We recently had the pleasure of working with a couple wanting to mix a traditional Christian wedding ceremony with a Persian wedding ceremony. Combining two different cultures/religions into a wedding ceremony is a great way to embrace the history and culture of both families.
We thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the key elements of the Persian ceremony since many have never experienced that type of ceremony. One of the largest elements of the ceremony is the sofreh aghd – a table setup with a wedding spread featuring a variety of items to help the couple as they begin their marriage. This wedding spread is the centerpiece of all Persian weddings.
The couple sits on low stools or chairs in front of the sofreh aghd, which symbolizes their humility and closeness to the earth. The table is setup with a wide variety of food and decorations, all with special meanings. Some of these items placed on the table include:
- A mirror representing fate and two candelabras representing the brightness of the future. The candles also symbolize energy and clarity in the couple’s life together.
- Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and decorated eggs all symbolize fertility. The nuts are also a symbol of abundance and renewal, and represent health and nourishment for the body, plus the wish that there will always be healthy food in the home of the couple.
- The gold seen throughout the display is a symbol of prosperity for the couple.
- The Seven Pastries (sheereeni): Noghl (sugar coated almonds), Baklava, Toot (Persian marzipan), Naan-e Bereneji (rice cookies), Naan-e Badami (almond cookies), Naan-Nokhodchi (chickpea cookies) and Sohan Asali (saffron almond brittle) are on the table to symbolize sweetness in life. They are traditionally on the table and shared with guests after the ceremony.
- The Quran, Bible, Persian book of poetry or other religious book represent protection and a symbol of faith
- Shakh-e-Nabat: A bowl made out of crystallized sugar sweetens the couple’s lives
- Kaleh Ghand: Two cones made out of hardened sugar – Happily married family and friends rub the sugar cones together over the “sugar cloth” while held over the couple’s head to shower their life and marriage with sweetness
- A combination of herbs and spices – generally the seven are salt, poppy seeds, black tea, wild rice, nigella seeds, angelica and frankincense. The herbs and spices are believed to guard their lives and protect them against evil.
- Roses and rose water are used to perfume and freshen the air
- Honey is also present to symbolize the sweetening of the couple’s marriage. Sometimes at the end of the ceremony the honey will be shared by the couple – the bride and groom will dip a pinky finger into the honey and feed it to one another
- Needle and Thread or Spools of Thread symbolize the two individuals becoming one and also the two families coming together as one.
- Tooreh Ghand (Sugar Cloth): the cloth or shawl, similar to the one seen folded in the picture above, is held over the couple during the ceremony by happily married family and friends.
It’s always interesting to see how different cultures and religions celebrate marriage ceremonies. The addition of the Persian ceremony to the traditional Christian ceremony made the wedding intriguing for the guests while honoring the backgrounds of both families.