Updated on: Nov 17, 2023
Persian culture is rich, steeped in a nation rich in history with influences from Zoroastrian, Mesopotamian, Hellenistic and Indian Cultures. Being one of the oldest civilizations in the world, located in a strategic location at the crossroads of India, the Arab world, the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman, Persia has played an outsized role in the world, with significant contributions in music, architecture, cuisine, art, literature, fashion, philosophy, and even theatre.
Thankfully for us, a lot of the aforementioned are proudly displayed in modern Persian weddings, which have changed little since the times of Alexander the Great. Persian Weddings blend ancient rituals with modern customs, having the best of both worlds. In this article, we will go through what makes the Persian Wedding Ceremony unique- the ceremonies, customs, and various elements that combine and make it truly special.
Prelude to Persian Wedding Ceremony
Ancient marriages in Iran were a serious affair, with massive ramifications for both families, individuals, and the community at large. For these reasons, several rituals, gatherings, and traditions are carried out before the main events.
1. Negotiations Between the Families
Before the main ceremonies can begin, there is a longtime tradition where the family of the groom pays an elaborate visit to the residence of the bride. The families and couple have already agreed to the marriage before this, and this event is done purely for symbolic, cultural, and historical reasons.
The groom’s party brings sugary sweets, flowers, jewelry, golden coins, and their best-negotiating skills, as their purpose is to convince the bride’s family to let her go. They will be served tea and treated in a very hospitable manner. Once the negotiations are settled, the future bride will be adorned with gifts by males on the groom’s side, who sing, dance, and be festive while carrying the gifts on their heads. They then bestow them to the future bride.
2. Beautician Treatment
A relatable tradition that is carried out on the bride is full body treatment by a beautician three days before the wedding. All body hair is removed, including from the face, shoulders, neck, armpits, legs, and back. The eyebrows will be plucked and shaped to appear more feminine. This marks the transition to womanhood for the bride, and the hope is that three days is adequate time for the women to heal from this treatment.
3. Sofreh Aghd (Ceremony of Engagement)
This ancient ceremony is the core of Iranian weddings, a symbolic connection between the couple and their families. It is the first ceremonial step in the marriage, and is attended by very close associates of the bride and groom; if you are invited, it is a great honor.
To prepare for the occasion, and incense is burned to ward off evil spirits. In the room, there is a mirror, two candles, and fragrant rose water, with the groom seeing his new wife’s reflection as soon as he enters the room. A beautiful silk cloth is laid out on a low table facing towards the direction of the sunrise, covered with gold coins and platters of delicious food.
This food serves a highly symbolic purpose and consists of a tray of spices (salt, black tea, frankincense, poppy seeds, rice, angelica, and nigella seeds), ornate flatbread, honey, eggs, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, honey, pastries, and sugar cones. This food is symbolic of good luck, plentiful feasts, sweetness, and joy. Depending on the religion of the couple, an open Koran, Bible or Torah is present, to show the couple how to live a good and pious life.
4. Consent Ritual
This occurs during the Sofreh Aghd and is a customary part of the process. The groom is asked if he wishes to be with the bride, and he will immediately say yes. When it is the bride’s turn, however, she will remain silent, and her relatives will exclaim silly reasons that she can’t get married yet. The officiant will ask her 3 times, and only then will she excitedly accept.
The purpose of this is to display the journey that the groom went through to earn her love, and it is all in good spirits. The bride and groom will then dip their pinky fingers in honey, and feed each the sweet, magical substance. Now, all of the formalities are over with and it is time for the reception!
5. Aroosi (reception)
There is no such thing as a small Persian wedding reception. These events tend to be huge and go all out, with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of guests invited to celebrate the union of two souls. It is very considered rude to not invite people you may have a connection with, so the wedding is widely advertised and you can expect to see distant relatives, neighbors, school friends, and coworkers of the couple.
In the traditional Persian method, the groom’s family will pay for the wedding while the bride's family will pay a dowry, but in today’s times, this is increasingly uncommon. The mood tends to be extremely joyous, with lots of music, performances, and guests showing off their dance moves. All of the guests are expected to wear clothing befitting a very fine occasion, and the spectacle of so many people with such glamour is a sight to behold.
The couple will personally greet every single guest and thank them for attending, and they will dedicate a portion of the night to take pictures with those who want them. Between the dancing, singing, laughing and conversation, guests will build up quite an appetite, which brings us to our next point- the food!
Hospitality is an important aspect of the Persian tradition, and the Persian Wedding Reception will have feasts for all to fuel the celebrations! Dishes such as kabobs, stews, fried rice, fish, sweet rice, and pudding are abundant. The hosts ensure that there is a large variety of premium options and that there is no way anyone will go hungry. As in a western wedding, a cake is cut, but this brings us to our next point…
7. The cake ceremony
The guests will not make it easy for the couple to cut the cake-they must earn it! Someone will steal the cake-cutting knife, and only after a negotiated ransom is paid, will the cake-cutting ensue. As you can see, Persians have a sense of spirit and humor in their customs. Another way they display these traits is by showing their decorative skills off in the…
8. Vehicle Ceremony
Close associates of the couple decorate the car with colors, flowers, and nice adornments. It is a way for the couple to show off their new love on the streets and more importantly, ride in style. In Iran and areas with a high Persian population, it is not unusual for other drivers to honk at the couple in their decorated car, as a gesture of good vibes.
9. Flower shower
After the ceremony, the couple kiss and dance at the center of the dancefloor, while their friends and family surround them and applause while showering them with colorful flower petals. This ceremony obviously makes for exceptional photographs and is meant to bless the couple with a flowery life ahead. It is analogous to the Bride and Groom sharing their first dance in Western Weddings.
The rich and complex history and cultural traditions of Persia live on today and make for some of the most festive weddings in the world. These ceremonies have been practiced since the times of Cyrus the Great, and have evolved to reflect the modern era. Whether you have been invited to a Persian Wedding or are just simply curious, we are glad that we could spread some knowledge on these treasured practices. If, by chance, you are planning a more traditional wedding and are looking for ideas regarding song choices, dessert presentation ideas, and wedding vows, we have you covered as well!
Written by Kurman Dhaliwal; Contributor: Jack Leduc