On a tour of Russia, especially a first visit to St. Petersburg and Moscow, you will no doubt find yourself following the path of many others who came before you: Red Square, The Hermitage, Peterhof, etc.
These traditional and notable sites were certainly a fixture on my itinerary of must-see places. While walking the grounds of these historical and cultural institutions, I couldn't help but notice the number of wedding parties also in attendance, even more so on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Personally, I was wondering how so many weddings could be scheduled for a single venue and the cost to have them take place at such revered places. Inevitably, the question regarding the numerous wedding sightings was addressed to our tour director and local Russian guide.
In the United States, a traditional wedding follows a very simple format. Friends and family gather for a 15-minute afternoon ceremony at a church or site determined by the bride. The wedding is followed by a reception at a separate location where drinking and merry-making last for many, many hours. The reception concludes with the exit of the bride and groom racing through a gauntlet of drunken well-wishers pelting them with birdseed (rather than rice) before they disappear into a waiting limousine.
In Russia, I was told that weddings were simple ceremonies attended by very few close members of the family. The fun begins after the ceremony when friends and family create a parade of automobiles for a tour of historical sites and monuments. The bride and groom's car features two large brass rings with small bells hanging in their center that are attached to the vehicle's roof. As the wedding party travels around to famous sites, numerous photographs are taken to celebrate the couple's happy day and provide memories that will be preserved in a wedding album.