Turkish Wedding

Weddings are one of the most important rites of passages, and it could tell you a lot about culture since wedding happens in different ways in different cultures. In Turkey, like many other areas, the wedding is a big deal and valued a lot. But one difference from other areas could be the number of ceremonies and traditions being more than most of the cultures.

Even though individuals are not living traditionally, most of those individuals enjoy traditionally held Turkish weddings. Of course, some of them do not prefer to fulfill all those traditions, but the main cores of the weddings are typically similar. Additionally, you can see how everyday values in Turkey are implemented in the Turkish wedding.

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Pre-Wedding Traditions in Turkey

Getting ready for a wedding could be difficult and stressful, but in Turkey, some traditions are so fitted to the wedding process that from the weddings you witnessed throughout your life, you kind of know what to do at your wedding if you were raised in Turkey. Pre-wedding traditions include everything that occurs before the wedding, if you want a traditional wedding, those traditions work as a wedding planner for you. You just need to implement them according to your preferences and taste.

How do couples meet in Turkey?

In Turkey, there are some strategies to create a family with two individuals, and those include how do they meet with each other. If you are not familiar with Turkish culture, this question might be odd for you since there are literally thousands of ways to meet with your significant other. But in Turkish culture, the following strategies are completely normal.

Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriage refers to the marriage process that includes not 2 people meeting with each other and falling in love but marrying with a person whom their families find appropriate. As you can guess, this type of marriage is not as common as it used to be but sometimes arranged marriages occur. The more modern ways of arranged marriages are arising recently as well.

Formerly, a mother who had a son would go to a girl’s house with 2 of her friends to see the girl. The girl would be someone who the mother knew earlier, and if they like and approve the girl, they will let the family of the girl’s family know the situation. If both families agree with this, the only thing left would be arranging and preparing for the wedding.

As I mentioned earlier, this type of wedding is not as common as it used to be, but there are some modern ways of arranged marriages today. For example, if a relative or close friend of the family finds someone who is nice and proper for the family’s son or daughter, he or she would let the family know. After some investigation from here and there, if they approve, they will introduce those two persons. And they go on couple dates, if they like each other, after a while they could get married. 

Now, this may sound like matchmaking, but the key here is that comprehensive background information (what he is doing for a living? Are there any criminals in the family? Or the health background of the family, etc.) is known before introducing them. In the traditional arranged married, the background information is there as well, but the marriage occurs once the families agree.

Other meeting methods rather than arranged marriage

People in Turkey could meet with each other as in basically anywhere else in the world. There is nothing wrong with marrying your girlfriend or boyfriend, or someone you meet at the university. Additionally, there were some programs on TV in Turkey for this purpose. For example, the most popular TV program was named “Esra Erol” (Actually, Esra Erol is the moderator of the most popular one among these programs).

In those programs, people who want to marry but could not find anyone for themselves would join and meet with other people there. They would say what they are looking for in a relationship, and they got some calls from the people who watch the show. If they agree, the person who called the program would go to the studio and they would meet face to face. And later it could end up with marriage. But today, TV programs in this format are banned in Turkey.

Some other programs with different formats arose after those kinds of programs. For example, there was a TV program named “Kısmetse Olur” (means if it is destiny it will happen). In Kısmetse Olur, there were 7 bride-to-be individuals and 7 groom-to-be individuals, who were placed in houses next to each other. They would talk with each other, get to know each other, or flirt with each other, hoping that they will find the one in that program. All of those things would happen on camera, of course.

Asking for the girl’s hand and binding with a promise to wed

As you may understand from this point, families are very much involved in the wedding process in Turkish weddings. Asking for the girl’s hand before the wedding from her parents is another tradition in Turkish weddings that is typically a step that is not skipped.

Asking for the girl’s hand (it means “kız isteme” in Turkish and if I would translate it word to word, it would be translated as “asking a girl”) refers to the process in which the groom and his family visit the bride and her family’s house, and sort of gets permission for the wedding. 

In this ritual, family members of the groom and bride (cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) could attend, but this is not a necessity. Bride-to-be and her family prepare food and desserts to serve, and of course, Turkish coffee is there to drink after dinner. Also, there is a tradition that includes Turkish coffee.

