The Professional Matchmaker and Her Duties - A Leisurely Wooing - The Ritual of a Persian Marriage - A Coy Bride Some Quaint Wedding Customs

A Persian bride has to be coaxed all through the wedding ceremony. The Persian youth usually marries at about the age of eighteen, and his bride is still younger. As in Turkey, professional matchmakers are employed to find out all particulars about eligible girls. When a choice has been made by the young man's mother, the matchmaker (usually an old woman) goes with a friend to call on the girl's mother, and, though the object of the visit is an open secret, custom ordains that it must be approached with studious indirectness. The usual bargaining about the marriage settlement follows, and the meeting closes by the handing round of sweetmeats.

The bridegroom's mother then tries to arrange that her son shall have a glance of the girl. She is invited to the harem, and he usually obtains one glance at her. The next step is the drawing up of the marriage contract, containing particulars of the dowry, and with clauses arranged for the protection of both parties. Soon after, but without haste, for Persian etiquette exacts much leisureliness in the arrangements, the formal betrothal takes place. It is accompanied by much festivity. The bridegroom sends presents and the wedding garment, a white sheet ten yards long, in which she is swathed on her marriage day.

Some months elapse between the betrothal and the marriage. An astrologer is consulted, who fixes the date of the wedding day. On the previous day the bride goes in state to the public bath, and the bridegroom has his hair and nails stained.

The Ceremony

The actual ceremonies are accompanied by feasting, one banquet being served in the women's apartments, another in the men's. In the former the bride is placed on a saddle facing towards Mecca, with all her garments unfastened. In front of her a mirror is placed, and before it are two lighted candles. Then the white winding-sheet, her marriage garment, is draped over her head and about her body. Her mouth is filled with sweetmeats and sugar dust is sprinkled over her head, the performer rubbing together two pieces of sugar. To ensure the bride's good fortune a female relative passes several times through the sheet a thread composed of seven strands, each of a different colour.

While this is going on, drugs are thrown into flames, and the room is filled with aromatic fumes which produce a kind of sensuous dreaminess in the occupant.

The ritual in the men's rooms is begun by the priest taking up his position and, in a loud voice, asking the bridegroom: "Do you authorise me to act as your agent?"

The bridegroom assenting, the priest asks, "Who is agent for the bride?" The answer having been given by some one deputed to do so, the marriage contract is then read aloud three times. The bride's agent

A Persian lady in walking dress

A Persian lady in walking dress. Persia retains many curious old customs, those connected with betrothal and marriage being peculiarly strange and interesting Photo, Underwood then goes to the door of the women's apartments, and, saying that he has come to hear the bride's consent to the marriage, awaits her answer, given by her with much apparent reluctance and after long persuasion. She says at last three times: "I agree, I agree, I agree." The agent returns to the priest, carrying the assurance of the bride's consent, and this concludes the ceremony.

A curious scene then takes place. The bridegroom is conducted to the women's apartment, and the bride rises to receive him, her head closely wrapped in the

A Persian wedding procession

A Persian wedding procession. Elaborate rites and ceremonies are observed in Persia, and the time that elapses from the beginning until the end of the wedding ceremony is often very considerable photo, I olak sheet. He places his hand on her head, as a token of protection during their life together, and then comes a little struggle for pre-eminence in home rule. She tries to put her foot on his, while he endeavours to avoid it and put his foot on hers.

Then her head and face are uncovered as she sits opposite the mirror, and in it for the first time (as it is supposed) he sees her face. She has to be persuaded into unveiling by the present of a ring. Then follows a period, sometimes stretching into weeks, during which the couple do not meet. Too much ardour is regarded as bad form in a Persian lover.

Meanwhile the bride's hands and feet are stained, and her back is shaved, since a curious belief prevails in Persia that on a woman's back there is one hair of the Angel of Death which, if allowed to remain, would bring ill-luck to the new family.

In the evening the bridegroom's friends go in procession, with lamps, candles, and fireworks, to the bride's home, and there partake of refreshments. The bridegroom's father presents the marriage deed, in beautifully illuminated script, to the bride's father. He carries it away to show it to his wife. Then the procession returns, taking with it the bride. She carries with her bread, salt, and cheese in a napkin, and rides on a mule with gay trappings and many bells, preceded by a man carrying a mirror.

To avert the evil eye, five sheep are slaughtered, and the procession passes between their severed heads and carcasses.

As the procession arrives near the bridegroom's house, the bride halts, and the women about her cry out that she will not move until the bridegroom appears. This he promptly does, and both are led into the house and to a room where each washes the great toes of the other. He gives her a present before she will show him her face, and another before she will speak to him.