I never spent a lot of time planning or thinking about my wedding before getting engaged. Some women do, some women don’t. I totally didn’t. When I started dating and then got engaged to a Persian-Canadian, I was suddenly confronted with the challenge of planning a wedding from another province and challenged to navigate unfamiliar wedding customs from another culture (my idea, not his) I felt overwhelmed with everything except the dress. It was the first major wedding purchase and I tried on at least one hundred dresses in Calgary and Vancouver. When it came to the planning part I flirted with the idea of hiring a full wedding planner but decided against it when I was informed of the price tag. I decided to go it alone and use the much more budget friendly services wedding day co-ordinator (oh, hindsight). Our wedding day co-ordinator and her assistant were amazing. Total life savers. They allowed me to float around in my beautiful silk dress that I will ever only wear once and be totally oblivious to any of the details or issues that came up. Were there any issues? I have no idea because they took care of everything.
I spent a lot of time looking online for a guide that would explain to me, the Canadian bride who had never been to an Iranian wedding before, the ins and outs of what I would need and where to get it. There seemed to be a lot more resources for Persian weddings in Houston and Los Angeles but not in Vancouver where I needed them. Vancouver is home to about 30,000 (Wikipedia) Iranians but there wasn’t a go-to place for wedding resources. The conclusion I came to is if you are Persian and getting married in Vancouver, you consult other Persians. It’s word of mouth and you’ve got to be in the know. I was not in the know. The best resource I discovered was actually a Persian-Canadian woman, the daughter of a florist who does flowers for weddings and sofre-ye-aghd, a low table covered with flowers and many,many different things that all have their own significance and must be displayed. The idea of a one-stop shop for all of my flower and sofre-ye-aghd needs seemed perfect until I had sticker shock: $1500 just for the sofre-ye-aghd alone. It should be obvious by now that I was concerned with the budget and that I didn’t have unlimited funds for the wedding. So again, for better or worse, I decided to say no to connivence and say yes to doing it myself. The biggest aide to being able to pull this off was my husband. He helped with the sofre-ye-aghd by picking up a lot of the components of the table (mirror, candlesticks, boxes and fabric) when he was in Iran last year and bringing them back to Canada.
Here is the full list of sofre-ye-aghd items (in Farsi and English)and their meanings:
Aayeneh-ye-Bakht/Mirror: Symbol of light and purity in the couple’s life.
Sham-ha/Candles: Symbols of fire, warmness and positive energy.
Gol-ha/Flowers: Symbolize purity.
Meeveh/Fruit: Represent the creation of humans by God.
Naan-e-Sangak/Bread: Represent prosperity.
Baklava: Represent sweetness and happiness in the life of the couple.
Tokhm-e-Morgh/Eggs: Symbols of fertility.
Gerdou-ha/Walnuts: Represent long life for the couple as a walnut tree lives a long life.
Badam-ha/Almonds: The wish of grandchildren for the couple.
Quran: Represents the holiness of marriage and of God’s blessing.
Aab/Water: The symbol of life and to give clarity to the couple.
Khaleh Ghand/Two sugar cones: The sugar cones are ground over the couples heads symbolizing sweetness and happiness.
Asal/Honey: A cup of honey represents the sweetening of the newlywed’s life together. The honey is used at the end of the ceremony when the bride and groom dip their pinky fingers in it and feed it to one another.
Esphand/Incense: To ward away evil and bring health.
Sekkeh-ha/Coins: Symbolize a future of wealth and prosperity for the couple.
Halgheh-ha/Wedding Rings: The circle was the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end, in many ancient cultures.
Parandeha/Birds: Some birds mate for life represent the choice the couple is making.
We spent a lot of time discussing having Iranian food at the wedding but our venue did not allow outside food and provided us with a lot of different menu options. The helpful daughter of the florist tipped me off to a supposedly infamous Persian wedding officiant. Supposedly infamous because I gather that he is the must-have officiant for Persian weddings in Vancouver. The only downside to using him (and paying him an exorbitant non-negotiable fee plus other requests) was that he is not recognized by the government to actually perform legal marriage ceremonies so we also had to hire a legitimate wedding commissioner to perform a short ceremony AFTER the Persian one… Using him was also a challenge because he refused to attend the rehearsal and failed to tell me or the wedding day co-ordinator that near the ceremony he would just get up and leave. The getting up and leaving is apparently totally normal but if you don’t know to expect it, it’s a shock. Although he was difficult to deal with before the ceremony, a lot of people commented at dinner that they thought he was funny and did a really great job which kind of took the edge off how he was before the wedding.
Music is really important to my husband. He loves to dance. He is a dancing machine. Me, on the hand, not so much. It is my observation that most Iranians also really love to dance. So, with this is mind, and understanding that the key to a good wedding is music, I decided that we would hire a Persian-Canadian DJ. I don’t know what it’s like to plan a wedding without integrating another culture so I’m not sure what the process is like for finding and hiring a DJ other than what I’ve seen in the movies. My method for selecting a DJ was to comb through the glitzy Canadian wedding magazine WedLuxe for Persian weddings and then scour the detail sections looking for DJs that were used repeatedly. This to me was the best indicator if they were ok, good or great. We had an amazing DJ that meshed Persian and western music seamlessly.
The whole planning experience was really stressful. It was the most stressful event that I have ever planned in my life. I don’t think that it had to be so hard but I didn’t realize that I could have made it a lot easier for myself by travelling back to Vancouver more often during the planning process (I would have also given myself a prescription for nightly glasses of red wine). I now know what to ask, when to ask it, why it’s important to ask and what to do if you aren’t given the information you need and/or want. Since I plan on only getting married once, this information is now trapped (burned!) forever inside my head and on this page to try and help another a bride marrying a Persian-Canadian. I am totally open to helping others who are now in my shoes because it would mean a little less anxiety for someone else.
Our wedding was the perfect mix of Persian culture and music and Canadian food, wine, culture and geography. It was the best day of my life.
Wedding dress – Romona Keveza
Bridesmaids dresses – J.Crew
Earrings – Kate Spade
Wedding dress belt – Olivia Headpieces
Hair and makeup – Emily Cheng
Flowers – Flower Factory
Venue – Cecil Green Park House, University of British Columbia
Wedding Day Co-ordinator: Alicia Keats Weddings & Events
Photographer: Blue Olive Photography