Like many other Iranian occasions, the Persian wedding ceremony is one with deep ties to the ancient Zoroastrian culture. The wedding occurs in two stages; the first part being the “Aghd” ceremony, which is the legal process of getting married, followed by the “Jashn-e-Aroosi”or reception.
Traditionally, the “Aghd” takes place in a beautifully decorated room in the bride’s family home or other venue in front of a “Sofreh Aghd,” which is an exquisite spread laid out on the floor, or a short table or stage containing many symbolic items.
Traditionally, the Sofreh has elegant fabrics such as silk and “Termeh” (a rich hand embroidered fabric originally made with cashmere). There are several significant items which are found in almost all Sofrehs for their symbolic meaning. These items include:
Mirror & Candelabras: A mirror called “Aayeneh-ye-Bakht” or the mirror of fate and two candelabras on either side of the mirror. These items are symbols for light and fire; two crucial elements in the Zoroastrian culture. Usually bought by the groom’s parents as a gift and displayed in the newly wed’s home after the ceremony.
Holy Book: If the couple is religious, they will also have an opened Quran in the center of the spread. A prayer carpet is also placed in the center of the Sofreh to remind the couple of the importance of prayer in good times as well as hardships.
Nuts and Eggs: A tray or dishes of decorated shelled walnuts, almonds and decorated eggs are used to symbolize fertility.
Gold Coins: A bowl of gold coins is used to symbolize a future of wealth for the couple.
Colored Seeds: A tray containing colored “Esfand” which are seeds from an ancient plant areplaced on the spread to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye. Traditionally the original brown color was used; nowadays colored Esfand is used based on the wedding theme.
Pastries: An assortment of sweets symbolizes a sweet life for the newlyweds. These usually include “Noghl” which is sugar coated sliced almonds, “Baghlava,” a sweet flaky Persian pastry and other traditional Persian cookies. The pastries are then shared with the guests after the Aghd ceremony.
Bread: “Naneh-e-Sangak or “Lavash”” which are baked flat-bread is decorated and placed on the Sofreh to symbolize prosperity for the couple’s life thereafter. It is common to see feta cheese and herbs with the bread decorated nicely.
Fruit: A basket of heavenly fruits such as pomegranates and apples are used to symbolize the divine creation of mankind. Some use grapes as well.
Rose Water: A cup of rose water called “Gol-ab” is also on the spread to perfume the air during the ceremony.
Silk: A silk veil-like piece of fabric is held over the couples’ heads by their female relatives throughout the Aghd ceremony for the sugar that is grinned over their heads won’t spill on them.
Sugar Cones: Two whole sugar cones called “Khaleh Ghand” are used during the ceremony. The cones are grinned together over the silk fabric over the bride and
grooms heads throughout the ceremony by close female friends and family members; further symbolizing sweetness and happiness.
Honey: A cup of honey to sweeten the life of the couple. This honey is used in the ceremony when the bride and groom dip their pinky fingers in it and feed it to one another.
In addition to all the items listed, Sofreh is lavishly decorated with fresh flower arrangements that match the wedding’s theme and color.