Azerbaijani Wedding

Azerbaijan Weddings: A Guide to their Culture and Traditions

If you are planning to travel to Azerbaijan to have your wedding there, this is a good place to pass by. The same is also true if you plan to bring your Azerbaijani relatives to attend the wedding in the United States. It is important to mention at the very beginning that family and the instruments that create it are very dear to the people of Azerbaijan.

Weddings in Azerbaijan are part and parcel of the culture of the people. They are deeply respected, very well attended and highly cherished. These are famous for their color and glamor. The festivities are unique with rich decorations and lots of delicious food. Just like other religious observances, weddings are linked with ancient beliefs and customs.

There are various stages of a typical Azerbaijani wedding. These are the matchmaking phase, the engagement and the actual wedding ceremony. Let us break down each of these for you to understand the practices and the significance of each. After that, you can choose to have the ones that are most important to you and your family culture.

The Matchmaking Phase

In ancient decades, the female relatives of a young eligible bachelor would scout for a suitable bride in all sorts of places. Examples are religious festivities, holidays, street performances, musical concerts, and weddings. They would dig up information about a girl's parentage, age, family and other important details.

Apart from the visible beauty, an eligible bride had to be well-dressed, neat and composed. She must have had the traits of innocence, stature, intelligence, courtesy, and skillful housekeeping. The parents to the young man would then be accompanied to the household of the designated bride to inform her parents of the intention to 'pluck the flower from her garden".

A special matchmaking day was set for the two to effectively meet. The fathers of both parties would talk for hours as they drank the traditional brew. It was believed that the spirits of their ancestors would help the two men to discern if their children would make a perfect match. If successful, the matchmaking ceremony was followed by an engagement observance.

The Engagement Party

While matchmaking ceremonies are fast being eroded by modernity, they are still under practice in Azerbaijan. You can skip that part of the process, but you can't skip the engagement party. It is the ceremony of the ring and the shawl. On the engagement morning, the groom's relatives bring trays full of fruits, sweets and other presents to the girl's relatives. This is referred to as "nishan khonchalari."

Next, the groom's parents and immediate family wrap a shawl around the neck of the expected bride. They also adorn her with a couple of rings to symbolize that they have accepted her to their family. The families share wine and yogurt to signify that they have agreed to marry off their children. The ceremony ends with a betroth announcement.

After the engagement, the couple continues to date, but are not allowed to get intimate. They are supposed to get accustomed to each other first while discussing wedding preparations. The future bride must wear the engagement ring to ward off any other eligible bachelors.

All the while, the groom's family pays visits to the bride's family, ostensibly to confirm and underline their desire to take the young woman away. They present chocolates, sweets, sugarcane, flowers, jewelry and cash gifts to the family. This is the time when final dowry payments are made. The dowry is traditionally referred to as "jehiz".

Azerbaijani Wedding Preparations

By now, wedding preparations are in high gear. Relatives meet to prepare, fundraise and delegate duties. The groom's parents are busy buying clothes for the bride and her bridal party to wear during the wedding. It is the most important period of the young eligible couple. If they feel incompatible at this stage, it may be too late to reverse the process.

Before the wedding, the bride is invited to dinner at the groom's parents' house. At the end of the stay, she is showered with gifts such as carpets, kitchenware, towels, blankets, and bedding. These symbolize the start of a new homestead and the wish of siring children immediately after the wedding.

A ceremony to decorate the couple's house is held a day before the ceremony. Here, all the close friends and unmarried siblings of the bride and groom are expected to participate. The ceremony is supposed to prepare them for married life in the future. At the ceremony, one of the groom's coats is laid on the ground and money placed on it, to symbolize abundance and richness of life.

A henna smearing ceremony is known as "khinayahdi" done a day before the wedding. It is only attended by female relatives of the bride and groom. They usually smear henna on the bride's fingers and feet. It is believed that henna chases away evil spirits and bad luck. The ceremony is complete with music, dance, and food. The most common type of songs sang at modern Azerbaijani weddings are the "uzundara" and the "toy mahnisi"

A Typical Azerbaijani Wedding Ceremony

The wedding begins in earnest with a religious registration of marriage called "kebin kesmek". Both parties and their witnesses sign the contract which is then presented to the officiating minister. It also includes a guaranteed sum of money that the groom's family would pay to the bride in case he divorces her or dies prematurely.

The groom, his family, friends and relatives drive to the bride's house in fancy and heavily decorated vehicles. Part of the gifts that they bring is candles and mirrors which stand for happiness and well-being. The party then departs to the wedding ceremony which is typically a large restaurant or guest house.

Religious leaders read marriage teachings from the holy Quran. They offer spiritual advice upon which they declare the two to be husband and wife. The next couple of days feature partying with loud music, dancing, eating, and drinking.

Common foods at Azerbaijani weddings are Azeri, saffron-covered rice, chicken, seafood dishes, fresh fruits, vegetables, kebabs, shashlik and an array of other dishes cooked in deep aromatic herbs and spices. Drinks include traditional tea, fermented milk, sherbet, wine, champagne, beer, and rum. A typical wedding reception in Azerbaijan lasts for hours and can continue for days.

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