Armenian Wedding Traditions (13 Things You Must Know)

Defining “Armenian Weddings”: If we try to define “Armenian weddings,” we would not hesitate to mention the synonymous words “big,” “fat,” “loud,” and “extraordinary” right at the beginning of the phrase – big, fat, loud, and extraordinary Armenian weddings.

Naturally, we picture the hysterical yet the unnecessary hustle and bustle of wedding preparations, the gigantic guest list including many distant relatives, some of who the spouses probably do not even recognize, and perpetual and loud car signals forming a massive column on the streets.

The lively Armenian music and traditional dances in front of the bride’s house that one woman, most likely the bride’s sister-in-law, throws her shoes on the dancefloor to dance “Kochari” barefoot with more passion, backgrounded with lots of glitter and glam. 

Garo kotchounian and Araz Tavitian getting married in Nicosia Cyprus while "Kavor" holding the Holy Cross between their heads
Garo kotchounian and Araz Tavitian getting married in Nicosia Cyprus

Ancient Armenian Wedding Traditions 

Armenian weddings were one of the most luxurious manifestations of everyday life. Traditional Armenian wedding ceremonies started long before the special day and lasted “7 days and 7 nights”. Armenians did not spare any effort or money for the wedding, where the bride and the groom were crowned as king and queen of the day. 

“Khosk Arnel” or Asking for Permission

The first step of marriage was asking for the woman’s hand, which was assigned to the groom’s parents. The ceremony occurred in the evening when it got dark, so none of the neighbors would know about it. It was believed that if the girl’s parents rejected the in-laws, the reputation of the rejected groom would fall among the villagers. 

During the first visit of the in-laws, the father shouldn’t marry the girl, as it would mean that he wanted to get rid of the girl in every possible way. Since this was a delicate matter, a special language code was developed over the years.

For example, if the girl said they still had to think because the uncle decided on such issues, and he was away from home, it meant a rejection, which could turn into an agreement in the case of the second visit.

The phrase “they are still very young” meant that asking for that girl for a second time made no sense. However, the refusal was not due to the lack of certain qualities of the groom or his family. It was just an accepted procedure.

Khosk-Kap or Engagement

The third arrival of the groom’s family mainly took place after successful negotiations, which presupposed the engagement process (Khosk-kap). During this period, the girl was not allowed to meet the groom. Mostly the bride’s mother secretly accepted the groom on the condition that he would never touch the girl. 

The groom’s family covered all the wedding expenses, roughly speaking, they took the labor force from the family to the next generation, so much compensation was fully justified from the economic point of view.

In the villages, people were invited to a wedding by getting apples or wine. Special invitations were used only in cities in the late 19th century.

Preparations & Celebrations Before the Wedding

The joy started on the eve of the Armenian wedding. The whole village, the relatives gathered at the bride’s house to bake festive bread – lavash and gata (the dough was decorated with geometric and floral patterns), singing and dancing, sprinkling flour mixed with sweets, dried fruits, and nuts.

Only married and happy women were to participate in the baking as it was considered that their happiness would be passed on to the bride.

One of the most important ritual preparations was the bull sacrifice, after which a cross was made on the forehead of the groom with the blood of the bull. It was considered to repel evil spirits so that a new life would be successful. The main dish of the wedding table, Armenian barbecue, was made from bull meat.

Armenian traditional wedding table must have been bent by the weight of the fruit․ The apple was a symbol of a woman, the pear-a symbol of a man, and the pomegranate – a symbol of fertility. The bride had to throw the pomegranate on the ground on the Armenian wedding day. The more seeds sprouted from the fruit, the more children she was believed to have. 

Before the Armenian wedding ceremony, it was customary to test the groom’s strength by offering to break the clay jug with a single blow of his hand. In this way, the groom not only proves his readiness to get married but also repulses evil spirits. The bride also had to break a plate on the doorstep of the new house to protect herself from the evil eye and to ward off evil spirits.

What Happens at The Armenian Wedding Day

MY BIG FAT ARMENIAN WEDDING – NOOSH & JOHNNY

The Armenian wedding celebration starts early in the morning till sunset. The guests followed the bride with gifts and loud Armenian music. The bride’s family had to show restraint, not rejoice as much as the groom’s side. 

The tradition of Ransom was also used. The bride’s brother closed the door with a sword, letting the new relatives in only after the groom’s father, godfather, or the groom himself had paid the ransom.

Nowadays, this tradition is used to remove the bride from the father’s house. The bride and groom are seated separately at the wedding table. While sitting with the other women, the bride had to overcome several trials.
For example, they put some objects on the chair to check how attentive she was. A baby boy was placed in the bride’s arms so the firstborn would have the “right” gender.

The candidacies of the Toastmaster (tamada) and Godfather (qavor) were a great responsibility. The role of Toastmaster could be claimed by a very smart, knowledgeable, respected person orator who would be listened to attentively. 

One of the brightest traditional wedding ceremonies was the process of stealing a chicken. The wedding fox – the most active man in the groom’s family, had to steal a chicken from the bride’s family and announce the groom’s arrival, after which he had to first tell the groom’s mother the news of the bride’s arrival. The gathered young people had to do everything to get the news reported later.

