Wedding ceremonies and the traditions and assumptions surrounding them can vary immensely from country to country. In some cultures, a low-key, inexpensive wedding seems almost impossible, while in others, it may be perfectly normal. What are your experiences? InterNations member Philip, who has recently moved to Iran, gives us a very personal insight into Iranian wedding ceremonies past and present, and talks about how traditions can take an ugly turn…
In Iran a wedding is a big deal to many families, traditionally it has been seen as a time of celebration. However, in the past quarter of a century you see a sea change in the mentality of the parents’ generation and the distancing between themselves and their offspring.
Growing up outside of this country and only having just ventured into the hot house in the past 12 months, I noticed some slight variations in how the wedding is perceived by all counterparts. The general consensus in Tehran is that if your parents have got the money, spend it; furthering that point, if your parents have got a bit of money, spend that too.
I have been round family friends houses in the past 12 months and been entertained by what I thought was a BMW 3 Series commercial only to later find out that it was actually a wedding video of the husband driving to pick the wife up for the ceremony. In all I think the family spent more on the wedding video than the actual ceremony.
The Meetings – Khastegari
The history of the Iranian wedding is like the Iranian New Year, it is as old as the country itself, and traditionally the proposed groom’s family would visit the proposed bride’s family and hammer out a deal as whether to agree that these two poor souls should be cast in matrimony. The Khastegari – which I may add has two editions, one in each family’s home so the other can check the opposing family out to make sure they are of the same class and so on – is a set event in this soap opera.
One must understand that Iranian culture is all about ‘never losing face’ and with the creation over the last two decades of a huge middle class, that message has taken an ugly turn in terms of “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. I use this term loosely due to the closest similarity to visuals of Iranian wedding culture outside of Iran would be the Armenian family of California.
Mehriye & Jaheezieh
The mehriye is the offer from the groom’s family to the bride-to-be family of “Sekkeh” or otherwise known to us lay people as gold; traditionally gold sovereigns would be offered and an amount agreed on. Usually these days in the first or second khasatagari the groom would offer an amount and the family would either accept or throw the baby out with the bath water. This in recent times has been an absolute nightmare to couples wishing to get married as the price of gold as we all know has sky rocketed. Hence people have poured their savings into gold, bumping the price up by awesome amounts, pretty much pricing anyone who isn’t a millionaire out of marriage.
The jaheezieh is another minefield for the bride-to-be’s family. Traditionally the bride’s family would kit out any new home that the groom would buy. Well all I can say, washing machines in Iran are very expensive and we agreed that I have all the necessary stuff apart from the washing machine, so Indesit it is!
The Blood Test
Although a newly introduced tradition, over the past decade or so this has become an integral part of getting married, this is the one thing that can put a spanner in the works and crush all the hopes of those who would wish to marry. To the outsider this seems a pretty strict system to check those who would like to marry and have children at a later date, but there is logic in the idea. The test covers a host of different possible diseases contracted or otherwise. It also includes a small genetics test to prove whether your children would have a high chance of a disease like say down syndrome. If this is the case then as far as I understand the two must part ways and never see each other again.
Aghd (Wedding document signing event)
The contract signing for the wedding is usually done before the ceremony of Aghd, so that the ceremony can flow naturally. When the groom signs the marriage contract, he legally agrees to provide the bride with a mehriye. The amount of mehriye is restated during the wedding ceremony. He is also asked whether his wife can divorce on 10 points which the cleric speaks out in front, for example. “If you become a drug addict, can she divorce you?”
Generally this is the big event, after the signing of the marriage certificate the newly married couple would head to a wedding hall or a garden somewhere in the vicinity of the families’ homes. This event is the big party time where families would get together to celebrate the union of marriage. This in itself is a great thing but can pretty much bankrupt any father of the groom due to the numbers of people who come.
After the event
Our party was small, no more than 30 people, and my father generously flew over to save our bank accounts from total annihilation. Weddings are wonderful events, I truly will treasure my memories of the day for the rest of my life, but it leaves me with foreboding for a country on the squeeze economically and a burgeoning youth population just trying to progress with their lives.
Thank you, Philip for your contribution to our blog.
All pictures PD, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.