This ritual occurs when the bride to be is preparing Turkish coffee for everyone in the house. Bride-to-be puts absurd amounts of salt in groom-to-be’s coffee, and he must drink all of it without saying a word or show any sign of discomfort. It has been said that this is important to illustrate how the groom will stomach the difficulties in the marriage and is ready to do anything for her.

Another tradition that happens in the kız isteme ritual is the chocolate and flowers. In many regions, the groom-to-be buys specially made chocolates to give as a gift to the household, and the chocolate is served with the idiom “let’s eat dessert and talk sweetly”. In different regions, the dessert is not necessarily chocolate, but a dessert is typically bought by the groom-to-be. Groom-to-be comes to the house with a bouquet that is specially made as well. Bouquet usually is made from roses.

The typical syntax used in “kız isteme” is that “With the God’s command and the Prophet’s telling, we want your daughter to marry our son”, by the father of the groom to be’s. If the groom-to-be does not have a father, one of the male family elders makes this request. Father of the bride-to-be’s responds with “we gave her away!”.

After this scene, the turn comes to binding with a promise to wed, and it is the illustration that the marriage is officially going to take place and everyone in both families agree. It is usually being done right after the “kız isteme”, but in some regions, it is made a week after it. 

Binding with a promise to wed is done by connecting the rings with a red ribbon, and the groom and bride put their rings on while they are bound with the ribbon. Later, an individual from the family must cut the ribbon with scissors. While cutting the ribbon, there is also a small tradition that is made in certain regions. The person who is responsible for cutting the ribbon says, “The scissors are not working!” until someone from the family gives them money.

The ring used in the binding a promise to wed must be put to the ring finger of the right hand. Ring on the ring finger of the right-hand means that the binding of a promise to wed is completed, but they are not married yet. Those rings are brought to the ceremony with a specially prepared tray, and this tray is usually held by the sister of the bride to be. Rings must be put to the tray connected with a red ribbon, and the scissors are placed next to them.

It is believed that the red ribbon that is used in binding with a promise to wed tradition brings you good luck in relationships. Such that, some people eat a piece of the red ribbon used in the ceremony to have that good luck in their relationships.

Usually, the groom-to-be’s family gifts a set of jewelry including a necklace and a pair of earrings to the bride to be. In some regions, instead of the set of jewelry, parents of the groom-to-be give the bride to be two or three golden bracelets.

Those steps are crucial because, in this meeting, families are not only acknowledging their relationship and marriage, but they are getting to know each other. In this meeting, families can ask each other whatever they are wondering about them. After this meeting, families of both sides frequently visit each other to get to know each other better.

The dress code is asking for the girl’s hand and binding a promise to wed

In asking for the girl’s hand and binding a promise to wed tradition, both sides should dress up attentively and they should be presentable. Such that, the dress bride-to-be chooses in this tradition is almost as important as the wedding dress. There is not a typical dress for this tradition but dressing casually is unwarranted.

Groom to-be should also be careful about his dress. The groom-to-be typically wears a suit to asking for the girl’s hand and binding a promise to wed tradition. Families of both sides also should be attentive in terms of how they dress up.

Engagement and engagement ceremony

In other regions of the world, engagement is often referred to as the relationship status after she says yes, but there should be a whole process in Turkey to say that “we are engaged” in most of the cases.

Engagement and engagement ceremony takes place after asking for the girl’s hand and binding a promise to wed, and the duration between the two may change according to what are the couple’s plans.

The engagement ceremony is sort of a rehearsal for the wedding because steps are pretty much similar to the wedding day. Pictures are taken, all the family members and loved ones are invited, there are lots of dancing and music, catering and a cake is present. Engagement ceremony can be done in a home, in the garden of the home, in a salon, or even in the street of a small neighborhood. Nowadays people are getting more and more creative every day, and they even make engagement ceremonies in ships.

If the engagement ceremony is being done in a home, lots of food and desserts are prepared for the people that are coming to the ceremony. If the engagement ceremony is being done in a salon, food is not a necessity, but small caterings are usually preferred. But in all cases, engagement ceremony cake is typically there.

