5 Tips On How To Survive A Russian Wedding


I write to you from the trenches of a hangover, one of the worst I’ve ever had, on the morning after attending a Russian wedding at Chinar on the Island, a small Uzbek restaurant on the north side of Staten Island. I was there with the pickled vegetables, the overflowing vodka shots, and the professional Russian singers bellowing outdated dance songs. I come back with lessons on how to avoid catastrophic liver failure and catatonic embarrassment.

1. Eat a spoon of butter before you leave the house.

Old Russian magic trick number ЉЖ: A tablespoon of butter will coat your stomach with a layer of grease that will prevent gallons of vodka from being fully absorbed.*

As you may know, drinking is a big part of any adult function, particularly so at Russian weddings. There will be a bottle of vodka on your table at all times. People will be making toasts; you will have to drink with every toast; there will be a lot of toasts. You will need some way to mitigate the alcohol or risk throwing up in the parking lot. Eat the butter.

*May not be actual science.

2. Drink around the food.

There will be a million courses. You will have:

  • cheeses
  • three types of bread
  • four different salads
  • mountains of potatoes (fried, mashed, boiled, baked)
  • a platter of various cow tongues
  • hunks of meat on the bone
  • assortments of salted fish
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • different styled blintzes
  • pickled everything
  • cake (you will probably not remember eating this)

A good rule of thumb is no more than one shot with every different type of food. This ensures you eat something and prevents back-to-back shots, because Yevgeniy will pour you a shot to toast the bride, but Anna will miss that shot and will demand another, and then Alex will show up, and what the hell, another shot to Alex showing up. Shots, shots, shots!

3. Find out who you can actually sleep with.

While you’re at the wedding make sure to get introduced to everyone. Learn who your friends’ little brothers and sisters are, so you don’t hit on them all night and piss off your friends. Note the seating arrangements; clusters of men or women indicate singledom. Realize you’re in the easiest bar ever. Get them free drinks and talk about the one thing you guys definitely have in common: the wedding. Ask them how they know the couple. Tell them a funny story about the bride or groom. Get them more drinks. Lead them onto the dance floor. Get them more drinks. Take a cigarette break. Get them more drinks. Hopefully take a cab together. Easy.

4. Don’t give a crappy speech.

You only got invited to the wedding because you’re cute and fun at parties and you had a journalism class with the groom. You guys never really spoke except for that one time on a Brooklyn rooftop years later when you two were “getting to know each other.” You’ve never met the bride, and only know who she is now based on the dress she’s wearing. Please don’t mention all of this in your impromptu speech to the happy couple because it will make everyone really uncomfortable until hopefully some merciful soul will begin clapping to cut you off.

5. Dance — but not like David Brent.

That is, don’t be a pussy, get out there, dance with your friends and someone’s babushka, but don’t be ostentatious. Don’t try to make yourself the center of attention because you’ve probably had way too much to drink and are not dancing as well as you think, e.g. you may be raving with a seven-year-old. Remember: there will be photos. It’s best to sit down and eat some wedding cake rather than prove to everyone that you’re a dance machine.

And that’s how you should wrap up the whole thing: don’t stick it out. Leave early, because if you’re the last one there, you’re likely the drunkest person there and you’re probably going home alone. 

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image – Ed Bierman