, January 9, 2011

Marrying a Russian guy. Part 2: "Asking a girl's hand"

My American daughter has fallen in love with a Russian man in the States, actually to be specific he's Ukraine. Is it customary for him to ask her father and I for her hand in marriage?
Also my daughter says his family won't be at the wedding because they are not allowed to leave the Ukraine? Does that seem normal?
Asked by Elissa, USA

I am happy to learn that Russian (ex-USSR) traditions regarding proposing are of interest for people in other countries. That means that our boys do marry foreign girls !

However, few of Russian (by that I mean ex-USSR populations) know the origin of this ritual.


Many believe that "asking a hand" tradition came from Western Europe, where several centuries ago was established a custom of offering future bride when proposing to her one glove.

Hence the expression "ask a hand" became widely used throughout the world.
Of course, that means not only proposal to create a family, but also the promise to love, care and support.

In the ideal world, making such offer man promises to love his woman forever, to share her joy and sorrow & to be faithful.

Sweet and necessary precision
..... he guarantees her permanent attention, care and understanding in any situation.
(It is international, isn't it? ))))

And of cause it always meant that a man who decided to start a family must have not only material and moral independence but most importantly - the confidence in his feelings and intentions towards his future wife.
....And of course, he
must prove to his future bride
 and to the people who raised her that he is sure of his feelings. Marriage (regardless of the country, time or language) has always been and is considered as one of the most serious steps in the human's existence.
Modern times, trends or traditions may insist that this is not important, but deep inside every parent would want to see the future life-time-partner (isn't it what marriage is about) to show respect towards the people who invested their lives in their daughter (wouldn't it be finally flattering for a parent to see that his opinion really counts)))).

BUT one of the advantages of being a woman today is to have a choice (unlike many of our ancestors) to accept the offer, to refuse it or to postpone her decision taking time to weigh all pros and cons.

STILL (just like our ancestors) man can expect at least some kind of response. He, in turn, as a true gentleman should be ready to accept his own defeat if he gets rejected.


Having said all of above I shall mention that Russians do have certain specific traditions in such ritual of "the proposal".

Until The October revolution of 1917 it was always a parent's choice when it came to choosing a husband or a wife. So in such delicate matter they often needed to be assisted in making the right choice.
Thus the job of a matchmaker was created, leaving to this person and the future parents-in-law from both sides these unromantic practical calculations and negotiations, which often made their children's tastes secondary.
That tradition left to a girl passive role and only a matchmaker was her confident...however those matchmaker- ladies (often in the mature age) also managed to take advantage of the market ...and get potential grooms to fall for a matchmaker)))) (oh, this timeless competition between the youth and the experience!)

Later on when the Soviets came to power many old tradition have been changed.

One of which was the disappearance of the engagement ritual; wedding rings, matchmaking job was considered as of a  criminal character ("hooker"?) and the people were given a freedom to choose their partners themselves. (The success of each choice can be argued, but every newlywed hoped to go through this casting only once in the lifetime).

Nevertheless, the mentality never change and the propaganda insisted that the IDEAL SOVIET CITIZENs were supposed to treat their parents with the respect. So, like in the old times, the men were supposed to ask permission of the future in-laws "to create a family with their daughter".

THAT HAS NOT CHANGED EVEN NOW. So such act will be considered as appropriate ))))

To answer your second question...I do not know the background of the family of the boy. But even not mentioning financial aspects of the trip to the USA and knowing that the majority of ex-USSR citizens will need an entry visa to come to the US, I would refer this part of the question to the USA visa authorities

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