I never thought I would get married in Turkey, and I never thought Turkey would be a great place to get married.  When people fantasize about an exotic wedding, they imagine Tuscany, Nice, Cancun, the Caribbean; a place that mixes palm trees, scenic beaches, and local clubs holding all-night parties to the AM hours.  Who would ever think that would exist in a “Muslim country”?  It is a label which make me cringe more and more each day.

When I told people that I would be eloping in Turkey, it didn’t exactly conjure up romantic mental pictures, with all the stereotypes from mainstream media staining our conscience.  When referencing Turkey, TV shows, books, and newspapers typically utilize pictures of Turkish village women wearing handkerchief hijabs, male farmers tending to their goats in the hilltops, or a traditional postcard vision of Istanbul with minarets set in front a foggy sunset.  Although Turkey can include these visuals, there is a world to discover which surpasses the basic repeated imagery we see in such images.  Ones filled with turquoise beaches, lanky palm trees, and 19th Century style European architecture as a backdrop.  It’s the city of Izmir, and it’s the city I chose to have my wedding in.

Turkish weddings are some of the most fun and beautiful weddings to attend.  They consist of great food and dancing, and if you’re lucky, the family will hold an additional henna night celebration prior to the wedding ceremony, akin to Indian weddings where henna is placed on the hands of attendees.  Unlike the decorative and ornate Indian henna styles however, the Turkish tradition of henna is simply placing a layer of the mud on the palm of your hand, wrapping it with a clothe leaving it to stain.  For the next week or so, your hand will be marked with an orange circle, proving you as a witness to the marriage. Combine those customs with that of the Greek customs (because I am Greek-American), and you have a wedding fatter than anything you’ve seen.

When marrying a Turkish bride or groom, count on the family going all out with the festivities.  I take my wedding as an example.  My wife and I held a beautiful Aegean-style celebration off the coast of the Bay of Izmir.  The ceremony took place within a large garden, with a candlelit pool providing the romantic mood of the evening.  With guests from across the world attending, we did our best to impress.  The dinner was top-notch, offering a beautiful salad, hot and cold mezes (appetizers), and delicious dinner served with wine and Turkish raki (traditional alcohol).  It was then topped off with a delectable wedding cake that tasted absolutely amazing.  In fact, it was the only thing I did remember eating.  People who attended also told us afterwards how amazing the cake was.

The reception kicked into high gear with a 6-person orchestra playing classic Greek and Turkish songs.  The parallels of cultural dances were impressive:

-Tsifteteli and Çifteteli (Aegean-Arabesque dancing)

-Halay and Sirto (circle dancing)

-Greek Zeybekiko and Turkish Zeybek (traditional male dance)

Experiencing these two cultures celebrating together really was a joyous occasion, which united two families from opposite sides of the Aegean Sea.  The interesting aspect of it all was that my wife and I discovered our wedding hall because of an American-Turkish wedding.  The mix of cultures eloping seems to be an on-going theme.

Now, the biggest surprise was the cost of the entire event.  I unfortunately can’t give numbers, however, I do recommend to anyone who is interested in holding such a wedding to have it in Izmir.  You won’t be disappointed.

posts by Valantis