A Monday Night Wedding in Qeshm Island
Qeshm, Monthly Magazine, September 2003
Henna ceremony is part of the wedding in Qeshm Island
In Qeshm, the groom moves into his in laws' house. Traditions have remained well preserved in Qeshm due to the isolated and proud nature of the local people. Their industries, architecture, customs and rituals have changed very little over the course of time and authenticity has been maintained in many aspects. No better place is this visible than in a local Qeshm wedding.
To hold a wedding ceremony in Qeshm is the most beautiful and exciting thing in a person's life. The families of the bride and groom celebrate for days, and friends, neighbors and whoever else happens to stumble upon the party, is invited to join the fun. While both families look forward to the ceremony from the start of their child's life, the ceremony is a long process. Ten days are filled with festivities, dinners and parties. For the first three nights, the couple remains unmarried, then on the fourth night, the actual marriage of the couple takes place. The wedding continues for another seven nights.
The wedding decorations are breathtaking, and colorful hopes for a bright future are clear in the vivid decor. The curtains of sand, and rugged nature of Qeshm Island are left behind while flowers dominate the wedding ceremony. Blossoms or khoncheh, are constructed and filled with henna and aromatic scents on the third day of the wedding for the henna ceremony. The scented blossoms are taken to the bride's house, where the couple will reside until getting a place of their own. The homes of the groom and bride's father are decorated with brilliant fabrics and lighting, which makes it known there is a celebration in the residence taking place.
A Marriage Proposal
Qeshm is made of relatively small communities and families are generally well acquainted before a wedding takes place. The groom's family sends a message to the bride's family, and after an approval is received by the bride's family, arrangements are made for them all to meet. In older times, the girl had no say on the matter, but today they voice their own opinions, and they need to approve of the marriage as well.
On a special evening, the groom is invited to come to the girl's home along with his family for a visit with her family. However not without enticing jewels for the bride to be and her family. The groom presents the bride's mother with a gold ring and necklace, money, and a few items of clothing. He is taking her daughter and she deserves something for the loss of her child and for her hard work in raising her.
Bride in Qeshm Island
Unique to other weddings in Iran, the groom moves into the bride's house. The wedding costs are paid 3 days before the start of the wedding ceremony to the bride's family. The groom also provides for the wedding dress which consists of few plain under garment cloths embroider trousers, few scarves and few shoes which he puts in a box and gives to the bride's family one day before the wedding ceremony ends.
The groom must prove his good will to the family of the bride, and as a gesture of kindness and love, a mehrier is given to her family. The groom gives some form of a payment to the bride and this is registered onto the wedding certificate, which is then is given to the bride's father. The mehrieh may be in the form of gold bracelets, earrings, etc., but the purpose remains the same to assure the bride's family of the groom's good intentions of caring for their daughter, while he demonstrates he has the financial means to do so.
The First Night
On a Monday night, the wedding ceremony begins with local music and dancing. The bride is decorated with henna, which is believed to be a connection between the bride and groom. The rest of the henna preparation is placed under a special green tree. The women celebrate with the bride by singing and dancing all through the night.
With curves, intricate vines and designs, the bride and groom become beautifully bound to one another with the symbolic hanabandan ceremony. In the three days before the bride and groom enter into marriage, the hanabandan ceremony is held at night. Henna is applied to the hands and feet of bride and groom by their closest relatives in their father's homes, while poetry about the Prophet Mohammad and the Imams are recited. There feet and hands are covered up to the wrists and ankles the detailed artwork. They are then covered with fabric to preserve and dry the henna, and uncovered the next morning.
The second night, Almonds and small packages of henna are distributed among the guests of the wedding, and the women all wear green clothes. On the third night of the hanabandan, a small model ship is prepared by the groom who is decorated with henna, and colorful fabrics and flowers. The model ship made of flower blossoms is covered with almond leaves and is taken to the ceremony along with some money and sweets.
The bride and groom are taken to the bathrooms of their fathers' homes. A circle is drawn on the floor with the tip of a knife around the bride or groom. Within the circle, eggs, sugar and rice are placed. The bride and groom break the eggs with their toes. When the bride leaves the bathroom the bride's makeup artist, who also manages the decorations, throws a date in the corner of the bathroom. Then the bride is ready to be dressed and prepares for the marriage ceremony. Today, a Qeshm bride wears a traditional white wedding gown, but in the past brides wore green.
A Wednesday Wedding
After eating lunch and before the evening prayer, the guests celebrate by singing and dancing. After the prayer they recite poems about the Prophet Mohammad at the bride and groom's respective homes. The groom is then ready to go to the bride's home, and he is accompanied with singing and dancing friends and relatives in a public procession. Upon arrival at the bride's home, the groom enters the sacred space or hejleh to meet the bride and exchange their vows, while the guests continue singing and dancing. The relatives of the groom then enter the hejleh and congratulate the newlyweds. The couple stays in the hejleh for one week, which is like being quarantined, and they are served during this honeymoon period.
The night ceremonies during the week that follows are what make the wedding so special because the family and friends meet and greet the couple as man and wife. For each day of the week there is a special ceremony, sometimes just for the women, when sweets and almonds are shared.
Saturday, after two days of rest, a ceremony called Shabe-Kangiis held, and sweets and almonds are distributed among women.
Sunday night is Shoodakhi, and only girls are invited to this ceremony. Monday night the families rest and no ceremonies are held.
Tuesday night neighbors and relatives are invited to see the sacred space or hejlah, of the newlyweds, and they are served dinner. Gifts from the guests are usually given on this day.
The Last Day
A newly-wed couple in Qeshm Island
After a week alone in the hejleh, the newlyweds leave on Wednesday to go to the groom's family's house where the women sing and the groom's mother give presents like local clothing to the bride. However, before leaving they have to step on eggs to break in their new life with good luck.
The ceremony comes to an end on a Wednesday, but the future of a couple in Qeshm is prosperous as divorce rates are low and expectations for children high. The couple is invited to reside at the house of bride's father until they can provide for themselves. Local women generally work at home and don't have any reservations about contributing to the family's well-being and status through hard work and dedication to their home and family, while the man works outside the home to provide for the family.