(click on pictures to enlarge)
I’ve been back in Toronto for a few weeks where the weather has been dismal and hard to take after Cuba and Rome. However, the gloom was brightened by an exciting event in our family. My nephew Mike married Nikou who is Iranian and they had a traditional Persian Zoroastrian wedding ceremony.
The ceremony took place in front of an elaborately decorated spread on the floor called a Sofreye Agdh. It looked gorgeous as you can see above. A beautiful embroidered tablecloth, handed down from the bride’s grandmother, was set in the centre of a large, lacy fabric placed on the floor. Across from the bride and groom was a mirror with a candelabra on each side representing light and fire which are two important elements in Zoroastrian culture. On the tablecloth were dishes of sweets, nuts and fruit all representing something specific. A basket of decorated eggs to symbolize fertility, pomegranate for a joyous future, a bowl of honey to sweeten life, flat breads rolled into the shape of flowers representing prosperity for the couple’s life, a bowl of rose water to perfume the air during the ceremony. A book of special significance to the couple. A tray made up of multi-coloured herbs and spices including poppy seeds (to break spells and withcraft), black tea, wild rice, angelica and salt (to blind the evil eye), spelled out the Farsi word for blessings ‘Mobaarak Bad’.
When the guests were all seated, Mike took his place across from the Sofreye Aghd. The bridesmaids came down next. Then two of Nikou’s cousins walked down the centre aisle with the a brazier in which they were sprinkling a special type of incense called ‘esfand’ to ward off the evil eye and bring health. Finally Nikou and her father followed, at which point all the Iranian guests started kelling (the leh-leh-leh sound people from the middle east make) clapping and whistling, creating an atmosphere of great joyousness and gaiety. Nikou sat down beside Mike and the ceremony began by a canopy being unfurled above their heads signifying that they are now under the same roof. The ceremony started by Mike dipping his little finger into the bowl of honey and feeding it to Nikou and she did the same for him as a symbol that they will feed each other sweetness and sustenance throughout their lives. Very sweet!
As the ceremony proceeded, various married family members took turns grinding two sugar cones together on the canopy symbolizing showering the couple in sweetness. When Mike was asked by the officiant if he would take Nikou as his wife, he immediately said ‘Yes’. However, when Nikou was asked, there was a pause and suddenly someone at the back of the room said something about her having to deal with the flowers. We were all taken aback and I thought the woman had burst in not knowing that the ceremony had already begun. Nikou was asked a second time and again somebody at the back interrupted. By this point, we realized that this was part of the ritual. The third time, Nikou consented (with the permission of her mother and father as is the customary response in Persian tradition), rings were exchanged and serious kelling burst forth. This marked the end of the ceremony and everybody lined up to congratulate the couple with close relatives of the bride giving her presents of jewellery. It was a beautiful ceremony.
Then the party began with Persian dancing where everybody got up to dance including the elderly relatives. Dancing plays a big part in social occasions as it does on our side of the family so we all joined in with gusto. There was singing, laughter and lots of delicious food and drink. Truly a wedding to remember.