Tying the Knot in Turkmenistan

Tying the Knot in Turkmenistan

Weddings speak to the character of a culture and its prevailing values. Here in the west, wedding trends evolve so quickly that every couple’s wedding photograph is like a time capsule, yet in many other parts of the world nuptial norms are largely unchanged for hundreds of years.

Some things never change: This modern Turkmen bride is strikingly similar to brides from centuries ago

Some things never change: This modern Turkmen bride is strikingly similar to brides from centuries ago
Photo credit: Michel Behar

Wedding Bells, Wedding BillsIn Turkmenistan, wedding traditions have many similarities to their Central Asian neighbors, but a few things make them uniquely Turkmen. As with any wedding throughout the world, expenses for Turkmen nuptials are divided between the bride’s and the groom’s family.

The groom’s family pays for the wedding itself: no small expense because it’s common for families to invite 200-300 guests to a Turkmen wedding. The bride’s family furnishes the home with a mix of modern appliances and traditional tools, as well as embroidered items, carpets, clothing and soft furnishings made by the bride herself. No wonder both sets of parents start setting aside money for their children’s weddings shortly after the bride- and groom-to-be are born.

A MIR traveler is bedecked and bejeweled in a Turkmen traditional wedding dress Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

A MIR traveler is bedecked and bejeweled in a Turkmen traditional wedding dress
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Joyful CelebrationOn the big day, wedding cars are decorated with special scarves and ropes; these are the same types of decorations that once adorned camels only two or three generations ago. Scarves serve many functions at a Turkmen wedding. Young women and girls come to the wedding wearing brightly colored scarves; during the procession to the groom’s house, it’s traditional to give small scarves or pieces of cloth to passers-by to turn the evil eye away from a young family.

No doubt about it: this is a wedding car decked out Turkmen style, wrapped in brightly colored scarves<br /> Photo credit: Devin Connolly

No doubt about it: this is a wedding car decked out Turkmen style, wrapped in brightly colored scarves
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

See No EvilEvery item a Turkmen bride wears on her wedding day is meant to protect her against evil forces. While her dress is covered in small amulets to promote health, wealth, happiness and fertility, the most overt sign of her “protected status” on this day is a forward-facing veil that covers her head, face and the whole front of her body down to her waist.

Amulet-laden Turkmen wedding dresses are sewn from red fabric provided by the groom's family <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Amulet-laden Turkmen wedding dresses are sewn from red fabric provided by the groom’s family
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Tying the Knot, LiterallyMany significant rituals are incorporated into the wedding, including changing the bride’s headdress from the “maiden” hat to the scarf of a “matron.” All married Turkmen women wear their scarves tied a certain way so you can tell at a glance whether a woman is single or married simply looking at what she wears on her head.

On her wedding day, a Turkmen woman will give the embroidered skullcap she wore as a single girl to the youngest sister of the groom, ensuring she also will have a happy marriage and give birth to many children.

TK-2006-JTCA-AF-020-Turkmenistan-Ashkabad-girls-w-skullcaps-AnaFilonov-618-pixels.jpg

You can tell at a glance by their caps that these young Turkmen girls are unmarried
Photo credit: Ana Filonov

By her scarf, it's easy to tell that this Turkman woman is married <br>Photo credit: Michel Behar

By her scarf, it’s easy to tell that this Turkmen woman is married
Photo credit: Michel Behar

Party TimeAs in most parts of the world, a banquet with music and dancing follows the wedding ceremony. Today, many Turkmen couples are married in Ashgabat’s “Palace of Happiness,” a mammoth new building dedicated to all things wedding: registry offices, several “function halls,” and a multitude of boutiques selling everything from cookware sets to Western-style bridal gowns.

Ashgabat's "Palace of Happiness" opened in 2011, accommodating up to seven weddings at once Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Ashgabat’s “Palace of Happiness” opened in 2011, accommodating up to seven weddings at once
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Each function hall inside the Palace of Happiness features a platform where the bride and groom sit in golden high-backed chairs. Behind the newlyweds is a picture hanging on the wall: Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov peers out in the space between the bride and groom’s chairs. Thus, his face is forever enshrined in many Turkmen wedding photos.

No photobombing – simply  the Turkmen president's picture strategically placed for wedding photo ops<br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

No photobombing – simply the Turkmen president’s picture strategically placed for wedding photo ops
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Travel to Turkmenistan with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan, with a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

You can learn about Turkmenistan’s history and culture a MIR tour through Central Asia:

You can also travel on one of MIR’s handcrafted private independent travel itineraries, Essential Turkmenistan or Essential Central Asia, or book a custom private journey. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.

Chat with a MIR destination specialist about travel to Turkmenistan by phone (1-111-111-1111) or email today. We would love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you.

(Top photo credit: Devin Connolly. In this photo – popping the cork as Turkmen newlyweds celebrate their wedding day.)

PUBLISHED: June 18, 2014

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