About time we familiarise ourselves with traditional/contemporary Afghan weddings and how it’s done. About just over a month ago, on the 11th of January 2018, my lala a.k.a my brother got married to the love of his life. So cheesy, I’ll stop here! So cruise along and let’s see how Afghan weddings are done. Simple/complicated/fun, that’s something you can decide after reading this post.
Note: Before reading the post, I should mention that not all Afghan weddings are the same. Different cultural groups within Afghanistan celebrate their wedding in different styles and traditions. Also, not all wedding events are traditional to the Afghan culture, some have been adopted from other cultures across the globe.
I Should probably start from the very beginning, just so we’re all on the same boat with how Afghan weddings are done. I believe this goes with almost every living culture across the globe that marriage is the purest form of union between two individuals. Different cultures around the world celebrate their wedding in all kinds of styles, rituals and traditions. When it comes to Afghans, we sort of have a very different but similar take on how weddings happen in comparison with the western world. A proposal is sent over to the girl’s family asking for her hand in marriage for their son, by the parents of course. On acceptance of the proposal, whether it be love or arranged marriage, the Shaal, Nikah & Engagement takes place.
Shaal, Nikah & Engagement
Shaal in English means shawl, a piece of fabric that is placed onto the bride-to-be’s head by close family members from the groom’s side. Therefore, in this case, Shaal is an ‘action’ of placing shawl onto the bride’s head. A sign symbolizing “the girl is ours now”. Chocolates, candies, and money are also showered during this time.
Nikah on the other hand is the legal contract that binds the two individuals in marriage. So Nikah’s literal meaning is marriage. During the Nikah, a sheikh or mullah (religious leader) will be present to certify the marriage with full consent from both parties. There are certain conditions that must be met before the marriage can take place. Of which the most important ones are the presence of two witnesses and mehriah. Mehriah is a sort of payment in the form of money or possession that is promised to be given to the bride during her married life, something that she’ll legally own. It’s worthwhile to mention that mehriah is not dowry. Dowry is a common tradition in many cultures around the world where the bride brings forth money, property, and goods of all kinds to the marriage. In fact, in Afghanistan, it’s the groom’s family that pays a certain amount of money to the bride’s family to compensate the bride’s parents for growing up their daughter. I guess we could call it ‘the price of the bride’. However, this tradition is fading away with time. And as far as I’m aware, we don’t practice this tradition in our family anymore. And there are many families out there, who have moved on from such traditions as well.
Following the Shaal & Nikah, the engagement takes place. In Dari, we call engagement ‘shirni-khori’. This event consists of exchanging rings, dance, music and more dancing. At the end of the event, little bags of sweet are given out to the guests to take home. Also, gifts are exchanged between both the bride and groom’s families.
Takht Khenna, otherwise henna night is very traditional to the Afghan culture. A night filled with dance, music, henna tattooing, food & much more. This event is celebrated in majority of the Afghan cultures in Afghanistan, however in different styles. henna night is a tradition derived from the olden ages where couples used to cut their palms so they could be joined in blood. As time progressed, this tradition changed and people started using a flowering plant called henna to replace the old ritual.
As per the name, henna plays a big part of the night, where henna is applied on the bride and grooms hand to honour the couple. Henna is also applied on the pinkie finger of the groom’s mates. It is believed that those boys will be next to get married. It’s important to note that as time progresses, old rituals and traditions are continuously on the edge of being intertwined with modern contemporary trends. And so there are always changes in every event that takes place.
⏤ Snippet of the henna night ⏤
After the henna night, the Rukhsati takes place. Usually in the morning of the wedding reception day, however, can take place a day or two before. Some people also choose to do their Nikah at this time instead of at the very beginning. So it does really depend on the couple.
‘Rukhsat’ in Dari means departure, hence this is the day the bride leaves her parents house and goes to her new house. The groom’s family and relatives come to pick the bride up early in the morning. Some traditional rituals such as tying the bride and groom’s waist take place. Also, some fun stealing the shoes, closing the door games are played by the bride’s siblings and cousins. And then the bride takes off, after shedding a truckload of tear of course and making everyone else cry in the process. Then yeah, a few dozen of cars take the bride to her new house, some other rituals such as washing the bride’s feet, opening the couples waists takes place. After which everyone leaves to go get ready for the photoshoot & WEDDING RECEPTION.
The biggest event of them all, the wedding reception, the TOI. Very similar to western receptions, a night filled with dance, music, food and more dance.
In between the dances, there’s the sword knife dance by the bride’s sister and cake cutting. Towards the very end, families, relatives, friends & colleagues give their blessings to the newly wedded couple.
A day after the wedding, the Takht Jami takes place, a party for the ladies. Sorry gentleman’s, the wedding is over for you guys. Takht Jami is also traditional to Afghan culture like the Khenna night. The day is dedicated to wrapping up the wedding basically. Close family members bring gifts for the couple and again gifts are exchanged between the bride and groom’s families.
Ok, here goes another event, I know, you’re probably thinking “what the actual heck, how long does the wedding go for?” “forever, I’d say my friend, forever”. Ok back to Paiwazi. This one is very basic to understand. ‘Pai’ means foot and ‘waz’ means open, so “open foot” would be the complete meaning of that word you probably struggled to pronounce a few seconds ago. And oh the ‘i’ that’s just Afghans being extra like always. #jaffari #buzkashi #thobbazi you get the idea, don’t yeah? So open foot, paiwazi is a tradition whereby the bride is taken back to her parent’s house for the first time after her marriage. After which she can freely go back and forth to her parent’s house and her own house anytime. This tradition usually happens very quickly these days, however back in the days, man! some bride wouldn’t go back for YEARS!! Geez, how can you even live without seeing your parents for that long? Honestly, sometimes it really makes you wonder.
Continuing on to the very last event, Haftom shorwa. ‘Haftom’ means seven and ‘shorwa’ is a traditional Afghan soup. So seventh soup, if I’m not wrong. I actually wonder how many people imagined eating soup on the seventh day, cause you’re very close my friend. Very close! Except the day is not specifically for eating soup, in fact people don’t eat soup anymore, but rather the day the bride breaks her “Not cooking for seven days haha moment”. I say, relax and enjoy your time newly bride, cause you’re a princess for seven days. Then you’re back to reality of course. Back to the story, seven days after the wedding, another event, another party for the ladies! The bride mixes a bowl filled with flour & etc (for prosperity, beatitude & blessedness). And if she’s lucky, maybe she’ll find one or two jewelry hidden in between the grains. And yeah basically Yalla Habibi back to normal life newly bride.
And that’s it my friends. The wedding is finally over! Thank you for riding along my lala’s wedding. I hope I’ve provided some useful information on Afghan weddings and how it’s done. Do comment below if you have any questions, I’ll be more than happy to answer them.
Special thanks to M3hdi Photography & also our amazing family & friends who helped out a lot during this time!
Also, if you’re reading this Mortaza & Arezoo (better be) Congratulations to both of you for tying the knot ♥︎ from the bottom of my heart, I wish you both a life filled with immense happiness, laughter, and endless love!