The most unusual wedding ceremonies of 2020

February 4
Social sector

A wedding is a special occasion and many want it to be a glittering and unforgettable event. Moscow’s civil registry offices offer couples the opportunity to hold their wedding ceremony in a historical mansion, at the planetarium, a stadium or another unconventional venue. In 2020, almost 6,000 couples in Moscow chose an unusual venue for their wedding, that is about 20 percent of all marriage registrations in the city.

“In an effort to improve our services when it comes to wedding ceremonies in Moscow, we always consider the wishes of the couples who are about to get married. Marriage registration is not just a service. It is a major event for a future family. Despite the pandemic, Moscow civil registry offices and wedding venues have never stopped holding ceremonies, even for single a day, and have continued to create a festive atmosphere for newlyweds even when guests are not allowed and there is no magnificent ceremony,” said Svetlana Ukhaneva, Acting Director of the Moscow Directorate of Civil Registry Offices.


The Royal Mansion was the most popular wedding venue of 2020. It was chosen by around 500 couples who loved the venue for its floor-to-ceiling windows, rich interior décor, tasteful velvet furniture and crystal chandeliers. The mansion has four halls with differently styled interiors which makes it the perfect venue for a wedding photo shoot.

The Volkhonka Mansion and the Spiridonov Mansion are the other top three wedding venues in Moscow. Both hosted about 350 ceremonies last year. More than 300 couples chose the Cathedral of St Matrona Nikonova for their nuptials. Soglasiye Hall is another popular choice.

Around 2,000 marriage ceremonies were held in Moscow mansions and estates last year, while more than 1,300 couples were married in popular restaurants. Seven hundred couples tied the knot overlooking Moscow from the height of the Moscow City towers and the Ostankino Tower. Some 350 couples got married at the Spartak Stadium and the arena of the Luzhniki Sports Complex.

The cost of a wedding at an unconventional site is the same as at a standard wedding venue. In both cases, only the state fee of 350 roubles is charged.

Ceremony for champions

Igor and Natalya Shlensky got married at the Spartak Stadium. Both are avid athletes; Natalya likes speed walking and Igor plays ice hockey or football depending on the season and also practices rock climbing and alpine skiing. The couple are frequent visitors to alpine ski resorts, from France and Italy to Sochi and the Urals. Now they are planning a trip to the snow-covered slopes in Arkhyz, Karachayevo-Circassia.

“The ceremony went well,” Igor says. “Getting married in such an unusual place created more intense emotions and impressions than if we had held a ceremony in a civil registry office. Our guests loved our unconventional wedding, especially those who root for Spartak.”

The bride and groom had to use a code word, which was provided by the wedding organisers, in order to find their way around the enormous stadium. By the time the couple arrived, everything was ready: their names appeared on the score board along with the score 1−1 symbolising a new chapter in Igor and Natalya’s life together.

A wedding in the clouds

They say that marriages are made in heaven. Ivan and Sofya Degtyarev wanted to be as close to the sky as possible on their wedding day so they tied the knot on the 89th floor of the Federation Tower at the Moscow City Business Centre.

It was more than just a choice of venue for Ivan and Sofya who had wanted to get a bird’s eye view of Moscow for quite a while. They even had to change their wedding date and limit the number of guests (due to the venue size) to make their dream come true.

“It was snowing on our wedding day so the view wasn’t quite as good as we’d expected. It didn’t affect the atmosphere. Everybody was excited,” Ivan recalls. “The venue itself was very welcoming. We were treated to ice cream and candy floss.”


Ivan and Sofya’s wedding was as unconventional as their first meeting. On their first date, they ended up in an emergency room.

“We met online through mutual friends. On the day we were going to meet for the first time, Sofya’s friend got bitten by a dog and she asked me to take them to an emergency room,” Ivan laughs.

The newlyweds love travelling, hiking together and doing sports. Before the wedding, the bride and groom took a trip to Karelia and are now planning to go skiing in the Urals.

Moonlight ceremony

Moscow hosted its first nighttime wedding ceremonies in 2020. Eight couples got married at Wedding Palace No. 1 on Chistye Prudy on 2 February (02/02/20) between midnight and 8 am. Pavel Revenko and Marta Rashibina tied the knot at 5:20 am. 

“We really wanted to get married on that particular day. We started looking for time slots at different civil registry offices a month in advance. We were ready to have our ceremony outside Moscow but everywhere was fully booked. Then we heard that there would be nighttime ceremonies and we really liked the idea of that,” Marta said. “The wedding was beautiful; the staff was very courteous and upbeat despite the late hours. It was a very unusual event and there was a special atmosphere.”

Pavel and Marta arrived for the ceremony without guests and celebrated the start of their family life in a café, just the two of them. According to Marta, neither of them wanted a big party. They later held a small celebration for their loved ones.

