A Turkish Wedding Weekend: Part I-The Kına Gecesi

A few weeks ago, I was invited to two wedding celebrations on the same weekend, and was beyond thrilled to partake in my first Turkish wedding festivities.

On Friday night, I was invited to a couple’s Kına Gecesi, a traditional ceremony that takes place the night before the actual wedding, in a village near the city of Dondurma, three hours away from Izmir.

The adventure began in a Kipa (a Turkish Target) parking lot in Bandırma, where the groom’s brother and girlfriend met up with us to show us the way to the village. Before heading out of the city, we stopped by a house to pick up a dozen or so more family members, and after a lengthy operation of playing musical cars, we were on our way.

After leaving Dondurma, we drove on a country road that seemed endless, and as we progressed along the dirt road, modern civilization seemed to quickly vanish, and in it place there were infinite grass-filled meadows, and the occasional cow.

When we finally arrived to the village, it was exactly as I had picture it to look like. Men sat outside on porches, staring off into the distance, as if they had all the time in the world. Cows plodded besides our car; pulling carts of wheat. There was a pungent odor of livestock in the air.

A string of lights, lit up the courtyard of the bride’s family’s home where the celebration was going to take place. Chairs were scattered around the perimeter of the makeshift dirt stage in the center where the festivities would occur.

It seemed like the whole village was present and, unfortunately even the local mosquitoes showed up and left the guest with unwelcome party favors, despite the bottles of insect repellent being passed around.

Before the actual ceremony there was a lot of dancing to traditional Turkish music. Sometimes the women with the bride danced, sometimes the men with the groom, sometimes exclusively couples, and other times everyone was invited onto the dance floor.

The tradition behind a Kına Gecesi, is that it symbolizes the women leaving her family to be with her husband and his family. Although nowadays it is obviously only symbolic, because the bride and groom don’t live with his family. The bride wears a traditional dress, and a veil usually covers her face, which is good because she almost always is crying. The name Kina Gecesi translates to “Henna Night,” because the bride’s future mother-in-law puts henna on her left hand to welcome her into their family.

The ceremony itself was very beautiful, and sentimental. The moment the traditional Kina Gecesi song came on, the crowd went silent, and the bride appeared in a stunning traditional dress of green and pink that was decorated with elaborate, gold embroidery. Her face was hidden by a red veil, and she was carefully led down to a chair in the center of the crowd. Women holding candles surrounded her, softly singing along with the song. Her mother-in-law then drew an elaborate henna design on her hand and she was lifted up on her chair, and the crowd burst into applause.

On our way home we stopped at a 24 hour cafe located right off the highway. While you ate your meal, you could get your car washed, but we politely declined. After eating grilled-cheese sandwiches, we piled back into our car, and despite my exhaustion, I was thankful for being able to experience a tradition ceremony, and gain a bit more insight into Turkish culture.