Persian Wedding Traditions

I’ve mentioned before—just briefly—that Mr. Wallaby’s family is Persian. His parents came over to the US from Iran in the 1970s with nothing but two new left-hand rings and $200. They have owned a number of small businesses—gas stations, dry cleaners, day cares, you name it. They raised four kids (Mr. Wallaby, Best Man A, Bridesmaid H, and Bridesmaid R) here in Houston and slowly built up a community of Persian families, with whom they now celebrate holidays and throw dinner parties every couple of months. Mr. W grew up speaking both Farsi and English, and he has a huge appetite for his mama’s Persian food. Now that Mr. W and I are getting married, it is very important to us to include his family’s culture in the wedding celebrations. We are having a Protestant ceremony, but we wanted to honor the Persian culture in other ways.

The sofreh aghd is the center stone of Persian weddings. A sofreh is a colorful, decorative spread of symbolic items.

Sofreh1

A traditional sofreh / Photo by Shang Chen Photo

What I find most special about sofrehs is the symbolic meaning of each item that is carefully crafted and displayed on the sofreh. There is a large mirror at the head of the sofreh to bring light and brightness into the future. On each side of the mirror is a candelabra to symbolize fire and energy. There is a variety of food and treats too—a spice tray of seven herbs and spices to ward off evil; flatbread to bring prosperity to the couple; decorated eggs, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts to symbolize fertility; rose water to perfume the air; crystallized sugar to bring about a “sweet life” for the newlyweds; and pastries to be shared with the guests after the ceremony. Gold coins are displayed on the sofreh to represent wealth and prosperity. And there is often a termeh, a traditional embroidered cloth handed down from generation to generation to symbolize family and tradition.

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Diagram of the basic parts of a sofreh / Picture via Andrew Mallis

Sofreh

A sofreh on display at a Persian wedding / Photo by Carey Bryan Photography

With the sofreh aghd, we lucked out—Mr. W’s cousin runs a business preparing sofrehs! She will fly down from Washington, DC the week of the weddings to prepare the sofreh with Mr. W’s mama and sisters. They have already started gathering items to display on the sofreh (including pulling out some parts of the sofreh from Mr. W’s brother’s wedding!), but all of the fresh food can’t be gathered/baked until the week of the wedding. We’ve shared our wedding theme and ideas with the women making the sofreh, and they are going to tie those into the design—for example, Mama Wallaby wants to use a vintage trunk or old antique table as a support, and rustic decor to match the rest of the wedding decorations.

We’ve chosen to integrate some of the Persian wedding traditions into our own wedding day. For example, we are going to mix some Persian songs into the playlist that we’ll hand over to our DJ. (Persian music is actually great for dancing! It’s very high energy, and at their family get-togethers with friends, dancing is usually a must.) We’re also going to have a spread of Persian cookies and sweets on our cake table. And, to many people’s delight, we will take part in a knife dance! In Persian tradition, the cake cutting begins with the knife dance or raghseh chadoo. When the couple are ready to cut the cake, they have to earn the knife! A female family member or friend will start dancing with the knife, and the couple must offer money to the dancer in exchange for the knife. But the dancer may be coy and take the money and pass the knife to another woman to continue the knife dance!

Here’s an example of a Persian knife dance at another wedding:

Are you having a multicultural wedding? How are you incorporating cultural traditions into your own wedding?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Wallaby

Location:
Houston
Wedding Date:
November 2012

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  1. Member
    jkingsqueen 22 posts, Newbee @ 11:59 am

    I’m Persian! yay! I was adopted so I unfortunately know absolutely nothing about my culture. This post was awesome!

  2. Member
    eagle 1552 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:02 pm

    I have a friends that is Persian and she has told me lots about the traditions! She is b’hai faith, and I can’t remember if its b’hai or persian tradition, but only to announce the engagement 3 months before the wedding. So couples will get engaged and have to delay announcing for a while! Does that sound familiar? I wonder if its Persian or B’hai.

    Also I’ve heard Persian weddings are super big and super fun. And are you having Persian food? My favorite is Fesenjoon – I could eat it EVERY day and always be satisfied.

  3. Member
    Mrs. Dragon 813 posts, Busy bee @ 12:27 pm

    I’m really excited that you’re sharing aspects of Persian culture! One of my roommates in university was Persian and she always talked up her family weddings. :)

  4. Member
    Red Poppy 18 posts, Newbee @ 12:31 pm

    The sofreh spread looks amazing, and the knife dance looks really fun and playful! Incorporating different cultural traditions will make your wedding much more meaningful to your families and entertaining for your guests. My husband and I are from the same background, and although our wedding day was very classic American (church ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner at nearby reception venue), our rehearsal dinner was at a Korean venue where we did a traditional Korean ceremony and I’m so glad we did that!

