Many Slavic countries have wedding rituals that use a ceremonial towel. Parents bless their children with it, the towel is laid before the couple during the church ceremony, the wedding bread is served on it, the bride and groom’s hands are tied together with such a towel, etc. Anyway, the wedding towel is one of the main sacred items at every traditional Slavic wedding. These towels are always richly decorated with embroidery, lace, fringe, openwork, and so on. Here is a collection of 30 embroidered wedding towels from Ukraine that depict the Tree of Life – one of the most common patterns.
The ceremonial wedding towels traditionally were always made by the bride herself. No one except for her could touch it, decorate it, or sometimes even see it before the wedding. The production of the wedding towel was a special ritual.
The most popular decoration technique for wedding towels is embroidery. Of course, there could be also openwork, lace, fringe, and other similar techniques, but usually, they were additional to the embroidery.
On most Slavic wedding towels, you’ll see the Tree of Life. It is an old and very symbolic pattern. It symbolizes the creation of a new family, their connection to the roots (relatives), and their future offspring. As every towel was made by a certain bride, she tried to make it unique, so she often invented her own patterns, used different stitches and colors, etc. It was an individual artwork.
We’d like to show you a nice collection of wedding towels from central Ukraine, the late 19th – first half of the 20th century. All of them depict the Tree of Life, but note how different they are!