The Sofreh Aghd is a traditional wedding ceremony that is still alive and loved by guests who get a chance to be invited to a Persian wedding. This ceremony is followed in over 95% of Persian weddings regardless how modern the couples are.
If you are not Iranian or have never attended or planned an Iranian wedding ceremony, you may not be familiar with "Sofreh Aghd". In Farsi the word "sofreh" means 'spread' and "aghd" means 'ceremony'. This ceremonial tradition has been practiced for thousands of years by Iranian families around the world to celebrate their culture and heritage.
There are many symbolic items which make up the Sofreh Aghd spread such as a mirror, honey, spices, sugar canes and more. Here is a simple diagram of the main components of Sofreh Aghd:
Let's look closer at the elements of Sofreh Aghd and the symbols they represent for the couple’s new and happy life together.
A Mirror (Ayneye-Bakht): A mirror is a symbol of purity, light and brightness. The first thing which the Groom sees in the mirror during the Sofreh Aghd ceremony is the reflection of his wife after she removes her veil. It represents bringing light and brightness into the future of the married couple.
Two Candelabras (Shamdan): The candelabras are placed next to the mirror and symbolize energy and clarity in the couple’s life together.
Traditional Persian Embroidered Cloth (Termeh): A traditional Persian silk or embroidered cloth handed down from generation to generation is part of the Sofreh Aghd and symbolises family and traditions.
The Holy Book (depending on the Couple’s religion): A symbol of God’s blessing for the couple.
Spice Tray (Sini-Ye Aatel-O-Baatel): A tray of seven herbs and spices to guard the couple against the evil eye.
Decorated Persian Flatbread (Naan Sangak): A decorative display of flatbread symbolises prosperity for the feast and the couple’s life together. It can be accompanied with feta cheese and fresh herbs.
Decorated Eggs, Walnuts, Almonds and Hazelnuts: A symbol of fruitfulness, fertility and abundance. It is the hope to have a marriage as strong as the shells of these nuts.
Rock candy (Shakheh Nabat): This symbolizes a sweetened life for the newlyweds.
Honey (Asal): This represents sweetness in the couple’s life.
Two Sugar Cones (Kalleh Ghand): This is to shower the couple with sugar symbolizing sweetness and happiness for a good life together.
Wild Rue (Espand): It is a herb which is burned as part of a ritual for purification. It is believed to keep away the evil eye and bring good health.
Sweets and Pastries (Shirini): This is for the sweetness of life.
Sugar Cloth (Tureh Ghand): A piece of fabric, made of silk or other fine fabric, to be held over the Bride and Groom’s heads throughout the ceremony by happily married female relatives and friends.
Traditionally, the Sofreh Aghd was set on the floor over a ceremonial cloth made of fine and fancy fabric, and it used to take place only at the house of the Mother of the Bride. Nowadays, the modern version of Sofreh Aghd is to display it on a table with a unique style and design selected by the couple reflecting their personality and likings.
The direction of the Sofreh Aghd is set towards sunlight, therefore the Bride and Groom face the light during the ceremony. One of the precious moments during the ceremony is the entrance of the Bride walking down the aisle with her face covered by a light veil until she says YES. Only then the Groom lifts the veil and reveals his wife's face to the guests.
The ceremony usually takes 45 to 60 minutes and is led by a person who plays a celebrant role. It can be a Moula (a religious man) or a close and respected old family member. It is a tradition until today that gifts from close family and friends, which are either gold or money, are presented to the Couple directly after the Sofreh Aghd ceremony. Other guests who brought gifts to give to the newly wed couple can present them anytime during the wedding reception that follows the ceremony.
So much more to be shared about this wonderful wedding tradition in Iranian culture, but the best way is to witness it with your own eyes. Do not miss a chance to see the Sofreh Aghd ceremony and experience this wonderful culture if and when the opportunity arises.