Marriage. The noun installs hope, peace of mind and development. It’s a promise of unconditional love, of never being alone. The constant support will triumph even in the darkest of times. That’s why when a shiny invitation flies through the letterbox, we’re all giddy and eager to attend. Having already visualising outfits and dates before we properly opened the seal.
Here, in the United Kingdom the marriage act has become synonymous with a large party. But to attend one in Turkey, with their language and tradition, eradicated all wider connotations. It was simply a beautifully poignant moment between two lovers. As the evening passed, I was reminded what marriage is all about; it’s the purity and devotion each one has to the other. Never had I imagined a traditional Turkish wedding would ignite a deeper understanding of marriage.
After taking a plane to Antalya and then driving for hours into snow-capped mountains, I noticed that the marks of civilisation were becoming increasingly thin and rare. The modern sensibilities of Antalya city gave way to charming ancient structures of Ottoman houses. Connected by even older cobblestone footpaths. A feeling overcame me that this evening would be something equally as extraordinary. People of this century practicing the customs of their ancestors, evoking the essence of Turkey.
Out of nowhere, the bride’s family home towered into sight. Unassumingly, there were but a few dusty, old cars lining the street. However, as soon as I approached the front door, an electrifying vibe permeated the walls, filling me with excitement. As the door opened, us women were ushered into an upstairs room where the bride was getting ready in an exquisite red and gold dress and red veil. Men on the other hand, had to head on outside to greet the groom.
To an outsider, the bride’s colours might seem strange but there’s an exoticism that transfixed the eye. The door closed and the groom’s mother entered with a tray of henna balls. She then placed a gold coin into the bride’s palm, covering it with a piece of henna. Just as soon as this happened, she wrapped her hand in a red glove for the henna to dry.
While we waited, the women started to sing. Unable to understand a single word, I closed my eyes and instantly the lyrics took on new meanings. Some were sad and some were upbeat. The melodies sounded more like elegies sung at funerals during medieval times which conflicted with my perceived notions of weddings. It then dawned on me that perhaps the sad undertones weren’t of heartache or depression but simple laments for the daughter leaving home. There’s a kind of loveliness about this which mirrored their smiles and joyful eyes, when singing the more upbeat tunes. I took that to be a celebration of the couple’s love for one another.
Outside, family, villagers and friends from other regions of Turkey feasted on traditional Turkish cuisine. What’s evident is that my family and I were the only white and foreign people there. It’s strange to consider oneself a foreigner, but despite this stark contrast, we were never made to feel as such. All, even those who didn’t speak English, smiled, waved, laughed and shared food with us.
The sun began to set behind the hills, casting subtle hues of apricot and butter yellow over maya blue hills. Then an incredible night of dancing ensued. The bride was brought amidst guests, accompanied by songs and concealed by her veil ornamented with red flakes. In keeping with tradition, the groom’s family gifted her money. The women danced their own sensual routine while the groom undertook their own. Then, with the increase of violin tempo, guests began to partake in the festivities. The evening ended with universal emotions of joy, gratitude, and love. Such an experience is unlike any I’ve had before and since. Like those once-in-a-lifetime moments, that evening will stay with me as the pinnacle celebration of love for the remainder of my days.