The Armenian traditional wedding ceremony was also celebrated in the church with great fun. The ceremony was accompanied by song and dance, firing in the air to scare away evil spirits. In the church, the priest tied green-red-white woven threads around the bridegroom’s neck, forehead, and hands, attaching wax to the ends of the threads, and took it out before they left. The red thread symbolized the woman, the green – the man, the white – innocence.

In traditional Armenian weddings, special attention was paid to the bread lavash, symbolizing fertility. On the Armenian wedding day, the future mother-in-law, welcoming the newlyweds, spreads lavash on their shoulders, wishing fertility and treating them with a spoonful of honey so their life would be as sweet as honey. It was common for the groom’s family to bring many gifts to the bride, including jewelry, belts, silver cups, or wine jugs.

Wedding Distraction Performances

Who said the traditional Armenian wedding ceremony lacks fun? According to tradition, the groom’s parents perform a fight, where the wife must win. All the guests started laughing, singing, and rejoicing because nothing was more fun than the woman defeating her husband in battle. There were joke songs about how the bride should beat her mother-in-law. These short humorous performances were a welcome distraction from the serious wedding atmosphere.

How to Choose Armenian Wedding Dress

In Armenian old wedding traditions, a whole ceremony was dedicated to sewing and trying the Armenian wedding dress. The bride and groom were kings and queens for one day, so they had to be perfectly dressed. 

According to the tradition, the groom’s relatives visited the bride’s house, where the youngest woman, whose eldest son was a boy, undressed the bride. As she began to dress her, the assembled ladies sang honoring songs to the bride. During the dressing ceremony, the bride’s hair was being braided, a symbol of femininity and maturity.

Armenian bride’s wedding dress was never white but red. Women cut a piece of cloth while making a wedding dress and gave each girl the task of sewing a piece.
The dresses had to be made of the finest pieces, and the jewelry was to be gold or silver, depending on the family’s social status. She wore a ring not only on her index finger but also on her thumb. 

The bride’s wedding dress was sewed from red and green fabric and embroidered with gold ribbon. The red color of the woman’s dress symbolized fire and passion. The green color of men’s clothing symbolized fertility.

The wedding dress was complemented by a belt and an apron with the attributes of a married woman’s dress. The red or purple belt was made of silk with gold threads inscription -“Joy to the one who will tie the knot”, mentioning the bride’s name.

Special attention was paid to the headdress – a chain of pearls with gold or silver coins. The bride had to wear a lot of jewelry to ward off evil spirits while walking. The groom’s clothes also had to be made of quality fabric. The priest anointed the bride’s wedding dress.

After-Wedding Ceremony

The next day of the wedding, a sheet was spread in front of the house to signify the girl’s innocence. As a sign of gratitude, they sent a present to the girl’s mother, and red apples were sent to her father’s house. The groom’s family gathered relatives and close friends to eat Khash. 

On the 7th day after the wedding, the “head wash” ceremony occurred. That day the bride had to undergo the last trial.
She was taken to a bath and washed by the oldest woman of the groom’s family, who could pour either boiled or very cold water on her head.

The girl had to endure that trial without uttering a word. Otherwise, she might have been considered poor-mannered. The girl’s mother visited her daughter on this day and brought the dowry to the bride.

Who Pays for an Armenian Wedding?

The cost of an Armenian wedding can vary from country to country and from city to city.
In Armenia, a typical wedding costs around $5,000, while in Los Angeles, a typical wedding costs anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000. The groom’s family traditionally funds Armenian weddings, but modern times, it is not unusual for the bride’s family to contribute.

How Should I Dress for an Armenian Wedding?

This is a question that many people, who are either invited to or planning on attending an Armenian wedding, ask themselves. The answer to this question is not always clear and may depend on the type of wedding.

It is important to dress appropriately for an Armenian wedding. This is a very formal event, so you should wear formal attire. Gentlemen, you should wear a suit or tuxedo.

The dress code for the ladies is much more complicated. The bride is typically different from the dress code for guests. However, some guests will wear a classy dress while attending the ceremony and another comfortable and colorful one while attending the reception.

How Much do you Give for an Armenian wedding?

If you are invited to an Armenian wedding and wondering what that would cost you in gifts/cash! Some engaged couples may mention in the invitation that they already have a wedding list registry where you can give the money before attending the wedding.

There are three things that you may consider before deciding on the budget. First: How well you know the couple! If you are related to any of them! Second: What region are you living in? Third: If you plan to attend the reception. Relatives decorate the couple with gold gifts, while guests hand envelopes with cash/cheques.

Here are some amounts you should consider giving depending on where you live:

USA & Canada$200-$300
Armenia40,000-50,000 AMD
Europe€80-150
Middle East$70-100
East Asia$100-150

How Long is an Armenian Wedding Ceremony

The duration of the modern Armenian wedding ceremony at the church is approximately 45 minutes. But if the couples were engaged and blessed at the church previously, that will shorten the ceremony by around 5 minutes as both engagement and marriage ceremonies are combined nowadays.

