Liz and James’s recent wedding a Pembroke College in Cambridge showed how wonderful a wedding venue it is. It also gave an insight into the unique Persian wedding traditions and what they mean for a couple’s big day. Having photographed a few Persian wedding I was familiar with some of the traditions.

I was recommended to Liz and James by two of the loveliest people I know and whose wedding I had the honour of shooting last year at St Paul’s Cathedral and Drapers Hall, Shaz and Alistair.

Liz,  James and I met up for a coffee to discuss the wedding and we were joined by Liz’s Mum who I remembered very well from Shaz and Alistair’s wedding and I was so pleased when they decided to book me.

The traditional Persian wedding is in two parts, though most couples celebrate them both on the same day. The first, the Aghd, is the legal marriage ceremony, while the second, the Jashn-e Aroos, is the reception celebration. While this is similar to many Western style weddings, there are differences within these two parts that are unique to the Persian tradition.

 

Dear Iain – the photos are amazing, we’re really happy with them. There are so many, and they tell the story of the day perfectly. Liz and James

The elements of a Persian wedding date back centuries, drawing on the Zoroastrian traditions. Before the wedding itself, the groom proposes and asks the bride’s family for her hand in marriage. As part of this, the groom gives the bride’s father a gift, known as a mahrieh. While this can occur before the wedding, many couples choose to incorporate the act of gift giving in the Aghd.

The Aghd is the legal ceremony, during which the couple are joined as husband and wife. This takes place on a special fabric sheet, called the Sofreh-ye Aghd or wedding spread. The fabric is set up facing east, with the couple sitting at the head of the spread. In front of them is a variety of objects with symbolic meaning. These may include gold coins, eggs, honey, herbs, spices, apples, rose water, candelabras, mirrors, incense, a holy book, thread, and a decorated flatbread.

During the Aghd, the married female family members hold another piece of fabric above the heads of the bride and groom. The groom is asked once if he wishes to marry the bride, while the bride is asked three times if she wishes to marry the groom.

Following the Aghd, the Aroosi is a lavish feast celebrating the newly married couple. It can last up to a week, and features an elaborate buffet style meal. This buffet will include foods, such as jewelled rice, that have symbolic value. Most of all, though, the reception is meant to be fun, with plenty of dancing and food.

I really would like to say thank you to Ken Smith, the Conference and Events Manager at Pembroke College. I drove up prior to the wedding to have a look around and Ken’s passion for the College is incredible. I really hope I have done his college justice in the photos.

Also a massive thanks to Chris Seals for helping on the day. I’ve known Chris for a long time but this was the first time we’d manage to work together and it was a pleasure having him along on the day.

Finally, to Liz and James. Thank you for trusting me with your wedding photos and for being so awesome on the day.

Here are some of the photos from the day.

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