Marriage in Iran has customs and habits some of which are unique to Iranian culture. These customs have changed many times over the course of history and each time they adapt in different ways according to ethnic groups, religions, and even various social levels. Today, couples usually get to know each other before marriage in the workplace, at the University, in public places, at parties and family gatherings or in many cases the same families play an important role in finding the right person for their children or daughters. Iranian marriage is an event that consists of several stages. These in some areas of Iran were a little different in the beginning while in other areas the changes took place gradually. But this is customary and common in the stages of traditional Iranian marriage in most areas of the country (particularly in Tehran), found in the majority of ethnic groups. However, alongside traditional marriages, there are modern ones which are less subordinate to customs and which have to do only with the marriage contract and with the beginning of married life.
The stages of traditional marriage are listed below:
Khāstegāri or Marriage Proposal
In the marriage proposal ceremony, which usually takes place in the afternoon or at sunset, according to agreements made previously, the father and mother together with the son and other family members go to the girl's house with flowers and sweets. At the beginning we talk about many topics and then the conversation moves to the marriage proposal addressed to the daughter of the family. Typically in this meeting, the girl offers tea, sweets and fruit to those present and answers questions. Then if the two families come to a general agreement and from a cultural, social, standard of living, etc., the future spouses are suitable for each other, the date and the next phase of the marriage is fixed, or the one called " bale borān ".
-The "bale borān" ceremony (lit: consent) and shirini khārān (lit: eating sweets)
In this ceremony, which takes place in the girl's house, distant adult relatives also gather and the discussion focuses on the final agreements regarding the girl's dowry and the conditions of marriage. In the bale borān ceremony the groom's family brings the bride gifts such as a piece of cloth, a gold ring and sometimes a sugar cone thus signifying that the girl is engaged and belongs to their son. The dowry is the most important thing discussed in the bale borān ceremony. In some ethnic groups, the bride's family requires a sum from the groom known as "shirbahā" (lit: sum or price of milk ") which belongs to the father and mother of the bride and is often used to purchase parts of the trousseau of the bride. The speeches and agreements made are written on a paper and signed by those present as witnesses.
The engagement party
The engagement party is a ceremony that usually takes place some time after that of the bale borān and in conjunction with a religious festival or a public holiday; in it the families of the boy and the girl announce this union in a more official way. The engagement party can consist of a modest private family reception or a grand and sumptuous ceremony that takes place at home, in a hall or in a garden with a large number of guests. An invitation is even sent for this ceremony. Depending on the traditions present in each city, the customs and formalities of the engagement party are the responsibility of the family of the bride or groom.
The ceremony of aghd-kanān (signing of the contract)
The subject and the ceremony of the aghad kanān are very important and take place in two forms: in the first which is a ceremony in the girl's house, usually the women and men in separate rooms, join together for the reading of the contract (the conditions of it and of the girl's dowry were defined previously and during the bale borān ceremony). In this ceremony, the girl and the boy sit next to each other and in front of the wedding banquet (Sofreh-ye Aghd) which is adorned with symbolic objects such as: the Koran, the mirror, the candlestick, the water, bread, cheese, herbs, crystallized sugar, sweets, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, eggs, honey, yogurt, and a silk cloth is held on their head, the two flaps of which they are in the hands of women, while another woman crumbles two sugar cones inside this cloth so that small pieces fall on the heads of the future spouses; at the same time an “aghed” (the one who officiates the marriage) reads the contract; in most cases after repeating the request to the girl three times, the girl, after obtaining permission from her parents, gives the positive answer after the third time. It is often used that, after making the request for the third time and before saying yes, the bride receives a gift from the groom's mother which is called "zir lafzi", and then the contract is read. Subsequently, the bride and groom and a few witnesses sign all the pages of the aghad-nāme, an official document that includes the personal details of the couple and which includes the history of the marriage, conditions, duties and responsibilities of the newlyweds. The ceremony continues by offering valuable gifts to the bride, cheerfully and entertaining guests.
In this feast, the preparation of the dinner is usually up to the bride's family but the other expenses such as making flowers, sweets and fruit available are the responsibility of the groom. In the second form, after the general agreement between the girl and the boy and their families, the contract is read in private and the marriage is concluded in an official and legal way; without any other particular formalities or with the organization of a simple reception, their life together begins. In some cases the contract is read after the engagement period and during the wedding ceremony.
The Pā-goshā ceremony
The term Pā-goshā means parties or receptions that the father and the mother, the family members and relatives organize after signing the contract, inviting the spouses to their home so that they can get used to attend and take part in family gatherings. Gifts are usually given to the couple in these receptions. However these parties take place among the closest relatives even after marriage.
The preparation of the wedding kit
"Jahizie" or "jahāz" is the kit made up of furnishing accessories and household items necessary for the life of two or three people, objects that the bride brings to the new common home during the marriage. Usually in the years when the girl of the family is in the growth phase and is about to reach the age of marriage, her family is preparing to buy several items but with the passing of the years and with the daily technological progress of household accessories, today the purchase of them is postponed until before the wedding ceremony. Before bringing the trousseau to the bride and groom's home, the women belonging to the circle of distant relatives gather and hold small parties where the bride's trousseau, dresses, and jewels are shown to the guests and each guest brings a gift. Finally, the trousseau is brought to the couple's home at the right time and with particular rituals, a ceremony that still exists in some cities of Iran and which is very beautiful and has a religious aspect.
-The purchase of wedding accessories
Before the celebration of the wedding ceremony takes place, the spouses, accompanied by a number of women from the circle of close relatives, go to the bazaar to buy the wedding accessories: the ring, the wedding dress, the make-up, the mirror, candlestick, suit for the groom, etc. The objects for the wife are bought by her husband and those for him are bought by her. On this occasion, the groom, offering lunch and often buying gifts for his companions, thanks them. These gifts are called "sar kharidi". The ritual of buying nowadays is carried out less frequently in groups and runs out in one day.
The ceremony hanā-bandān
Hanā-bandān is a party and a bachelor or bachelorette party ceremony that is organized in the house of the couple the night before the wedding day in the presence of the youngest. On this holiday, the groom's family brings fruit, sweets and decorative henna to the bride. In the end, even the hands of the spouses and guests are painted with henna and everything takes place in an atmosphere of great joy and the celebrations continue until late.
The wedding ceremony
The wedding ceremony is a very important, sumptuous and joyful ceremony in which almost all the distant and close families of the bride and groom participate and in which guests are given a complete welcome. All expenses for this party are the responsibility of the groom. After the end of it, the spouses with joy and a group of guests, are accompanied to their new home and with a particular rite such as burning the wild road, sacrificing an animal and passing under the Koran, they enter the house. This festival in the cities and in the different areas of Iran included particular customs and in some cases it could last three days or even more. In recent years in Iran we have also witnessed group and university wedding ceremonies.
The ceremony pātakhti and mādarzan salām
The pātakhti ceremony takes place on the day following the feast of the wedding ceremony. In this ceremony, which nowadays takes place less frequently, only the women belonging to the closest relatives participate in an afternoon party that is organized by the bride's family and they are offered a cake, fruit, sweets and drinks. On this occasion the guests bring gifts to the bride. Similarly, this ceremony is held in Canada and America under the name of "Bridal shower". Also on the morning following the wedding feast, a rite called “mādarzan salām” takes place in which the groom with a gift goes to visit the bride's mother and while he thanks her, he kisses her hand and she receives his gift.
After the last phases of the formalities and the wedding ceremony, some spouses leave for a trip together, the honeymoon. Among the religious families, the city of Mashhad is chosen as the first destination.