CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 1 ‘Kına Gecesi’ or Henna Night

Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The family is slightly crazy and everyone has an opinion about how and what should be done for a wedding. Turks and Greeks are very different, I know, but here in Izmir, they share some of the same history. So naturally, I thought there could be some characteristics matching the quirkiness of that movie!

This month we went to our first Turkish wedding.  While the huge family part was there, I didn’t experience any of the craziness I thought our first wedding would entail. All the details were, for the most part, well planned and went off without a hitch (except forgetting the bride’s going away dress I think)….

It was sweet and beautiful, and everyone had a great time!

There are 3 major parts to the Turkish wedding, 5 parts if you want to count the marriage agreement and the engagement ceremony. Our friends were already engaged when we met them. Therefore, we will start our wedding series with the Kına Gecesi or as I say in English, the Henna Night.

Traditionally, this event takes place the night before the wedding and was only for the ladies, a bachelorette party per say… but with your whole family (not American style). This ceremony is a time to celebrate the bride and saying goodbye to her family. During this time she is the center of her family, and she moves on to be the wife of her groom and becomes the center of her groom’s family. The groom attends for a short time in the middle when the henna is placed on her hands (hence the henna night).

However, modern times call for modern changes. Our friends’ Kına Gecesi had a mixed crowd (guys and gals, young and old). I’m sure there are different reasons for each family as to how they perform the ceremony and what everything means.

Shortly after we arrived to the hotel where the party was taking place, the bride and groom were announced together and the dancing started! It was a lively, joyful scene that continued for an hour or so. Guests came and went from the dance floor, and so did we.

About halfway through the evening, the bride changed from her modern red dress into a traditional Ottoman style red dress for the ceremony. The bride and her ladies (all adorned with a scarf or head piece and candles) come out and danced for the groom. The henna is brought by a lady in the groom’s family (one whose parents have not been separated) and presented in a silver dish surrounded by candles. The lady will place the henna on the both the bride’s hand along with a coin, fold her hands closed, and wrap them in red decorative bags. It is known as the blessing of happiness or “basi bütün” (not a literal translation). Are you curious about why henna was used in the ceremony?  Henna’s red color symbolizes sacrifice and a readiness to give your life and blood for God (or one another in this instant).  Other guests can place henna on their hands as well if they want, which I was told is a way for others to remember to pray for the couple’s marriage. The bride will then dance with her groom and others will follow suit.


The party went well into the night which is very typical of any Turkish gathering. Dancing, singing, and chatting are 3 great pastimes in Turkey and a part of any good party. It was a great party and a fun way to start off the wedding festivities!

For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen in to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Kına Gecesi’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?