Traditionally, Armenians used to have a wedding ceremony in autumn and winter, as villagers had already finished the harvest gathering. The groom’s parents have to ask the bride’s family for the bride’s hand in marriage. The following traditions was called “Khosk-Kap” as a substitute for an engagement reception. The main purpose of this was to create a social gathering for the couple’s families to be formally introduced. After the engagement that mostly includes the priest’s blessing of the engagement rings and the couple’s future plans for marriage, both sets of parents have to make decisions concerning the time and place of the wedding day.
A tradition no longer kept is “Shordzevk”, a ritual where a group of women gathered at the bride’s home and each of them had to sew a part of the bride’s dress. Nowadays the bride selects pre-made dresses or rents one out for the night.
Azbanstum, the bachelor’s party, preceded the wedding day where one of the groom’s single friends was chosen as a bodyguard. Another tradition, maintained specifically in the mountainous villages, is considered to be “Eznmortek”, when a cow is publicly slaughtered to provide the ceremony meat.
Normally, the leading role is taken by the kavor or godfather. As a respectable person, the kavor is especially invited to the wedding day accompanied by a group of musicians. A fun tradition revolves around the person who is considered the fox, sent to steal the hens. He gets his wish granted without stealing when he brings the good news of the groom’s arrival.
It’s also a part of the Armenian tradition for a member of the bride’s wedding party to hold one of the bride’s shoes for ransom until they are paid by the groom or a member of his wedding party.The Bride’s brother will block the doorway, refusing to allow the groom to take his sister without giving something in return, material or not. A hilarious tradition also includes a joke of a fight/argument amongst the groom’s family members, wherein the mother of the groom often comes out the victor. One of the funniest traditions of all time initiates at the bride’s home when the groom’s relatives take or ‘steal’ personal items from the bride’s home while the bride is getting ready for the ceremony. The message trying to get across is ‘We are taking away the ‘flower’ of the day’ (the bride) along with personal items that belong to her’. Usually these ‘stolen’ items are given back to the bride’s family once the groom’s family visits the bride’s family when the newlyweds are away on their honeymoon.
As a tradition, you will most probably have close relatives and friends approach you during the first dance and throw dollar bills over your head. Sometimes, it continues for the entire time the bride and groom dance. This tradition is to wish the newlyweds prosperity. This tradition is actually one borrowed from olden Royal weddings, where the king was showered with gold coins and the queen with pearls.
One of the most important parts in the Armenian traditional wedding is toasts, and the special expression “may you grow old on one pillow”, can be woven into a theme for the wedding by the “Tamada” or speaker of the night. A pair of doves released also symbolizes love and happiness.
An old tradition that has been passed to the younger generation is the Breaking Decorated Plates tradition. Two decorated plates are to be broken by the bride and groom on their Big Day. The first is to be stepped on by the married couple when entering the reception hall. This tradition has remained with the idea that it dispels the evil spirits and all the negative energy from the newlyweds. Both the bride and groom should step on the second plate at the entrance of their home. It is to ward off the evil eye from their home and bless the beginning of their new lives together.
The following day the bride’s parents bring the ojid, or dowry, in which there should be everything necessary for the newlywed couple to begin their family. Nowadays it seems to be substituted with the key to an apartment or a car. It could also be the tickets for the honeymoon.
More traditions tomorrow…