“Persian Wedding” – The most Beautiful (Celebration of Love)
The Persian wedding, derives from Persian culture and in many respects that culture derives from Zoroastrianism. What sets Persian weddings apart from other wedding ceremonies is their tradition-infused ceremony. The Persian wedding is rich with old customs and stunning details.
The Persian wedding, which traces back to the traditions of Zoroastrianism, is considered one of the most important events in Persian culture. The Persian wedding derives from Persian culture and in many respects that culture derives from Zoroastrianism. What sets Persian weddings apart from other wedding ceremonies is their tradition-infused ceremony. The Persian wedding is rich with old customs and stunning details.
When it comes to the wedding, all acquaintances are invited to the ceremony. There will be an extravagant feast and celebration, and usually the host families spare no expenses.
Also, the majority of the Iranian population upholds all these steps. In the following you’ll find the elements and steps of the Persian wedding:
“Khastegari” or Asking for the Intended’s Hand
This step is the first in the wedding process. In the old days, usually the tradition called for the elders and the families to arrange the marriages. When the son of the family reached an appropriate age for marriage, his parents would take him to meet eligible women and families fit for him.
Eligibility here mostly relates to the woman’s family, meaning their occupations, religious associations and financial state.
After a few meetings with the desired woman’s family, the man’s (suitor) family would ask for the woman’s hand in marriage.
Though Khastegari is very important, the full tradition is rarely performed these days. The one aspect that still remains the same is that in the end, it is essential to ask the family for the bride’s hand in marriage before actually proposing to her.
Baleh Boroon (Taking the Yes) is the ceremony similar to “Khastegari”. At this point, the couple has reached the conclusion that they want to get married. In this ceremony both families announce their acceptance of the marriage. It’s a custom that the groom’s mother gives a gift to the bride at Baleh Boroon. The gift is usually a ring which is used as a way of persuading the bride.
In this ceremony the amount of Mahrieh, date of Aghd or wedding and other conditions are discussed by parents and elders.
“Mehrieh” or the Gift
As a way of guaranteeing the bride’s future and the importance of groom’s responsibility toward bride, groom must give a gift to bride. Usually when both bride and groom accept each other as their partner, their family will negotiate the gift which is mostly gold coins. Legally the bride can ask for the gift whenever she wants but the common custom is that gift is given to bride in a case of divorce and as a means of financial protection for the female.
The “Jahaz Baroon” is also traditionally known as “Tabagh Baroon”. This party takes place a few days before the wedding. In Iran bride’s parents are supposed to provide the important items for the couple’s life. The items are furniture, refrigerator, oven and other necessary items which are called Jahizieh. The bride’s family set the couple’s house with these items.
In Jahaz Baroon ceremony nowadays, bride and groom’s relatives come to the couple’s house and look at these items. Iranians are known party lovers so Jahaz Baroon gives them another reason to get together and enjoy each other’s company.
But traditionally this ceremony was different. Men from the groom’s family would dress up in their costumes carry the presents on big flat containers and carry them on their heads. Even though small cities and villages still continue this tradition, it is rarely practiced in big and modern cities of Iran.
After the Khastegari, Baleh Boroon and Jahaz Baroon; we arrive at the main part which is called Aroosi.
Aroosi consists of two main sections (Aroos in Farsi means bride); the first being Aghd, which is the main ceremony and Mehmoonee which is the actual reception. Bride in Persian is called aroos, which means white. The word was used in Sassanian period and exists in Avestan literature as well.
In older times, Persian weddings used to take a few days’ time period; but in the modern times due to culture changes and the fact that many people have become busier, the entire ceremony happen in a day.
In this part, the bride and groom are presented before the guests. They say their vows to each other and both sign the official contracts alongside a number of witnesses. Aghd takes place in a specially decorated room with flowers and beautiful decorations. This may seem that (Aghd) is completely like the western traditions, but there are a number of customs that are very unique. For example: Sofreye Aghd.
