If you have decided to learn about the traditional Armenian wedding ritual, the month of May will not be the best month to visit Armenia. In the old times, it was common to hold the weddings in autumn, as the storehouses were full of harvest and all sorts of goods, so they could organize a great hospitality. In the spring, however, particularly in May, the reserves were about to end, and it was not reasonable to invite guests. Life has changed throughout the centuries, but the old tradition is still alive, although with a new reasoning, a more superstitious one. And despite the church officials unanimously claim that the month is not essential for the quality of marriage, people believe marriages in May do not bring happiness.
What does the ritual of a traditional Armenian wedding imply? If a couple has decided to get married, they must get the consent of their parents first, and then introduce the parents to each other. The acquaintance of the bride’s and bridegroom’s parents is the very first step leading to a marriage. The acquaintance follows a very important ceremony, called “knamakhosutiun”, literally translated as “in-laws’ consent”. The groom’s parents go to the bride’s home with an Armenian cognac, sweets, and gifts to ask the parents for their daughter’s hand. When the bride’s parents give their consent, they open the cognac, they offer toasts, congratulate each other and decide on the wedding day. Once the day is fixed, the pre-wedding chaos begins – the guest list, the wedding hall, and the church, then the dress selection, shopping, gifts … the list is endless.
There comes the wedding day: there is an unmanageable frenzy in the early morning, both at the bride’s and the groom’s homes. The bridesmaid, the groomsman, the Godfather and the Godmother play important roles here. With these latter three, and his father and some close relatives, the bridegroom goes to the bride’s home where she is waiting for her fiancée in her room. Upon arriving at the girl’s house, the “zurna” and “dhol”’s (Armenian traditional musical instruments) voice starts sounding in the yard. Accompanied with Armenian dance music, the bride’s sisters, girlfriends and younger relatives with “gata” (traditional Armenian sweets) and gifts go out to meet their “khnami”s (in-laws) who in their turn, give them baskets and trays full of gifts, fruits, and sweets.
When the ceremony in the yard comes to an end, the bridegroom goes to see the bride, but it won’t happen at once. He has no right to do so yet. Before he can enter the bride’s room, several things need to take place: the bride’s brother should put on the white shoes on her feet, the Godmother should spin the bride’s veil over her head for 7 times, then fix it to her hair, and she should also treat unmarried women with sweets. Only then the bridegroom can enter the bride’s room to see her for the first time in her wedding dress, and they all go to the church together. By the way, if the bride has a younger brother, he might close the entrance door and only let the guests leave after he gets money from the Godfather.
The Godfather has a very responsible job to do – keep the cross over the heads of the wedding couple during the entire wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, the newlyweds necessarily drink wine and promise to remain faithful to each other till death. The ceremony ends in the yard of the church, guests throw rose petals on the newlyweds, and the pair sets free white doves into the sky, which symbolizes the start of the new life for the couple.
From the church, the newlyweds go to the bridegroom’s father’s home where they meet the bridegroom’s mother. She throws lavash on the shoulders of the newlyweds and serves honey with the same spoon to both newlyweds. Lavash symbolizes abundance and fertility, while honey symbolizes sweet life to be enjoyed together.
The bride and groom must break two plates with their feet on the threshold when entering the house. People believe that thus they are ruining evil eyes and adversities.
The wedding ceremony is concluded with a party in a hall, where the master of ceremony offers toasts, and the guests enjoy the dinner, the freshly made barbecue, congratulate each other, sing and dance, bring gifts, and get “tarosik”s at the end (accessories with small candies inside mostly offered to unmarried guests). They leave the party believing that the next happy event will be in their homes.