At a wedding in eastern Turkey. As part of the henna celebration, balls of green henna are formed around candle wicks, then set burning to celebrate the marriage.
Murat and Servet’s wedding in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş was a typically chaotic celebration with plenty of dancing, attended by just about as many people as could comfortably fit on the (very large) dance floor. The entire town is often invited to a wedding in Turkey, and the more people come the greater the honor for the father of the groom.
This picture was taken just before I left to drive home; fortunately someone had thought to say, “You might want to clean that up – the police might have questions for you.” Mehmet Abi broke out the hose and soon I was heading home, free of any suspicious markings or poultry parts.
The roof of Mehmet Abi’s house was not left abandoned after Eren and his best man had finished raining confetti on the bride below. Wives, sisters, nieces and neighbors continued to crowd the balcony, watching as the happy couple embraced well-wishers in the dirt yard below.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/10, 1/125 sec.
The kına gecesi, or henna night, is an indispensable part of any Turkish wedding. Essentially comparable to the Western practice of the bachelor party, except that in most Turkish cultures the bride’s role, and that of her friends, is given more importance. In most Sunni villages the men and women would gather separately; in other settings including Alevi communities, men and women celebrate together. The common ground is always the henna, which in this case was not only used to dye the bride and groom’s fingers and palms, but also to form round pasty green candleholders circulated throughout the party on trays. Here, Mikhail and his veiled bride are surrounded by candles, singing and video cameras the night before their wedding in Kahramanmaraş.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-1600, f/3.5, 1/60 sec.
Emerging from the house as a married couple for the first time, Eren and Ayşegül are immediately engulfed by a crowd of relatives, neighbors and other well-wishers. Those closest to the bride and groom pin cash or small gold pins to their clothes, while those farther away either cover their faces at the presence of cameras, or record the whole proceedings themselves for posterity.
Most of the older male relatives have again been left on the outskirts making small talk and shaking hands, most likely not because of any traditional imperative, but rather because they just aren’t as interested as the women are.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/10, 1/200 sec.
On Ayşegül’s arrival at Eren’s family’s home, the couple join together to enter the house’s bridal chamber privately for the first time as a couple, while a female relative anoints the mantle of the door frame with butter. After a symbolic two or three minutes in the bridal chamber, the new couple emerge to everybody’s happy applause. Ayşegül is unveiled for the first time since the wedding began, and without a headscarf in public for the only time in her adult life.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/10, 1/40 sec.
As the bride arrives at the groom’s home, still veiled and accompanied by her maid of honor, Eren stands above with his best man and showers confetti on her.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/13, 1/100 sec.
Mehmet and Fadimana, proud parents of the groom, escort Ayşegül out of the bridal car and down the hill to the doorway where Eren waits.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-200, f/13, 1/200 sec.
As Mehmet and his wife return with Ayşegül to their home where Eren waits, they must wait for the bride’s trousseau to precede her into the house. This chest, filled with the greatest samples of crocheting and lacework produced by the bride throughout her life, will be waiting in the bridal suite and accompany the couple the rest of their life.
Naturally, I wasn’t present at the girls’ henna night the previous evening (the tamer Turkish equivalent of a bachelorette party, it happened while the men were dancing), so I will turn to other sources here for more information on the henna night and the trousseau. Traditions vary even within central Anatolia (a friend from near Ankara told me their traditional weddings don’t feature a trousseau chest), but I think this account from the “Your Guide to Turkey” site is pretty close to my experience in Eshenler:
On the day the henna night is to be held, or a few days earlier, the trousseau is taken from the girl’s home and brought to the man’s, and the bridal chamber is prepared. The trousseau is sometimes exhibited to the guests for a few days in the girl’s home before the wedding, and in the man’s home during and after it. It is a widespread tradition that someone sits on the trousseau chest, asking for a tip as it is taken from the girl’s home. In addition, in the early hours of the day the henna night is to be held, a group of women from the bridegroom’s family take the henna that will be placed on the bride’s hands and feet, her clothes and the food that will be offered to the guests to the girl’s home, again to the accompaniment of great festivities. The women who gather in the girl’s home on the henna night have fun for a while, but later try to make her cry by singing sad songs. Henna that has earlier kneaded with water is brought in on a tray surrounded by candles and placed in the middle of the room. In some places, the henna is first put on the hands of the bride and then distributed to the guests; in other areas the henna is first distributed to the guests, and only after everybody has left is it placed on the bride’s hands. If the woman so wishes, henna can also be placed on her feet and hair. Considerable attention is paid to charging a woman with a happy marriage, called the “basi bütün” (meaning “whose head is complete”, In a sense, this describes her as someone who has a complete family with husband and children and whose marriage is whole, not separated by divorce) to knead and distribute the henna and apply it to the girl’s hand. The woman places the henna on one of the bride’s hands, and a young girl places it on the other. Before the henna is applied, coins or gold are also placed in her hands.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi, ISO-400, f/13, 1/320 sec.