Turkey has some weird, wonderful and wacky traditions when it comes to weddings. We had our own ‘big fat village wedding’ in 2016, and a couple of years later in 2018 Berkay’s brother got married so I got to attend another one. His was definitely more full on than mine, and on telling other people about some of the things I saw, it became clear that some villages just have their own traditions that nobody else has ever heard of!
Usually weddings go on for a few days, and its not unusual for the legal, civil service to happen days, weeks or even months beforehand, but some don’t consider themselves really married until after the big wedding – in fact, last year Berkay’s cousin got married legally, but because they didn’t have the big wedding due to covid, didn’t live together, or even share a room together, until months afterwards once they were finally able to have the big village party.
The first part of the wedding is the henna night, I didn’t have one and didn’t go to Berkay’s brother/sister in law’s one either, I was on the plane at the time, but I did arrive in time for the 2nd day of celebrations.
You’d think one big fat village wedding would be enough, right? But no, in Turkey it’s normal to have two – one in the brides village hosted by her family, and one in the grooms family, hosted by his.
On the morning of the wedding we drove to a hair salon and then the work began. Now, bare in mind I don’t speak Turkish although I can understand quite a bit, so I was just sat watching, taking in everything that was going on. Then, armed with a can of hairspray, she curled my hair to within an inch of its life, I was a walking fire hazard, and no chance those curls were ever falling out, they’d have survived Armageddon!
Sometimes you see brides dresses beautifully hung on pretty hangers, delicately placed in a corner of a stunning bridal suite with soft sunlight coming through the window, well, this was as far from that as you could imagine, a little back street, dark, dingy salon where we were all going a little drunk on the hairspray fumes. But then the bride went to get dressed behind a curtain and she came back looking beautiful with a full on beautiful Disney princess dress of dreams!
While we were all getting ready, the family in the brides village had been serving up food for everyone they know – but more on that later. Fast forward a few hours, we’d gone back to Berkay’s village to get dressed in our wedding outfits, I’d tried to brush my hair out and loosen the curls, and was ready to go.
Then the madness began again – the groom, his friends and family drove to the brides family home, to collect his bride. Drummers played in the street, alerting everyone within a 10 mile radius to the fact there was a wedding going on. Here’s where some interesting traditions start! Before getting married the brides family fill a trunk/chest with things for her to take to her new life as she leaves the family family home, traditionally things like towels, bedding, kitchen items etc, and when the groom comes to collect this, and his bride, her family sit on the dowry chest and won’t let it leave. The groom speaks to his new father in law, sometimes they have a little argument (though part of me thinks this sometimes isn’t for show and actually runs a bit deeper…) and offers them some money to release the chest, and away they go. The bride’s father then brings the bride out, with her face covered with a red veil, and a red ‘maidenhood’ belt placed around her waist.
Some people have weddings in hotels, wedding saloons, school playgrounds or just open market places in the village. On this occasion, it was in a saloon – no food or drinks served, just a lot of plastic chairs placed facing a dance floor area – where the couple danced the night away – along with Berkay in the grey!
Fast forward again to the next day, and we woke up to ‘the calm before the storm’. This time, the wedding party would be taking place in Berkay’s brothers village. Preparations had already started in the days before, and two huge marquees had been erected, with hundreds of tables and chairs inside, ready for the thousands of guests who would come throughout the day to eat the food the family was giving out.
The food prep soon began – those huge ‘cauldrons’ (the wedding was in October, I like to call them cauldrons to be festive!) are full of keskek – a traditional wedding food, reminds me a bit of porridge, but they put meat with it! Someone else prepped huge containers of salad, soup, rice, beans etc, its normal for the family to give out bowls of this food to practically everyone they’ve ever known or met- you don’t chose what food you want, you just turn up and they bring a huge silver tray full of several bowls of food on, and you share with other people around you – the thought makes me cringe a bit more now, post-covid.
When people started arriving and it got busy, it was very overwhelming, Berkay was busy helping and I was just sitting or wandering awkwardly, trying to not look out of place. To put it into context how many people had come and gone throughout the day, by about 2 o clock they had gone through over 700 loaves of bread!
Women and men were mostly sitting separately, which I hate, but there was a sea of different patterned mutli-coloured baggy pants, which I absolutely love! Not forgetting the musicians and drummers, along with an instrument I can only describe as sounding like 10,000 wasps swarming towards you, and boy was it deafening!
The bride had been at the hair salon again all day getting ready, and a few hours later, after the food had run out and some poor ladies had started the job of washing up, we all got ready to go again for round two of the wedding party.
This time the party was held in the market place in the centre of the village – the same place we had ours. Again, thousands of people were invited, some came dressed in their baggy pants and knitted waitcoats or jeans, others came dressed up in lovely sparkly dresses and suits – anything goes really! Nothing really happens other than dancing and drumming, and when you think its over, its not! A convoy of cars beeping their horns drove through the village back to Berkay’s brothers house and that’ where a few more bizarre traditions popped up.
Before the bride got out of the car, the groom had to start a fire and cook an egg over it, while dressed in women’s baggy pants. Then his friends smeared the ashes from the fire over his face, and he had to feed the egg to his bride, only when she said yes it tastes good, would she get out of the car, otherwise he’d have to do it again.
Then, before they were able to enter their house, all his friends formed a little huddle and began hitting the groom with a stick, not rough obviously but a little odd nonetheless. Apparently, nobody else has ever heard of this so I don’t know if its just a thing in their village and nowhere else!
All in all, village weddings are pretty draining and oh so very long. The traditions clearly vary from place to place and also depend on how modern the families are. It is definitely an interesting experience but you leave a little deaf from the drums!
I’ve talked about a few more traditions, including the story behind gold bangles/coins and pinning the money on the bride and groom , back when I blogged about my own village wedding a few year ago – click here and here to read.