The engagement ceremony is sort of similar to binding a promise to a wed tradition, but it is different in terms of having much more guests and planned more detailed. In the engagement ceremony, the rings are again put to the fingers and they are tied to a red ribbon, and it is cut in the same way. The engagement rings also put to the ring finger, and the only difference between the two rings is the context they were put in.

Like in binding a promise to wed, a set of jewelry is gifted to the bride to be as well, and this set typically consists of a necklace and a pair of earrings. Yet different from the binding a promise to wed, in an engagement ceremony, sometimes a gift is given to the groom to be from the family of the bride to be. This gift is usually a watch. The engagement ceremony is paid for by the bride’s family.

Bundles of the future bride and groom

Bundles of the future bride and groom include necessary items for both future bride and groom to help in their engagement process. The future bride’s family prepares a bundle for the future groom, and the future groom’s family prepares a bundle for the future bride. Even though in some regions the context of the bundle changes, the main items are always the same. The following are the must-have items in the bride’s bundle:

  • Perfume set
  • Makeup set for the wedding
  • Bride slippers
  • Mirror and a comb
  • Nightgown
  • Bathrobe set
  • Fantasy lingerie
  • Pajama set

And the following are the must-have items in the groom’s bundle:

  • Shirt
  • Trousers
  • Pajama set
  • Slippers
  • Underwear set
  • Towel
  • Wallet set
  • Cufflink set
  • Watch 
  • Self-care products

Dowry

Dowry is a kind of preparation for the bride-to-be’s new house. Starting from the early 20s of their daughters, mothers start to prepare a dowry for their daughter, and sometimes they even do it secretly. Dowry includes all of the things that you may need in a new home: plates, glasses, linens set, pillows, pillow covers, and so on. It is important in terms of being prepared once married, and it lightens the burden of money.

Wedding Traditions in Turkey

Wedding traditions in Turkey include the things that should be done on the wedding day and other wedding-related things that must be done just before the wedding.

Preparations

Preparation for a wedding is one of the most important steps in a wedding. If not well prepared, the wedding could be a disaster.

Groom shave

Groom shave refers to the shaving process of the groom on the wedding day. It uses to be done in the groom’s house, but nowadays it is usually made by barbers. In the groom shave, the first thing to do is the haircut. A haircut of choice is done with a barber, and the most convenient haircut that is proper for the face should be chosen.

Formerly, the groom having a beard was considered as something really bad and his face should have been smooth as a baby’s face in the wedding, but this viewpoint changed, and grooms are not having a smooth shave necessarily. If the groom has a beard and mustache, they must be fixed by the barber and the face of the groom must look presentable.

After the shaving process, the face must be washed with hot and cold water, respectively. Later, a skincare routine is conducted by the barber. This process usually takes place with the groom’s best man.

Preparation of the bride

Preparation of the bride includes the making of hair, makeup, nails, and dressing. In Turkey, brides typically do their hair in a certain way, with a big and fancy bun. This bun is referred to as “gelin başı” (which means bridal head in Turkish). Other than that, the makeup and the nails of the bride are made nicely, and she is ready for the wedding. These processes are taking so long, so the bride starts the preparation in the early morning of the wedding day.

Henna Night

Henna night is typically the night before the wedding and is usually held in the bride’s family home. No males, including the groom to be, is not invited to the henna night, it is a special day just for girls in the family and friends.

A day before the henna night, the groom and his family send the henna and some snacks to the house. In the morning of the henna night, some flags and tulles are put in the window of the house to let others know there will be a henna night held in the house. Even though the traditional way to hold a henna night is at home, nowadays people prefer to do a henna night out.

Visitors come to the house around the Isha prayer. After they arrive snacks, desserts, and henna halwa are served to the guests. After, the bride-to-be wears a special dress named “bindallı”. This dress is being used since the Ottoman periods, and it is characterized by being red and having lots of decorations on it.

Once the bride-to-be wears her bindallı, a special tradition is done with all of the young girls among guests. Bride and young girls enter to room, and young girls hold candles in both of their hands. Later, the bride-to-be sits on a chair, and young girls turn around her with the candles in their hands. While everybody is singing and dancing, the bride-to-be sits in the chair sadly, this sadness is due to the bride to be leaving her family and moving out with her husband after the marriage.

