Persia/Chapter 26

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Persia, Part 4 by Frederic Shoberl
Chapter IV.—Marriage,

CHAPTER IV.

MARRIAGE.

The mode of matrimonial courtships in Persia, does not allow the eyes of the parties to direct their choice till they are mutually pledged to each other. An elderly female is employed by the relations of the youth to visit the object selected by his parents or friends, or guessed at by himself; and her office is to ascertain the damsel's personal endowments, and all other subjects suitable to their views in the connexion. If the report be favourable, the friends of the proposed bridegroom despatch certain sponsors to explain his merits and pretensions to the relations of the lady, and to make the offer of marriage in due form. If accepted, the heads of the two families meet, when the necessary contracts are drawn up; the presents, ornaments, and other advantages proposed by the bridegroom's parents, discussed and arranged; and when all is finally settled, the papers are sealed and witnessed before the Cadi.

On the morning of the day fixed for the wedding, the lover sends a train of mules laden with the promised gifts for his bride, to the house of her parents; the whole being attended by numerous servants, and preceded by music and drums. Besides the presents for the lady, the procession carries all sorts of costly viands on large silver trays, ready prepared to be immediately spread before the inmates of the house. The whole of the day is spent in feasting and jollity: towards evening, the damsel makes her appearance enveloped in a long veil of scarlet or crimson silk, and being placed on a horse or mule splendidly caparisoned, is conducted to the habitation of her affianced husband by all her relations, marching in regular order to the sound of the same clamorous band which had escorted the presents. When alighted at the bridegroom's door, the lady is led to her future apartments within the house, accompanied by her female relations and waiting-maids. Her friends of the other sex meanwhile repair to those of the bridegroom, where all the male relations on both sides being assembled, the feasting and rejoicing recommences; with the drums and other musical instruments still playing the most conspicuous part. When the supper-feast is over, the blushing bride is conducted to the nuptial chamber, and there the impatient lover first beholds his love, and the marriage is consummated without farther ceremony. The bridegroom, not long after, returns to his party, and an ancient matron in waiting leads the lady back to her female friends. A prescribed time is allowed for both sets of relations to congratulate the young people on their union, after which they repair to the bridal chamber for the night, leaving their separate companies to keep up the revelry, which generally lasts for three days.

The marriage contract stipulates the settlement on the bride, of such jointure as may be agreed upon. It consists of a sum of money, proportionate to the fortune of the bridegroom, and other presents. If he is in middling circumstances, he presents her with two complete dresses, a ring, and a mirror. This jointure, called mihir or kavin, is destined for the support of the wife in case of divorce. The husband also supplies the requisite furniture, carpets, mats, culinary utensils, and other necessaries.

It would be deemed the greatest possible disgrace, to take back the bride after she has left her own home to go to the house of the bridegroom. When, therefore, the latter has promised a jointure beyond his means, a curious scene sometimes ensues. He shuts his door against the cavalcade, and declares that he will not have the girl unless the jointure be reduced to a certain sum. A negotiation takes place between the parties, and the matter is finally adjusted according to the wishes of the bridegroom.