Gold, banknotes and the color red are the dominating elements of a Turkish wedding ceremony. No expenses are spared to make the occasion special for bride, groom and honored guests. A lavish and cheerful atmosphere is characteristic of the unique wedding ceremonies of Turkey.
Preparing for the Wedding
Turkey's population comprises 99 percent Muslims, but the country is also a secular one. Islam, therefore, rules many wedding tradtions, but there are also traditions for the civil part of a wedding.
Weddings in Turkey are a lavish affair with celebrations that may last for several days before and after the actual marriage ceremony. The traditional gifts for the bride and groom are money and gold. There are no European or American style wedding lists. Prior to the wedding, the respective families buy furniture and household goods for the young couple. Guests do not give the newlyweds towels, toasters or pots. Instead, they shower the bride, literally, with banknotes and coins.
Every jeweler in Turkey sells coins for the occasion. Red is the color of good luck and fortune; therefore, the gold coins, which serve as wedding gifts, come with a tiny red silk bow and a pin attached. On the evening of the marriage ceremony, bride and groom make their formal entrance. When possible, depending on the social and financial standing of the families, the ceremony is held in a ballroom. Bride and groom sit down at a lavishly decorated table with the witnesses by their side. A government official presides over the civil part of the ceremony, which is the signing of the relevant documents.
The Wedding Dress
For most of the brides, their wedding dress is their first fashionable dress because in the Ottoman culture, young girls are forbidden to wear fashionable clothes. Their wedding dress becomes their first ornamented dress of life. The bride wears a bright wedding dress and veil, adorned with a red sash around her waist and red bows on her dress or in her hair. The bridal veil is also important, but nowadays, traditions are changing and even the traditional marriages have brides wearing dresses without bridal veils. Bright colors are worn because they reflect joy and happiness. The groom is dressed in a tuxedo or dark suit.
Once the documents have been signed, the newly married couple opens the first dance. The bride, accompanied by her female relatives, then makes the rounds of her guests, carrying a basket lined in red. Guests kiss the bride, can pin a gold coin on her sash, may also slip a gold bracelet on her wrist, and deposit money in the basket. Afterward, the bride often changes from her white dress into a red or purple traditional gown, which is richly embroidered in gold. She wears a red veil over her head. Female guests and relatives are invited to form a circle around her, and then her hands and the palms of her guests are painted with henna for good luck.
The wedding dinner, which consists of many courses, follows. During the meal, traditional music is played, and often, professional dancers perform. An important part of the celebration is the 'Dance of the Fathers', where the fathers of the bride and groom dance around each other and are equally showered with banknotes and gold coins.
Finally, the bride and groom cut the wedding cake. Each guest is given a piece to be consumed after dinner. The rest is packed in small parcels to be taken home. The bride and groom stay with their guests until the end of the celebration. They do not sneak out to start their honeymoon early, but traditionally spend their first night in the hotel where the wedding reception takes place.
The Nuptial Chamber
In traditional marriages, after the marriage processions are over, the last ritual becomes sending the couple into the Nuptial Chamber. An elderly woman performs the ritual of holding the couple's hand and after the groom performs his ritual prayer, the couple gets to see each other's face without veils. The groom is supposed to give a nice present to his wife, after which they eat food offered by the family of the bride.
Foreigners getting married in Turkey must abide to the following laws and rules.
- Obtaining affidavit of eligibility to get married in Turkey is mandatory for the foreign citizens. Passport, birth certificate, identity proof and proof of previous marriages (if any) are prerequisites of obtaining this affidavit.
- Photographs of bride and groom, five copies each for the documentation process are mandatory.
- US Citizens require an authentication certificate from the American Consular Office.
- Filling out a marriage declaration form is also mandatory.
It is not surprising, in today's globalized world, that foreigners marry in Turkey or Turks marry in other countries. However, not all countries are as liberal as the US; therefore, for a Turkish wedding, the abovementioned rituals and prerequisites must be understood carefully if you are planning to marry or attend a marriage in Turkey.