After all the dancing and singing, the time for henna paste comes. In the henna paste ritual, bride to be’s head should be covered with a tulle that is a part of the bindallı. In some regions, a happily married woman prepares the henna paste whereas, in some regions, the henna paste must be prepared by a single young lady.

Henna is prepared in a copper bowl, and it should be placed in a henna tray with candles on it. Once again, young and single girls hold the candles in their hand and turn around to the bride to be. While they are turning around her, some traditional songs are sung about the henna night. Those songs are typically quite emotional, and the bride-to-be should cry while others are singing those songs. It has been said that bride to be must cry in order to not cry ever in her marriage.

What to do if the future bride is not opening her hand for the henna paste?

A tradition is henna night is when the bride-to-be does not open her hand for the henna pastry. When it is time for putting the henna in the bride-to-be’s hands, she just sits there, not says a word, and does not open her hands. The person responsible for putting the henna paste to her hand turns to the mother-in-law of the future bride and says “bride is not opening her hand”. Bride-to-be does not open her hand until her future mother-in-law gives one piece of gold for each of the future bride’s hands.

Breaking a pitcher in henna night

Another tradition in the henna night includes breaking a pitcher. This tradition is rooted back in the Balkans, and in Turkey, it is seen in most regions, especially in Aegean Region. A pitcher that is made from soil, is filled with candy, money, and chocolate. Bride-to-be starts to dance around the future groom, and in an unexpected moment, she throws the pitcher to the floor and breaks it.

Taking the bride from her family’s house

Taking the bride from her family’s house refers to the groom and his family taking the bride from her family’s home with lots of music and dance. In Turkey, brides do not walk in the aisle with their fathers during weddings, and this tradition is made with a similar purpose: saying their last goodbyes to their parents.

Taking the bride from her family’s house happens on the wedding day after everyone is prepared and ready to go in bride’s and groom’s close family. As the groom and his family arrives at the bride’s house, the bride starts to say goodbye to her parents. Bride’s father gives small talk to her daughter about how he wants her to be happy always. It is common to cry during this talk.

Later, the groom and a couple of his family members enter the bride’s house. They give a promise to the bride’s parents about how he will treat her well and nicely at all times. Subsequently, both the groom and bride kiss the parents’ hand. Kissing the hand is a sign of respect in Turkish culture.

Bride leaves the house by getting to the arm of her father. As they all get in front of the house, people playing drums and flute will be waiting for them, and they start to dance. The emotional part of the wedding is now left behind, and after, there is only joy and happiness.

Types of marriage in Turkey

In Turkey, there are 2 main types of marriage ceremony in terms of how it is done. They are named as Imam wedding or official wedding.

Imam wedding(Religious wedding)

Imam wedding is a religious duty in Islam, to be counted as married by God. Marriage is an important construct in Islam, and an Imam wedding is valued a lot. On the other hand, it is the couple’s choice to arrange this kind of wedding since many young people are less religious nowadays. But it is still widespread in Turkey.

It is made before the official wedding. There are some rules of Imam wedding, and even one of them is missed, Imam wedding is not valid. The following are the rules of Imam wedding:

  • Individuals who are getting married (or their proxy) must be ready for the wedding.
  • Both bride and groom must say “I do” with their free will.
  • Proxy of the bride must approve the wedding (except Hanafi sect)
  • 2 males or 1 male and 1 female who are mentally healthy should be wedding witnesses (at least one of the witnesses must be a male).

Official wedding

An official wedding is the type of wedding that must be conducted in order to be counted as married in law. Even though 2 individuals are married to Imam weddings, they are not considered married in law. An official wedding is held by an officer attorney, in a venue of your choice. It could be the wedding office, or you can get officially married in your wedding salon. 

You need at least 2 witnesses at the official wedding, and the genders of your witnesses are not important. You must confirm that you are not marrying under the pressure of anybody and highlight that you are marrying with your free will. 

Officer attorney’s syntax consists of “in the good day, and in the bad day, in your healthy days and your ill days, are you accepting the daughter/son of X (the name of their father) as your wife/husband?” After they say, “I do”, the officer attorney asks the witnesses that “are you witnessing?” and after they confirm, they all sign the official book, and the officer attorney says, “and now I pronounce you as husband and wife”.