This custom is a table and tablecloth that carry a number of symbolic items.
There are a few details relating the Aghd ceremony:
After the groom is seated by the Sofreye Aghd, the bride enters the ceremony with a veil over her face and takes her seat (Left to the groom). Traditionally Sofreh-ye Aghd is set on the floor facing east, the direction of sunrise (light). Consequently when bride and bridegroom are seated at the head of Sofreh-ye Aghd they will be facing “The Light”.
A canopy is held above their heads by female relatives, and one female rubs two sugarloafs together above them. Another person burns aromatic incense which is called Espand, and is believed to fend off evil and harm.
Many people believe this is the most important factor of the Persian wedding since it is very unique and interesting. We’ve already discussed the meaning of Aghd.
“Sofre” means tablecloth in the Persian Language.
This Sofre is quite familiar to another iconic one in the Persian culture: The Haft Sin.
Sofreye Aghd traces back to the Zoroastrian traditions (much like the wedding itself) and has kept its basics and hasn’t changed much during the course of history. The Sofre (tablecloth) is either set on the floor or on a short pedestal of wood.
The tablecloth has to be a specific material named Termeh. Other items are placed on the Sofre.
These said items are usually procured months in advance to the wedding by the families, mostly by the mother of the bride. These items all have symbolic meanings to the beautiful union.
They are listed below:
1- Ayne va shamdoon (mirror and candlesticks)
Considered the most important items, these will become parts of the decorations in the couple’s home as a remembrance.
A few weeks before the Aghd, the bride and groom buy their mirror set which is normally made from silver. In the old days, the material of these items used to be gold or silver, but nowadays couples mostly go for different materials.
The mirror and candlesticks are each a symbol, the mirror showing eternity and the candles show passion and brightness through fire and light (which is a huge element of Zoroastrianism).
These items are situated directly in front of the couple. Since they are seated next to each other, the groom sees his bride in the mirror when she lifts the veil from her face.
2- Basket of decorated eggs (tokhmé morgh) and nuts
Sofreye Aghd has a basket full of eggs which are painted (mostly gold) and different types of nuts which are also painted gold. The nuts include pistachios, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts.
The eggs and nuts are placed there as a symbol of fertility.
As stated earlier, someone burns this material in front of the couple at the beginning and throughout the ceremony.
In addition to this, the material is also present on the Sofre. Burning Espand is a symbolic way of warding off the evil and harms toward the couple.
4- A book of significance for the couple
If the families are religious, the book would be the Holy Quran. However there is an interesting technicality.
The Holy Quran is opened to a certain verse about the significance of marriage.
The non-religious couples however, tend to use a book of poetry of a famous poet or a specific book that has a sentimental and important meaning in their relationship.
5- An abundance of flowers
Though many people think that flowers are on the display just for decoration, they are also a symbol of beauty and life.
As stated earlier, this white piece of cloth is held above the couple’s head by relatives (mostly single females). The act of rubbing two sugar loafs together is a symbol of showering the bride and groom in sweetness.
7- Asal (Honey)
There is a cup of honey in Sofreye Aghd which is used immediately after officiating of the marriage. The married couple each should dip their pinky finger in the cup of honey and feed it to the other one.
8- Tray of spices
This tray of seven spices is usually designed in a very beautiful way and is a symbol of prosperity.
The tray is placed in the middle of the sofreh and holds the following seven herbs and spices to guard against the evil eye:
- ● Khash-khaash (poppy seeds)
- ● Berenj (rice)
- ● Sabzi khoshk (dried vegtables)
- ● Namak (salt)
- ● Raziyaneh (nigella seeds)
- ● Chai (black tea)
- ● Kondor (frankincense)
9- Bowl of gold coins
This bowl filled with coins also symbolizes prosperity for the couple.
10- Shahkheh Nabat (Crystallized sugar)
This represents sweetness in the couples’ life.
