Classic Celebrations: A Traditional Armenian Wedding

Classic Celebrations: A Traditional Armenian Wedding

MIR Sales Manager Amy Stidger has lived in Armenia and experienced various wedding traditions there. She recommends that you never pass up the chance to accept an Armenian wedding invitation.

Armenia is a small and mountainous country of peaks and high plateaus cut by river valleys. It was the first to embrace Christianity as a state religion; powerful old stone churches are silhouetted on the hilltops and tucked into the valleys.

This grand history lends itself to faithful observances. For most Armenians, weddings are very formal, joyous occasions full of long-standing traditions staunchly upheld.

A wedding party. Photo credit: Amy Stidger

Greeting the happy couple
Photo credit: Amy Stidger

Wedding Customs: The Engagement Party and the GodfatherOne such tradition is the Khosk-kap. This event officially kicks off the engagement, and is similar to what we would call an engagement reception or party. Traditionally, this is when the groom’s parents officially meet the bride’s parents and ask them for their daughter’s hand in marriage. If all goes according to plan, the groom-to-be will then present the engagement ring to his new fiancé and the eating, drinking, and Armenian-style revelry will commence. A priest is usually present to bless the ring and the couple’s future plans.

Some other interesting wedding customs revolve around the kavor, or godfather.  In Armenian culture the kavor is arguably the most important figure in the wedding, except for the bride and groom, of course. He is usually a close friend of the family and is responsible for many of the wedding details, as well as for guiding the couple in their new life as man and wife. He is also one of the first, if not the first, to be toasted at the reception following the church ceremony.

A beautiful veil. Photo credit: Devin Connolly

A magnifient bridal veil
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Pre-Wedding Celebrations: Music and Gift BasketsArmenian weddings are known for their festive, exuberant quality. Led by the kavor and his accompanying musicians, the groom’s party sings and dances its way to the bride’s house with sinis, traditional gift-wrapped baskets for the bride, before the wedding. In the old days, a sini would carry everything that the bride needed for her big day: shoes, veil, perfume, make-up, brandy, chocolate, and even flowers. This practice has been modernized and is still upheld in many villages and towns.

After the gift baskets are handed over, the men drink and make merry while the women help the bride get ready. At some point candy is thrown at the helpers, and one of the bride’s shoes is stolen and must be paid for by someone from the groom’s party, usually the kavor. When the bride is ready, she meets her future husband and they all eat, drink, and toast to the happy couple.

Before anyone can leave the bride’s house for the ceremony, one of her younger male relatives blocks the door with a sword until he is given a coin by the groom’s side. Then everyone lines up in a large, raucous caravan led by a limousine decked out in flowers and banners.

Armenian newlyweds. Photo credit: Richard Fejfar

Armenian newlyweds
Photo credit: Richard Fejfar

Post-Wedding Celebrations: Greeting the New CoupleAfter the church ceremony, the wedding party heads to the groom’s house where his mother greets the newly wed couple. Interestingly, the mothers of both the bride and groom are not supposed to participate in the wedding ceremony itself. On the day of the wedding the mother of the bride used to remain at home mourning the loss of her daughter, while the groom’s mother is supposed to stay home preparing to welcome her new daughter. Of course, this practice is not strictly adhered to these days – nobody wants to miss the wedding.

The groom’s mother usually greets the newly married couple at her door by draping lavash (Armenian flatbread) on their shoulders. (Ancient wisdom says that whoever drops bread on the floor will not be a good wife or husband.)

Fresh baked lavash bread from a Yerevan market in Armenia. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Fresh baked lavash from a Yerevan market in Armenia
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

As the new couple enters the house of the groom’s parents, they each break a plate that has been placed on the threshold by the groom’s mother. Once the plates are broken, they are permitted to enter the house and the feasting may begin. Wedding feasts last all night and are often enjoyed by the entire village.

There are more traditions dealing with stolen chickens, doves, bulls, and apples –some more pleasant than others – but I’ll leave the wedding party to their feast.

All in all, Armenians like to have fun, eat, drink, dance, and celebrate life to its fullest. What better venue for that than a wedding, where families and friends gather to celebrate an exciting new life by honoring the traditions of the past?

Sculpture in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo: Richard Fejfar

Love in Yerevan, Armenia
Photo: Richard Fejfar

Travel to Armenia with MIRMIR has more than 30 years of experience hand-crafting tours to Armenia. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise has twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

You can learn about the traditions of Armenia on MIR’s small group tours, Treasures of the South Caucasus and Village Traditions of the South Caucasus.

Or you can travel to Armenia on a custom private journey or one of MIR’s hand-crafted independent travel itineraries:

(Top photo: Love comes to the wedding – or vice versa. Photo credit: Richard Fejfar)

PUBLISHED: June 17, 2015

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