Turkish weddings are spectacular occasions, I’m pretty certain they invite every person they’ve ever met, literally, hundreds, even a thousand people all gathered together to celebrate, the Turks do know how to throw a party.
The wedding celebrations go on for days, and it’s not unusual for the legal wedding ceremony to take place months before the actual wedding party, the equivalent of what we would call the ‘reception’. This was the case for our friends. They were legally married in April this year, and had a very small family get together in a restaurant. They held the actual wedding party, and everything else that goes with it, a month later at the end of May. I have their permission to share their photos so thought I’d do a post sharing my experience of a Turkish wedding.
The days and weeks leading up to the big wedding party were spent planning, we went to their house often and each time they were doing something wedding-related. On on particular occasion, they came in with a massive box of invitations to send out, ”how many people are they inviting?!” I asked, ‘not too many, just 500”….
500 people, and that is considered a fairly small wedding by Turkish standards! I don’t even know 50 people, let alone 500. The wedding party was taken very seriously, the groom’s father spent an awful lot of money on it, with the help of credit cards!
The night before the wedding, they had a henna night, I’ve heard this is normally a women-only thing, but both bride and groom attended in this case.
The next morning, the day of the wedding party, Berkay headed off to our friends village where they had sacrificed a cow and were serving up traditional Turkish meals to everyone who happened to be passing by. There was a steady flow of hundreds of people throughout the day, all coming to eat the food being offered as part of the celebrations. This carried on until late afternoon when it was time to get ready for the big party..
Typically, wedding parties are held in the late evenings, and can go on until the early hours of the morning. They are often held in large halls, ‘wedding salons’ or school yards. In this case, it was the school yard directly opposite their house. It seems so bizarre to me to hold a party in a school playground, when we think of traditional British wedding receptions, they are held in fancy halls or venues, all beautifully decorated tables and chairs, balloons, seating plans, perhaps a buffet or meal, and plenty of alcohol flowing. This was not the case here at all. Everyone was sitting on plastic garden chairs, hired from the local council, there was no food, no alcohol, not many decorations. It was all very simple, yet completely bonkers at the same time. We arrived at 8 o clock, just in time to see the bride and groom’s extravagant-looking car speeding through the village beeping its horn loudy to let everyone know there’s a wedding going on. The bride and groom’s names were written on the banner draped over the car, and it was covered in streamers and huge ribbons, I wish I had taken a photo!
After greeting the bride and groom’s parents, we found a couple of spare chairs and sat down, completely overwhelmed by the amount of people and the noise of the drums, something that is ever-present at Turkish weddings.
The bride and grooms close family and friends stood up and lit some sparklers, held them in the air and formed a little walkthrough archway with their arms, the bride and groom arrived and walked hand in hand through them, it all looked quite romantic with the sparklers! They walked straight into the middle of the yard and stood opposite each other, the bride had a veil over her head and a red ribbon tied around her waist, this is a ‘maidenhood belt’ or bekaret kuşağı which is tied around her by her family before leaving for the wedding. The groom said a prayer and removed his bride’s veil, revealing her face. Small fireworks were lit in the background and they then had their first dance, a typical slow dance, and then other couples started to join in.
After the first dance, the real party begins. Loud drums, all kinds of musical instruments, live music and singing and A LOT of dancing. The dancing goes on all night and is crazy, traditional Turkish dancing. The wedding we were at had only Turkish music, but many are more modern and include western music, I can’t count the number of times I heard wedding parties in the school yard behind my house playing gangnam style last year!
After a while, it was time to bring out the cake. The cake was HUGE, 7 tiers (yet still nowhere near enough to go around all the guests) and had yet more fireworks lit on top. The bride and groom placed some lira notes on the cake and it was cut up and distributed to guests, we didn’t stay around long enough to get any, unfortunately, as Berkay had to get to work!
Just before we went, the dancing was put on hold for a while and the bride and groom stood at the front of the seating area with ribbons draped around their shoulders. Guests are expected to pin money or gold coins to the ribbon, instead of giving presents. This was one of my favourite parts, I think it’s a good idea and a nice little tradition that looks great on the photos! We were near the front of the queue to pin money on, right after the groom’s family. Each person that pinned money on got a photo taken with the bride and groom and then went back to their dancing.
We had to go home after this as Berkay had work, but I’m certain the wedding carried on until the early hours with plenty more fun and dancing.
It was very different to any wedding I have ever been to before, but it was an experience to say the least. If we ever get married, I’m sure we’ll incorporate elements of both traditional British and Turkish weddings, or maybe we’ll do as many of my friends have and have two, they are very different after all. (: