Kyrgyz wedding

Different peoples have different nuptial traditions. Yet, in essence they are the same everywhere: two lives ace connected into one. Many of the newly wed couples believe that the oath 'of fidelity which is made to one another is forever - that their joined life and family ties will never end.
Now we would like to tell you about the Kyrgyz nuptial tradition which has been existed both in urban and rural areas.
Imagine a young couple who cannot envision their future in separation, who are ardent in their wish to end their individual lives for the sake of their future family. They will face many pleasant and sensational events.
First they should notify their relatives about their final decision. In so doing, one of the principal questions their parents may ask is: "Where is he/she from?" It is desirable that both bride and groom should be from the same area of the republic. However, not all young people follow this rule. Yet this is not the main concern. The average age of those who get married in Kyrgyzstan ranges from 20 to 25. Generally, people regard an older bride as all but a spinster. However, not all young ladies think in this way. This is mainly due to the impact of western type emancipation: career is more important than family. Local community is somewhat opposed to this trend. As to the groom's age, the community is firmer in its views: the older he is the more reliable in family life.
Wedding ceremonies are somewhat different in different regions of the country. Yet their basis is the same everywhere. The rites of kidnapping the bride, ransoming her ("kalym") and giving a dowry ("sep") have come down through the ages. After the groom's relatives learn of his intention to marry, they go together to the bride's home. Here a proposal takes place. Sitting around the dastarhan (oriental dining table), the parents of the young couple get acquainted with one other and with the bride and the groom, in the event that mutual contact has not been established earlier.
When the parties have agreed, the groom's mother put golden earrings in the bride's ears - which means that the young couples are engaged. Then all decide the time and place of wedding ("toi"}. The bride then stays in her parents' home until she is taken to the groom's home according to a special rite.
After the engagement the groom's relatives shoulder the burden of organizing and paying for the wedding ceremony. Aside from these costs, the groom must pay kalym (ransom) to the bride's parents. This sum may vary from 1,000 som to 10.000 US dollars, depending on financial capacities of the groom and his relatives. Along with the kalym, the groom's party presents some animals (usually a horse or 2-3 sheep) and clothes to the bride's family and relatives. These clothes are called "klyit" and include coats, suits, dress lengths, shirts and head scarves.
Urban families usually hold wedding ceremonies in restaurants with a capacity of 150-200 seats. In the countryside the wedding ceremony takes place in the groom's home. Relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbors are invited. As a rule, most are the groom's guests. As to the wedding costumes, there is a tradition that the groom should present a dress to the bride and that she should present a wedding suite to the groom. Yet this is agreed by the relatives. Nowadays, most of the couples in Kyrgyzstan. regardless of their nationality, prefer western type wedding garments. Yet there are some who choose traditional ethnic garments. If these are made by a very good tailor, they are beyond any comparison with western garments, and often very expensive. The bride in these garments looks like a fair peri from the Kyrgyz legends and the groom resembles a batyr (a people's hero).
The bride puts on a long white dress of soft streaming fabrics, tailored according to a special pattern. A jacket is put on over the dress, usually made of red, white or deep blue velvet. The jacket's edges are embroidered with elaborate national patterns. The embroidery is hand-made using golden and silk threads, glass beads, and sequins. The bride's head is crowned with shekule, a traditional headgear. This is a high cone with a veil fixed on the peak to cover the girl's face. Formerly this festive headgear was only worn by unmarried girls. Various national adornments, such as rings, earrings, bangles, necklaces and beads are prided by Kyrgyz ladies. These used to be made by usta (jewelers) from gold, jewels, pearls and corals. Even now one can see older women in villages wearing adornments which have been passed from one generation to the next, over a period of many centuries.

Even now, brides in some families prepare their dowry themselves: they sew blankets, clothes, embroider tablecloths and special wall and floor carpets called shirkdaks, toosh-kivizs and ala-kivizs.

