Wedding Tradition in Turkey

Marriage is an association that existed since the earliest times and has great importance on human life and society.
Marriage is an association that existed since the earliest times and has ” called “oturakalma”, where a girl goes to the home of the man that she loves and settles there, many times at the objection of her own family.
Another type of marriage which was often practiced in the past is “be?ik kertme”. While children were yet in their cradle, they were promised or “engaged” to each other by their families. In the past, the rejection of marriage by the girl or boy once they reach marrying age, would be regarded as dishonor to the family and even could cause bloody family feuds. This type of arranged marriage is almost extinct today.
Another kind of marriage arrangement or custom in Turkey In this marriage, a man settles in the home where his wife lives. Usually in case of inability to pay a dowry for the bride or the absence of a son on the part of the bride’s family leads to this kind of arrangement.
In another type of marriage called “Berder” ( exchange, changing) two families may marry their daughter and son to another family’s son and daughter. Such kind of marriages releases the two families of an old custom to pay a dowry to the bride’s family, since they “even” out.
A note on Baslik – dowry – is in place. This is an old custom that has nearly ceased to exist in the vast majority of Turkish society and is confined only to very underdeveloped regions.
According to Turkish traditions marriage between “milk” siblings is not possible. Children who are breastfed by a woman (a custom that was not uncommon in Turkey, when a mother could not breastfeed due to illness or other reasons, especially in rural areas, but has nearly ceased today) other than their mother become her “milk” children and they are not supposed to marry their “milk” siblings.
In some regions marriage with more than one wife at the same time (polygamy), while outlawed and punishable by law, is still practiced and it was more prevalent in the past when a wife could not bear children or she became ill or invalid.
Age of Marriage
There is wide variation in marriage age today, with lower limits set by law. Today, men usually are expected to marry after they complete their mandatory military service, in some more traditional areas right before. General marriage ages are around 22 for men and around 20 for women, with 5-6 years variation upward. Today, more youngsters go to college, which pushes up their marriage age mostly until after graduation. Older siblings are usually expected to get married before younger siblings, particularly if they are of the same gender. Pressures to marry at a younger Although age of marriage varies according to regions today in areas where traditions are observed.
In the general procedures of marriage, the groom to be and this family usually take the lead in initiating the steps leading up to marriage, while the courted girl’s family remains passive. The first step toward marriage is expected of the man and his family.
Act of go-between , To Ask a Girl’s Hand in Marriage:
In the traditional setting, the courtship process leading up to a marriage begins with seeing and looking for a girl. Families who want to marry their sons begin looking out for girls, starting with their relatives, neighbours and close friends. They get willing assistance in this “search” from their relatives, neighbours and friends.
In larger cities of Turkey, where cultural changes have been more rapid, it is now most common that people meet up personally and develop a relationship directly. However, “Goruculuk” has been still the main type of interaction enabling marriages is more traditional communities and rural areas. “Goruculuk” is the act of go-between of several women of a family or friends of a man who wants to get married, who pay special visit to the home of the girl who they see as a potential fit to the man, to examine the girl closely and reveal their intentions. This procedure is called “seeing a girl, to send women to see a girl, woman sent out to inquire about a prospective bride” (“kiz bakma”, “Gorucu çikma”, “dunur gezme” in Turkish). After their affirmative judgment about the girl, time is granted to the prospective bride’s family both to get more information about the prospective groom and his family and to make a decision. As the result of affirmative agreement by both families to pursue this first acquaintance further, the task of the go-between (gorucus) comes to end. Inasmuch as the fact that the work of seeing prospective bride is done by women, they do remain engaged in the process of asking for the girl’s hand.
In the process of asking for the girl’s hand in marriage, care is taken to include among those who will visit the prospective bride’s family such respectful persons who could not be refused by the bride’s family, together with close relatives of the prospective bridegroom’s family. It is not uncommon that several such visits are paid to a family or girl who’s reluctant to agree to this marriage for one reason or the other.
