The marriage in Iran has customs and customs, some of which are exclusive to Iranian culture. These customs have changed many times throughout history and adapt each time in different ways according to ethnic groups, religions, and even the various social levels. Today, couples before marriage usually know each other at work, at the University, in public places, at parties and family gatherings, or in many cases the same families play an important role in finding the right person for their children or daughters. Iranian marriage is an event that consists of several phases. These in some areas of Iran were a bit different at the beginning while in other areas the changes occurred gradually. But this is common and usual in the stages of traditional Iranian marriage in most areas of the country (particularly in Tehran), it is found in the majority of ethnic groups. However, alongside traditional marriages, there are modern ones that are less subordinate to customs and which deal only with the marriage contract and the beginning of married life.
“For Iranians, marriage is an event, which must be celebrated not quietly but with glory and distinction. It is the most conspicuous of all the occasions and is celebrated in the presence of a fairly large assembly.”
A Persian wedding is huge and extravagant. It’s the biggest Persian celebration you could attend and it’s very much centered around two families rather than only the bride and groom.
For an outsider, it might seem huge, crazy, loud, emotional and even awkward at times. Most of its traditions route back to Zoroastrian times and today’s weddings are still keeping many traditional elements, despite how modern the couple might be.
Before I get started, I want to state that the family has a huge role in Iranian culture. Even to this day, most Iranians are extremely family centered and it plays a major role in their personal lives. For many, it might seem too much. But you should bear in mind that young Iranians are still significantly supported by their families, whether financially or emotionally. Hence Iranian families get a lot of say in their children’s wedding and they have a good excuse for it. In present-day Iran, Persian weddings have become a huge business. People go overboard to have royalty-like weddings whether inside Iran or abroad. For most weddings at least 300 people are invited. The numbers could easily go as high as 1000. Parents wait for years to see their sons and daughters in wedding clothes and are eager to throw them a party everyone will remember.
let’s stop here and get into detail:
Khastegari: Asking a girl’s hand in marriage
Traditionally, Iranian families would be looking for an eligible bride as soon as their son reaches the “marriage age” or whenever he approves of the idea of marriage. They would search within family and friends for a girl that reached their standards. The most important values for the perfect bride were her modesty, intelligence, abilities, faith and sometimes beauty. It was also common to search for brides that came from the same cultural and economic class as the groom’s family.
Khastegari is basically a ceremony in which a girl and boy meet for the first time in the girl’s house with the intention of marriage. It’s almost like a traditional date. It does not mean anything and both people can decide whether they want to end it with the first session or not, so don’t confuse it with an arranged marriage. For a Khastegari, the groom’s family are expected to bring flowers or pastry of some kind. The bride’s family greets them with tea, sweets, and fruits. Regularly, the girl would not present herself at the door. The guests would arrive, have a seat, start the small talk and then the girl would come with a tray of tea. That was when the boy and girl would have eye contact for the first time. It’s also the time when the girl would get shaky hands and spill the whole tea on the groom’s pants. At least that’s what would happen in a Persian movie.
The girl and the boy would usually get a chance to also talk in private. After the khastegari, if the boy was still interested, his mother would be calling the family to ask whether they are willing to continue the process. If so, a second, third and … khastegari would happen until they reach a conclusion and start planning the big Persian wedding.
Nowadays things have changed quite a bit. While some families would still go for the traditional way, most people date outside the family zone and the Khastegari only happens when a mutual decision has been made between the couple for their families to meet.
Bale Boroon: Literally ‘Taking the Yes!’ in Persian
So once enough sessions of Khastegari have been accomplished and both families and the couple are happy with the idea, they set a date for Bale Boroon. Bale Boroon is a ceremony held in the house of the bride where only close relatives are invited and the idea of the marriage between the couple is announced publicly. At this point, the couple has reached the conclusion that they want to get married. The groom’s family comes bringing gifts such as elegant fabrics, silk scarves, a white chador, cake and of course the engagement ring.
Mehriyeh: ‘A gift of love’ if you may!
Mehriyeh is a gift the groom promises to the bride. It’s usually equivalent to gold coins. The numbers can go as high as thousands and there’s currently a lot of debates over how much it should be in Iran. Mehriyeh is a girl’s right to be asked whenever she pleases. It is written in the marriage contract and the groom would be legally in debt if the bride announces her request through the court.
The number of coins you set for a Mehriyeh is up to the couple and their families. Usually, the number has a special meaning. It could be the birth year of the bride or have religious importance.
Aghd: The civil and religious marriage
A Persian wedding is divided into Aghd and the reception. In almost all cases the couple has their official Aghd ceremony way before their wedding. They might keep it intimate without a celebration and just go to the office, sign the contract and say their vows.
