Getting married in Ukraine
Two and a half years ago when I came to Ukraine as a tourist, little did I know that I would be meeting my future wife outside McDonalds in Odessa. It’s strange how things work out. Thankfully I’m now over the depression and enjoying my new married life with Katya.
Getting married in Ukraine
In this post I’ll outline what we did when getting married in Ukraine and the things to watch out for. Bear in mind that this is written from the perspective of a British citizen, so it might vary depending on where you’re from.
A registry office is the most straightforward way but Katya and I decided early on that we didn’t want to get married there. It seemed too impersonal and like a conveyer belt for weddings.
Also there are usually loads of gypsies outside the venue hassling people for money. We didn’t want to have to deal with that. Instead we wanted to find somewhere that would be more personal and unique to us.
We opted to get married in a restaurant by the sea, with the ceremony outside under a canopy and then the reception inside in a banquet hall. We looked at a couple of places but one had been dismantled for the winter and the other needed a good lick of paint. In the end we chose Restaurant Mirage near Otrada beach.
We arranged for a decorator to make the outside part look nice, and my step mum Gill did some flower arrangements for the table. We were quite happy with the way everything looked. My mum even brought a gluten and lactose free cake all the way from the UK in her hand luggage! Thanks mum, it was delicious.
Originally I wanted a DJ because it’s what I’m used to at British weddings. Then we though about maybe having a band. We looked around but they all seemed to be charging western prices to come and play some music for a few hours. So instead, Katya’s brother made up some compilation CD’s and her parents lugged a stereo system on the bus from her hometown. Bless them.
Photographers varied greatly in price too, some of whom were charging frankly ridiculous prices. In a country where the minimum wage is around $150 a month, I’m not sure who they think can pay their fees. Luckily the manager at Mirage knew a photographer. Her portfolio was good, prices acceptable and we are happy with the results she got.
Since I already work in Ukraine, I have a temporary residence permit and so I just needed to get my passport translated into Ukrainian. It cost 200 UAH (about £6.) A month before the wedding you take your documents to Zags, which is the place for registering marriages etc.
Since we didn’t really know what we were doing we decided to get a company to help us. We paid $200 and thought they would help us organize things so we wouldn’t need to stress ourselves out. Unfortunately it didn’t really work out this way. They got us an appointment with Zags and married us on the wedding day but did little else. Certainly not worth $200 but we just put it down to experience.
We also had to pay ‘extra money’ in order to ‘release’ the registry books. Otherwise we would have had to get married twice. Once in the restaurant and then a second time in Zags to make it official. I guess you could call this a bribe, although it certainly wasn’t phrased that way. Corruption in Ukraine is rife and exists in every facet of society.
There was lots of worry and stress during the organization but it all turned out pretty well on the day. People seemed to enjoy themselves, there were tears, laughter and plenty of wine. Our honeymoon has been put on hold for the time being. Katya is now doing the CELTA teacher training course and I am back at work.
In mid July I will finish my contract with the London School of English in Odessa, Ukraine. Then we will go travelling for a few years. First in Europe then Asia and South America. Check back soon for more on our travels.