Last month I attended the wedding of one of my university students. This was the first wedding where I saw all the steps in a long day of celebrations. Previously I had only been to afternoon or evening parties at a restaurant. My student is ethnically Uzbek and is from a town about an hour and a half from Dushanbe. Follow along with each step in the wedding day!
Suray and I congratulate Dilbar as she waits for the groom to arrive.
The groom picks her up and they ride around town in a decorated car, stopping to take pictures at interesting places. Note that they don't smile: it's shameful to appear happy on your wedding day, especially for the the woman. Tradition says that if she's smiling too much it means that she's glad to leave her family or that she knows the groom on a level that she shouldn't.
The bride and groom then go to the groom's house very briefly to greet his family. Then they return to her house, where she is able to rest for about an hour in a room with other women. She takes off the European dress and puts on a traditional dress. A robe is thrown over her and she is led out of the house to the sound of drums and lament-like songs. She weeps loudly as she enters the courtyard of the home where her father and grandfathers wait to say a prayer of blessing.
The bride throws herself at her father's feet, still weeping loudly. You can then hear a pin drop in the usually noisy courtyard as the men pray. The prayer is finished and nearly everyone in the crowd has to wipe tears from their eyes. The bride stands, is led to a car, and is taken back to the groom's house.
At the groom's house, there are 3 large rooms with tablecloths spread on the floor, and women packed around them. Two of the rooms have the bride's new wardrobe displayed on the walls. It's a stunning array of colors, sequins and bead work. Dresses of this kind cost at least $50 each, probably more.
Course after course of food is served. (Note: we also ate a meal and were fed a snack at the bride's house prior to this). By the last course, osh, the plates go basically untouched because the guests are so full. Before we leave, we are encouraged to take anything from the table we wish. This is apparently an Uzbek custom. Despite my protests, I end up taking candy, bread and fruit home.
During the meal the bride remains hidden behind a curtain. At the end of the meal, some of the groom's relatives come to greet her behind the curtain. Then she goes out to the courtyard and bows to a large crowd of women and children.
A couple of older women bring out a tablecloth filled with flour. They place it on the ground and the bride's hands are covered in flour, seemingly symbolic of the bread and food she will prepare for the household. All the while, women drum and sing.
After her hands are cleaned of flour, relatives come one by one and present the bride with gifts, placing them on a tablecloth on the ground. Then they each lift up the bride's veil in a tradition called "Rui Binon" (literally, "Seeing the Face"). They kiss her and welcome her to the family.
The bride backs into the house, bowing the whole way. Then she changes back into her Western style dress for the restaurant party.
The bride and groom enter the restaurant hall. Again, the bride bows constantly. Her friend, the maid of honor, stays at her side.
The bride's friends from the university dance to the live traditional music.
Guests take turns posing for photos with the couple. The guests can enjoy themselves, but the bride and groom don't smile, dance or eat during the party.
At the end of a long day, I return to my peaceful apartment. My thoughts tumble through the various paths life can take us, and how mine is so different from those of most girls here. I wish my student a "rohi safed" (white way/safe trip) on her journey of life.