Sunday, November 30, 2008

Armenian Wedding Traditions&Useful Tips

This post includes a number of useful Armenian traditions that are often practiced in Armenian wedding receptions. We hope that the useful tips will help future brides and grooms during their wedding planning process, and also provide knowledgeable insight of Armenian traditions to non-Armenians.

'Tarosiks' Tradition - Tarosiks are small
beautiful souvenirs, designed in the form of small boxes, baskets, bouquets and containing candies. According to a beautiful Armenian wedding tradition, the bride and the groom distribute these gifts - to all their single friends during the wedding party. By giving tarosiks to their friends, the married couple wish their single friends to get married soon. It is also believed that if a person puts “tarosiks” under the pillow, he or she can see their promised wife or husband in their dreams.
Advice: It is recommended to prepare more tarosiks, than there are single guests, as other non-single guests also like to take tarosiks for their single members of family and friends, and there is always shortage of tarosiks and someone who is upset, because he/she didn't manage to get one.

'Shabash' Tradition – Is another Armenian tradition, when the close relatives and friends approach the bride during the first dance and give her money (drams and dollars). This tradition is to wish the newly-weds wealth and affluence.
Advice: A great way to add color to the dance floor is to pass out colored handkerchief to all the guests. This fun accessory will not only brighten up the dance floor but will also look great in the wedding video.

'Bouquet Toss' Tradition – According to the tradition bride throws her bouquet and the lucky lady who catches it is believed to be the next to wed. Initially, it was believed that anything of the Bride's would bring good luck and help to dispel evil spirits.
Advice: It is recommended to have the florist create two bouquets: one a bride can use for the bouquet toss, the other bouquet (the original) to keep as a keepsake.

'Breaking the Plates' Tradition - Two decorated plates are required to be broken by the Bride and the Groom at the entrance of their home. It is to keep the evil eye from their home and dispel the evil spirit.
Advice: It is recommended to choose the plates made of thin glass, because, according to the common belief, the plates should be broken at the first hit. Otherwise, the measure will not be as effective.

We will be happy if you share your knowledge about past and present Armenian wedding traditions.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Armenian Toasts: "May You Grow Old on One Pillow!"

The Armenians are true to their traditions. For this reason the Armenian weddings are very original and colorful. An indispensable part of the Armenian wedding traditions are the toasts.

Every wedding in Armenia has its toast-master, or tamada. The toast-master not only makes toasts himself, but also grants the others guests with the permission to propose a toast to the young couple and organizes different amusements and games for the guests. Usually the toast-master is chosen from among the most eloquent relatives who are known to have a kind heart and a great sense of humor.

The word “toast” in Armenian sounds like “kenats /կենաց”, which literally means "for your life". Thus, making a toast means blessing and wishing all the best to the addressee's life.
The first toasts are usually proposed to the parents of the newly-weds. Then Tamada and / or the guests toast the couple with a traditional Armenian wedding toast, "May you grow old on one pillow." There are other interesting wedding toasts:

- Plant a tree in the garden when each child is born and have a forest by the end of your life in front of your window.

- Love and music go hand in hand. If there is love there is music, and there is no music without love. Let your life be filled with love and music!

- The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret I wish you to discover!

- The man or woman you really love will never grow old to you. I wish you to always remain young for each other.

- A happy marriage is still the greatest treasure the life has to offer. Seek a happy marriage, but do not expect to reach the promised land without going through some wilderness together.

Besides the traditional toasts during the modern weddings toasts are proposed to the best dancers, best singers, best eaters and even best sneezers! Armenians also like to drink a toast to the “Happy/beautiful/unforgettable moment”. Although the toasts are proposed in abundance in course of the Armenian weddings, and all the guests seem to drink all the toasts, there are no dead drunk guests by the end of the wedding.

The main sign of a successful wedding is that all the guests are happy by the end of the wedding party and no single person is in a bad mood.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Presents for Armenian Weddings

The best bridal gifts should be impressive, memorable and desirable for the couple. But, on the other hand the newly formed family needs gifts that are of first necessity. That is the reason that most Armenians choose presents that can relieve the burden of the newly weds. For example, close friends often give miscellaneous domestic appliances, such as kitchenware, electronic devices, furnityre or carpets. So, if your present is not original in this case, be sure that it is useful.

If you don’t know what to give, you can consult with the couple’s parents or their friends. You can give presents according to the couple’s profession, hobby or just preferences. The main gifts that traditionally have been given by the couple’s very close relatives are money or jewelry. Armenians usually give money to support wedding costs.

An interesting tradition has formulated: during the wedding (which is organized by the groom’s family) generally groom’s relatives used to give money while other relatives can give other presents. And the opposite is during the engagement, when expenditures are levied on bride’s family. However, jewelry is the most frequently given present as Armenians consider it never depreciates and is remembered for decades. Jewelry is given generally to the bride and includes rings, chains, handcuffs, ear rings, etc. mainly from yellow gold and with valuable stones.

