The weddings so far...
63. History, Henna, Nature and Nuptials in Turkey.
21st – 23rd November 2014
The Turkish wedding was all about the build up for the big day, rather than the ceremony itself and as beautiful as it was, it was a great reminder that life, and marriage is about the journey, not just the moment that you say ‘I Do’.
The preparations were such an adventure filled with lessons about the rich culture that Turkey has and Sebnem, our Turkish wedding planner, made our time in Gocek so memorable. She is such an adorable person with the kindest nature you could ever imagine. She invited the whole team along to a special museum so that we could learn more about the culture and traditions of this particular area in Turkey. Being such a large country it holds so many different cultures but we had time to learn a little about only one of them.
The museum visit involved a bit of a journey and what could have been a simple outing turned into an epic adventure. We drove in Peggy to a small village which is nestled under the most incredible cliff face holding several ornate Lycian rock tombs. The tombs date back to the 2nd to the 4th century and are a breath taking sight. The decorative carvings mark the entrances to the burial chambers for the Royalty of that era. Behind the columns flanking the entrances, are the main chambers where the Kings and Queens were buried with their possessions. The gold and expensive items that were meant to accompany the dead into the afterlife have long been looted and due to their cliff-face location they are unsafe to visit, but they are no less impressive to view from the ground. We parked up and jumped on our next mode of transport, a small hand paddled canoe to cross the river that separates the village from the tombs. Michael and Amandine looked a little wary and Michael and Rico balanced their cameras carefully as we disembarked to find a tractor waiting to take us on the next leg of the journey.
There is only one taxi on the small island (the only car) so the tractor with a trailer and a few plastic crates upturned to sit on was the only way to get across the island to the museum. As we trundled along on our bumpy way it started to drizzle and the sky turned a foreboding grey, clouds rolling in as if in a race. We bumped along past more impressively carved tombs, fields of crops, a herd of cows and finally arrived at our destination.
The Nomad museum is a private collection of one lovely man, Mehmet Varol. Over the years he has unearthed pieces from hundreds of years ago, from tapestries to carpets to kitchenware to wedding clothing, all in the name of preserving his history and educating others. He was kind enough to show us around and even said we could try on the original traditional wedding clothing he had.
Mehmet helped us into the clothes and he was so touched by our story and the fact that we would visit his museum that he had a tear or two of pride as he clutched my arm and walked me over to Alex in the fashion of giving me away. He helped Alex try on several hats much to everyone’s amusement as Alex has rather a large head and he told us stories (with Sebnem translating for us) about his family and how they came to live there. He told us how he had taught himself to read and write and was now writing the story of his life. He was happy that we were now a part of his life story and would therefore be in his book. I can’t begin to tell you how emotional that made me!
By the time we had changed again and it was time to leave, the rain had really started to come down. The dirt tracks turned into rivers and the temperature dropped alarmingly. Lightning struck and thunder crashed and our tractor was no-where to be seen. We decided to sit it out with Mehmet and he made us tea to keep us warm, we raided his garden and picked Satsuma’s, grapefruit as large as Alex’s head and chili’s as shiny and green as emeralds.
We all shivered and huddled together trying to keep dry. The museum is part of Mehmets home, which is all open apart from the roof. The rain was so heavy we were getting wet from the ground up. The rain bounced on the dirt and splashed back up our legs. After waiting an hour we decided it wasn’t stopping and we needed to bite the bullet. We called the taxi and all 7 of us squeezed inside. We said sad goodbyes to Mehmet, and Myself, Alex, Sebnem, Christoph, Rico, Michael and Amandine like soggy sardines in the world’s oldest car, bumped and splashed our way back to the canoe. The rain showed no sign of slowing and by the time we got back to Peggy we were soaked to the bone and looked forward to our next stop which was a visit to the Hamam.
Traditionally, the night before the wedding the bride and groom (separately) visit the hamam. The beautiful old bath houses have domed ceilings which drip with liquefied steam continuously. There are taps placed all around the walls which forever gush with water and the echoes make the sounds almost musical. Most domes have small pieces of coloured glass in them which let in shafts of pretty light in the daytime and twinkle like stars in the night.
The warm steamy room was so welcoming after being so cold and damp all day. We changed into our swimming costumes and stepped inside to be greeted by two strapping young men who would perform the hamam for us.
They are trained in the art of getting you cleaner than you have ever been in your life. First, as you lay on the tiled surface in the bath house, they scrub you from head to toe with a rough mitten leaving you feeling a little raw but definitely invigorated. Next they fill what looks like a pillow case with air by swinging it around their heads and then they squeeze it over you and masses of bubbles pour out of it like magic. They cover you in the silky, sweet smelling fluff and leave you there to enjoy the warmth for a while before they come back and rub you ALL over, lathering up the soap all the more. Not a bit of you is missed and although maybe feeling a little too intimate at times it is quite an experience.
