Turkish Wedding Traditions and Customs
Turkish weddings are a big affair, with hundreds of invites handed out to family and friends. Whether done on a budget or with unlimited expenses, Turks love to celebrate the good times and also invite people they have only just met, including foreigners travelling in the country.
If you have never been to a wedding in Turkey, accept any invite that might come your way because they are a great insight into Turkish traditions. While times are changing and increasingly more Turks are opting for a modern wedding, some time-honoured practises are still braving the test of time.
What Happens at a Turkish Wedding?
A Turkish wedding differ across the country according to regional traditions and the bride and groom’s upbringing. Couples from remote village districts can spend up to three days preparing and celebrating the wedding.
The small size of the village means it is a community celebration, often taking place in village square. Local women make the food for the guests and men play traditional musical instruments for everyone to dance together into the night.
Otherwise, couples from large towns or cities often have a salon wedding. For these types of Turkish weddings, the legal ceremony happens on the same night as the reception. Food and refreshments are served and after the official ceremony, cake cutting and receiving the gifts, the band plays music. The couple leave the next day for their honeymoon.
Religious Weddings in Turkey
There are two types of weddings in Turkey, a religious ceremony and civil. The religious service does not involve vows or documents. An imam comes to the house, and only 2 witnesses need to be present. However, it is not legally binding. For this reason, some conservatives couples opt for both types of weddings and see the religious ceremony as the equivalent of an engagement. Modern couples mostly just have the legally binding civil service.
Is Polygamy Legal in Turkey?
Turkey outlawed polygamy in 1926, and it carries a stiff imprisonment sentence if convicted. If a man says he has more than one wife, his first wedding was civil, and later marriages were religious, but because the law does not recognise the latter, it is not classed as polygamy. This example is rare and only tends to occur in remote regions.
The Maidenhood Belt for a Turkish Bride
Turkish brides look beautiful in their big white dresses. Some may cover their head, while others spend all day in the salon to achieve the perfect hairstyle to make her groom look twice. As well as the white wedding dress, another similarity between most brides is the maidenhood belt.
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.
What to Wear to a Turkish Wedding?
Remote Turkish village weddings have a relaxed dress code, otherwise always opt for smart attire. Men should wear a suit, and while women have more choice of what to wear, stay away from anything cut above the knee or showing cleavage. If the family is conservative, also cover your shoulders. Forget about the massive, fancy hats because Turks do not wear them.
Turkish Wedding Gifts
Anyone invited to a Turkish wedding can relax when it comes to the gift department. Forget the toaster, kettle or running around asking for gift lists because there are only two choices. After the couple has said yes and signed the document, red ribbons are placed around the necks of the wedding couple.
Guests either give gold coins or jewellery or pin money to the fabric. It is a practical tradition that sets the couple up for their new life together and ends the problem of receiving two or more toasters!
Turkish Wedding Traditions: The Car Convoy
The couple’s decorated car joins the convoy of guests to ride around the streets beeping their horns. On the way, children block the path of the car and the aim is to get money from the passengers. After the couple have handed it over, they continue their way to getting married and living happily ever after. If you want to know more about the lifestyle of Turks, read our article on Turkish traditions and customs occurring in everyday situations.