Wedding Ceremonies

Wedding ceremonies can be done in various ways in Turkey. The wedding ceremonies differ according to couples’ worldviews and according to ceremony environment.

According to Couple’s Worldview

A couple’s worldview typically refers to the conservative or the modernity of the preferred wedding. Some just want to have a wedding according to what Islam says, and some just prefer to do whatever they want.

Conservative ceremony

Conservative wedding ceremonies are done in a way that Islam would approve. In conservative wedding ceremonies, men and women sit separately, and they do not dance together. In Islam, playing the tam at weddings is considered a good thing and in most conservative wedding ceremonies, there is a place for playing the tam.

In the conservative ceremony, it is forbidden to consume alcohol and music that are provocative. The wedding dress of the bride should be modest and should not show too much skin, if the bride is wearing a hijab, she must choose her wedding dress accordingly. Other guests should be careful about what they are wearing as well. Prophet Mohammad recommended to couples to have a calm and simple wedding ceremony.

Before the wedding ceremony, the Imam wedding must be conducted.

Semi-Conservative Ceremony

Semi-conservative wedding ceremonies include some of the conservative ceremony rules and some of the features of modern wedding ceremonies. For example, there might be no alcohol, but men and women can dance in the same area.

Modern Ceremony

In modern wedding ceremonies, there are no strict rules. It is designed just to have fun. Anyone that wants to drink alcohol could drink it, and it is not a bad thing to get drunk at a wedding ceremony. Men and women sit and dance in the same area, and the dress code has nothing to do with how much skin you are showing.

According to Ceremony Environment

In Turkey, wedding ceremonies could be held in different places, and the nature of the wedding changes accordingly. It could be held in a salon, outdoors, in a village, or on the street of a small neighborhood. Regardless of the ceremony environment, traditions are common in Turkish weddings.

Salon Wedding

One of the most preferred wedding ceremony environments in Turkey is salons. There are various salons all over the country to serve as a place for weddings. The salons include a big stage, especially big and comfy chairs for the groom and bride, and lots of tables and chairs for the guests.

In some of the salon weddings, there is a bar present for you to buy drinks or snacks. Other than that, snacks are also served to the tables with soft drinks. The stage in the salon is used as a place to dance, and the place for the jewelry wearing ceremony. The groom and the bride dance for the first time on the stage.

Country Style Wedding

Country style wedding is an outdoor wedding type that is usually preferred in spring or summertime. The properties are pretty much the same as the salon wedding, the only difference is that the country-style wedding is done outdoors. People usually prefer somewhere with a nice view to have good pictures from their wedding ceremony.

Village Wedding

Village weddings are a type of wedding that is relatively more modest from others, and as you can infer from its name, they are held in villages. In the village weddings, everything is done outdoors. There is no stage, and everyone can dance in any place they would like. Since almost everyone knows each other in villages, in village weddings there is a warm and cozy environment.

There was a tradition in village weddings back then, including shooting a gun to the air. This was a sign of happiness and joy, but since it is quite dangerous, it is now banned in Turkey.

Street Wedding

A street wedding is a type of wedding held in the street of a small neighborhood. This type of wedding is held in a convenient part of the street, and like in the village wedding, everyone knows each other. It is sort of a small party with your loved ones.

Car Convoys

Car convoys are a common thing to do in Turkish weddings. Car convoys are usually made to let everyone know that they are marrying and spreading their joy. Car convoys are made while going to the bride’s house to get the bride from her family, and while going to the wedding venue.

Car convoy refers to a line of cars that are going to the wedding area, and all of the drivers press the horns all the way. Sometimes people scream cheerfully from the cars.

Blocking the bride and groom’s car on their way

Blocking the bride and groom’s car on their way is not classified as a tradition, but it can be observed in many regions of Turkey. The children who stop cars in the red lights and ask drivers for money, specifically choose the bride and groom’s car. The bride and groom’s car can be spotted easily since there are lots of decorations on it. And since it is the happiest day of their life, they typically give big amounts of money to children.

Kidnapping the groom

Kidnapping the groom is another tradition held in some regions of Turkey. In this tradition, some friends kidnap the groom, and the best man should save him. The kidnappers demand money from the best man, and the amount of money is typically pretty high since there would not be a wedding without the groom.

