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alameda 03 Dec 2009

Going to a Turkish wedding

what to wear, what to bring to a Turkish wedding

You have been invited to a traditional Turkish wedding and don´t know what to wear, or, what to bring. This is a common question heard here.  Of course, you should ask, but often the answers are cryptic, and you may want more information about what to expect.  The fact of the matter is, there are several types of “Traditional” Turkish weddings. Hopefully this column will help shed light on the different types.

Please let me explain, this is a very brief synopsis of Turkish weddings, not an in depth report.   My comments are based on personal experience, after having attended dozens of Turkish weddings.

You will want to clarify where the wedding will be held.   Let´s face it, wearing high heels in the country on a dirt road, or grassy field, is not very comfortable.....or efficient. You could have real problems getting around.  I have seen “Western” women almost having to be carried around because they couldn´t walk in their shoes. What ever you do, wear comfortable clothing, so you can enjoy yourself.  Going to an event in Istanbul or Ankara would not be the same as going to one in a more provincial village area.


If the wedding you are invited to is being held in an urban area, it may well will be one of the more modern type of “Salon” wedding.  This the type of wedding would be most similar to “Western” weddings, where a hall is rented for the wedding reception.  If you are invited to this type of wedding, you would dress in a similar manner as if you were going to a “Western” wedding.

In Turkish weddings there are no Maids of Honor, Best Men or Matrons of Honor.

From my experience, the traditional village weddings were the most fun.  They go on for days, each day featuring a different theme.  All the time there is dancing, music and lot´s of delicious food to eat.  These more traditional weddings take a minimum of 3 days.

Village weddings have two parts, the groom´s side, and the bride´s side.  The majority of celebratory activity is held outside in the open air, consequently they are most often held in Spring, Summer or early Fall. The groom´s side is the more public part of the wedding.   More of the bride´s events are held inside, and are for women only.

Day one of a village wedding:

At the start of the wedding on the grooms side, a Turkish flag is raised to announce the to the world a wedding is taking place.   Many of those passing by, who see the flag, drop by to partake in of the wedding festivities for a while. At the time the flag is raised a kurban (sacrificial lamb) is made.  It is immediately butchered and included in the feast prepared for wedding guests to partake in.  Endless glasses of aromatic tea are served, and a delicious variety of foods are presented to guests.

At the grooms place, a band of musicians are normally present playing for days at all times for guests to dance.  Sometimes it´s only a couple of musicians, other times it´s a full band.  The music is amazing!  I´ll never forget a night in Adiyaman and listening to the music wafting through the air, while a luminescent moon hung in the still sky. 


From the brides side: The bride and her entourage perform a formal visit the grooms family on day one of the official start of the wedding.  The male members of the brides family go to the visit and dance with the male members while some male members of the grooms family come by and formally introduce themselves to the bride and her (female) entourage.  They don´t sit down, but rather stand in a formal and polite manner and approach each woman, who are sitting down,  and slightly bow as they introduce themselves. The brides entourage dresses in special garments for this event.  The garments for this event are not traditional, but rather the type of garments one might wear to a office party.

Day two, also the last night as a single woman is the Kina Gecesi....or Henna Night

On this occasion the bride dresses in a purple or lavender gown with a sheer red veil over her head and covering her face.   The veils are decorated with small sparkles, which add to the mystique of the event.  Her hair is done in an elaborate manner with little decorations in it, and her face is also made up in a glamorous manner.  A tray with about 12 henna balls with candles set in them is held over the bride´s head while songs are sung.  In the weddings I attended the songs were religious in nature.  The grooms mother placed a gold coin in the palm of the bride and then placed the henna over it, then the hand is wrapped in gauze to keep all in place and a red mitten is placed and tied over the hand.  In some Kinna parties other guests place coins in the palm of the bride, each coin is covered with a wrapping of gauze, however these days that seems to be more rare.   The guests share the remaining henna.  The ladies dance for each other and enjoy a good time eating, dancing and enjoying each others company.  Sometimes a "Belly Dancer" may be invited to perform for the ladies.

On the last day the grooms party set out to get the bride. Cars are highly decorated, with streamers flying as they go get the bride.  When they arrive she is dressed in a white dress with a red veil over her face and a red ribbon tied at the waist.  Before the bride is presented to the grooms group, many women vist her, some pinning gold coins or bangles to her dress.  When the bride arrives in the grooms village she is met by the groom and they lead a procession through the village ending up at a table set up for the formalization of the marriage discribed next.

In both Village and Salon weddings towards the end of the ceremony the bride and groom sit at a special table area where a iman or official are present to perform the commitment ceremony.   After the short ceremony, the couple are then announced to all as a married couple and they continue to sit together at the head table whle a feast is served.  During this time guests go up to the couple, normally the bride, but sometimes lately the groom as well, to pin or place gold.  Many times there is someone there who announces the presentation of the gift announcing who gave it and what it was.  In some weddings the bride visits the guests with a small basket where the gold is placed or pinned on her dress.  At weddings I attended the bride did not go around tables, but it was mentioned to me more than once as another way things went, so I am mentioning it here.

For the official gift, it is easy to go to a Turkish jewelry store for help. They have a wide selection of coins with little loops on top.  Most of them already have a red ribbon with a little safety pin on the back for pinning on the bride.   As the price of gold has increased a great deal lately, you probably won´t get a bangle bracelet, but bangles are one of the most popular bride presents.  Gold coins come in a very wide variety weights and costs to purchase.  Gold coins are always the easiest and most acceptable gift.

Although some Turks drink wine and other spirits, at the wedding there will most probably be guests who don´t partake of spirits and might be offended and uncomfortable by drinking.........which is to say....bringing a bottle of wine isn´t a great idea. One can bring simple food stuffs to eat, although it is not required, or expected.  I have brought things like sucuk, pastirma or some of the special cheeses of different areas of Turkey. They were quickly distributed and enjoyed by all. You can also find dried mulberries caled (dut in Turkish) in market to bring also. They are nice to set out in plates for guests to nibble on,

My advice to you, if you are so fortunate as to be invited to a Turkish wedding, is to first of all determine the three Ws.  What type of wedding it is, what part of the wedding you have been invited to, and where it will be held.  With that information, you will better be able to determine what to wear and what to bring.  A Turkish wedding is a joyous event, so have a great time and enjoy yourself.


I´m sure there are many things I´ve missed, or did not understand.  As I have said, this is a based on my personal experience and on my understanding of Turkish culture.  Perhaps some of our Turkish members can fill in the blanks.

anishka, dann9, awish, nurkantarkan, Evyenia and 2 others liked this column
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