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Silk flowers arranged with gold sprayed pine cones

Because it’s half term this week, you would think I would be busy doing lots of activities with the children so that they wouldn’t flake out in boredom.  We started with a lovely lunch at the weekend at my parents, then a trip to the Science Museum on Sunday, followed by severe illness on Monday.  My youngest was struck down with some kind of mysterious virus that rendered him feverish and sick.  Needless to say all the plans we had (bar the chocolate cake making) went out of the window.

Tuesday came Valentine’s Day and although we don’t celebrate it as a couple, we had a few moments of nostalgia whilst waiting for the little one to awaken and throw up (as you do).  This year, we will celebrate 9 years of marriage.  We are wondering where the time has gone and can barely remember the time before children (is it like that for everyone?!).

We joked that we’d like to have the wedding day again as it was just so much fun.  We had two weddings…yes two, and both on the same day plus  we were so lucky to be able to celebrate with all our friends and family that we don’t get to see alot nowadays that it would just be the perfect excuse for a get together. 

So two weddings, I hear you say…well with me being Iranian, and the husband being English, we just had to mix a bit of both so we had a Church ceremony in the beautiful St. Wilfred’s Church of England in South Manchester and we had the Sofreh Aghd (Iranian wedding Ceremony) in the hotel before the reception.

Now I have lived in England for most of my life and therefore handed over the whole wedding organisation to my mother who gave me and the husband the best day and memories to last us a lifetime (thanks mom!) and I could never hoped to have had the Iranian side of things without her knowledge about what needed to be done.  Here I thought I’d share some of the photos of the *Sofreh Aghd* (sofreh=table, aghd=marriage), and try to explain a bit about this very old and traditional ceremony which dates back to the ancient Zoroastrian times. Please forgive the photo quality as I can’t take the photos out to scan properly.

Our *Sofreh* layed on a raised platform on the floor.

 On the Sofreh, there are several different things layed out all with their own significance. 

  • A mirror (called the Mirror of Fate) with candles on either side represent fire and light.  The bride comes in veiled to sit next to the groom who are both sat on the side of the sofreh opposite the mirror. When her veil is raised, her reflection in the mirror is the first time the groom sees her face (at the wedding of course).
  • Herbs and pastries are always present on the sofreh.  The herbs can include poppy seeds, angelica, frankincense, nigella seeds and tea leaves. Rice is also present.  The pastries include rice cookies, almond cookies, chickpea cookies, marzipan shapes, baghlava (layers of filo pastry with nuts and syrup) and noghl (a white sweet).  These pastries are taken after the ceremony and served to the wedding guests.
  • Fruit, decorated eggs and nuts, better known as symbols of fertility and the heavenly fruits (apples, pomengranate and grapes).
  • A cup of rose water for the perfume.
  • Shakh e Nabat – a bowl made out of rock candy or any shape available.
  • Honey-after the ceremony, the bride and groom dip their little fingers in the honey and feed it to each other.
  • Incense to ward off the evil eye.
  • Gold or silver coins to represent prosperity and wealth.
  • The sacred text of choice.
  • A Prayer rug or traditional Iranian *Termeh*.  This is a rug placed in the middle of the sofreh to remind the couple of the importance of God and prayer.  This can be coupled with rosary beads and a prayer stone.

During the ceremony, 2 cones of sugar cane that have been prettily decorated are ground over a veil covering the bride

Traditional Iranian Termeh

and groom’s head typically by the single women of the family to *bag themselves a husband* as well as pour sweetness over the newly-wed couple.  On a funny note, these ladies might also sew in a stitch or two which is said to bind the mother in law’s tongue against any nasty words in the future!

After the religious representative conducting the ceremony has finished, he then asks the bride three times if she wishes to marry the groom.  For traditional reasons I haven’t found out yet, she isn’t supposed to say yes until the third time.  Generally, the mullah gets heckled by female membes of the wedding party.  He will ask if the bride will take the groom, the female members will shout something silly like *the bride has gone to collect flour from the mill*.  After the third time, the bride will say yes upon the blessing of her family (which is already given of course) and the clapping and cheering begins.

In the spirit of true Iranian and English tradition, the rest of our wedding was the same as any other.  Much celebration and partying with music, food, dancing and cake!

Sugar cones given to us by my Grandmother

As in most other eastern traditions, the cake knife is *stolen* (in our case by my sister in law) and isn’t given back until the groom hands over some money.  I’m pretty sure the husband was fleeced of about £100 that night by a couple of different girlies who took the knife!  The cutting of the cake for us was memorable too as we had NO idea there was a board under the decorative part of the cake to stop it sinking in (we had a very soft sponge and cream cake) and therefore couldn’t cut it.  Dissolving in tears of laughter and embarrassment, we were rescued by a friend of the family who just happened to be a baker!

 

My mother and father made the whole Sofreh themselves.  Some items were brought over from Iran but the decorative

Light and fire

flowers and other bits were made here.  We picked pine cones from parks that had fallen on the floor, washed them and sprayed them ( I still have them all) and I can still remember the smell of the gold and silver sprays in the house in the weeks up to the wedding!

The wedding also holds a huge and special memory for me as my grandmother got to see me get married.  She had given my mother the tradional Iranian Termeh (prayer rug with stone and beads) and sugar cones many years before for my wedding whenever it may be on the off chance she wouldn’t get to be here.  I am grateful to the powers that be that she was here for our big day and we got to see her one last time in 2005 and late last year she passed away.  

I am not sure I can write anymore now as the memories have flooded my mind and the tears have started. I hope you like the pictures and this little insight into an Iranian wedding and yes, if I could, for more reasons than one, I’d do it all over again.

Our honey bowls

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