The first night of the wedding celebrations we had the Henna Night, followed the next day by the extravagant lunch time meal at the groom’s family residence. After the meal we raced off in anything with wheels that was available, to join the convoy for the All Important Bride Snatching. The bride was then brought back with pompous ceremony. Everyone hurriedly parked their vehicles and rushed to congregate in front of the new marital home.
Ismail’s hotel is his family’s home. They have a large pool in the middle of the grounds and have had a small house built opposite the main hotel building, at the other end of the pool. This was to be his private quarters and his marital home.
We stood patiently in the beating sun of late October. Never did we imagine it would be in the 30s, wishing we had brought sun block.
A sheep was tied up on a super short rein to the stairway and we could only suspect what was going to happen. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined that it was going to be part of the spectacle though.
The bride still covered in her red veil was led to the stairs. Right there and then a butcher stepped forward with a pre-sharpened knife. Two men lay the poor sheep down and it lay there as calmly as could be. It seemed to know its destiny and there was absolutely no struggle. At this point I turned away, unable to witness the sacrifice.
Hopefully it only took one cut and although they had a jug at hand, blood just flew everywhere and within seconds, the ground was red.
The bride was led with care through the red river and up to the balcony with the groom and her wedding assistants. There is no such thing as bridesmaids or page boys and apart from the bride, everyone is just in their best outfits ever.
As the wedding itself is a hugely long affair beginning at 4pm and ending as late as sunrise the next day, the bride wears the most comfortable shoes she can. No high heel nonsense here when it comes to dancing the whole night on a sloping, gravel surfaced car park or street corner! Smart girl.
Ismail and Mine stood on the balcony like a king with his princess for quite some time and then slowly, slowly the masses dissipated to go and sit in some shade. The couple then pulled up chairs beside the front door and remained seated there for around 3 and a half hours till the actual wedding was to start over the road.
We were quite tired and poor Sue had been knocked over with a horrible earache, so we thought going and having a little lie-down at this point was a good idea.
At around 8pm we heard loud music starting up and realised it was time to make our way to the reception area. In this case it was the intersection of two streets just 50 metres down the road from the hotel. The area had been cleared of cars and a speaker and sound system had been set up.
Hundreds of chairs have been distributed around the perimeter of the area and a table and a few chairs had been placed in a prominent spot for all to see. This was for the bride and groom and the muhtar who would be performing the marriage between them.
About an hour later these chairs slowly filled and the wedding was on its way. The first part of the process was to marry these two lovebirds and very quickly this was performed without much ceremony at all. Getting a photo was sadly impossible at this point.
Then, once the deed was done, the couple stood before the table and two queues were formed. One in front of the bride (all friends of the bride’s family) and another queue for friends of the groom’s. As the queue moved forward we could see that the guests were pinning money onto ribbons placed around their necks. Sue and I did not realise that we should be pinning on just our friend Ismail by whom we were invited, so in fact we pinned money on both of them.
One guest told me that the bride gives her money to her family as a last gesture but then I heard that in this case, they were pooling it and buying something special for the house.
A lady nearby had a pencil and a piece of paper and was resting the paper on a bare back of a lady who was dressed in a very elegant strappy little number. Together they were trying to work out who was giving what, and were tallying the presents up and writing down the donors. Interesting… I have no idea what that was for because we definitely never heard anything more about it.
Once the queues had dwindled to nothing and all the money giving was over, the music began. Very quickly people gathered in the centre and began dancing. It was a mixture of traditional and Turkish pop music and it was extremely fun. No matter what the song was, the little drummer was there banging away.
It turned out that this man was the highest earner at the ceremony. Drumming is a highly paid job in Turkey! Evenso, he obviously could not afford a better repair than a piece of plastic and some duct tape in the middle of his drum on one side. But it certainly didn’t affect his ability!
It was interesting that at no point after the wedding meal supplied at lunch time was anything more offered. There was no water or tea and absolutely no alcohol was seen during this two day event. It definitely was not lacking either. The happiness and elation was felt throughout this affair and it was so refreshing to see people having such a great time without any of the normal party supplies. Very little cigarette smoking was seen as well. Quite strange for Turks.
Sue with her very blonde hair and pale skin felt much more comfortable being in a headscarf for the wedding. She made many friends and they admired her greatly for her effort.
This is Ismail’s Dad and he just couldn’t contain himself. He kept having to run and grab his pistol and shoot up in the air. Quite a few of his family were very anxious and trying desperately to make him stop. But that just wasn’t going to happen. We were so happy this was a dry event, cos with a few drinks inside of him and it might have been a nasty ending.
Ismail just couldn’t keep the smile off his face. He danced the whole night through. Sue and I found ourselves flagging before midnight and quietly slunk away to our beckoning beds. It was a marvellous event and to have been invited into the depths of it as we were, participating at ground level including the wedding breakfasts and more, for the guests who had travelled distances, was just exceptional.
I would have driven another 500km to get to this one. The hospitality and kindness shown to us was out of this world. It was an experience never to be forgotten.
Lastly, I found photos of my neighbour who had just attended a Henna Night. Here is a typical village henna treatment. No diploma necessary to give your guests this treatment!