WITH OLD RITES.
A Happy Couple United at St. Basils.
QUAINT RUSSIAN CEREMONY.
Bride and Groom Crowned and Incensed.
CROWDS WITNESS THE SCENE.
Miss Anna Dabovich, Sister of Father Sebastian, Married to a Young Merchant.
The great clusters of waxen lights in the swinging candelabra of St. Basil's, the Russo-Greek church on Powell street, were all aglow last night. The little sanctuary, with its pictures and gorgeous decorations and Oriental feeling, was filled with warm light that bespoke something of the happiness and solemnity of ceremonies the like of which are never to be seen in America except, indeed, in St. Basil's, and even there only once in a lifetime.
It was the occasion of a wedding which bore to religious marriage ceremonies as known to most people here the same striking relation as is demonstrated in the contrast between an American banquet and the Russian wedding feast.
For grandeur of ceremonial, wonderful brilliancy of color in vestments and special decorations, for pictorial effect and uniqueness of ensembles; for quaint music and variety of strange symbolic rites, this wedding was far and away beyond the comparative sedateness of western thought. And yet the audience was largely American, the bride a beautiful native daughter and the groom a native of this city. The decorations of evergreens and flowers for the centennial anniversary of the Russian church in America were still upon the walls, though more fragrant flowers were artistically placed about the altar in honor of the happy event. Candelabras, in which no other light than that of wax candies is ever allowed to burn, were ablaze overhead, and the effect was a soft glow, very novel to the eyes accustomed to modern illumination.
When the wedding ceremony began clouds of sweet incense arose, mingling with the faint odor of burning wax and combining with weird chant to give an effect of medieval times.
Admission to the church was limited to persons having cards of invitation, but even then the place was densely crowded. There were no seats, and everybody stood throughout the long ceremony, leaving an open space in front of the altar for the priests, contracting parties and attendants. As the numbers increased and it was not possible to view the ceremonies by craning necks above heads of those in front several persons stood upon little benches, from which position they intently followed the interesting group in front.
About 6:30 P. M. a murmur passed through the congregation and presently the wedding party arrived. The groom and his best men first coming from the episcopal residence adjourning, then the bridesmaids followed by the bride. They formed semicircle, with the bride and groom in the middle. No sooner were they thus arranged than the door or gate of golden rays and colored bars of the reredos opened and the officiating priests came from the altar in the rear. Father Grinkevich, the priest who tied the nuptial knot, advanced slowly and after him came Father Vasilieff, deacon, and Father Rensky, deacon. They were clad in awkward vestments of rich scarlet color, covered with gold embroidery in strange designs.
An acolyte in grayish blue and silvered garb attended with a tray on which was a silver vessel and a long brush. Immediately Father Grinkevich advanced he took up the brush and dipped it in the blessed water, which he rubbed on the bride's and groom's foreheads, while the choir began chanting the liturgy. The priest turned around and prayed, and again faced the young couple, this time with a censor with which they were incensed.
This part of the ceremony, was accompanied by singing. He took two candles, which he lighted together at a large candle held by a deacon, he holding them together in one hand. These he presented singly to the bride and groom making the sign of the cross three times with each light in doing so. From that time on these candles were held by the contracting couple, on whom all eyes were turned many with evident curiosity.
Bishop Nicholas appeared from behind the reredos with a silver tray, on which were two rings that received his blessing in the dim light where he stood. The rings were carried forward, and with chanting and blessings were given one to the groom and another to the bride. They changed hands subsequently three times before finding a resting place on the happy couple's fingers, the act of giving the being accompanied with signs of the cross, prayers and singing.
The next part of the ceremony which has a depth of meaning for Catholics of the Oriental church, was the coronation.
Two gold crowns of Russian design, surmounted by crosses and lined with crimson velvet, were brought from the altar and placed with great solemnity on the young couple's heads. The two best men held the crowns in this position over half an hour while the litany of coronation was sung. This was symbolic of the unity of marriage and its great joy. The crowns were changed three times from the bride's to her husband's head. The close of this ceremony came when the officiating priest gave the couple wine to drink out of a gold cup, from which both drank three times --also symbolic of unity.
The crowns were removed and the Bishop clad in black came forth. He carried a sacred picture in his hand and this the couple kissed as they knelt for his blessing, which was given with great dignity. Then the Bishop spoke to them, giving good advice, wishing them joy in their wedded life and drawing a fanciful picture of life's path and how it should be followed. Before being entitled to this pleasing the wedding party walked three times around the church, husband and wife crowned and carrying the lighted candles. The picture which Bishop Nicholas carried, with another of the Virgin, were taken home by the wedded pair to be treasured as sacred mementos of their wedding day.
The Bishop retired whence he came, and with him went the priests, and the doors closed upon them, leaving the happy couple to the embraces and congratulations of friends and the music of "many joyful summers."
The bride was Miss Anna E. Dabovich, a sister of Father Sebastian, who was present but took no part in the services. The groom is Spiridon Wucosavlievich, a young fruit merchant of this city.
The bridesmaids were Misses May and Ella Dabovich, Irene and Tot Radovich. John Jolly and George Dabovich were groomsmen.
The bride was dressed in an empire gown of white silk, with a thick white veil falling from her head, which was entwined with pearls in wreaths.
Her maids were elegantly attired, and the gentlemen appeared in evening-dress, which somehow seemed too modern for the surroundings and the novel ceremony.
The[San Francisco] Morning Call, Tuesday, October 9, 1894, p. 3:1
Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 3, No. 2, Oct. 1995.