I was an American bride in a Persian Wedding and many events that I attended leading up to the wedding I felt like a guest and I had no way to explain to my American family what I didn’t know back then. Thankfully, everything is very fun and culturally vibrant so a good time was always had, but understanding what I experienced became an obsession of mine after my wedding, leading to my work The Persian Wedding Book.
Its important to understand the context of marriages in Iranian culture because it is very different than American culture.
Let’s start from the beginning and take a quick look at the entire series of events that leads up to the ceremony at The Sofreh Aghd and get you all caught up on what is ahead.
What is a Persian Wedding?:
A Persian Wedding is a complication of traditional events that spans the courtship (ashnaei, didar, khastegari , etc.) , engagement (baleh-Boran & Namzadi) , pre-wedding events, legal wedding (aghd) , community wedding (sofreh aghd) & post wedding events.
Full list below.
- Didar (To Meet)
- Ashnaei (Courtship/Dating)
- Khastegari (The Groom Meets Bride’s Family Formally)
- Baleh Boran ( “Yes Party” Groom Proposes)
- Namzadi (Engagement Party)
- Pre-Wedding Shopping Jahaz-Boran ( Home Furnishings Shower)
- Band-Andazan (Threading of the Bride Party)
- Hana-Bandan ( Good Luck Hena Party)
- Aghd (Family only Legal Wedding)
- Sofreh Aghd (Community Wedding Ceremony)
- Jashn- Aroosi ( Grand Community Party and Wedding Reception )
- Madar Zan Salaam ( Groom Visits Brides’s Mother)
- Patakhti (Celebration Party of New Couple )
- Pagosha (Welcoming the New Couple)
Why are there so many events to The Persian Wedding?:
Marriage is viewed very differently in Iran, certainly throughout the Middle East, North Africa and in most of the world than it is viewed in the United States or other western cultures. This question is a cultural question and the difference is a cultural difference. The reason there are so many events to The Persian Wedding is because marriage is viewed in collective cultures (such as Iran’s) as more of the joining of two families rather than simply the joining of two people (such as individualistic cultures like America). There is plenty of time set aside for the families to get to know each other while the couple is also getting to know another. There is a sequence of protocols that families follow in Iran when a couple is “serious.” A marriage would never happen without family approval in collective cultures.
The courtship events are designed for the families to demonstrate their support of the marriage which is very important in collective family oriented cultures in all of the Middle East & most definitely in Iran.
On another note, Marriage is looked at more practically in this part of the world. Whether a family can support a bride, offer a suitable dowry (Mariyeh) and if the families like each other and “mesh well” is very important in this part of the world. If something is to be gained by either party this is very valuable.
In the not so distant past marriages were arranged for practical reasons in Iran. Although this is more relaxed now, families still essentially interview each other and negotiate important details of the marriage while a couple is dating. Even in the United States the tones of these traditions are absolutely in play no matter how “westernized” or “not that Iranian” people claim to be.
What is a Sofreh Aghd? : In short, the Sofreh Aghd is the ceremonial Persian Wedding Table where the couple is married. You will hear the word “sofreh” used frequently in your new life being Married Persian. The word sofreh in Farsi denotes the base fabric/cloth that is used to set important ceremonial tables. For example you may eat a family meal on a “sofreh,” which is a type of rectangular fabric placed on the floor and set elaborately for a family meal.
In This context of the Persian Wedding sofreh is used in Farsi to denote the base fabric that sets the ceremonial wedding table. The word “Aghd” in Farsi denotes this particular sofreh is a wedding ceremonial sofreh. This wedding table is custom-prepared especially for each couple. The couple will sit at special seats at the head of the wedding table during the cer-emony. And typically there will be 24 symbolic items almost always present on each wedding table (plus or minus a few items which each couple can tailor to their own tastes).
These items of the Sofreh Aghd contain profound meaning for the bride and groom. The central message at the core of all such items on the Sofreh Aghd are the sweetest and kindest wishes imaginable: wishes for happiness, luck, prosperity, health and closeness to God. The items are permeated with love from the family and friends of the couple and are intended to radiate every goodness it is possible to conceive toward the loving couple. It is indeed the dazzling centerpiece of the Persian Wedding.