Traditions of Turkish Weddings

Traditions of Turkish Weddings

A community of man and woman is something that has been celebrated since a long time ago. It is in human nature to make rituals in order to symbolize and give meaning to things that are important for them. Wedding is one of those ceremonies and in each country you can find some specific features and unique traditions that are being preserved and being practiced until this day.

In this modern times weeding ceremonies are similar in every country, a bride dressed in white gown, a broom in a tuxedo with a lot of guests who witness their commitment and a man who is leading the ceremony. After the ceremony, its celebration time, eating, dancing, singing and drinking. Also in Turkey, this modern version of the weeding is the most common one, but some of the spouses prefer to have traditional form of wedding.

In this article we will introduce You with some wedding traditions characteristic for this country in history and now.

Types of Marriage:

Today, around 45% of marriages in Turkey are arranged, which means that the bride and groom were chosen from their families and that they need family approval in order to get married to that specific person.. A couple of decades ago that percentage was around 80.

Another kind of marriage is that in case of death of a brother, marriage of a single or widower brother in law with widow sister-in law. (Levirat) In preference of such kind of marriage the purpose is not to allow properties go out after death of brother as well as situation of children. Similarly it is also possible when sister dies sister-in law takes the place of her sister (Sororat).

Types of marriage through kidnapping a girl have been taking an important place. It is possible that girl and boy run away on mutual agreement in addition to  a girl is kidnapped by force. In some regions, there is also a type of kidnapping girl and marriage  called custom of “oturakalma”. In this type of marriage girl goes home of the man that she loves and settles there.

Another type of marriage which was often practised in the past is “beşik kertme”. While children were yet in their cradle their engagement was made. In the past rejection of marriage by girl and boy when they reach their age of marriage put the family in difficult situation and caused experience of bloody events. This type of marriage has not been often practised today.

Another kind of marriage experienced in Turkey is marriage of “iç güveysi”. In this marriage man settles in the home where woman lives.

Usually in case of  inability to pay the necessary amount of money for the girl and absence of a son on the part of the family of woman to perform their works this type of marriage is preferred.

In another type of marriage called “Berder” or “değiş-tokuş, değişik” ( exchange, changing) a family with daughter and son gives and takes girl to/from another family who has son and daughter. Such kind of marriages release the obligation to pay money to the bride’s family (Başlık).

Another type of marriage procedure is however marriage of a girl whose marriage age expired with a widower. It is also possible that a single man who was unable to marry because of various reasons may marry a widow.

In some regions marriage with more than one wife at the same time (polygamy) has been also practised. That wife unable to have a baby or she is invalid, sick is the cause for such kind of marriage. In this case solemnised marriage is on the first wife and children from the other wife is registered on the first wife.

Outfits trough history

In Ottoman tradition young girls generally dressed plainly, it being considered improper for them to wear showy clothing made of fabric with silver or gold thread, sequins or embroidery until they were married. The wedding dress was therefore the first richly ornamented attire they wore. It was distinguished from the costume of other women at the ceremony by a bridal headdress, veil and other accessories. Ottoman wedding dresses made of rich fabrics in the fashionable style of the time were in bright colors like red, purple, blue or pink, while red was the traditional color for the daughters and sisters of the sultans.

They were worn with a red bridal veil. From the 1870s onwards, under western influence, wedding dresses of pastel colors became fashionable, but the first white wedding dress was not worn until 1898, when Naime Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Abdülhamid II, married Kemalettin Pasa. This fashion, which began at the palace, gradually spread throughout Turkish society, until eventually it became hard to find any bride not dressed in white.

Wedding dresses and woman’s clothing in general diverged widely between regions with colors, fabrics, embroidery and style varying according to the customs of each sector of society. The number of days a wedding celebration lasted depended on the social status of the family. Among the upper classes brides wore a different dress for each day of the celebrations, which consisted principally of the henna night, the nuptial day, and the day following the wedding. The dress worn on the latter occasion was known as paçalik.

Nowadays, woman like in the rest of the world are dressed in white gowns.

Act of go-between (Görücülük), To Ask a Girl’s Hand in Marriage:

In the traditional section marriage process starts with seeing and looking for a girl. Families who want to marry their sons begins looking for girl firstly starting from their relatives, neighbours, close friends. In this matter their neighbours and relatives also help them in their effort.