Once you have been lathered into a frenzy and are as slippery as the slipperiest soap in the world, you then have to move to the taps, which are across the wet, soapy tiled floor without slipping and killing yourself. Here you sit while your personal washer quite literally throws buckets of water over your head to rinse you. Timing your breathing is imperative at this stage as there is only a small window of opportunity to suck in some precious air in-between buckets. Just when you think you might drown they finish you off with a token bucket of icy water which reminds you, after the initial shock, to breathe again. THEN, they made us look like we were auditioning for Scrubs to dry off!
The whole experience was surprisingly and uniquely enjoyable, it seems to take you through all of the feelings, from relaxed to panicked to invigorated. The beautiful candle lit surroundings made it feel like we had stepped back in time and we left feeling exhausted and incredibly clean!
After probably the best night’s sleep of our lives we did some filming with Michael and everyone came over late that afternoon to prepare me for the next part of the wedding preparations, the henna ritual.
The henna night, or” Kina Gecesi” (kuh-NAH GE-je-see) takes place the night before the wedding. Normally the bride’s closest friends and female family members gather to eat, dance, and sing. They put henna on their hands and the stains it leaves on their hands for weeks afterwards tell everyone that they are a new bride, or have been to a close friend or family-member’s wedding. Traditionally, and still for many brides, it is a melancholic evening. The following day, the bride will leave her father’s house, where she has lived all her life, to live in her new husband’s house.
As our situation is a little different we were to celebrate the henna ritual together. I got to wear an amazing red outfit and a beautiful tiara for the party! The celebration was lively and great fun, we went to a traditional restaurant and we were seated in front of the fire pit, everyone gathered around us and the henna was bought over to us with candles and sparklers in it. Everyone danced around us with the henna leading the parade and then one of the ladies placed a lump of the henna into our palms and placed fabric roses over it. Everyone around us cheered and danced and clapped and pinned money to me and wished us well as we just stood there with face splitting smiles enjoying the laughter and the dancing. The tradition of pinning gold coins to the bride, which can be bought with loops on from jewellery stores, has evolved with the times and paper money is a lot easier to attach! Alex fastened a string of gold coins around my neck to represent the traditional gift.
A long table was made up for us and it was time to eat. The table was full of people and we were busy chatting away with them thinking they were friends of Sebnems and it turned out that they were just visiting the restaurant that night with their families and that they wanted to celebrate with us so had joined our table! The food was fantastic and we drank lots and lots of Efes beer. We danced and ate and danced and drank, it was such a lovely night and I was sad that it had to come to an end BUT we had a wedding to get to the next day and needed our beauty sleep after a busy few days.
The day of the wedding was upon us and the rain still lingered. Poor Michael and Amandine had come all the way from France and had not yet seen the sun shine in Turkey.
We waited to receive a text message from Sebnem to say that the bad weather was going to hold off for long enough to hold the ceremony and we gathered up our things and set off to Dalyan, the village with the tombs.
We stopped for hair and make-up at Kuafor Sultan Musa and changed into my Charlotte Balbier gown and then went to the local park. Sebnem had arranged for us to plant a tree there on the day of our wedding. Such a beautiful, thoughtful gesture and a place that we can one day return to and remember our special day. We dug the hole and threw in some coins we had collected on our journey from countries as far as Africa and Peru (in the hope that it may grow us a fortune) and then carefully placed our Fincus Bejamin and buried his roots.
We arrived at the water’s edge beneath the tombs and were welcomed aboard a fantastic little boat by the Lemon Lounge and sailed right up to the tombs. The view is just spectacular even beneath the milky grey skies. We climbed up onto the roof of the boat where Sebnem held a small ceremony for us, the rain held off just long enough and as we said “I do” for the 63rd time we felt the first huge drops as we kissed.
We went back below and watched the heavens open. The rain danced on the glossy water beneath us as we sailed along the banks. We had planned to go out for the afternoon on the boat but the rain was just too heavy. We sat happily watching the weather snuggled up to each other for warmth…and, of course, because we are just so damn happy!
We finished the afternoon and evening lazily watching the storm continue to brew over our beautiful apartment. We are often asked about the romance of our wedding nights and how we celebrate each ceremony, that evening is one we often talk about.
We believe that your wedding night is yours to celebrate exactly the way you wish, as is your wedding day…but just to be close together, snuggled under a blanket keeping warm and watching the weather by candle light is so romantic and the perfect way to end a wonderful wedding week!
As always, our wedding in Turkey would have not been possible without the help and support of many local and international vendors. All of the images are by Rico and the incredible video below by Michael, I’m sure you will agree we had a very talented bunch on board for this wedding!
Sebnem can arrange accommodations and official weddings in Turkey as a destination location and has fantastic connections all over the country. I cannot recommend a person more than I recommend Sebnem. A truly gentle soul who just wants to spread happiness, love and joy…whatever it takes!
Planning – Marriage in Turkey | Photography -Rico Troost | Videography -MickaFilms | Dress – Charlotte Balbier | Accommodation – Vacation Rentals Turkey | Hair and Make-up -Kuafor Sultan Musa | River Cruise – Lemon Lounge | Refreshments – Efes Beer |