Groom's clothes are made of dark-colored velvets. The beautiful oblong jacket is strapped with a wide belt, sometimes decorated with silver, gold and jewels. Edges of the trousers and jacket are also embroidered with national patterns. One can order these wedding garments in special workshops or buy them in special stores. Now let us return to the wedding formalities.
The bride may be brought to the groom's home immediately before the ceremony, or perhaps earlier in the day. In any case, her parents also must send the dowry, in part or in whole. This is subject to a previously made agreement. The bride's dowry must include new clothes for all seasons, blankets, pillows, carpets, and crockery and cutlery. More well-to-do parents can present furniture, home appliances and other items necessary for a household. The bride's mother and aunts sew a koshogo, or a special curtain to hang around the nuptial bed in the groom's home. Formerly, Kyrgyz girls used to be schooled for housewifery and handiwork. Even now, brides in some families prepare their dowry themselves: they sew blankets, clothes, embroider tablecloths and special wall and floor carpets called shirdaks, toosh-kiyizs and ala-kiyizs. The bride, upon entering her groom's home, must be able to do everything: keep house, cook and do needlework. Unfortunately, nowadays far few brides can do this.
The groom's mother places a white kerchief on the bride's head, after the latter crosses the threshold of their home. This signifies her motherly blessing. Traditionally, the bride should never take the kerchief off - yet, this rule is no longer strictly observed. Nowadays girls remove it at the earliest convenience and wear it only when guests come.
The nuptial ceremony begins in the palace of Weddings where the young couple is to register their marriage. Afterwards, the wedding motorcade sets out to travel around the city. One of the traditions is to lay flowers on the perished warriors monument.
Recently a rite has revived to invite the moldo, or a Muslim priest. He comes to the groom's home and blesses the marriage according to the Muslim tradition. This tradition is named "nike kyiu", and has now been accepted in all Kyrgyz families.
The wedding ceremony starts in the evening. Usually, the groom's guests present money in envelopes. Also they may present carpets, dinner sets, and other things which are necessary in housekeeping. The bride's guests present mainly golden adornments so that all these things could further remain at the bride's disposal. There are songs, dances and long toasts during these wedding ceremonies. A master of ceremonies is invited to organize all this in a proper way; his duty is to "respect the old people and not forget the young" through the night. It is very important for the Kyrgyz people that each of the invited could speak out his or her wish to the hosts of the festivity, relax, and "eat, drink and be merry". Aksakals. or the oldest, are the first to get the floor. They open the toi and bless the young couple.
After the wedding, the groom's relatives come to his home and put a kerchief on the young wife's head in order to bless the marriage. She must bow from the waist to each of them. In general, her conduct in the husband's house must resemble that of a scared doe. She must spend most of the time in the kitchen, perform housework, hang her head diffidently and answer gently if somebody asks her about something. This rite, however, has become outdated and is at present only formally observed. Such is the case with all traditional rites - they are followed only during the first days of the marriage.
The young wife has no right to go to her parents until she, together with her new relatives, pays a traditional visit. It is called "otko kiruu", or a permission to leave the groom's house and visit the relatives. During this visit, the groom's parents offer a large present ("soot akysy") to her mother. Symbolically, this means that they wish to replenish all expenditures that the mother has invested in her daughter from birth until the send-off to the groom's home.
Then usual family life begins. One can only wish the longest and most successful family life to all of those who make this step.



Brides are keeping quiet
Traditional theft of bribes - Ala-Kachuu - is not an ancient Kyrgyz tradition.
Ala-Kachuu stands for “to take and run away”, but has different meanings. Sometimes a guy steals a girl having got preliminary permission from her. But more often than not a local Romeo and two or three friends of his force a girl into a car, whilst she sees him for the first time in her life. This is a real ala-kachuu.
The guys, who are usually drunk, do not pay any attention to the tears, resistance and hysteria of the poor victim. The main task for them is to transport the girl to the guy's house where women will cover her head with a shawl - a token of her agreement to marriage. If a girl is courageous enough to protest, they will apply psychological pressure - if a proud girl leaves the house, they will become an object of common ridicule. But it is very seldom that a kidnapped girl ventures to leave the house. According to superstition, she will be unhappy in the future.

Death for kidnapping
In the XVIII-XIX centuries kidnapping of a girl was the only way for a loving couple to get married, if they could not do it for some reasons. Differing social situations would not allow a poor guy to marry a daughter of a bai. The whole family clan would stand against the mismatch. The only way out was ala-kauchu.
In ancient times society severely punished a guy for such an audacious action. Thieves of brides were stoned to death or thrown from minarets, including the Burana Tower.
Yet, ala-kachuu was not the only way of marriage, marriages were mainly made with the agreement of the parents. Often parents made an agreement for marriage from the very birth of their children. It was convenient for mothers and fathers, but not for their children, who wanted to independently decide their future family life. Kidnappings that take place at the present time are crimes and must be persecuted at court.

VB-21.10.2003

Kyrgyzstan travel