  5. Member
    mswallaby 2039 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:52 pm

    @jkingsqueen: I love your Jasmine icon :) Persian culture is awesome, I hope you have a chance to learn more about your heritage. Stay tuned, I’ll write more about our Persian wedding!
    @Mrs. Eagle: That’s only the Baha’is that have customary 3-month engagements. Mr. W’s sister is dating a Baha’i guy so they will have to follow that tradition! Mr. W isn’t Baha’i but we know a lot of really nice Baha’is. Yup, Persian weddings are super fun, and they are usually pretty big. I hope ours is no exception! Fesenjoon is gooood – i’ve only had it once, but Persian food in generally is really good. The best is kabob!
    @Mrs. Dragon: That’s so cool! I had a Persian friend in high school but until I met Mr. W I had never been to any Persian weddings.
    @Red Poppy: I’m so glad you got to celebrate your culture at your rehearsal dinner – that must’ve been really special. I would love to watch a Korean wedding ceremony, they sound so beautiful.

  6. Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:03 pm

    I like how meaningfull is the sofreh, i’d just make sure to have cards to let your non-persian guests know what it means, as a guest I’m sure I’d love that.

  7. Member
    genie 723 posts, Busy bee @ 1:38 pm

    Wow, I love all the symbolism in the sofreh! It is so interesting to learn about Persian wedding traditions and how you are incorporating them. I had a Persian friend in high school, and his family’s parties were always so much fun!

  8. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 2:24 pm

    I love how you are incorporating Persian traditions, I can’t wait to read more about it!

  9. Member
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:44 pm

    I love that you’re incorporating Persian traditions. That will be such a nice way to acknowledge Mr. W’s roots and to officially join his family and culture.

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Carrara Nour, Guest @ 5:06 pm

    Wow, what a cool article on Persian wedding traditions! I’m a professional belly dancer, have danced for lots of Persian crowds, and you even taught me a few new things in this article ;) You are right on point about Persian music – it gets everyone on the dance floor, including Americans!

    At the risk of a shameless plug, many Persian couples also hire belly dancers for their weddings. Again, anything to get the crowd on the dance floor and having fun! (Notice a recurring theme?)

    It’s nice to see so many couples integrating cultural traditions into their weddings, especially at interfaith and multicultural weddings. I perform at tons of fusion weddings, and nothing brings two families together quite like some sort of fun shared cultural experience.

    Best of luck to you and Mr. Wallaby!

    Carrara

  11. Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 5:51 pm

    this is really cool! did you know all this stuff before, or just when you were starting to plan the wedding? that’s the cool thing about weddings – a great opportunity to learn even more about the family you’r marrying into.

  12. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 7:42 pm

    I love incorporating so many traditions! I hope you include somewhere in a sign or a ceremony program about the sofreh and what it all means. I’m sure a lot of your guests won’t know and it’d be awesome to share with them a little more info!

  13. Member
    mswallaby 2039 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:40 am

    @Miss Toadstool: Yes, we will definitely hand out cards with the sofreh explanation! I think I might make program booklets (rather than printing the programs on one sheet) to include one page for the sofreh meanings, and one page for a Persian poem that will be read during the ceremony.
    @Mrs. Genie: Yes! Persian parties are always a blast!
    @Carrara Nour: Mr. Wallaby has a family friend who belly dances at a lot of their parties, we thought about hiring her for the wedding but we didn’t have room in the budget.
    @Miss Gray Wolf: Lol I didn’t know any of this before we got engaged, I’ve been learning it during the wedding planning process. My FMIL is a great resource, as are a lot of the Persian family friends.

  14. Member
    shaynapunim 654 posts, Busy bee @ 6:32 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I love learning about other cultures and traditions. :) FH and I will have a traditional Jewish ceremony, while our reception will incorporate Jewish customs, as well (dancing the hora, saying a blessing over bread and wine, etc).

  15. Member
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:21 pm

    Yay, so excited to learn more about the Persian traditions, thanks for sharing!

  16. Member
    painauchocolat 2298 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:11 pm

    Oh, I cannot wait to learn more about Persian wedding traditions! This is so fascinating. I think you are so lucky to marry your love surrounded by so many traditions!

  17. Member
    panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:19 pm

    ooh, I love all of the symbolism. so cool!

  18. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:26 am

    Wow what interesting symbols and I love the idea of the knife dance! What a great way to honour his heritage!

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Persian Weddings, Guest @ 1:55 pm

    This is such an awesome post! I was an American Bride with NO CLUE about Persian Anything and I had a huge beautiful Persian Wedding in 2009 and was SO INSPIRED I wrote a whole book about planning Persian Weddings for all my fellow Non-Persian Brides out there. This is seriously the most fun, exciting thing you can do. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either because a lot of the items are not given the standard 500% wedding markup because no one knows they are for weddings!! I discuss everything from start to finish (part I is Persian Immersion Camp!) in my five part book. So if ANYONE needs any help/questions pls. feel free to message me. I’m determined to help all my non-Persian brides navigate the Persian Wedding Ceremony with ease!

    Visit me at http://www.weddingpersian.com!

    XOXOX- GOOD LUCK planning, its so so so much fun! :)

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Michelle, Guest @ 7:24 pm

    I’m a few weeks away from my Persian-American wedding and it’s been very exciting and fun to plan. The knife dance is more fun that throwing a bouquet or a garter! My artistic side has really come out while planning the ceremonial table. Pinterest has many great ideas to help you along the way.

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