Weddings in Kazakhstan

Zhigits: Do not be sad, beautiful, look how wonderful life is. Do not sigh and cry, we wish you happiness. Do not miss your father, You will have a father-in-law…

Girls: How could a father-in-law, zhar-zhar, replace my father? How not to cry, zhar-zhar, I’m leaving forever…

Traditional Kazakh wedding song “Zhar-Zhar”

The Wedding Industry in Kazakhstan

Wedding ceremonies, rituals associated with them, preparation, and the actual ceremonies have always held a special place in the life of the Kazakh people. Because weddings are a bid deal in Kazakh culture, the wedding industry is naturally well developed in Kazakhstan. As wedding traditions and events associated with them continue to evolve in Kazakhstan, so do the businesses associated with weddings.

On May 9-11, 2013, wedding industries in Almaty came together for the first specialized salon exhibition “Wedding and Prom 2013.” More than 200 companies participated in the largest exhibition to date to present their beauty industry and wedding celebration services. Main sections included top beauty and make-up salons, floral services, wedding dress salons, decorators, jewelry makers, wedding cake makers, event management agencies, show program makers, photographers, and videographers. The program also included wedding and evening dress portfolios from famous stylists, classes on making wedding accessories, dance workshops for brides, and confectionery tasting.

Weddings in Kazakhstan are celebrated noisily, bright, and on a grand scale often turning into a festival lasting days, or even weeks, with more than a dozen families. A year ago in the same wonderful spring month I was lucky enough to attend a fabulous wedding for my Kazakh friend. Trust me, that event has left memories for years to come.

National music, beautiful dancers, customs, and a delicious selection of Kazakh cuisine… Kazakh cuisine is another story, and I promise to tell you about it another time. Now, back to my friend’s wedding and the custom that I remember the most. While the bride meets numerous relatives, with a traditional song on the background, she has to perform a kelyn salom; a respectful and deep bow to each guest approaching the bride to congratulate and give gifts, usually in the form of money. Add to that the bride’s heavy wedding dress when bowing and she will get a pretty nice workout. A bootcamp exercise, Kazakh style. This whole ceremony takes at least 30-40 minutes. I always remember with a smile how my close friend from Kazakhstan, Nazym, recalled what she felt during the bowing ceremony at her wedding and how she couldn’t straighten her back for a long time after that.

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However, that’s not the only one custom in wedding culture. There is a big number of other ceremonies, and most of them are beautiful and colorful. For example, the saule kigizu is bride’s custom associated with wearing of traditional head dress, kuyow kyimi is dressing up the groom, zhigit toyi and many others.

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It is noteworthy that on the contrast to the century-long traditions, Kazakhstan recently became the first Central Asian state to register a same-sex marriage. On May 3, 2013, Karolina and Kristina registered what is believed to be the first official gay marriage in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

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By Kamilla Zakirova


The Wonderful World of Kazakhstan