Sultan Palace Merv

Turkmen Wedding Traditions

Turkmen traditions remain strong in present time. Even if they lost some original meaning and sometimes are decorative, it is still local beliefs of everyday day life or of important rituals for special events and celebrations.

Marriage/ Turkmen Lullaby:

My daughter is the fruit of my garden,
A thousand will come to my flower,
From among the thousands,
One man will take her away.

I will hold horse races at your toy,
To the guests coming from afar,
I will give a gift of fine velvet.

Starting wedding negotiations, the first encounters to choose a good family for the bride. Preferably within the same tribe, with the good background for the future of a couple. Secondly, personal qualities are important. Girl's parents look for a young man with the good habits, who is able to provide for a wife and children. Boy's parents are more demanding. Who look for a girl able to bear children, paying attention to the married women within her family, look for the evidence that girl desire and able to work hard and serve her future mother in law, skilled in the carpet making, knitting, embroidery. Chastity and modesty are essential qualities of a wife. A girl with high qualities may receive many marriage offers from families having a son.

In Turkmen tradition, there are several rounds of talks before girl's mother persuaded. Even, when girl's parents are satisfied with boy's family, they should not appear eager to give her daughter away. During talks, boy's family offer sweets or cakes to girl's family as symbol of sweet relations in the future. In return, girl's family offer also sweets, biscuits as a good sign to finish their talk positive.

The next step is to agree a price for the bride – kalim (galing). The original purpose of kalim was to ensure that the girl's family compensated for the daughter and housekeeper. The practice continues today, many brides are in favor of it, because most of the money and goods go to the young couple.

There are also some ways to avoid the payment. One is basha bash - head for head – the arrangements when the parents give a daughter and receive a bride for their son. Another way is the marriage by capture, avoid to pay kalim, by abducting a desired girl. In general, this way not preferable as even the poorest families believe that elopement is a dishonorable way to begin a marriage, as it prevents many of the rituals to ensure happy continuation.

Kalim paid in kind, usually goes to the young couple. It is made up of carpets, blankets, jewelry, dresses, fabric for dresses, television or even sometimes a car…A virgin is more costly than a widow, a college graduate can be less costly than a girl with little education (but it all depends on families). If, it is clear that a family really wants a particular girl the Kalim may be higher.

After the talks are finished and agreed, the wedding day is chosen. The marriage date calculated with the help of mullah and the elderly people who has the knowledge of the disposition of the stars. If, it is believed that a star have influence on the marriage and the date could not be changed. Some rituals are done. The bread baked and distributed to neighbors and acquaintances that road will be associated with happiness, the sacrifice to God for blessing. Another tradition is to put a needle and thread on the road leading to the wedding place in an attempt to disorientate a star.

After, the engagement announced, there is a great sense of urgency for a bride to finish her trousseau. Started in the childhood, it should be finished before the date of the marriage. Bride's dowry is also important part of the wedding rituals. A girl starts to prepare her dowry long before the marriage, her first carpet woven for this. Her experience in carpet and felt making, cooking, keeping the house and others. The material part of dowry may include the utensils, carpets and rugs, jewels, complete set of clothes, embroideries. Nine days before wedding it is all sent to the groom's family house.

At Turkmen wedding tradition, boy's family have the greater reason for celebration, as they welcoming in their home a young healthy woman, with hope that she soon bear their grandchildren. The day before the bride arrives, the mother of the groom meet her female relatives and friends to wish the young couple a happy life.

Wedding celebration starts in the bride's home on the day of the wedding. All Turkmen brides are expected to cry as a sign of respect for the family they leave, for many the tears come naturally. The home and the street decorated with the balloons and flags. When groom arrives at bride's house, some women block the entrance to prevent groom to come in. Some fun fight and negotiation of price occur before to let a groom and his friends to come inside. The fun continues inside, when a groom is lead to some room where five young girls awaited him, all dresses the same -in silk red dresses, sitting with their backs to a groom. Eventually, he should find his bride. If chosen wrong, to the delight and fun of the people around. He should pay to all four girls to take his bride. Fun negotiations start about the prices where all participate.

Then bride finish the dressing. Two of the married women placed the silver dome shaped headdress on the bride and covered it with the thick white tasseled shawl. Bride start sobbing openly, then the ceremonial coat (kuerte) placed on her head. With the symbolic attempt - bride's friends remove it, to protect her from the marriage; the older women put it again. It is repeated twice before bride's friends say her goodbyes. The older woman start to sing some wedding songs, accompanied by rhythmic clapping. The groom returns and take his bride, heavily dressed and veiled, her steps are small and slow (she can not see clearly and her legs ceremonially tied below the knees), symbolizing the transformation from a girl to a mature woman. In the past she would travel by camel in the colored palanquin, now, it is the motorcade of cars.

The wedding procession was the brightest part of the ceremony, rich in colors and decorations. Girls and women in beautiful costumes sat on the camels, adorned with carpets, jingling bells and shawls. Now, the camels changed for the modern cars making the wedding motorcade, all decorated with the scarves, toys or ketene – fabric. The women wedding costumes are rich and diverse. The red color dress is the most popular. The dress from silk homespun fabric- ketene, studded with silver jewels and embroidered collar.

Turkmen verse:

Water flows beyond the opening,
Silver jewels wave in the wind,
When a new bride arrives,
Who cares about the old bride?

When a bride enters her husband house, there is another tradition of relegation of the previous new bride to the status of the old bride. An old bride sit defiantly inside of yurt on the bridal rug. A black and white thread, the symbol of snake, attached loosely around the edge of the rug, to protect her from evil eye. Outside, the fun fights happen by old bride friends in attempt to prevent new bride to enter. The woman began to dance, while groom give the money to the woman blocking the door. The groom and bride allowed to come inside. She step with right foot for good luck. Groom's relatives dip her hand in flour and in oil, that she be good housewife and compliant to the wishes of her husband. Old bride still refusing her place, but after some attempts and accepting the money from the groom, she cedes this place to the new wife.

The celebration continue in the evening. Turkmen wedding toy is the huge gathering with many guests. It is given by the groom's parents and usually is expensive. The families can held it at restaurant or at their courtyard or in the street. This is the time to meet with relatives from distant towns or villages. The food for the event can be different, but always with main Turkmen dishes; the sheep meat soup Shorba and mutton Pilaw. There can be 300, 500 or even 700 guests to arrive at the celebration.

At one side, on the platform the music is blaring through the very powerful speakers, a mixture of the modern and traditional Turkmen music. At the opposite side, on the raised platform sitting the groom with bride and their two friends. The bride wear a red veil trimmed with gold braid covering the silver headdress and falling to the wait of her red silk dress. Her face is serious but no longer tearful. The headdress is with long pendants, rings on every finger, several wide bracelets extending from her wrists to the elbows. The colors of the bride' attire combine with the decorations around. The rows of the long tables enough to set many guests. The closest table to the married couple are for their friends. The celebration continues in the vivid way, drinking the toasts to young couple and popular dancing. The guests present the wedding gifts. The young couple came down to receive their gifts and join in the dancing before to return to their seats. At the end, the young couple is leaving, the guests bid them farewell, dancing and clapping around

Turkmen verse:

To take a girl, to give a girl,
Is an ancient rite,
The parents of the bride and groom,
Are holding a toy.

A month later after wedding, the married daughter goes to her parents, where the special festival gathering is organized. Here, she attires in the special red gown and wears the olive shawl, returning back in this dressing