On this wedding's example, I'll tell you how do we usually celebrate marriages in Armenia.
In Armenia, a wedding ceremony is one of the happiest and traditional occasions for family gatherings, when relatives from all over the country and world come together and celebrate this important day with you :) Sometimes these relatives are just so far that when they come, and finally recognize you, they say that "I remember you when you were thiiiis young, and now you're getting married!" (pointing some very short height :D and with an excited expression - *almost crying*).
The recent years less and less customs are being kept and followed especially in Yerevan, and couples prefer to organize a small and modest wedding only for the closest ones and go to a honeymoon somewhere.. (this year the Egypt was the most popular destination for this). But if the couple can afford, they do both !
My cousin's husband's family decided to have a big wedding for 350 persons !
Arranging the hall, scheduling a day and time in a church,... and numerous other things that keep the marrying couple in stress until the day "X".
Speaking on the bride's family's side, the eve before the wedding day is a mess! decorating the table - canapes, candies, fruits; decorations of the house/apartment, including the stairs and the entrance. This time all of these were made with the help of the cousins and other close relatives.
the decorated table at the bride's
Morning - the female part of the guest list is running to and from the hairdressers', then the make-up and getting dressed.
In the afternoon, the close relatives gather at the bride's apartment, waiting for the groom and his family to arrive. The groom arrives with "tashi-tushi" - which is provided by a musical band a.k.a. "dasta" (Armenian live music with "dhol", clarinet, accordion).
a typical "dasta" on a wedding
The female part of the groom's relatives is dancing right in the yard, holding so called "sini" - decorated baskets with 1) fruits and cognac, 2) usually the bride's dress, shoes, bridal vail (in our case it was just the vail and shoes), 3) candies and sweets.
bride's female part looking out of the window when the groom arrives
The bride's female part is going out of the house hearing the music, having "gatas" and small presents in their hands ("Gata" is an Armenian pastry thing). They are joining the women dancing there with sinis and exchanging their presents to sinis. Gatas go to the women who dance (i got to know about it only that same day, when they handed me the gatas and sent downstairs with instructions :D) and presents to the ones with sinis.
me and my cousin with gatas and presents
Then they go upstairs altogether, females go to the bride's room and dress her up (in our case, she was dressed by the time they arrived).
An interesting tradition: when they go upstairs altogether, one of the kids from the bride's side has to "steal" a shoe out of the "sini" and give it to the grandmother in exchange of some money from her.
Then the godmother asks a young boy (preferably out of bride's siblings or cousins) to come and put on the shoes on the bride.
Then they take the veil and spin it above the bride's head for three times.
the veil tradition
Then they put it on and the women around say altogether "Shnorhavor lini" (Congratulations) on each of the action. Then the godmother takes out of the sini a perfume, opens it and splashes a bit around (not to mix it with the bride's fragrance which she already had put on herself).
Then it comes a time for the garter and a bride's brother again is called up :)
Then the godmother takes some candies from the sini and splashes on the women around (today's candies are heavy! and it's like a hail!).
After this small ceremony the groom who was meanwhile waiting for the bride to get ready...
And so they are ready :))))
my beauty cousinThen the couple drinks couple of cheers...
The bridesmaid (my sister), the bride, groom, the "best man" called "azab" or "azabashi"
...and goes downstairs again with the "dasta" playing the music.
Another interesting tradition: A young boy (brother or cousin) is standing in front of the door, closing the door with a sword. The godfather has to give him some money in order to be able to take the bride from the house!
By an old Armenian tradition, the bride's mother is not participating in any celebration. Instead, she is passing the dowry to the groom, going with her daughter to the door, kissing her goodbye and staying at home crying. What does she have to celebrate when they are taking her daughter away! nowadays this custom is not used, luckily :))
Some women dance again in the yard :))) (some have an excuse not to dance but to take pictures! :D)
Now it's very common to rent limousines for the weddings... some limousines just can get in/out of the yard because of their length :D luckily in this wedding we had a short one )))
So all the people are getting into the cars and following the wedding limousine in a long motorcade. Cars are decorated with ribbons so that they recognize each other and not lose the chain. Some cars even put some sings on the number plates like "Братва жениха" (groom's mates), but it's like showing off :)
During the soviet times it was common to decorate the car of newlyweds with a doll :) now it's maybe preserved in regions but not in Yerevan.
It was also common to go around the circle of the Republic Square in Yerevan for several times with loud signal alarms, getting everybody's attention. Now it's considered old-fashioned :)
To be continued...