Wedding rings are the major symbol of engagement. They are usually simple or can utmost wear tiny white diamonds. The tradition requires groom buy a ring for the bride and vise versa. If you want to make your spouse’s ring unique you can gravure a text inside it which should be short and easy-readable. Common gravures include the spouses’ names or love confession. Recently a new tendency has appeared to gravure love expressions in Latin, such as Con amore (with love), Vale et me ama (be healthy and love me), Ad infinitum (love forever) Fata viam invenient (can’t run away from destiny), etc.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Major Role Players at the Armenian Wedding.

(Who are the major role players during the Armenian Wedding, besides the Bride and the Groom?)

One of the major peculiarities of the Armenian families is that they are very solid and strongly pursue national traditions. Once it is assumed that the couple is getting married once and for all in their life, the Armenians pay special attention to organizing the wedding, and try to make it as unforgettable and glorious as possible.

As it was mentioned before, the Armenians keep gracious relationships with other families. In this sense close relatives and friends of the couple feel a high responsibility in arranging the wedding and there are major role players in Armenian weddings except the bride and the groom. Traditionally four people accompany the couple during the wedding. The most important of them are the cross father and the cross mother. Usually the cross father is the close friend or member of the groom’s family. He is supposed to be not just a very important person during the wedding day but also a regarded advisor and supporter during the life of the couple. The cross mother should be the cross father’s wife.

The bridesmaid is usually a bride’s sister, cousin or close friend who shouldn’t be married or engaged. The duty of the bridesmaid is to assist the bride on the day of the wedding The same is true for the best man. In Armenian tradition, there can be only one bridesmaid and only one best man, unlike other countries. The best man is also required to help during the wedding day, decorating the newlywed couple's car, dancing with the guests and the bridesmaid, providing practical assistance with gifts, luggage, or unexpected complications. Armenians often joke that the best man and the bridesmaid also get engaged. In life, sometimes it happens that the best man and the bridesmaid like each other so much, that they also become life-time partners, i.e. get married.

The traditional wedding starts in the afternoon when the relatives of the groom go to the bride's house: women help her to get dressed singing national bridal songs. The bride’s brother helps to put on her shoes and puts some money in it as a sign of further wealth. Then they take the bride to the church where the couple will get married. Traditionally, the groom’s mother doesn’t go to the bride’s home and waits for the couple in the church. So, all her responsibilities are levied on the cross mother. However, this tradition is not often preserved in our days.

Another tradition prescribing the bride’s mother to stay at home, and not follow the wedding ceremony in the church and wedding reception at the restaurant is also not generally followed in nowadays. After the marriage in the church all people go to the wedding hall in the evening and celebrate the party till the midnight. There is not a special rule for attitudes but usually the groom’s relatives make more noise during the party. The most active dancer gets gifts from the cross father and/or the tamada.

Interesting Armenian Traditions that are Part of the History Now.

In old times when the young man’s family would go to a future bride’s house to ask her parents for a permission to marry their girl, the parents (even if they didn’t mind the engagement) would not agree from the first time. The guy’s parents had to come back again and again, and finally the father of the girl would give his permission. The girl’s father would never say “yes” directly, but he would speak allegorically, saying “Let’s not argue. I’ll put the scarf on your hand and you’ll take it with you”.

Since ancient times the Armenians have not been allowed to marry their relatives way back to the seventh generation. Even if a child was adopted, and there was no blood relationship, he/she couldn’t marry the relative of the family that adopted him/her, as he/she was considered a full member of the clan. What is interesting, a person couldn’t marry even the descendants of their cross father, or god father, since the latter were considered even closer than a blood relationship.

Armenian guys used to choose a bride from the same town or village. There is even an old saying on this occasion “It's Better to Give Your Daughter to the Local Cowboy, than to a Foreign King”. Another saying is “The best bride is the one that lives in your street”. This popular wisdom shows that the people who live in the same area have similar values and will understand each other much better.

Another Armenian saying provided that “A bride should not be necessarily beautiful, but should have a good character”, or “When choosing a wife, look at the girl’s mother.

In old days a divorce was allowed but was an extremely rare thing. People were allowed to divorce, for example, if the husband or wife proved to be disloyal. Usually a man could get married only three times after a divorce or death of his wife. And the third time he was only allowed to marry a widow.

A comparably recent tradition, which is though very rare in our days, is the tradition of a “Fox”. When the groom and his family and friends went to the bride’s house to take the bride to church, one of the groom’s friends speeded ahead of the group, and went to the bride’s house to take the news to the bride, saying that the groom is coming. The man who took the news was called a fox, and sometimes there was a skin of a fox attached to his horse, cart, car. For the news “the fox” was given a chicken.

What do We Know about the Armenian Wedding Ceremony?

The ritual of Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Armenian Church in which the couple are called to make a vow before the Lord to be true to each other for life. Their matrimonial union is blessed by the Lord through the Church. The marriage ceremony of the Armenian Church is rich in ritual and symbolism.

