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