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Wedding Traditions in Afghanistan

Momina enjoys the rich and unique Afghan culture and is here to share what she has learned about Afghan wedding traditions.

Afghan wedding

Afghan wedding

Weddings in Afghan Culture

I have lived a significant portion of my life as a refugee, so I have experienced several cultures. One culture that I particularly enjoy is the rich and unique Afghan culture. It has some similarities to Eastern and Western cultures but retains its own special identity, which, unfortunately, is not very well known. I decided to write about wedding traditions, a symbolic celebration of every culture.

Afghan culture is very formal and filled with protocols, even in everyday life. Hospitality is a cultural norm and a symbol of prestige in Afghan society. Respectable families are known for their hospitality, decorum, and etiquette. Afghan weddings are similarly formal and hospitable, making them a representative celebration of conventional Afghan life and culture.



Proposals and Shirini Khori

The weddings start with a proposal, which has to be made by the groom in traditional Afghan families.

The bride and her family give dismal and khimcha to the groom's family to indicate their acceptance of the proposal. Dismal is a piece of decorated cloth that signifies the arrival of the new member of the family. Dismal is taken mostly by the elders of the groom's family.

Khimcha is a tray filled with sweets and toffees and decorated with flowers and ribbons. The sweets in the khimcha are distributed to all family members to let everyone know that the bond has been made.

This occasion, where the bride's family shows their willingness and accept the proposal, is called Shirini Khori; shirini means "sweets" in Persian.

After the shirini are distributed, the bride then becomes the honor of the groom's family. In most traditional families, after this distribution, there is no longer an option to rescind the acceptance of the proposal, as it is a matter of honor for the families. This is especially true in Pathan families, where honor is a matter of life and death.

This may be why it sometimes takes months or even years for the bride's family to accept the proposal and give the shirini. She may be keeping the groom waiting, neither accepting nor rejecting the proposal, so that she can investigate the family she will be linked to if she marries the groom.

Khimcha and shirini

Khimcha and shirini

Pre-Wedding Protocols

After accepting the proposal, on each special day or occasion, the bride receives gifts from her fiance's family, including:

  • Iftar is a feast delivered to the bride's family in the month of Ramadhan as a tradition.
  • Eidi is a gift given on both Eids of the year and includes money, traditional cuisines, as well as dresses and other gifts.
  • Nowruz is the celebration of the new year, during which the bride receives gifts, along with sweets and special seasonal and traditional cuisines.

The gifts are usually money or clothes, sweets, and cuisines. On most of these occasions, the bride's family distributes the food to all the close relatives.

These small events are celebrated with traditional tambourine music played by the women and girls. They also sing special, traditional songs as well as popular Afghan songs, accompanied by merriment and dancing.

Expenses of the Wedding and Dowry

Weddings in Afghan culture are seen as a favor to the groom by the bride for leaving her home to join the groom's life. This is why in Afghan weddings, you will often find the bride's family is in a more powerful position than the groom's.

Unlike in many other cultures, Afghan society holds the male responsible for all the wedding expenses. From the proposal and engagement to henna night, wedding night, and takht jami, all occasions are funded and organized by the groom and his family.

Henna night is a girls' and women's party where the bride's hands are colored with henna by seven maiden girls of the groom's family.

Takht jami is a celebration after the wedding where the guests give gifts and greet and bless the couple starting their new life. It is held one week after the wedding and is thought to be the time when the bride becomes an actual family member and is no longer a guest of the groom's family.

In lieu of a traditional dowry, the bride simply brings all that she may need for herself and nothing more to her new home. In many other Eastern cultures, the bride's family must pay a large sum of money and provide all the furniture and accessories for the house by herself as a requirement of the dowry. In contrast, Afghan brides bring their clothes, some home accessories, a set of bedsheets, and some other small necessities to start her new life, while the groom and his family provide everything else.

In some regions, the bride's family even demands a large sum of money from the groom, known as walwar, to buy her everything she may need in her new house as she may need more than what the groom's family is giving her.

