Like most weddings in Toronto, a Persian marriage has two stages that most often happen in a single day. Occasionally there is a period in between them. The first stage is known as ‘Aghd’, the legal process where the marriage contracts are signed by the bride, the groom and also their guardians. ‘Jashn-e Aroosi’, is the second stage. It means the wedding reception where the actual feasting and celebrations begin which, traditionally, lasted for three to seven days; unlike Toronto weddings today. There is a room, specially decorated with flowers and ‘Sofreh-ye Aghd’, a beautiful spread elaborately placed on the floor. The spread faces east, traditionally, where the sun rises. This is so because when the bride and groom sit in front of the ‘Sofreh-ye Aghd’, they should be facing the ‘Light’.
Unlike Toronto ceremonies, tradition demands that ‘Aghd’ be held at the residence of the parents of the bride. The arrival of the guests, or witnesses, commences the tradition. Close family members of the couple present at the ceremony make the guests comfortable. After the guests take their seats, the groom walks up to the front of the ‘Sofreh-ye Aghd’, and sits on the right side, which is considered the side of respect according to Zoroastrian culture. He is later joined by the bride who sits on the left.
The ‘Sofreh-ye Aghd’, the backdrop used on the floor, is passed from mother to daughter or to son occasionally. It is made of luxurious fabric, such as satin, silk and cashmere. On it, the following items are placed: A mirror, ‘Aayeneh-ye Bakht’, signifying fate and two ‘Candelabras’ (candles), placed on either side of the mirror. The mirror and candles are considered to be two very important items in the Persian society. They symbolize light and fire. Just like most weddings in Toronto, a bride walks in with her veil on but removes it later in that the first thing the groom sees in the mirror is the reflection of his bride. Also present on the ‘Sofreh-ye Aghd’, is a tray of spices and herbs which are seven and multi-colored. They are to ward of evil spirits, guard against evil and witchcraft. The seven elements in different colors are: poppy seeds, angelica, nigella seeds, frankincense, salt, black tea and wild rice, each with its own purpose.
Unlike Toronto weddings, flat bread, which is specially baked and decorated, can also be found symbolizing happiness and prosperity for the couple thereafter. Decorated eggs in a basket and also decorated almonds, hazelnuts in the shell and walnuts, also in a basket, are present. A number of other various items are placed on the backdrop including a copy of the couples’ Holy Book and an assortment of sweets.
As the couple sits together, two guests, females, hold a cloth which is thin and place it on top of their heads and pour hard sugar crystals in it signifying in their relationship, sweetness. The bride and groom are then asked separately if they have accepted one another for future companionship where the bride is asked three times and remains silent for two before answering. Then gifts are given to the couple to bless their future.