Persian Wedding Traditions | Your Guide to Customs and Rituals
Massoume Price, author of Ancient Iran, wrote of Persian weddings, “For Iranians, marriage is an event, which must be celebrated not quietly but with glory and distinction.” As you’ll discover in this post, Persian weddings are indeed glorious in scale and presentation, and they are culturally unique with a distinctive fusion of ancient and modern traditions!
Aspects of the aroosi (a traditional Persian wedding) vary from region to region, but the core of the ceremony remains tied to ancient Zoroastrian traditions (one of the world’s oldest surviving religions, possibly dating as far back as the second millennium BC) and is virtually the same as it has always been. While they may explore various customs, modern couples often seamlessly blend these ancient traditions into their ceremony.
One can’t help but notice the rich symbolism present in each of the Persian wedding traditions. Every element of the ceremony reflects a different aspect of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, from the mirror and candelabras, which represent light and fire, to the kaleh ghand (sugar cones), which are rubbed together by married female family members over the heads of the bride and groom to bring sweetness into their life and marriage.
In this guide, you will learn about several Persian wedding traditions like those mentioned above, and you’ll find specialized photography tips that will help you anticipate each of these significant moments and capture them when they happen.
PLEASE NOTE: We created this guide to help prepare photographers to successfully photograph Persian weddings. The information shared in this guide has been culled from our own experiences photographing Persian weddings and does not proclaim to be a definitive guide that includes every possible Persian wedding tradition. We recognize there may and likely will be traditions, however frequently or infrequently observed, that are not represented within this guide.
Persian Wedding Timeline
While photographers do not usually create wedding timelines (a job handled more often by wedding planners & coordinators), they should familiarize themselves with the timeline so that they can anticipate the major events that are scheduled to occur throughout the day and plan accordingly.
PLEASE NOTE: The timeline presented below is intended to serve only as an example of what a timeline might look like for a Persian wedding. Actual timelines for all weddings will vary.
09:00 am - Bridal party hair and makeup begins
12:00 pm - Photographer arrives | Prep & details
12:45 pm - Individual portraits of bride & groom
01:30 pm - First look/Couple’s daytime session
02:15 pm - Bridal party portraits
02:45 pm - Photographs of ceremony details
03:00 pm - Processional
03:30 pm - Sofreh Aghd - Ceremony
Bale/Kelling - Consent
Asal - Honey & Kiss
Tala - Gifts of Gold
Kaleh Ghand - Sugar cones overhead
04:30 pm - Recessional
05:00 pm - Family formals
05:00 pm - Couples session
05:30 pm - Cocktail hour | Details & guests mingling
06:00 pm - Reception details
06:30 pm - Doors open to reception
08:00 pm - Grand entrance
08:30 pm - Dinner, speeches
09:00 pm - Open dance floor
09:10 pm - Sneak away couples session
09:30 pm - Cake cutting ceremony/dessert
Dancing continues until conclusion
**There may be a grand exit, but not always.
Persian Wedding Glossary
Here is a quick reference list of terms you should know before photographing a Persian wedding:
The aghd is the wedding ceremony, or the first of two parts of the Persian wedding day (the second being the jashn e aroosi/mehmooni, or reception party).
The aroos is the bride. In the United States, brides in Persian weddings typically wear traditional Western-style white dresses. Specific details of the dress may vary according to taste and religious beliefs.
The damad is the groom. Like the brides in Persian weddings, grooms typically wear traditional Western-style wedding attire (tuxedo).
Jashn E Aroosi
The jashn e aroosi, or wedding reception (also sometimes referred to as the mehmooni), features dinner, dancing, speeches, and other familiar reception activities. The venue, however, is often elaborately and uniquely decorated.
Kelling is the word for the “le-le-le-le-le” sound that guests make to celebrate the bride’s consent to marry the groom during the wedding ceremony.
Mokhaddeh is the seating that the bride and groom sit on during Persian wedding ceremonies.
The word “sofreh” means spread, and “aghd” is Persian for ceremony. This is the traditional wedding ceremony spread around which Persian weddings are performed.
The tooreh ghand is the sugar cloth that is held over the bride and groom like a canopy throughout much of the wedding ceremony.
Glossary for Sofreh Aghd
Here is a breakdown of sofreh aghd items you will find at a Persian wedding:
Asal (honey) is shared between the bride and groom just prior to the ceremony’s conclusion. The bride and groom usually dip their pinky into the honey and then feed each other the honey to represent sweetness in their lives.
The ayeeneh (mirror) brings light and brightness into the bride and groom’s future. The couple traditionally look into the mirror during part of the ceremony, sometimes using it to see each other for the first time on their wedding day.
The blend of almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts symbolizes fertility.
Esfand (wild rue) is an herb that is typically burned to symbolize purification, but it can be used as decorative element and left unburned.
Golaab (rose water) is used to freshen the air with a pleasant floral scent.
A holy book chosen by the couple is often placed on the sofreh aghd, symbolizing God’s blessing.
During the ceremony, married women rub the kaleh ghand (sugar cones) together over the tooreh ghand, which is held over the couple’s heads. The falling sugar showers the bride and groom’s life and marriage with sweetness.
Khoncheh is an assortment of seven symbolic herbs and spices placed on the sofreh spread to ward off the “evil eye.” Spices include poppy seeds, wild rice, angelica, salt, nigella seeds, black tea, and frankincense.
Meeveh (seasonal fruits), usually apples, represent a cheerful future for the bride and groom.
Noon sangak, a decorative flatbread, symbolizes prosperity for the couple’s life and marriage. It is often combined with feta cheese and fresh herbs.
Sekkeh (coins) represent wealth and prosperity for the couple.
Shahkheh nabat (rock candy) symbolizes a sweetened life for the newlyweds.
Shamdoon (candles/candelabras) symbolize energy and clarity in the couple’s life together.
Another symbol of sweetness, sheereeni (sweets and pastries) are placed on the sofreh aghd and shared with guests after the ceremony.
Soozan nakh (needle and thread) represents the unification of two people or two families.
Tokhmeh morgh, or decorated eggs, symbolize fertility for the bride and groom.