How Turkish Wedding Traditions Stand Out From the Rest

Weddings are a different kind of "Turkish delight!"
Your Guide to Turkish Wedding Traditions and Customs
Ariel Taranski
Ariel Taranski
Ariel Taranski
Ariel Taranski
The Knot Contributor
  • Ariel writes on a variety of wedding-related topics for The Knot.
  • She has previously worked for Southern Bride Magazine, Miss Design Berry and other woman-owned wedding brands.
  • She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Memphis.
Updated Jan 20, 2023

Turkey is a country full of beautiful architecture and delicious food. With popular cities like Istanbul and Cappadocia, this destination is perfect for vibrant history and unique customs. Like many cultures around the world, Turkish wedding traditions include a mix of modern and time-honored practices. It's a wonderful occasion to be a part of. Read ahead to learn more about Turkish culture and their beautiful wedding customs.

A Brief History of Turkish Wedding Traditions

Traditionally, Turkish weddings would last 3 days and 3 nights. Couples from small towns would have the whole community involved in their nuptials, as they'd play instruments for everyone to dance and enjoy the celebrations. They could participate in a religious ceremony or a civil one. This country's religious weddings did not require an oath or documents. All they needed was an imam and two witnesses. Since those ceremonies weren't legally binding, however, couples would typically have both types of weddings.

Turkish Prewedding Traditions

While you may expect the ring exchange during the ceremony itself, Turkey does things a little differently. They won't exchange rings on the wedding day at all but during the engagement. This ritual involves an elder family member tying two ends of two rings to the couple's fourth finger on their right hand. This is called the Alyans.

Similar to the bachelor or bachelorette party, the bride-to-be and her loved ones will participate in Henna Night, or Kına Gecesi the night before the wedding. This tradition dates back centuries, and they'll apply henna to the bride's palm and groom's pinky finger while playing customary folk songs. The belief of this practice is that it will ward away evil, and a gold coin is placed in the bride's hand by one of the family's elders to symbolize being protected from misfortune. During this night, the bride will also be placed in a chair while her loved ones try to make her cry with ballads, as a way to move on from her life before marriage. Once the tears are shed, the night becomes much more cheerful with dancing.

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Turkish Wedding Attire

A bride will typically wear a red veil or a red ribbon tied around her waist, to signify purity, luck and wealth. In recent years, white dresses have become the norm for brides, and the wedding dress is significant as its often the first fashionable outfit that young ladies are allowed to wear. Grooms will often wear a suit or tuxedo for wedding events.

Guest Attire

As a guest, it's encouraged to wear something bright, stylish and formal for the wedding. For women, this can include high heels, floor-length gowns and jewelry. Since there will be plenty of dancing, perhaps bringing a pair of comfortable shoes you can change into is wise. Dressing up for the occasion is a must, but keep in mind the ceremony may be cocktail-style, which involves a lot of standing.

Turkish Wedding Ceremony Traditions

To kick off the wedding day, the groom will participate in the "flag-planting" ceremony at dawn. The men in the wedding party will take part in a dawn prayer, then plant a flag on the tallest point near the couple's home.

Before leaving the bride's house, she will look in the mirror to see the road paved for her with a long, happy marriage. Then, begins the "bride pickup" tradition where she's taken from her family home on a horse or in a car, along with a procession and music from the Davul Zurna, or traditional Turkish instruments. She'll wave a Turkish flag, gifted by her groom.

During the short ceremony, where a witness is present along with a local authority, the bride and groom will step on each other's feet after saying "I do." This superstition states that whoever steps on the other's shoes first will have the ultimate say in the marriage. Once the nikah memuru pronounces the couple married, they'll sign the marriage document and the ceremony is complete.

Turkish Wedding Reception Traditions

After the ceremony, the couple will begin the reception with their first dance. They'll then go around the room to greet their guests and receive gifts. Typically, guests will pin gold coins or money to the red ribbon tied on the bride.

During the reception is a grand feast, music and dancing. While a bouquet is tossed like in Western cultures, the bride will also write the names of all the single women in the wedding party on the bottom of her shoe. It's said that whichever name is rubbed off first will be the next to marry.

Turkish Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks & Desserts

A traditional Turkish wedding will have two separate parties, one thrown by the bride's family and one by the groom's. They'll serve a custom dish called keşkek, which is like a stew with wheat barley and chicken. The groom and his friends will prepare this dish by grinding the barley in the days leading up to the big day. The post-wedding celebrations have a big feast, along with a multi-story wedding cake that the newlyweds will cut together. The first piece is given to the couple, then the guests can enjoy their cake.

Turkish Postwedding Traditions

After the wedding celebrations, there is the car convoy. The couple's car will be decorated as it joins the guests' convoy where they honk their horns on the way to their new house. Kids will try to block the cars to get money from the groom and other cars in the convoy, and once the money is given, they will continue driving to their home.

Finally, the couple is led by the bride's family into the nuptial chamber or Gerdek. One of their close relatives will hold the newlyweds' hands in prayer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Turkish Wedding Traditions

What else is there to know about Turkish weddings? Here are some commonly asked questions.

What is the typical cost of a Turkish wedding?

The groom's family will pay, and a civil ceremony may cost anywhere between 150 to 40,000 Turkish liras, or around $2,100.

What are traditional Turkish wedding gifts?

Guests may present the couple with special gold coins with a silky red bow, to offer good luck and good fortune, or they may give them monetary gifts to begin their new lives together.

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