New Turkey in Favour of Monogamy - Gradual Emancipation of the Turkish Woman - How Turkish Marriages are Arranged - The Future Bride Displays Her Charms and Accomplishments Curious Customs of Turkish Weddings
For some years past it has become very unfashionable in Turkey for a man to have more than one wife, though the law allows him four.
Young Turkey, as it is the custom to designate the party in favour of reform, in many ways, and particularly with regard to the education, emancipation, and position of women, is Western rather than Eastern in ideas, and monogamy is fast becoming the general rule among the educated classes.
Already women are seen in the streets of Constantinople wearing veils more transparent than would have been permitted previous to the introduction of the changes in question. The modern veil, instead of enshrouding the face, is smart and chic. and often worn so as to show a great part of the face. The manner of raising the skirt, too, is much more pronounced than is usual in England, and would cause the intervention of the police if seen in the streets of Vienna.
But in Constantinople a kind of matrimonial bureau exists, by means of which information supplementary to the probably partial maternal statements can be obtained. This agency employs women to furnish particulars of eligible young girls and their dowries, and these particulars are sent to parents of sons who wish to marry. When a choice has been made, the young man's mother visits the girl's mother, shows her son's photograph or miniature, and expatiates on his good qualities.
The girl is then called into the room, and, the visit having been expected, she is probably dressed in her latest acquisition from Paris or Vienna, and wears patent-leather shoes with the low heels approved by Turkish fashion. Her business is to show both herself and her accomplishments to the very best advantage. She lets down her hair, shows all her teeth, speaks French and German, plays something on the piano, and dances. Should the visiting lady approve of her, she retires, while the two mothers talk business, discuss the dowry, and, if they come to terms, arrange for the young man to see the girl's face through her veil, by appointing a time and place when they can pass each other in the street. The next step is for the future bridegroom's father to send to the bride's father a sum of money supposed to represent the exact weight of the girl chosen, which is the bride's dower.
Marriages take place in the afternoon, and there is no religious ceremony.
On the wedding-day the bridegroom goes with a procession of his friends to the bride's house, and at the door is received by her father, who escorts him to a room in which his friends and relatives are having refreshments. Meanwhile, the bride is in the harem, sitting like a statue on a dais or throne beneath a canopy of artificial roses. She wears an elaborate European wedding gown, probably from Paris, made with a very extensive train, a wreath of orange flowers, and a pink veil reaching to the ground.
The presents are displayed, but surrounded by a grille to protect them from pilferers. This precaution is very necessary in Turkey, where any woman who wishes may enter; the house where a wedding is going on, and inspect the bride and her presents. An hour before sunset there are the usual prayers, both in the harem and in the men's apartments, after which the women guests must all go home. But before the time of prayer, the bridegroom performs his part of the marriage rites by running at the top of his speed to the harem under a shower of old shoes. The oldest woman of the harem leads him to the dais, where the bride awaits him, and he falls upon his knees at her feet, crying: ' Light of my eyes, tell me your name!"
She whispers it softly to him three times, and then the same old woman advances, takes off the bride's veil, and he sees her face fully for the first time. The married pair then sit down to a simple supper of chicken and rice.
A Turkish lady wearing the yashmak, or veil. Modern custom permits this to be of much more transparent material than was possible formerly; it is arranged also in a becoming fashion that permits much of the face to be seen