Pavel and Marta have been together for eight years. “I joined a dating site,” Marta Rashibina recalls. “My husband was the first man I met there. We started texting each other and then met for a coffee. I knew right away that he was the one.”

More than 250 nighttime wedding ceremonies were held in 2020. Most of the couples selected symbolic dates in summer.

On weekdays, Wedding Palace No. 1 on Chistye Prudy is open during standard hours, from 9 am to 6 pm. On weekends, however, it is open around the clock, from 9 am on Saturday to 6 pm on Sunday.

Pilot ceremonies

More and more unconventional wedding venues are opening in Moscow. In early 2020, a wedding took place on the opening day of the Dream Island amusement park. The marriage was registered on 29 February in the central part of the park, the Moscow Square theme zone under Europe’s largest glass dome. Both invited guests and visitors to the park applauded as the couple got married.

On City Day, the North River Terminal also hosted a wedding. The venue had special significance to Alyona Sibirtseva’s groom, Mikhail, who had been involved in the renovation of the building. When Mikhail proposed, his boss suggested conducting the ceremony right at the terminal. The bride welcomed the idea. For a long time, she had wanted to visit her future husband’s workplace.

Two couples got a chance to wed in one of Moscow’s most remarkable parks on 25 December 2020. Zaryadye Park hosted its first wedding ceremonies on the last Friday of the year for two randomly selected couples. One of the couples got married at the Florarium (a multi-level greenhouse with a vast range of plants, including exotic species) and the other in the Ice Cave.

Test weddings are usually held to identify any problems with the venue. For example, those interested in a ceremony in the Ice Cave should be ready for a frosty experience as the temperature in the cave is −4ºC.

Beautiful dates and holidays

The most popular wedding day in 2020 was 20 February (20/02/20). Despite it being a Thursday, more than 900 couples tied the knot on the symbolic date. Weekday ceremonies are usually held at wedding venues and the Shipilovsky Civil Registry Office; however, due to high demand, 28 more civil registry offices opened their doors on that date.

St Valentine’s Day (14 February) was another popular weekday wedding day for 500 couples. Around 750 couples got married on 22 February. It was a debut for several venues, including the Moscow Planetarium, the Royal Mansion and the Mercury Tower. The renovated Vasilchikov Estate, which is now home to the Military Uniform Museum, also premiered as a wedding venue.  

More than 630 couples selected the leap year day of 29 February which occurs only once every four years. Their weddings took place at 37 civil registry offices and at such unconventional venues as the Royal Mansion, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Arts Centre, the Romantik restaurant and the Moscow Hippodrome.

More than 6,200 couples got married in February 2020, a five-year record.

The Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness marked on 8 July is a symbolic holiday for many couples. In 2020, the holiday fell on a Wednesday but, due to numerous requests, all the civil registry offices in the city opened on that day to conduct ceremonies for 300 couples.

City Day was also a popular public holiday for weddings. More than 900 couples got married on 5 and 6 September. Civil registry offices offered instant photo printing services and the Moscow Anthem as a wedding march instead of the popular piece by Mendelssohn.

Who got married in 2020?

“2020 was the most unusual year for marriage registrations in the whole time I spent working in a civil registry office. Everybody was understanding about the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. We were pleasantly surprised by the couples’ responsible attitude and their creative fashion choices. The registry office employees were very involved in the couples’ special days and helped the newlyweds arrange live streaming of their ceremonies. The couples often picked masks and gloves to match their wedding attires. One couple even came to their ceremony dressed in hazmat suits. Throughout the summer and autumn, only closest friends and family were invited to indoor ceremonies, if anyone at all,” said Svetlana Zharova, Director of the Shipilovsky Civil Registry Office.

Most bridal couples choose a weekend for their wedding. Thirty-eight percent got married on a Saturday and 27 percent on a Friday. About half of all the men and women who got married in 2020 were 21 to 33 years old, the majority being 25 years old. For more than 50 percent, it was their first marriage.

The youngest newlywed in 2020 was 16. The oldest bride and groom were 94 and 97, respectively.

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

An increasing number of Moscow couples are choosing to apply online for approval to hold a wedding ceremony. Almost half of all future married couples submitted their applications electronically last year.

The application service on resumed operation in December and it is now even more easy to use. Users can log in and submit applications on the Marriage Registration page in the Family and Children section of the service directory. They then need to choose one of the civil registry offices in Moscow or an alternative venue, and pick a time and a date.

One of the applicants fills out a form for the couple and the other applicant confirms their joint application. Then the state fee is paid. The whole application process takes about 15 minutes.

Applications can be submitted one to 12 months before the wedding date. When the application reaches the civil registry office, confirmation will be sent to the applicant’s account. Online applicants are also eligible for a 30 percent discount on the marriage registration fee.


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