The Wedding Rites
The Chechen word for “wedding” is translated as “play.” Wedding stands for a succession of live shows, singing, dancing, muiscal and pantomime numbers.
Music is played when relatives, friends and other villagers go after the bride and when the bride is shown into her new home. This stage of the wedding celebration seems the right time for a bit of fun. The bride’s relatives throw a sheepskin cape on the ground or tie a rope across the street to show the people who are leading the girl to her new home that they will go no farther unless they pay ransom money.
More games will be played when the bride has made it for the bridegroom’s place. A felt rug and a broom are left to lie on the threshold. The bride can either walk right in or stop to put the two things in the right place. If the bride restores order, she is a clever girl; if she ignores the two misplaced things, her would-be husband has had a stroke of bad luck. The dolled-up bride is seated by the window where guesta of nonor are supposed to sit. That part of the room is decorated with a special wedding curtain. The girl is offered to hold someone’s firstborn son (she will hopefully give birth to many boys.) The bride hugs the baby and gives him a present.
Guests give various things to the newlyweds. Women give them bolts of cloth, small rugs, candy, money. Men bring either money or sheep. They make a point of giving their presents directly to the newlyweds. And then, everyone is invited to partake of a sumptuous meal.
The meal over, it is time for a new performance. The guests ask the bride to give them a drink of water. All of them talk without stopping, crack jokes, discuss the bride’s looks, but the bride should keep her mouth shut because verbosity is a sign of empty headedness and immodesty. The bride can only offer the guests a drink of water and wish them all good health.
Another performance is timed to the third day of the wedding festival. Musical instruments are played when dancing guests lead the bride to the river. Cornmeal pancakes are thrown into the water, to be shot at, after which the bride draws some water from the river and goes home. The observance of this old custom is supposed to protect the young woman from the spirit of the river: the water sprite who wanted to get a pancake rose to the surface, and the wedding guests shot him down dead, which makes the river a safe place to visit.
It is usually in the evening of the third day of the wedding festival that a man empowered to act for the bride’s father and the bridegroom go to the register office. It is usually the mullah who gives, on behalf of the girl’s father, consent to the marriage, and next day the bride becomes the young lady of the house.
A very old Chechen custom forbids the bridegroom to appear at his own wedding. He plays no role in the wedding ceremonies and whiles away time in the company of his friends.