Ukrainian traditional weddings used to be opulent, symbolic, and memorable. It was a show, every part of which had a deep meaning. And so-called matchmakers were vivid and eye-catching figures during such a wedding ceremony. Here we’re showing you an example of the matchmaker’s folk costume, with all due elements and decorations. And now, imagine 30 young girls in identical outfits, making pranks and entertaining guests at your wedding. That’s what the matchmakers traditionally did – they had almost nothing to do with actual matchmaking, by the way.
A matchmaker is a very important person at a traditional Ukrainian wedding. Unfortunately, these days, such traditional wedding ceremonies are extremely rare. For the most part, Ukrainian brides and grooms prefer ordinary European-style ceremony. But some people in the rural areas still practice sometimes the old-fashioned weddings with all the traditions included.
In old days, people used to call all groom’s unmarried or newlywed female relatives a “matchmaker” (something like bridesmaids but from His side). They performed certain wedding rituals and made the celebration even more bright and cheery. By the way, there were sometimes up to 20-30 women dressed as you see here at a traditional wedding.
This particular outfit is from Volyn’ region of Ukraine (north-western part of the country), the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century. This area is called “Polissia” – lit. “woodland”.
This traditional costume consists of a shirt, a skirt, an apron, several rows of glass-beaded necklaces, and a fancy headgear.
The headdress is very intricate and multilayered. It includes a wooden headband that serves as a carcass, a long rectangular piece of cloth with decorated edges called “namitka” (such a clothing article was popular in many regions of Ukraine; it is among the oldest female headgear in the world), a colorful fabric band sewn from bright ribbons (or just colorful pieces of fabric) and adorned with beads, and two bunches of rooster feathers that give the whole outfit even more festive, odd, and artful look.
The necklace used for the matchmaker’s attire is gorgeous. Beads were often made from clear, transparent glass and were silver-plated inside. It gave them a lot of sparkle and sort of magic look.
The main pieces of clothes (shirt, skirt, apron, and namitka) are embellished with applique, rather than embroidery or weaving. It is sort of against the Ukrainian tradition to embellish these items with applique – usually, this technique is used in making the outer garments, bags, etc. But because of this, it is easier to make such a costume than a traditional Ukrainian embroidered outfit.
Dozens of young, cheerful, festively dressed matchmakers made Ukrainian traditional-style wedding really a sight to behold. They joked, laughed, and made pranks for everybody around, especially the bride’s family.