In great cities of Turkey  where cultural changes are more effective marriages through directly meeting and agreement have been gradually spreading; and “Görücülük” has been still the main type of marriages which are witnessed at places where traditional procedure is more effective. “Görücülük” is that several women elected among  members of family of the man wants to marry, relatives and neighbours pay a visit to the home of the girl who was formerly proposed by relatives and examine the girl closely and reveal their intention. This procedure is called “seeing a girl, to send woman to see girl, woman sent out to inquire about a prospective bride” (“kız bakma”, “görücü çıkma”, “dünür gezme” in Turkish)

Henna night

This night in which the bride will be together with her family, relatives and friends all of which are women is just before the day of fetching bride as known the main wedding day. This night which is called “Kına Gecesi” is celebrated in the bride’s home. The bridegroom’s family and other guests are met and hosted in the bride’s home.  

Usually dry henna brought by the bridegroom’s family  is broken to pieces in a silver or cupper vessel by  a woman whose father and mother alive, not experienced any separation. After preparing the bride, veil ornamented with red flake is placed over her head, and she is brought into the middle with accompaniment of hymn, folk songs about henna. Hands and feet of the bride are dyed with henna. The bridegroom’s side is under the obligation to put money in the hand of the bride. Dying ceremony of henna is different according to regions. The henna so dyed has such names and types as “iplik kınası” (henna for yarn), “sıvama” (smearing), “kuşgözü” (bird eye).

After leaving woman who came together for dying henna close friend of the bride remain with her and enjoy themselves till morning. 

In some of our regions henna dying ceremony for bridegroom is also held in the bridegroom’s home.

Before the Wedding

 The groom’s side of the party arrives to pick up the bride in a convoy. In the past, the bride would be seated upon a horse, her eyes blindfolded, as she was led on horseback to her new home. The reasoning behind this particular tradition was to ensure the bride did not know where she was going, in case she tried to escape back to her familial home.

These days this tradition is nearly abandoned and if not is solely symbolic and the bride is most always brought to the wedding location by a convoy of cars adorned with flowers, streamers and “getting married” signs. Now, you may have seen children by the dozens chasing after a wedding convoy and literally stopping the car in front where the bride and groom are sitting. However, what you may not know is that they are expecting and are even prepared for this roadblock to occur possibly numerous times until they throw out envelopes filled with money to the children who only then allow the convoy to pass.

Wedding Ceremony

Although Turkey is dominantly Muslim country, while preforming ceremony, the couple is married by an unreligious person. There is also an option to be married by Iman, in that case the marriage is not legal, so some couples deside to do both version of ceremony. In ceremony with Iman, the only present people are the wedding couple, witness and Iman.

In the official ceremony bride and groom choose a witness apiece, and then an officially sanctioned employee of the municipality or local authority (nikah memuru) pronounces you married. This employee is neither a religious authority or a legal expert, but instead is simply a representative of the local government and recognizes your marriage. 

The Maidenhood Belt (Bekaret kuşağı) for a Turkish Bride

A red ribbon tied around the bride’s waist is a symbol of her virginity. In the past, the absence of a maidenhood belt would result in local gossip, but in modern towns and cities, it is the choice of the bride as to whether she wants to wear it.

The Sole of a Bride’s Shoes

This Turkish wedding tradition has the same meaning as throwing the bouquet. The bride’s friends write their name on the sole of her shoes. Whosever name rubs off by the end of the night, they will get married. Generally, this works for everyone if they don’t use a permanent marker.


Most of the times, Turkish weeding are big, with a lot op people and food. All that accompanied with traditional wedding dances and instruments.

Halay is the most common form of folk dance for weddings. It is a cycle of the same melody that begins slow and speeds up, with people dancing together holding each others hands or fingers and dancing together.

Different regions have different traditions with the halay dances.

Davul-Turkish drum

The classic wedding instruments, particularly in the lead up to the occasion, are traditional Turkish drums called davuls and pipes called zurna. Today these are still formed as part of tradition, though as you’d expect the primary wedding music tends to be more modern in form.

Wedding ceremonies are generally start on Tuesday and end on Thursday, or start on Friday and end on Sunday. Costs and expenses of wedding are met by the bridegroom’s family. 

Wedding Gifts

Gold and money are the main wedding gifts in Turkey, and there’s typically even a ceremony after the official marriage is complete. The bride and groom don sashes and guests come up one by one to take pictures with them and pin gold or money onto the sashes. You can buy these special gold coins at jewelry shops all around Turkey. The money is then supposed to be used to help the couple get started in life.