CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 2 ‘Gelin Alma’ or Fetching of the Bride

People in America think weddings are a lot of work, and probably that their way is the best way to get married. Yes, yes, I will agree that there is a lot of planning for the American wedding, but it’s only one event!  But here in Turkey the weddings have way more too them.  I mean, I am writing a 3 part series about our first Turkish wedding!

I wrote about how the Turkish wedding starts with the Kına Gecesi or Henna night. But now I will move on the the actual day of the wedding. The morning of the wedding day, we met the groom for a Turkish wedding tradition that I had not heard about before, the Gelin Alma or Fetching of the Bride.

The morning of the wedding the groom goes to receive his bride from her family so that they can start preparing for the wedding. This is mostly for family and close friends. We were honored to be invited. For this particular ‘Gelin Alma,’ the groom’s family hired a drummer and, along with his band, he played music outside the groom’s house. After a while, we all packed up in the car and caravanned over to the bride’s house, honking horns and having our emergency lights on. Upon arriving, the dancing  started up again to let her family know we have arrived (because the car horns didn’t do enough…).

Eventually, the groom and his immediate family (mom, dad, and sister) went to get his bride. It tends to be a very emotional moment for the bride’s family, and it was, of course, true for this bride and her family as well. For many Turkish women, they do not move out of their family home until they are married.  To make the moment lighter, the brother of the bride will joke with the groom about why he is here and pretend to not let him into the house! But eventually the groom gets his bride. The bride’s brother also places a red ribbon around his sister waist as a symbol of the ‘Maidenhood belt’ and bride.


Everyone cheered as the groom exited the building with his bride (still crying!) and the dancing started up again (yes, on the street in the middle of a neighborhood). The bride’s tears were ones of sadness but also happiness! It made me tear up as well! I remember how excited I was to marry Jason, but also knowing it could be difficult too!

After sufficient celebration, no more tears are seen and only happiness is left. Everyone is ready for the wedding celebration! The groom gathers his bride’s items for the day and their honeymoon and are now ready to prepare for the wedding.

I LOVED this tradition. It was such a beautiful way to start off the day of celebration! It allows for a time of grieving, of leaving your childhood home and family, and a time to start the celebration and excitement of marrying your groom! In America, there is a tradition (not always followed now) that the bride and groom will not see each other until they are fully ‘wedding’ ready. Everyone thinks that first sight is the most important. But I loved when the groom goes to take his bride to prepare for their wedding together.

Don’t forget to read Part 1 of the wedding series! For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Gelin Alma’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

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



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?


WRITING: Summer Activities in Iowa

While we do live in Turkey, this Louisiana+Iowa couple still calls Iowa their home. (So sorry to all my Louisiana family and readers out there!) This is where Jason and I fell in love, got engaged, got married, and learned how to do married life together in our first little 90 meter duplex together in a small town of 3,000 people.

Fast forward 2.5 years, last summer in that same little duplex we were in the process of packing up our first home and determined to make the international move to Turkey together. It was stressful, sad, exciting, and all the rest of the feelings that come with transition! In the process (because we didn’t have enough to do!), I was also determined to see a few more sites in this beautiful state that I had come to love. Over at the The Coastie Couple I wrote a short post titled Summer Activities in Iowa

Here is the start of the article:

Being a Southern gal, I didn’t think there could be anything better than a windy road through a tall pine tree forest. But… after marrying my sweet Iowan man, I have found beauty in the square grid of roads lined with golden corn fields and blue skies that span for miles. I had a lot to learn about giving directions using N,S, E, and W, driving in the snowy winters, familiarizing myself with names of all the small towns, and discovering what to explore. 

Over the last 3 years we have definitely had our share of adventures including the World Food and Music Festival, Corks & Caps, Boone Scenic Railroad, the famous Iowa State Fair, and most recently the Pella Tulip Festival. But there is still a lot to see! Here are the 3 places I want to go this summer: Continue reading…


I actually only made it to 1 of the 3 activities mentioned. But I hope other America readers will take advantage of some of the fun summer activities Iowa has to offer. Click over here to read all the activities I wrote about on the blog post.

I would love to hear what activities you like to do in the summer month- no matter where you are located!

EVENTS: Urla Artichoke ‘Enginar’ Festival

In the states, chips and dip are a BIG deal… Chips and ANY type of dip are a big deal. Salsa, guacamole, cheese dip, french onion dip, veggie dips (both sweet and savory)…  Needless to say, we love our dips.

One of my favorite dips was artichoke and spinach dip and ironically enough, for a long time I couldn’t tell you what an artichoke even looked like. But if you mix veggies with the right amount of sour cream and cheese (and bake it) and you have me sold!  Outside of that dip and occasionally buying the cans artichokes for my salad toppings, I have never purchased an actual real uncut artichoke. And here in Turkey, they prepare and cook artichoke much differently.

Starting in April in Izmir, artichoke (enginar in Turkish) season is in full swing and starts to dwindle around the end of May. The markets and streets have vendors selling mountains of them. You can buy/sell them whole or ‘cleaned’, some with just the bottom part of the veggie and others with both bottom and the leaves.

A small nearby city, Urla, held its 3rd Artichoke Festival and yearly the masses come out for the 3 day event. So if you want to go, go early in the day because by 1 pm it is crowded. This quaint little town center is completely transformed into a sea of tents. The main area near the stage is mostly food while other nearby parking lots are taken over by local small businesses selling handmade goods.

