Best Man At An Ukrainian Wedding

I mentioned this a while back but never got a chance to write about it.  While traveling through Ukraine I became the best man at a Ukrainian wedding…


My friend Nate had been working in Ukraine for the US government for the past 3 years.  Not surprisingly he fell in love with a Ukrainian girl and was eventually engaged.  I was pumped to pay him and his finance Olesia a visit until I found out his project had been completed and he was gone.  An email came through a week after I arrived to Ukraine; Nate was back!


He had suddenly been reassigned to Laos and had to get married before resettling.  So back in Ukraine at a bar with Nate, Olesia, myself and far too much Vodka, a best man was born!  Some may argue what exactly makes a “Best Man”, but that night watching Nate handle a waitress trying to rip him off $15 US by making it rain handfuls of crumpled American and Ukrainian dollars all over the bar, I knew I was the only man for the job.

Yes, that’s me fitting in seamlessly with the wedding attire… This could quite possibly been the only time in Ukraine one could wear black and NOT fit in. Go figure.


The wedding and reception turned out to be an endurance contest.  With my tour of Chernobyl the next day, I was more worried about a hangover than radiation poisoning.

My efforts to drink responsibly were in vain when awkward attempts at Russian conversation’s with Olesia’s family were quickly, and repeatedly, replaced with one unmistakable gesture; cheers (and always a shot).  Then half way through the night Nate’s father in law slams a large bottle of Jack Daniels on the table in front of us, followed by “Mbl 3aKOHuNM” (“we finish”).  And we finished.  To top things off, and while I’m not going to call anybody a liar, there were a lot of “”Ukrainian Wedding Traditions”” that required a lot of extra drinking along with embarrassing tasks just for the groom and best man…


After a long and incredible night there was only one tradition left to do; head to the bar for some vodka and beer.

Thankfully in the end, my feared hangover never came.  The folks at Tallinn Backpackers and their pre-wedding liver training program “The Game of Life” pulled through.


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