I can hear the bells: Turkish wedding, Part I

Wanting to fully and quickly immerse myself in Turkish culture, I attended a Turkish wedding this past weekend. The wedding was for a college friend of my roommate’s and she was nice enough to invit me as well.  I’ve only attended American weddings until this point and was excited to see how things were different.

We went to the henna night on Friday, which my roommate explained is similar to a Bachelorette party, though slightly less risque. It was in an upstairs event room of a swanky hotel about 15 minutes from us. Though I’d never met any of the people before, everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming. I tried my limited Turkish and if I didn’t speak too much, most people assumed I was Turkish. The first, and most major difference, I noticed, was that while there were mostly just women there (friends and family members), the groom and the bride’s father were there as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind.

We took the minibus to a nearby neighborhood and were one of the first ones to arrive. After greeting the groom, the bride, and the bride’s sister, we picked a table and sat down while other guests trickled in. And though I shook most people’s hands when first meeting them, I had to get used to kissing them on each cheek. My British grandmother always does this, but it’s not something I’ve grown to expect from strangers.  Kiss, kiss, “Merhaba.” Yes, nice to meet you too. Handshake, kiss, kiss, “Merhaba.”

Once more people arrived, we were given appetizers of sorts (I’m sorry–I’m still learning the names), mostly sweets. Then there was dancing–lots of it. Those belly dancing lessons I took last year really came in handy, because I was told many times that I danced like a Turk. And I’ve discovered that as long as you try to join in, the Turks will love you and welcome you as if you are family. And they’re very big on complimenting, which I’m okay with.

Two days later we made it to the ceremony. However, it was not a religious one. They apparently have two ceremonies in Turkey–one legal and one religious, instead of combining the two into one. We went to what resembled a courthouse, except it was made specifically for wedding ceremonies. Each room was decorated with flowers and white sashes, with a long table set on a stage at the front. This is where the bride and groom sat while the judge joined them in legal matrimony. (This after they entered the room through an elevator on stage and to the backdrop of some exciting song–much like a rock concert.) The ceremony took no longer than ten minutes and after all the guests had excited the large room, they waited about 15 minutes before ushering in another wedding party. But immediately after the ceremony, we lined up to congratulate the bride, groom, and in-laws and take pictures with them all. The pictures could be bought at a little kiosk at the end of the line.

They do not differentiate between wedding and reception, but use the same word for both. So there was a break from the wedding in the afternoon before we went to the wedding that night. As this is a long post already, I’ve decided to divide into two. More to come on the second half.

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