Kazakh Wedding 

Legend stretching eons into the past has it that the iconic cone-shaped bridal headdress was the most expensive item in the wedding and could cost more than a herd of the best horses.

The cap also known as a Saukele was hand woven from the most lavish fabrics available and adorned with rarest jewelry. 

The Attire

In addition to the headdress and camisole the bride wore a veil that resembled bedspreads. Kazakh tradition associates the color white with mourning and so traditional bridal dresses were blue, red, black or green, depending on the characteristics of her clan. Modern brides prefer the western white wedding gowns and tuxedos for grooms.

Grooms had the luxury to wear their best clothes which included a pair of shirts, a pair of trousers known as shalbar and a decorated robe. They also had an option of a jacket called zhargak shapa, which was mostly worn to important events.  The aiyr kalpak was the male headdress that complimented not only the cloak but a leather belt as well.

It was customary for every part of the couple’s clothing to carry both a symbolic and religious meaning.

The Main Purchase

A Kazakh traditional wedding is at risk of being cancelled if it happened that a saukele could not be procured. As much as it was the most expensive purchase for the wedding, the bridal cap is perhaps a visible difference between an American wedding and a cultural wedding in Kazakhstan.

Wedding Expenses

The groom’s family pays a kalyn or bride price that was mostly in form of livestock. The number could be as high as a thousand horses or the minimum six cows depending on the family’s ability. The groom’s family is responsible for buying gifts that will be distributed to guests after the wedding.

The bride’s family will then pay up dowry which included basic household items and a portable home called a yurt. This facilitated the cultural requirement that a wife moved into her new home with her property.

Traditionally both sides of the family contributed to organizing the wedding unlike today where a couple will solely fund every aspect of their big day.

The Neke Qiyu

This is the religious ceremony part of a traditional Kazakh wedding. The process is preceded by other ceremonies that consist of introductions and agreements between the two families. Culturally the Neke qiyu was conducted in the evening after an event known as betashar.

Betashar is when the bride officially reveals her face to her in-laws and the groom since the initial matchmaking event called kuda tusu, which led to dowry payment. Once her face is exposed, the groom’s mother officially welcomes her into the home by tying a scarf on her head to symbolize that she’s now married.  Betashar is held outdoors in front of many people while Neke qiyu is a closed door private affair, involving close relatives.

The ceremony is conducted at the mosque by a Mullah who starts by reciting relevant verses from the Quran. He then guides the couple through confessing their faith of Islam in front of two witnesses. The Mullah goes on to recite prayers while holding a cup with either coins or a mixture of salt and water. After the prayers, the couple drinks three times from the cup before the witnesses proceed to drink from the same cup then take out the coins. At this point the Mullah declares the bride and groom husband and wife.

The final ritual although not religious, the couple have to go to a state registrar and formalize their marriage in a ceremony called Ahazh.

Food and Music

The wedding ceremony is accompanied by traditional songs and dance and a song called zhyr is performed at the Betashar ceremony.

The Kazakh’s mouthwatering wedding feast will include qazi, a horse meat sausage, many beef tongues, and the national food called qazaq eti, which is potatoes, onions, boiled meat sausage accompanied by wide noodles with an option to drink broth. They also enjoy the heads of horses, sheep, cows and goats.


From the saukele, the yurt to the bride price of horses, a traditional Kazakh wedding religiously follows legendary customs that are facing the risk of eradication by western wedding practices but only time can tell how much western influence will dissolve Kazakhstan’s wedding heritage.



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