Bordered by Georgia and Turkey, Armenia is a culture steeped in rich history and traditions. Because 93% of Armenians are part of the Armenian Apostolic Church, most wedding ceremonies are dedicated to God and the church. If you’re going to an Armenian wedding, or you’re marrying into an Armenian family, here are some of the most common traditions and customs you should know about:
1. The Khosk-Kap
It is respectable for the groom to ask the bride’s family for her hand in marriage before he proposes. This ‘asking of the hand’ is called a Khosk-Kap and entails a formal dinner organised by the families of both the bride and groom-to-be. It is usually held at the bride’s house and the families are expected to bring floral arrangements, chocolate and Armenian Cognac. Tea is served at the start, but no one should drink it until the bride’s family has agreed to the marriage. If agreed, both sides of the family then talk to one another and start to plan the wedding.
2. The Engagement Ceremony
Engagement parties are usually not an essential; however in the Armenian culture, it is a necessity! During the engagement soiree; a ring, a bracelet, earrings, a red dress and a veil would be put into a tray in front of the groom to present to his bride. Each item symbolises a vow that the bride is going to take. The bracelet on the wrist indicates she will be faithful to her husband and the red dress and veil is a promise that she will be a true bride to the man she is marrying.
3. The Pillow Sharing
A popular Armenian saying that is used regularly is “May you grow old on one pillow.” This is a way to wish that the bride and groom will stay together forever and stitching this on a pillow as a wedding favour is extremely common in the Armenian culture.
4. The Red Dress
Traditionally, Armenian brides wore a red silk dress with a red and green cardboard crown. The crown is shaped like wings and covered with feathers which symbolises a dove. Doves are an important part of an Armenian wedding, with these birds released during the reception to show love and fortune throughout the newlywed’s married years. The colour palette of red and green is a symbol of life and sacrifice to your groom, making it the perfect palette for the bride-to-be.
5. The Brother Pays Up
While the bride is getting ready, her brother will sneakily place money inside her shoes as a sign of good luck. Another Armenian pre-wedding tradition is that the bride should write the names of her bridesmaids on the sole of her shoes and cross the names off as each bridesmaid gets married.
6. Coin Toss
As the bride and groom walk back up the aisle after the ceremony, guests throw coins at the couple as a symbol of wealth and success.
7. The Armenian Bride’s Emergency Kit
Before the bride starts getting ready on the big day, the best man sings and dances his way to the bride’s house with a sinis – a traditional Armenian gift-wrapped basket filled with goodies for the wedding day including perfume, flowers, chocolate, brandy and shoes.
Images from Salpi and Hagop’s wedding. Photography by Image Haus.