A Turkish engagement is very similar internationally, whether in very traditional and conservative or more modern families. Like many festivals, it is an event for the whole family, which is celebrated not only in a small circle, but involves a large part of the relatives.
Kiz Isteme – The asking for the hand
The Kis Isteme is the first step on the way to a Turkish engagement. Similar to the asking for the hand of the future bride, which is also present in many other cultures, the father of the future groom approaches the father of the potential bride and asks for his blessing. In modern families, most often the man has already made a marriage proposal to his beloved beforehand, the Kis Isteme and the further steps are merely a follow up. In traditional families, marriage is first agreed upon between the parents, and here, too, the children are asked if they wish to enter into the union. Arranged marriages are less and less common. Often on this occasion the man’s family brings a small gift, Turkish sweets such as baklava, chocolates and flowers are common.
The plan is then officially sealed at a joint coffee drink. The groom is usually surprised, because his coffee on this occasion tends to have added salt and lemon to make it barely enjoyable. He should drink this, if possible, without letting on, as a symbol that he will stand by his future wife in good times and bad.
Like many other, Turkish traditions surrounding engagement and marriage, this step serves, if nothing else, to allow the two families to get to know each other better.
Söz Kesme – The promise and first giving of the rings
As with the previous step, without the family, a Turkish engagement does not work. The rings are not given to each other, the procedure is as follows. The rings are placed on a lovingly decorated and adorned tray of silver and tied together with a red cord or ribbon of silk. The head of the soon-to-be groom’s family then puts on the rings and cuts the red ribbon with scissors. The Turkish engagement is not considered consummated at this point, but it is a promise. The actual engagement is celebrated at a separate ceremony that follows a little later.
A peculiarity: at least traditionally in Turkey there are no engagement rings, so the rings that were pinned are the same as the future wedding rings. However, given the beauty of an engagement ring with diamonds, an additional ring is quite permissible and welcome in more modern families.
The long red ribbon is then cut into many small pieces and all the guests, in the case of Söz Kesme the closest circle of the family gathered in private, receive a piece as a memento. It is considered a lucky charm.
Nisan – The actual engagement party
Unlike weddings, which in Turkish families are traditionally attended by all the relatives, the engagement is celebrated in a smaller circle. In a Turkish family, however, this by no means means that only a dozen guests sit at the table, less than 50 are rare and many a Turkish engagement is also celebrated with 200 guests.
The engagement ceremony is similar to the Söz Keme procedure. The rings are once again connected with a red ribbon, then pinned and the ribbon is cut, but this time by a member of the bride’s family. The woman’s dress is often very elaborately designed, almost like a wedding dress. Exact rules for the dress do not exist, only the colours black or white are taboo.
An essential part of the celebration is Taki, which simply translates to “jewellery.” Here, the woman is given gold jewellery by the man’s family, and other guests also present the couple with gold coins or cash. The size of the gift is usually measured by the degree of kinship; close relatives give more than more distant relatives. Taki has a very practical background in Turkish engagement: the bride-to-be should be covered before the wedding in case something happens to her husband. Therefore, with the exception of the bride’s parents giving the household goods, gifts at a Turkish engagement are limited to valuables and money. Often a spokesperson announces what gifts have been given, skimping can quickly be taken as disrespect.
Also among them is Nisan Bohcasi, both the woman and the man are given their own bahca by their parents, which can be translated as bundle. In the past, it was hand embroidered cloth in which was wrapped a special, practical gift. Gladly high quality clothing or accessories, something that delights in everyday life. Today, the classic bundle is often replaced by richly decorated chests available in Turkish wedding stores.