Agreement to Marry:
Agreement to marry (soz kesimi) follows the process of asking the prospective bride’s hand in marriage. Both families who reached an agreement by way of “Dunurculuk” (women sent out to inquire about a prospective bride) agree on marriage before crowded guests, which is called “Soz Kesme” (agreement to marry). Engagement is completed by attaching a ring and an embroidered kerchief bought by the prospective bridegroom’s family. In some regions “Soz kesimi” is also called small engagement ceremony. Sweet dessert brought by prospective bridegroom’s family is distributed to guests immediately after agreement by both parties to marry their children. Even today in some regions the prospective bridegroom is not present at the time of this ceremony. According to the attitude of the prospective bride’s father the bridegroom who is present in the bride’s home and the prospective bride both kiss the hands of the elder guests. Thus, the ceremony held for agreement to marry is completed.
The step after the ceremony for agreement to marry is engagement. The engagement ceremony is held in the bride’s home and the costs of the ceremony in some regions are borne by the bridegroom’s family, but many times by the bride’s family.
Let’s note at the onset that the following information on wedding ceremonies pertains to older, rural and conservative traditions in Turkey. Weddings today in the cities and more modern circles are much more like western style weddings, with a wedding banquet or reception uniting family and friends of the couple. Also, all marriages require a civil ceremony conducted and recorded by a municipal officer to become legally effective. In many cases, the religious ceremony precedes the civil ceremony by a few days.
In the traditional setting, wedding ceremonies generally start on Tuesday and end on Thursday, or start on Friday and end on Sunday. Wedding expenses are met by the bridegroom’s family. Regional variances aside, traditional weddings are marked by the following passages: Planting of a wedding flag, an entertaining gathering for the women of the couple’s families on the night before the wedding day, characterized by the coloring of parts of the hands and feet with Henna (Kina Gecesi), fetching the bride, and the bride’s veil.
Before the wedding, as is done in the course of the engagement ceremony, formal invitations are distributed and family, friends and neighbors are invited to the wedding. While the bride’s family tries to complete preparations for the trousseau, the bridegroom’s family tries to complete gifts for the bride to be presented to her before, during and after the wedding.
A wedding flag is planted by men coming from the noon prayer and friends of bridegroom at the bridegroom’s home. In some regions, apples, onions, mirrors, etc. are placed on top of the flag. Thus the wedding is officially underway.
Kina Gecesi
A traditional version and perhaps precursor of the bachelorette party, the night before the wedding is set aside for the bride to spent her last night at her family’s home in the company of women of all ages who are close to the couple’s family. This ceremony get its name “Kina Gecesi” – Henna Night – from the fact that the usually the hands of the bride is adorned with Henna. The bridegroom’s female relatives too attend this event and are hosted in the bride’s home.
Feching the Bride (Gelin Alma)
The next day is the day of “Gelin Alma” (to fetch the bride), “kiz alma” (to fetch girl), “gelin goturme” (to carry the bride), etc. Everybody is invited to this ceremonial procession from the home of the bride to the home of the groom. Guests go to fetch the bride on foot if not far, or by cars if too far to go. In some regions the bridegroom has not been allowed to accompany the bridal procession. The procession is followed by drums and pipes. In some regions the bride is prepared by elderly women (yenge) who help and attend to the bride. But generally today the preparations for the bride are done at a beauty salon. Then she joins the procession on her way to the groom’s home.
Nuptial Chamber (Gerdek)
An elder woman in the nuptial chamber asks the couple to hold each other’s hand. The groom performs his ritual prayer, and then opens the bride’s face after giving her a present to see her unveiled face. They eat the meal offered by the bride’s family.
In traditional communities virginity is extremely important and proof of it is sought by the groom’s family. This proof is usually the bed linen where the marriage was consummated. An absence of blood on the linen can be cause for great shame for both families and may be reason for the bride to be sent back to her parent’s home. Let’s note, however, that this too is a very outdated procedure and not widely practiced today.

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