Flower emoji replaces bouquet as Russian couple wed over live stream

MOSCOW (Reuters) - There were no hugs and kisses with friends and family when Gerda Baranovskaya and Pavel Tyun married in a Moscow registry office, but dozens of guests plied the happy couple with congratulation messages and heart emojis on a wedding Instagram live feed.

“In the first place we wanted to cheer ourselves up, and so it happened that we cheered up all our friends and people around. This is a great result,” said 24-year-old Baranovskaya, who works in marketing.

Moscow, like many places around the world, has introduced lockdown measures to prevent gatherings of people during the coronavirus epidemic, causing weddings and other celebrations to be cancelled. But Baranovskaya and Tyun, 25, preferred not to delay tying the knot, even though guests could not attend.

Only the bride and groom are permitted to be present at wedding ceremonies at Moscow’s civil registry offices while efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus are continuing.

Baranovskaya and Tyun said the upside of getting married the way they did, without guests to entertain and premises to decorate, meant that their total spending came to just 650 roubles (barely $9) - about half for the standard registry office certificate and the rest for taxi fares.

After the online ceremony on April 1, Baranovskaya and Tyun held an hours-long wedding reception via a Zoom video-conference with all the usual toasts and even the traditional tossing of the bouquet, with the first person to ‘like’ the bride’s flower emoji message in an online chat deemed the lucky winner.

The guests, some wearing evening dresses and makeup, others taking part in pyjamas from the comfort of their beds, made toasts with the traditional Russian cry of “gorko”, which translates as “bitter”, a signal for the newlyweds to kiss.

Wedding games were also held, with toilet rolls, hand sanitiser and packs of buckwheat, a foodstuff Russians are known to stockpile during hard times, among the selection of prizes for winners.

“This is nothing in comparison with what people spend on weddings, some even take out loans,” said Tyun, an events organiser.

Tyun and Baranovskaya, who are now spending their honeymoon in self-isolation, said social media streams were a way to document the wedding day.

“I think when we watch it in five years’ time, the emotions will be out of this world, possibly much stronger than from a traditional wedding album from a real ceremony,” Tyun said.

Additional reporting by Anton Derbenev; Editing by Alexander Marrow and Gareth Jones