11- Noone sangak (specially baked flatbread)
This bread usually adorns the Sofreh in the shape of flowers. This item, yet again, is a symbol of prosperity in the future life of the couple.
Mobaarak Baad (with blessing) is written in Persian calligraphy on Noon-e Sangak. The writing is usually done with saffron, cinnamon, Nigella seeds, or glitters. A separate platter of this flat bread, feta cheese and fresh herbs are also present to be shared with the guests after the ceremony, to bring the new couple happiness and prosperity.
12- Golab (cup of rosewater)
This substance plays a big part in the Persian culture in fields like cooking. However, the reason it is used on the Sofre is to perfume the air.
13- Kalleh Ghand (Two sugar cones)
These are made of hardened sugar which is used during Aghd. During the officiating the marriage, these sugar cones are grinded together by female relatives above the bride and bridegroom’s head and over Canopy.
14- Basket of fruit
This item is displayed as a symbol of representing a fruitful future for the bride and the groom.
After the groom is asked if he is ready to enter into this marriage and he says yes, it is the bride’s turn.
This part is a scenic custom and the scenario is usually like this:
Aghed (The officiant): Do you wish to accept x as your husband? The bride remains silent, while one of the guests/bridesmaids says “the bride has gone to pick flowers.”
Aghed: For the second time I ask, do you accept x to be your husband? Again the bride (Aroos) remains silent and a female relative/bridesmaid may say “the bride has gone to bring Golab.”
Aghed: For the third time I ask, will you accept x as your husband?
After the third time, the bride declares “with the permission of my parents and the elders, Yes.”… from that point on the couple are considered married. Then the bride and groom sign the contract and documents to legalize their marriage. The couple then exchanges their wedding rings and afterwards, the couples usually dip their little fingers in a bowl of honey and put in each other’s mouths as a symbol of kicking off the start of their marriage with sweetness.
Wedding Cake & Knife Dance “Raghseh Chaghoo”
The knife dance, known as “Raghseh Chaghoo”, is a Persian wedding tradition that begins the cake cutting. When the bride and groom are ready to cut the cake, they have to earn the knife. At this moment one of female members of the family (usually bride or groom’s sister) would take the knife which is designed by flower and starts dancing with it. The groom must offer money to the dancer in exchange for the knife. The first dancer usually takes the money but gives the knife to another woman to continue the knife dance. This will continue until one of the dancers decides that they are given enough money and will give the bride and groom their cake knife in exchange. Then the bride and groom cut the cake together.
Next, the couple receives gifts from their family members and with that, the Aghd ceremony is over and the reception begins.
“Pa Takhti” is held the day after the Persian wedding. The bride dresses up and wears floral ornaments. This ceremony takes place in groom’s family house which is decorated with many flowers. It is similar to American Bridal shower. It is not a formal party but more like a “sweets and drink” party. The relatives of the bride and the groom bring them presents which would be opened in a specific manner with humour, singing and dancing. Pa Takhti is spent by dancing and socializing with new family members.
“Pa gosha” which in Farsi means opening leg! This party is usually thrown by bride and groom’s family and relatives. The purpose of the party is for bride and groom to attend their first party, officially as a couple. The couple is given a gift by the host.
Madar Zan Salam (Hello Mother in law)
The morning after the Persian wedding, the groom visits his mother in law and gives her a gift. This is his way of saying thank you for raising his wife.
Mahe Asal (Persian Honeymoon)
“Mahe Asal” is a vacation or a trip in which the married couple will spend together after wedding. Northern part of Iran because of being close to the Caspian Sea and its beautiful scenery is usually a popular choice. Also a lot couples choose more ancient and historical cities such as Shiraz and Isfahan as their honeymoon destination. Some well off families may travel abroad for their honeymoon.
As the family is the setting stone of every custom in Persian culture, the newly wed couples are supposed to visit their parents first thing on Norooz. They are also visited by other relatives since it is their first New Year as a couple.