Exchanging the rings expresses the couple's promise of faithfulness to each other. The unending circle of the ring is a symbol of eternity. The wedding ring is the outward expression of the inward bond, as two hearts unite as one, promising to love each other with fidelity for all eternity. Wearing of the wedding bands throughout the couple's lifetime will tell all others of their commitment to be faithful. At the wedding ceremony, the priest blesses the couple, and rings are the bride and the groom exchange their rings.

The rite of crowning is the climax of the Armenian ceremony. The bride and groom are crowned the king and queen of their kingdom and home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice, and integrity. The crowns signify glory and honor bestowed upon the couple by God. During the crowning, the couple faces each other, with foreheads touching. The best man stands in between and holds a cross over their heads.

Common cup: after the crowing, the couple drinks wine from a common goblet. This signifies that from this moment on, the couple will share everything in life.

Master and Master:) According to the tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Priest asks the groom if he is a master of his wife. He answers that he is a master. Then the bride is asked if she is obedient to her husband. And she should answer that she is obedient. But sometimes, since the bride’s question follows that of the grooms, the bride confuses and answers the same way as the groom. I am a master. And everybody laughs, including the priest. Then the embarrassed bride corrects herself, saying that she is of course obedient. In a kingdom, there is no place for two masters, someone has to obey.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How much does an average wedding cost and who pays for it?

The Armenians usually tend to arrange luxurious weddings and invite many people including family, relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. And this is not because the Armenians like to demonstrate how magnificent or exuberant their wedding receptions are. In fact, for the most part the Armenians have strong family values and big families. Sometimes, the families are so big, and relatives and friends are so many, that an average Armenian wedding can take up most of the family’s savings.

The estimated cost of the wedding in Armenia may differ depending on many factors. However, usually the expenditures for the ordinary Armenian wedding include bills for the wedding hall, car rent, musicians, souvenirs and gifts, caterings, designs, etc. Nowadays Armenians prefer to organize their wedding receptions in the wedding halls: the cost for each invited person is about 12,000-15,000 Armenian drams (40-50$). An average Armenian wedding has approximately 100-150 guests, so the family will pay at least 1,200,000- 2,250,000 drams (4,000- 7,500) for the restaurant. Sometimes this amount does not include the musicians, who are paid additional 150,000-450,000 (500-1,500$) for the evening. Flora and photography services usually cost around 150,000 drams ($500 USD). One of the remarkable parts of the Armenian wedding, the souvenirs or tarosiks, cost from 700-1,500 drams each.

If a married couple wishes to hire a limousine for the special day in their life, the service will cost them 300,000-600,000 ($100-200) per hour. The wedding dress of the bride can either be bought or rented. The price of a wedding dress starts from $1000 USD if bought, and the renting price starts from $400 USD otherwise. Today there are so many wedding saloons in Yerevan that the city seems to be an ideal place for planning a marriage. The wedding saloons provide all kinds of services, separate and consolidated that include but are not limited to the rent and sale of wedding dresses, accessories, souvenirs, baskets, candles, glasses, boxes, port-bouquets, cakes, car designs, gift packing, filming, etc.

According to an old Armenian tradition the family of the groom has to pay for the wedding, while the family of the bride covers the engagement costs. Besides the mentioned expenditures, which constitute an indispensable part of an Armenian wedding, the groom should prepare a valuable gift for the bride: gold and jewelry have traditionally been considered the best presents on that special occasion. Overall, the charge for an average traditional Armenian wedding starts from about $15,000 USD, and this amount can increase dependent upon the size of the family and friends the newly-weds want to share their happy moments with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armenian Wedding Beliefs

The Armenians have many beautiful wedding traditions that come from the history and some of them have religious roots. One is St. Sargis’ day, the equivalent of famous St. Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated in February. St. Sargis is the patron of all loving couples. On St. Sargis’ Day single young women eat very salty pancakes and can't drink water afterwards. They go to sleep thirsty, and it is believed that the man who will give the young woman a cup of water in her dream will be her future husband. The Armenians also make a pastry called "pokhindz" and leave it in their yards at St. Sargis’ night. If the footstep of the saint’s horse is signed on the pastry the year will be successful.

Another widely accepted religious celebration is “Trndez” or “Tearnendaraj” which means Let God be with you. The Armenian apostolic church celebrates it in the second Saturday of February. In the evening people make fires in their yards. New married or just engaged couples should jump over the fire 7 times: it is believed to bring happiness and cast away all the evil. Also people prepare a lot of roast wheat or "aghandz" on that day as a sign of prosperity and richness.

Armenians also have interesting beliefs related to wedding days. For example, it is a bad sign if two brides meet each other on their wedding days. Or Armenians never get married in May as it is believed to bring grief.

About Us

Yerevan,, Armenia
Armine Karakhanyan, 2nd year student, Political Science and International Affairs, American University of Armenia Narine Hovakimyan, 1st year student, Business and Administration, American University of Armenia