Marriage in Armenia- tradition, values and ceremonies

By Anna Poghosyan

The Soviet period had a significant influence on the position of women in Armenia. The regime sought to emancipate women in many ways. While it promoted equal education and work opportunities, the Soviet period also had its impact on the domestic life of people. Marriage for instance became the result of mutual consent rather than an obligation on one side or the other. This also affected the average marriage age. lf prior, the ideal age for marriage was considered between 16 and 18, in the Soviet period this changed, with the average age raising to 21, 23 and even higher. Women could now think of getting their education and having a career.

Nowadays young people think that by getting married too early, you run the risk of failing to excel in your career, losing out on educational opportunities, and increasing the likelihood of divorce. In the meantime, there are traditions and values that are constantly repeated by Armenian families to their children. Parents never get tired of reminding the risks of getting married too late- difficulties conceiving children, getting set in your ways, failing to find someone suitable, and feeling like you might get stuck being single for the rest of your life.

If you are a girl, in mid twenties and not married, then this means that pretty much everyone you know- close and extended members of the family- will use all of their ties to acquaint you with a young man and marry you off.

The dating culture is very interesting too. Just like in the whole of the Caucasus it isn’t approved to date for long periods of time. If the dating lasts from two to three years, parents, relatives and even neighbors start asking why the couple does not get married. Having children is also a very sensitive issue. The young couple should have a baby as soon as possible, ideally within the first year of their marriage, because parents from both sides play the age card, reminding the newly wed couple that they aren’t so young and that they too, just like all the other grandparents, want to have the chance to bring up their grandchildren.

Today, Armenian weddings come in a variety of different forms. They can contain some elements of tradition with a few hints of a European or American-style wedding. And this has become increasingly popular in recent years. Traditionally, Armenian weddings began with a courtship whereby the parents of the groom would choose a bride for their son and ask the bride’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage for their son. As the time went by, a form of courtship would have taken place to secure the union of the happy couple. This would have been carried out with the approval of the bride’s parents. However this tradition is no longer observed. Nowadays, the couple may sometimes request their parents’ approval of the union but mostly, they choose their partners themselves.

It is also customary in Armenia for the bride to be stolen if her parents don’t agree with the marriage. In the past, the bride was kidnapped if the groom and his family were of a lower class than the bride and could not receive the approval to marry his true love. The “kidnapping” almost always was carried out with the bride’s permission. Today, bride kidnapping has also become a variation for the wedding ceremony if the groom’s relatives cannot afford an expensive wedding. They steal the bride to economize.

Like all Caucasian weddings, Armenian weddings are very colorful ceremonies. Many guests are invited and there is a lot of entertainment. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that sometimes these feasts can feed the whole world. Weddings are prepared in much advance. They are usually planned from the time a child is born. A dowry is prepared for the children and savings are put aside. Once the joyful day arrives, it is nothing short of a fairytale. It is common to hold two weddings, one at the bride’s home, and the second at the groom’s home.

An Armenian wedding will typically have from 150 to 500 guests or sometimes even more. Once the couple registers their marriage at the city hall, and holds a ceremony in the church, the newlyweds and all their guests go to the reception, which is usually held in a restaurant, a banqueting hall or in the house of the groom. By tradition, the young couple is met by the mother of the groom who offers them lavash (a type of bread) and honey. One of the most touching moments during the wedding ceremony is when the bride enters the groom’s house. Upon the entry, the guests shower her with nuts, sweets and coins. The couple should break plates at the entrance of the home and eat a full spoon of honey; people strongly believe that it brings happiness and good luck to the newlyweds. The wedding tables are generously covered with dishes from the national cuisine and drinks. Toasts are raised and there is much joking and dancing. The young couple is then given presents, money and many jewels. The bride and the groom must show interest in every gift. They must unwrap the present, study it and then express their gratitude to the guest. Nowadays parents buy a flat as a wedding gift to the couple as it has become more preferable to live separately among married couples. The wedding ends late in the evening with the bride throwing her bouquet of flowers to the crowd of single girls and so one fairy tale ends while a new one begins for another family…

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>