Hiding the shoes of the groom

Hiding the shoes of the groom is a tradition in some regions of Turkey and takes place in the taking the bride from her house ritual. As the groom enters the house to kiss the bride’s father’s hand, someone hides his shoe. To get his shoe back and go to the wedding, the groom must tip in big amounts to the person who hid his shoe.

Jewelry wearing ceremony

Jewelry wearing ceremony refers to the ceremony in which close relatives (sometimes even the relatives that are not close) and friends, giving you jewelry or gold in the wedding as a gift. This is a sort of wedding gift, but instead of just giving it to you, they must put the jewelry or the gold on you. For example, if they bought a bracelet for you, they should wait in line and put the bracelet on the bride’s wrist. Since there are lots of people who will give jewelry or gold, there is typically a line.

Jewelry wearing ceremony is important as a form of economic support to the newly married couple since they could have lots of debt from the money they spend on the wedding and their new home. Besides, in some areas, everyone remembers and writes who give you jewelry and their costs, to give them a piece of jewelry that is in the same amount. It is a shame to give someone a present that is less worthy than they gave to you.

Maidenhood belt

In traditional Turkish weddings, a red ribbon is tied to the bride’s waist. This is an old tradition to illustrate the virginity of the bride and is referred to as maidenhood belt. Even though it is not as common as it used to be, you can see it in some Turkish weddings.

Music and Dance

Music and dance are important features of the Turkish wedding. Such that, it is possible to not hearing a word anyone saying due to loud music. Some people prefer live music at their wedding whereas some prefer just a speaker.

Çiftetelli

In Turkish weddings, çiftetelli has an important place. Çiftetelli is a certain way of dancing and does not require any skills or talent to dance. If you ever attend a Turkish wedding, you will see most of the people putting their arms up and snapping their fingers while moving the body according to the rhythm. This is çiftetelli.

Halay

Another important dance in the Turkish wedding is halay, which is an Anatolian folk dance. There are various kinds of halay, but the typical halay is like this: people create an open-ended circle by holding on to the little fingers of those next to them with their little fingers. 

A type of halay that is usually danced in weddings is “damat halayı” (means groom halay in English). Instead of using the little fingers, in damat halayı, everyone holds the hands of the people next to them. Damat halayı is characterized by getting faster and faster as the song of it gets faster. Such that after a while, people are basically running in damat halayı. 

Wedding Dinner

In Turkey, a wedding dinner is not a must, but it could be held by preferred couples. Wedding dinner could be held in the wedding salon (or outdoors if they are having an outdoor wedding). Usually, there are 2 or 3 types of dishes, and people get to eat according to their preference.

In some of the regions, eating after the wedding is a tradition. For example, in the Adana region, usually, Adana kebab is eaten after the wedding. The bride and groom make a reservation in a restaurant, and anyone that wants to join them would go and eat Adana kebab with them.

Frequently asked questions about Turkish wedding

Either if you are attending a Turkish wedding or if you are just curious, the following are some of the most frequently asked questions that you should know.

What should I wear while going to a Turkish wedding?

A nice evening dress for women and a suit for men would be appropriate.

How long Turkish weddings last?

In modern ceremonies, the duration is typically 3-4 hours.

How much does a Turkish wedding cost?

It could depend on the number of guests, but typically around 50.000 Turkish liras if held in a salon.

Can I consume alcohol at Turkish weddings?

In some of the weddings, yes, but if you are in a conservative wedding, alcohol is not tolerated well.

What kinds of alcohol are served in Turkish weddings?

In Turkish weddings, typically wine, champagne, and rakı are served.

Can I go to a Turkish wedding with my children or baby?

If it is not written otherwise yes, there is no danger for your children or baby in a Turkish wedding. But they can be disturbed by the sound.

Can a male marry multiple females in Turkey?

Polygamy is not legal in Turkey.

Do I have to buy jewelry or gold for the bride?

You do not have to, but if you could, it is recommended. You can even give them money, but you need to put it on their dresses with a small needle.

Should I learn the traditional dances before I attend a Turkish wedding?

Dances in Turkish weddings are not difficult to learn and you can even learn them in the wedding place. If you want to be prepared, watching some videos about them would be enough.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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