As in any country, there are many traditions around weddings in Turkey. Turkish people have a deep attachment to customs and carry them through generations and even countries...
Depending on which area of Turkey you are looking at, there are different customs and ways of doing things during a wedding. What they all have in common is that it is more of a family affair than a personal one. This affects the traditions, as you will read below.
We have compiled here a small selection of customs and traditions in Turkey; some of them have similarities to some European cultures.
Also Read: The ultimate guide to weddings in Turkey
1. Asking for the Bride's Hand or El İsteme
As in Germany and many other counties, it's customary to ask the bride's father for his daughter's hand in marriage. "Kız isteme," as this is called in Turkish, follows a precisely defined ceremony. The groom travels with his parents, as well as older family members, with flowers and chocolates (sometimes presents, too) on a fixed day to the bride's parents home.
After the families have talked a bit about the weather and football, the eldest male member of the groom's family will ask the prospective brides's father for his daughter's hand, always saying the same words, "Allah'ın emri Peygamber'in kavli ile kızınızı, oğlumuza istiyoruz", which means "With the command of Allah and the word of the Prophet, we want your daughter for our son."
The bride's family can ask for time to think it over, and then the ceremony can be repeated on another day. When the bride's father finally agrees, rings are exchanged and the wedding vows will be made.
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2. Promise Ceremony or Söz Kesmek
The promise ceremony is called a "söz kesmek" in Turkey. The Turkish word söz means promise. Mostly nowadays, it's performed on the same day that the bride's hand is asked for. Simple rings, not the engagement rings, are tied together with a red ribbon. On a silver tray, the rings are held out to the engaged couple, who put them on each other. The red ribbon is cut and the ceremony is complete.
3. Coffee with Salt & Pepper
This one is a funny one! Grooms don't really like it because future brides, in the heat of the action, tend to abuse it sometimes. During the "el isteme", mentioned earlier, when the families are small talking before the bride's hand is asked, the bride makes Turkish coffee to offer to the guests.
The groom's coffee is flavored with salt instead of sugar. Some might even put pepper in it. If the groom drinks it without batting an eye, it's considered a positive sign, but if the taste is unbearable, the groom may cough a lot and it can ruin the moment or create a big laugh!
4. Engagement Gifts or Nişan Bohcası
The "nişan bohcasi" is intended for families to show their appreciation for each other. It usually contains practical gifts and everyday items that can be used after the wedding, such as perfume, slippers, pajamas, clothes, shoes, makeup, towels, shaving utensils, and similar items. In the past, all these gifts were wrapped in an elaborately decorated large scarf and given to the partner's family.
Nowadays, you can buy baskets or even small chests especially for this purpose. It varies from region to region when the "nişan bohcası" is handed over, but usually it takes place before the engagement.
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5. Engagement or Nişan
Traditionally, the engagement party is paid for by the bride's family. The engagement can be celebrated in with small circle of friends and family in the bride's house, or a hall or a restaurant can be rented and the festivities can take place there. There is no limit to the number of participants. In provincial areas, 500 or more guests are not uncommon.
6. Henna Night or Kına Gecesi
A tradition that is still very popular is the "kına gecesi". This celebration can be held at the bride's home, an outside location, or restaurant. The bride, as well as the guests, are festively dressed. The bride sits on a chair wearing a long red veil that completely covers her head and face.
At first, sad songs are played and the bride cries, this is, after all, the farewell to her parents' home. After a certain ceremony and accompanied by the appropriate music, the future mother-in-law puts a gold coin in the bride's hand and opens the ceremony for the henna painting.
After that, the bride's tears dry up, the music becomes more cheerful. Then, the bride and guests enjoy being together and dance.
7. Registry Office or Nikah
The legal wedding ceremony usually takes place at the registry office, but if one wishes, the registrar can come to the wedding hall or location. The bride goes to the registry office in her wedding dress.
After the ceremony, which is quite short and simple in Turkey, the bride and groom line up in the registry office to receive congratulations and gifts, usually in the form of money and gold. After the ceremony, the bride and groom try to step on each other's foot. Whoever is faster, they say, will later have the say in the marriage.
8. Who Pays for the Wedding?
The wedding festivities are paid for by the groom's family. Usually the family rents a salon or a venue. Weddings in large hotels or on a ship are also becoming more and more popular. The choice of location depends on the budget, as well as the number of invited guests.
9. Who Buys the Wedding Dress?
The wedding dress is bought by the groom's family, while the bride buys the suit that the groom will wear at the wedding. Check out this article on Turkish wedding dresses.
10. Hairdresser Tradition
On the day of the wedding, both the bride and groom, go to the hairdresser, both accompanied by friends and family members. The bride also gets her makeup and nails done. Sometimes the groom picks the bride up directly from the hairdresser with the wedding car and they drive from there to the registry office.
Usually, however, the bride returns to her parents' house for the last time, where she puts on her wedding dress. From there, the groom then picks her up, with a special procession and even a drum performer. See the next tradition below.
11. Bride Pickup Tradition
Often musicians, called "Davul Zurna", are hired to play loudly in the street during the bridal pickup. Davul is a big drum and Zurna is a wind instrument with a funnel-shaped bell. This is to shorten the time the groom has to wait for the lady of his heart.
According to tradition, the bride's father ties a red ribbon around her waist. This is supposed to bring luck and wealth and at the same time stands for the purity of the bride. Often there is dancing in the street before the bride and groom get in the wedding car.
12. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue
Every bride should traditionally wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. The old should symbolize the bride's attachment to traditions and to her family home, the new represents the hope with which she looks to the future, the borrowed symbolizes her credibility in that people would lend her something, and the blue represents purity and fidelity.
13. Wedding Car is Blocked
The couple travels to the wedding in a car decorated with flowers. Often the wedding convoy drives through the streets honking loudly. All the cars that belong to the convoy have white ribbons tied to their wing mirrors to bring good luck to the couple. The loud honking is said to keep away the evil spirits. Sometimes the path of the wedding car is blocked and a toll must be paid.
14. Wedding Shoe Tradition
Before the wedding ceremony, the bride writes the names of her single friends on the bottom of the shoe. Whoever's name is the first to be unreadable or the most rubbed off at the end of the day will be the next to get married.
15. Wedding Party Traditions
There are several things that you may recognize that happen at Turkish weddings.
- The bride and groom are seated separately in the wedding salon at an extra table, which is clearly visible from the whole hall. Food and drinks are also served there.
- Together, the couple then go from table to table to welcome the guests and receive gifts. These are either pinned to the bride's dress or collected in a small bag or basket. Both bride and groom wear a wide red ribbon to which guests can pin the gold or money.
- Also in Turkey, the bride and groom start the dancing with an opening dance. Both Turkish and modern music is usually played.
- There is a multi-story wedding cake, which is cut by the bride and groom together. The first piece is handed by the groom to the bride and vice versa, then served to the guests.
- Contrary to popular belief, Turkish wedding celebrations do not last until the early hours of the morning, but usually end around midnight.
After that, the couple leave in their car and their new life can begin!
Find more articles about weddings in Turkey:
Legal Procedure to Get Married in Turkey Wedding Venues in Turkey 15 Creative and Unique Ideas for Amazing Weddings in Turkey Buy a Wedding Dress in Turkey Wedding Photographers in Turkey The Wedding FAQ
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