I already wrote about the greatest treasure of Iran which is the hospitality of its people. Iranians love foreigners and when you visit their country, locals will talk to you anytime they find the opportunity. Most conversations even follow with an invite to their homes. Or, if you are as lucky as I was, you may be even invited to an Iranian wedding. If this happens to you, be ready to say yes! Attending an Islamic wedding in Iran was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
As soon as I sat alone in the bus from Kashan to Isfahan, the smiling girl sitting next to me initiated the conversation. After a few minutes of small talk (Where are you from? Are you married? Do you have Instagram?), she asked me where I was going to stay in Isfahan. When I told her I hadn’t booked any room yet, she asked without thinking twice: “Do you want to stay in Isfahan with me and my family?”
At first, I hesitated. I didn’t know anything about this girl. I also wondered if her family would be ok having me, a complete stranger, in their house. But she kept insisting, telling me how much she and her family loved guests. She said they would be really happy to host me.
Had this happened to me in any other country, I am sure I would have politely declined. I would have been worried that maybe what she really intended was stealing my money (or my kidney!). But after a week in Iran, I already knew that when Iranians say they love guests, they really mean it and expect nothing in exchange. So I decided to embrace the adventure and accepted the invitation. Little did I know, Razie’s family would host me like I was her own daughter. The time I was about to spend with them would be the best part of my trip to Iran.
From traveling alone to finding a family in Isfahan
When we arrived to Isfahan, Razie’s father came to pick us up. As soon as I saw his kind face, I knew I had taken the right decision staying with them! Even though he could not speak any English, he made sure to make me feel welcome. Only a few minutes after we got into the car, he asked me if I wanted to join his family in his nephew’s wedding that was a couple of days later. I was not sure if he was serious. But I was obviously curious about attending an Iranian wedding, so once again, I said yes!
The next couple of days at Razie’s home were amazing. She and her family went out of their way to make me feel good. They showed me around Isfahan, introduced me to more family members and friends, fed me A LOT of amazing home-made Iranian food and more. They did all of this without accepting payment for anything. I was completely overwhelmed by their hospitality. I could not believe that these people, who barely knew me, were doing all of this for me.
The night before the Iranian wedding, I told Razie I had not brought anything sophisticated enough to wear. She opened her wardrobe and made me try some of her best dresses. Luckily for me, there was one that was exactly my size and suited me fairly well. Later that night, Razie and her sister were teaching me how to dance the Iranian way in their living room. I was ready for the party!
The Iranian wedding
On the wedding day I learned many interesting things about Iranian culture. One of them is physical appearance, which is really important in this country! Even though Iranian women are obliged to keep most of their body well covered, they still give beauty a lot of importance. You won’t ever see even the most religious and covered women without their lipstick.
Because beauty is important, getting ready for the Iranian wedding took us hours! In addition to lending me that beautiful blue dress, Razie, her mother and her sister also did my make-up and my hair (using a conventional iron for that and I am not even kidding!).
But, no doubt, what struck me most about the Iranian wedding was to learn that men and women would remain segregated during the wedding celebration. A wedding where even the bride and groom cannot be together? Yes. Iranian weddings are like this!
For Islam it is not acceptable that men and women, who do not have a direct family relationship, to interact with each other or dance together. Because of this, they segregate men and women in different parties. The only good thing is that, since there is no risk of sin, women are allowed to dress as sexy as they want for once.
The truth is, it was quite a sight to see so many Iranian women in their night dresses, for one time freed from their hijabs and chadors. Being able to see them like this, in my opinion, was one of the greatest privileges of traveling to Iran as a woman. Sorry guys, but you will never be able to see all the beauty and elegance that Iranian women hide under their veils.
Although there is gender segregation, the only man who was allowed to visit the women’s party was the groom. He came only a couple of times to take some photos with the bride. When he did show up, most women in the wedding were hiding themselves until they were covered as they were afraid that the groom would see them without their hijab.
The wedding party started at 8:00 pm, but the dinner wasn’t served until 11:30 pm. While I almost starved, I realized unlike weddings in Europe, that are all about eating and drinking, Iranian weddings are all about dancing!
I really enjoyed dancing between women in the Persian style. But I have to say that the music wasn’t that good. It struck me that all the songs were played by men. I then learned of another shocking law in Iran that I did not know: women’s voices are banned in public. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, some conservative clerics said women’s voices had the potential to trigger immoral sexual desire. Because of this, they banned all the women singing. Quite crazy in my opinion.
As I said, food seems to be something completely secondary in Iranian weddings. It was served really late and we had to eat standing and in a hurry. The dinner consisted of some of the most typical Iranian dishes: kebab, different types of rice and salad. Nothing out of the ordinary. There wasn’t any cake and obviously no alcohol (which is banned throughout the country).
The party after
When we finished eating, I saw the women began to change their clothes and put on their hijabs again. I thought the party was over. However, the most exciting part of the night was yet to come. When I got into the car thinking we were going back home, I realized that the real party was in the street. This time, with men and women all together (although women were already well covered).
The tradition is after the wedding, everyone accompanies the bride and groom to their new home, stopping several times in the middle of the road to sing, cheer and dance with the couple
Once we were in the new house, I was shocked to see a little sheep that they were sacrificing in honor of the new marriage. When Razie saw my face of terror, she justified it, saying that “this is what tradition dictates.” After the sacrifice, we all went up to see the house and take some pictures with the bride and groom.
Attending an Iranian wedding was a very interesting experience that taught me many things about Persian culture. I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to Razie and her family for allowing me to participate in this beautiful celebration and for welcoming me into their home as if I were part of their family.
Thank you for teaching me the real meaning of hospitality and that friendship and love are not separated by culture, religion or language. Before my trip I had read many stories about Iranian hospitality, but I never imagined that I myself would travel to Iran alone and return three weeks later with a second family.