If you aren’t sure about artichokes, this is the perfect place to go. Every vendor has found some new way to prepare them… savory, sweet, sushi (ok, i’m not actually sure they put it in the sushi), sandwiches, stuffed, casserole style, quesadilla style, dessert, and even a smoothie. You also have the option to buy other byproducts of artichokes like hand creams as well! While you wander around trying to decide what to eat and buy, you can watch vendors cleaning and selling artichokes behind their stands.

If you get tired of walking, stop and just enjoy the general cheerful ambience of the day. The festival has a list of programs throughout the 3 days such as cooking competition, classes, and children’s activities. They all can be enjoyed from the center of town, usually from the public stage. Everyone is in high spirits, locals sharing their hometown, and foreigners trying something new. And since the weather was perfect the day we went, everyone was even more joyful than usually.

Questions for our readers:

Do you like artichoke? How do you prepare it?

Would you go to an artichoke festival? What would you like to see at a festival like this?

HOLIDAY: Cinco de Mayo and Hıdırellez ?


Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) is an interesting holiday in the states. Technically, it is not an American holiday but it is now celebrated widely by eating at a Mexican restaurant while enjoying a margarita (which I am totally not opposed to!). In my high school Spanish class, we would celebrate by making food and celebrating the culture. Interestingly enough, it is not really celebrated in Spanish speaking countries!

Which brings me to the 5th of May here in Turkey…

At dinner the other night with some new Turkish friends, the husband shared a unique childhood memory he had of growing up in Izmir. His friends would all spend the evening of May 5th on the coast. They would light a fire in an old tire (where they got this, I have no idea…) and then take turn jumping over the fire making wishe. Interesting, huh?

Super intrigued, I started asking questions about it. Ultimately, I decided to research it more at home. Here is what I found.

What is Hıdırellez?

Hıdırellez celebrates the beginning of summer. Also called Ruz-ı Hızır (or ready day), it is said that on the day before summer starts, Khidr and Elijah meet on Earth and fulfill the wishes of others. In order to get your wishes fulfilled, it is traditional to jump over a fire.

  • So, who is Khidr?  From what I read, Khidr literally means ‘The Green One’ and he symbolizes freshness of spirit. Some say he was a person or a prophet while others say he was an angel. He is popular in Islamic lore as the people who found the fountain of life and now lives to give wisdom and guidance to those who call on his name.
  • And who is Elijah? Elijah was a prophet of God who was sent to ancient Israel and told them to repent of their sins and return to God. Elijah did not experience death, but instead God took him up to heaven at the end of his life. Most of what I know about him is from the Bible, but as Muslims, Jews, and Christians all share the same history, it is no surprise that he is also found in the Quran.
  • Sidenote: (From my knowledge, Khidr is not found in the Judaism nor the Bible and from the forums I read, he is mentioned only in Quran and the Hadiths.)
Photo credit to Hurriyet News

Where did it come from? Who celebrates it?

Everything I read was very unclear as to the start of this tradition and the main cultures it applied too. The day seems to be celebrated even before Islam and into the early ages of the Balkan areas, Iran, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. Now is it widely considered a Turkish-Islamic traditions with traditions stemming from different regions.

How is it celebrated?

Hıdırellez is usually celebrated in green, wooded areas, and possibly by tombs. Fresh spring veggies and lamb are the traditional choice of food. Prayers are generally traditional and are recited. Wishes are hung under a rose tree with slips of paper or ribbon. Some believe you must say the Hıdırellez prayer for the wishes to be accepted. However, the most common tradition is to light a fire and jump through it. Jumping through the fire on this day is a sign of goodness and will protect you from disease and injuries. From the prayers and jumping over the fire, it is believed that Khidr will bless you in the places he touches.

Photo credit to Hurriyet News

Prayers recited

Hıdırellez wishes are to be hung from to the branch of rose tree: “Allaah, Lord, the People of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet Muhammad, the Promise or the Rapture” prayer is to be read 39 times by May 5th, the remaining one prayer is read on May 6th.

Photo credit to Sabah News

Here are messages you can send to your Turkish friends for the day:

  • Hıdırellez bayramınız kutlu olsun! Happy Hıdırellez Holiday!
  • Havalar gibi yüreğinizde hep sıcacık olsun. Hıdırellez’de dilekleriniz kabul olsun. Always be warm in your heart like the air. May your wishes at Hıdırellez be accepted.
  • Aylardan Mayıs, günlerden Hıdırellez; gününüz hep güneşli talihiniz hep bol olsun. Hızır gününüz kutlu olsun. From May to May, from day to day; Always have plenty of sunshine for your day. Happy day!

So that’s it! Having lived in Istanbul for 2 years already, I was surprised to hear about this holiday! I mean, I know there is so much more to learn about the culture and holidays then I was able to learn in my short time of living there. However, jumping over a fire seems like one I would have heard about for sure!

Turkey readers:

  • Have you heard about this holiday?
  • Do you celebrate or know someone who still celebrates this holiday?

Non-Turkey readers:

  • What do you think of this holiday? Have you heard of it before?
  • Do you have any friends who celebrate this day?


Photo credit to Sabah News

Read more about it:

This would be the most interesting post: Posta News (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Sabah News (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Hurriyet (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Wikipedia – Hıdırellez –ıdırellez (Can’t be used in Turkey right now)

Wikipedia – Khidr – (Can’t be used in Turkey right now)