Afghan wedding

Afghan wedding

Afghan Weddings

Afghan weddings last 4–5 hours or longer because many traditions have to be observed.

First, girls wait at the hall entrance for guests to arrive and greet them as they enter. As is customary at weddings, the guests arrive before the bride and groom. The couple eventually enters accompanied by special songs as they walk along a flower-lined path toward the stage where the wedding ceremony will take place. They move slowly along with the music until they reach the stage, where they wait and greet the guests.

When they first appear in the hall, the bride wears a green dress, which is the traditional Afghan bride dress color. This color is worn during the nikah—the wedding ceremony—as it signifies purity and happiness for the couple's new life. After an hour or so, the bride and groom leave the hall, and the guests are served dinner.

The nikah is performed before the dinner is served. After the couple is tied in the pure bond of nikah, the groom goes to the hall and meets all the guests, greets them, and welcomes them to the wedding.

After dinner, the bride and groom return to the hall; this time, the bride wears a white dress. The guests are served with tea, after which the bride and groom cut their big wedding cake, which is then served to the guests.

Here, the bride and groom receive the first sip of the drink and the first bite of the cake from their life partner. All the gold and other jewelry made for the bride is shown off on the stage. The bride and groom are covered in a shawl where they recite some verses from the Holy Quran and see each other's faces in a mirror.

This tradition is known as aina musaf, which has become less common in recent years since, nowadays, unlike in old times, the bride and groom would have seen each other already, yet some continue to carry on the tradition.

The traditional music and dances start when the groom's family enters the hall. Traditionally, the groom's family is happier than the bride's family, which is feeling the grief of losing a family member along with the joy of celebrating her new life. Nowadays, many of the trends and sentiments have changed, and the bride's family now takes equal part in celebrating and enjoying the wedding.

The wedding ends with a special ending song and furrows and tears on the faces of the bride and her family.

At the end of the ceremony, the brother or father of the bride ties a green cloth, such as a belt, around the bride's waist. This tradition signifies a message from the brother or father that she must prepare for her new life. Some family members accompany the bride to her new house to fulfill the remaining traditions.

After the bride enters her new home, the partying and dancing continue, and again, the bride is welcomed to her new home with tambourine and Afghan wedding songs. The celebrations carry on for many days following the wedding.

The next morning, the bride's family brings her her first breakfast of many delicious Afghan cuisines in her new home. Nowadays, it is often lunch, but this trend is still known as nashtaye (Persian for "breakfast").

Girls in Afghani dresses dancing at an Afghan wedding

Girls in Afghani dresses dancing at an Afghan wedding

Afghan people love to host extravagant celebrations for their special days. Nowadays, the wedding does not follow just one or two meals, but sometimes the guests are also served ice cream, juice, and snacks before and after the meal.

The close female relatives change into two, three, or more dresses to show their joy and excitement on the wedding night.

Almost all the wedding-related party events that used to be held at family homes are now celebrated in hotels, which has amplified the wedding hotel business, making it one of the top profit-earning trades in Afghanistan.

Nikah is preferably done before the wedding night to save time for the remaining wedding traditions.

Wedding Dresses

A green maxi for the nikah and a white maxi for the wedding remains the cultural color code for the bride's dress, but the special Afghani dress remains equally important in the bride's list of dresses to be worn on her special day. The tradition is that she may wear the Afghani dress on henna night, or she can make a green traditional Afghani dress to wear on the wedding night for her nikah.

Nowadays, party dresses have been influenced a lot by neighboring countries as well as European culture. People who have returned to their country after a long time have brought the colors and patterns of the new cultures with them, influencing Afghan wedding trends and dresses to a great extent.


Lema on April 10, 2019:

You forgot the biggest Afghan thing: the attan! Its the National dance and you are not considered n Afghan if you dont know the attan! Its performaned at every wedsing and special occasion. At weddings there is a female attan and multiple mixed attan dances (female and men mixed )