They would then have another formal Aghd ceremony with their close family and friends on the day of the wedding. In this case, Aghd is performed an hour before the wedding amongst closer relatives and the rest of the guests join at the reception.
When it comes to reception, it can either be mixed or segregated. Religious or most traditional families would prefer a wedding reception that has separate sections for men and women. This will allow the practicing women to throw off their hijabs and enjoy the party in sophisticated evening gowns.
The groom is the only male who is allowed to make an appearance in the female section. He and his bride walk into the reception together, greet their guests and have their first dance. He then leaves the girls to go on with the party and makes occasional visits.
Sofreh translates to the tablecloth and Sofreh Aghd is a certain cloth that includes items with symbolic meanings in a Persian Aghd ceremony:
A book of significance for the couple
For religious couples, the Quran is placed on the table, open to a verse about the importance of marriage. Secular couples, on the other hand, will usually display a book of poetry by one of the great Persian poets, or another book that holds a significant place in their relationship.
Mirror and candelabras
Along with quite a number of things that the groom’s family buys for the bride is a set of mirror and candlesticks. The same mirror and candlesticks will later be in their future home to commemorate their wedding. Mirror in Persian culture represents immortality. The bride and groom sit in front of it looking at each other in the mirror. The candles coming from Zoroastrian customs represent light and warmth.
Sangak break is a kind of Iranian bread baked in stone covered fire ovens. The bread is elaborately designed and represents prosperity for the couple.
Termeh or a praying mattress
The famous Iranian handwoven cloth called Termeh is always a part of the Sofreh Aghd. It’s usually converted into a praying mattress and shows the couples faith in Islam – if they are Muslims of course. It is placed right in front of the mirror.
Crystallized sugar represents sweetness in the couple’s life.
Just like in the Haftseen table that is arranged for Nowruz (Persian new year), colored eggs symbolize fertility.
Representing wealth and financial prosperity.
Because rosewater is everywhere in Persian culture. In food, dessert and evening ceremonies to perfume the air.
Almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts
Tastefully decorated in a basket representing abundance.
Once the Aghd is performed and rings are exchanged, the couple dips their small finger into a bowl of honey and put it into each other’s mouth. I personally find this tradition so sweet and beautiful.
A special incense that is burnt to ward of the evil eye from the couple’s life.
Nature’s gift, which is always present at any Persian gathering.
Kalleh Ghand (Sugar cones)
During the ceremony, sugar cones are rubbed on the head of the couple either by young unmarried girls or happily married women in the family to shower their life with sweetness.
An arrangement of 7 symbolic spices
A tray of 7 colorful spices to guard the couple against the evil eye! Other stuff along with lots of flowers are also present depending on the families.
The consent – Saying I do!
Once the bride and groom arrive, they are seated in front of the Sofreh Aghd facing their guests. Then the officiate of the ceremony starts by reading a few verses of the Quran. While he’s talking, young girls or happily married women in the family are holding a white canopy over the head of the bride and groom and one of them is rubbing the sugar cones on their head. Well actually on top of the canopy. Then the officiating would start by asking the consent of the bride. It is a tradition for the bride to create suspense and not answer until she is asked for the 3rd time.
The ladies holding the canopy are there to make excuses for the bride. At the first request of the officiate, one of the girls would announce that the bride has gone to pick flowers! (I promise it doesn’t sound that silly!) and the second excuse is usually the bride had gone to bring rosewater! On the 3rd request, the bride would say: “With the permission of my parents, yes!”
At this point, the groom removes the veil and is allowed to kiss his bride. Then one of the girls would bring a bowl of honey which the couple is supposed to dip their little finger in and put it in each other’s mouth. Later, gifts are to be exchanged (mainly jewelry or gold coins) and everyone takes photos with the newlywed couple.
The contract is also brought to the couple to be signed and 4 other guests who will sign as witnesses.
The ceremony patakhti and madarzan salam
The pātakhti ceremony takes place the day after the wedding ceremony. In this ceremony, which takes place less frequently today, only women belonging to close relatives participate in an afternoon party organized by the bride’s family and they are offered a cake, fruit, sweets, and drinks. On this occasion, the guests bring the bride of gifts. Similarly, this ceremony is held in Canada and America under the name “Bridal shower”. Also in the morning following the wedding party, there is a ritual called “mādarzan salām” in which the groom with a gift goes to see the mother of the bride and while he thanks her, he kisses her hand and she receives his gift.
After the last phases of the formalities and the wedding ceremony, some spouses leave for a trip together, the honeymoon. Among the religious families, the city of Mashhad is chosen as the first destination