After the ceremony is done by the priests, the couple may prefer to have some photos taken of them with family and close guests inside the church. This may delay the exit of the newly-weds to join the receiving line either outside the church or at the reception venue.

Modern Armenian Wedding Traditions

Modern Armenian wedding traditions are mixed with that of European ones. Today Armenian young people are free to choose whoever they want as their husband and wife and have their preferences for managing the wedding ceremony.

The traditional dowry is usually replaced by money, sometimes keys to a new apartment, car, or flight tickets to tourist destinations. The bride plans the wedding with the groom, and each manages their post-wedding parties- the bride with girls and the groom with his friends. 

Modern Armenian weddings are mostly quite expensive. Some families would even take a loan as the guest list is often long, there are photographs and drown machines, and so on. This, however, depends on the couple’s preferences, and there can always be exceptions.

Armenian modern weddings last one day, include a big list of guests, and start in the early morning at the bride’s house. The groom arrives in luxurious cars accompanied by perpetual signals all the way, together with his family, friends, relatives, and a group of musicians to take out the bride from her house, where a rich table of dessert waits for the guests. 

Before entering, the groom’s party starts the party outside, right in front of the bride’s house. Everyone dances Armenian traditional dances under Armenian live music while displaying a huge basket of fruits, spirits, and sweets, another basket of the bride’s shoes, veil and perfume, and some Armenian gata. 

Not all wedding ceremonies and traditions are indeed preserved today, but many of them have their unique part in modern Armenian weddings. One of those remaining traditions is dressing the bride and pouring sweets on her veil.

Another fun tradition is secretly stealing the bride’s shoe, whose job belongs to the bride’s brother or sister. She will not give the shoe back without “long negotiations” with the couple’s godfather unless he offers a certain sum and the “shoe stealer” agrees and gives it back to the bride. 

Probably the most popular and beloved Armenian old wedding tradition is “holding the door.”
When the groom accompanies the bride out of the house, the brother of the bride holds the door with a sword and doesn’t let the couple pass unless the godfather offers some money, and the first try usually fails as the “holder” asks for more and the passage is free afterward.

The church is the next stop for young couples and their guests, which matters a great deal for Armenian people as their marriage gets officially blessed, and they become the king and queen of their little kingdom. 

During the last years, Armenian young couples have preferred historically important and ancient churches for the wedding ceremony like Sevanavank, placed at the top of the peninsula of Sevan lake, Monastery of Geghard, not far from Yerevan, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Noravank Monastery, located 122 km from Yerevan, Haghartsin Monastery in Dilijan and much more.

After the ceremony, the bride and the groom go to the groom’s parents’ house and break the plate placed at the entrance for good luck. The groom’s mother welcomes the newlyweds by putting lavash on their shoulders and treating them with a spoon of honey as a symbol of happiness.

Now that all the traditional ceremonies have ended, it’s time to start the real Armenian lush party at the luxurious restaurant. Here you’ll “collide” the Armenian traditional dishes, numerous salads, drinks, and pretty much everything.

Also, you’ll definitely face the long-lasting Armenian wedding tradition of endless toasts. They are mostly about the bride’s and groom’s happiness and well-being, one of the most common toasts is “grow old on the same pillow.”

The first wedding dance belongs to the bride, who usually dances to Armenian traditional or a foreign romantic song. While an Armenian wedding, you would probably witness many people unsparingly throwing money at the bride and groom.

This is called Shabash and is believed to bring good luck and financial success. During the Shabash, the bride may dance a “money dance” in Armenian.

It’s a matter of seconds when you find yourself being pushed to the center of the hall to dance to Armenian traditional music. This is something you certainly cannot refuse. 

In Armenia, everyone knows Armenian traditional dances. The wedding is yet another great opportunity to hold on to each other’s shoulders, make a huge circle with their heads high, strike the ground with the Armenian traditional rhythms, shout out and just have some fun in the Armenian way.

Apart from Armenian music, there are also various European, American, Russian, and Georgian music.

The Armenian wedding wrap-up is completed in the late evening, with the newlyweds cutting the huge cake under the small fireworks, sharing the “tarosik” (small wedding souvenir), and the bride throwing her bouquet to the unmarried girls. 

Biggest Ever Armenian Wedding 700 Couples Got Married

On Oct. 16, 2008, 700 Armenian couples were married in Artsakh. The ceremonies took place in St. Ghazanchetsots church in Shushi and Gandzasar monastery. 

The weddings were followed by a dinner, issuing of certificates, and wedding gifts in Stepanakert’s republican stadium. The main sponsor of the vent was Armenian-Russian businessman Levon Ayrapetyan.

The couples were given banking cards with a $2500 balance in Armenian Dram (AMD) and would also be rewarded for any future children: $2,000 for the first child, $3,000 for the second, $5,000 for the third, $10,000 for the fourth, $20,000 for the fifth, $50,000 for the six and get ready – $100,00 for the seventh. What an incentive!

Garo Kotchounian

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