By late morning, a line has already formed outside the nondescript registration office on the western edge of Kyiv. Some of those waiting are wearing casual clothes, but a few of the women are dressed up in white and carrying bouquets of flowers.
This is hardly anyone’s dream wedding venue, and yet, it’s a very popular spot on a random Tuesday in July.
When it’s their turn, Vlada, in a lacy white dress, whispers to her soon-to-be-husband Ivan, “all my life has led to this day,” as they walk inside hand-in-hand.
Ivan, a massage therapist turned army medic, used his single day off from the front line in June to propose; this month he’s managed to get away barely long enough to wed his girlfriend of one year. The couple asked not to use their last name for security reasons.
“The [wedding] procedure itself became easier during martial law. It was harder for me to get here [to Kyiv] than it was to actually get married,” he told CNN after tying the knot.
Vlada, an architect, and Ivan are part of what, anecdotally, appears to be a surge in Ukrainian couples where at least one member is serving in the military getting hitched on short notice. This is thanks, in part, to martial law which has removed the usual one-month waiting period between notifying authorities of the intention to marry and the wedding itself. The change is intended to allow military couples to marry with the limited time they have.
“Now we are living in a very dangerous time, and maybe people who were planning tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in a year to get married, have realized that we’re living today – here and now. Maybe that’s where their decision comes from,” wedding officiant Oksana Poberezhets told CNN from the brightly lit room where she performs the no-frills ceremonies.
War, it seems, has put life’s most important things into sharp perspective. The next couple, Tatiana Yanova and Sergey Yanov, have been together for eight years. Suddenly, war made marriage seem like an urgent priority.
“War worries me more than anything else,” said Sergey, dressed in camouflage, outside the registration office. This was the one and only day he could get away from war long enough to marry. Tatiana says their plain registration office ceremony was “not how we envisioned our wedding, but we only had one day, so we wanted to make the most of it.”
In an interview with Ukrainian radio in April, Deputy Minister of Justice Valeria Kolomiets said more Ukrainian couples had married since the start of the war than would normally be expected.
“The number of people wishing to get married has increased, and this is due in particular to the martial law,” she said.
“Today’s circumstances lead to the fact that people sometimes do not have the opportunity to wait. Because all of us have found ourselves in circumstances where we do not know what will happen tomorrow and even today until the evening.
“In order for these people not to have any legal problems in the future, they have the opportunity and need to formalize their relationship as quickly as necessary.”
Some can’t even find a single day to marry – Anna Khutorian, who lives in the city of Zolotonosha, in central Ukraine’s Cherkassy region, got engaged just before her now-husband was shipped off to war.
Unwilling to wait, Khutorian said, they took advantage of the relaxed marriage laws, and she said “I do” on a Telegram video call with her husband and the wedding officiant while inside a grocery store getting coffee with a friend.
“My husband called me on a video call, like I am talking with you, and I saw a lady… who asked us if we were ready to get married,” she said in an interview over Telegram. “It was the happiest day of the year.”
Aside from love, Khutorian said she is only too aware of the sobering practicalities that make marriage important – like being able to visit her husband if he were injured, or being allowed to make arrangements for his funeral if he were killed in battle.
The couple’s novel ceremony, conducted on March 31, was so impromptu that Khutorian doesn’t even have a photo – just a copy of the wedding certificate which was delivered to her afterward.
And she still hasn’t seen her husband in person since they got married more than three months ago – “only through the phone,” Khutorian said with a sigh.