Mongolian Wedding – On the morning of November 06, 2018 we headed central Mongolia; a heart of nomadic culture and heritage to witness authentic Mongolian traditional wedding. Driving on asphalt paved road through endless steppe and pointy hills we finally arrived in Arvaiheer from where bumpy road led us to a Uyanga village surrounded by mountain with alpine lakes. After several hours of driving, finally we arrived our host family who offered us yak milk tea and noodle soup. It was starry night as one can marvel at but cold weather was discouraging.
The next day everyone got up early to get dressed (wearing traditional Mongolian costume “Deel” with sheep skin) and saddle on horse. I was excited as others to visit bridegroom’s parent and see the wedding preparation and venue. Our group of wanderers were excellent riders as we had enjoyable gallops. We could see a crowd of people and some cars from distance where wedding preparation was taking a place.
In front of Buddhist altars
Heading to bridegroom’s house
As approaching, the biggest Ger (Mongolian traditional house) was the newest among others and was obvious to be a venue place. We were welcomed to the Ger where his father and relatives were discussing about tonight’s ceremony. According to the wedding custom, representatives from bridegroom side will visit the bride’s house to dress her with costume prepared by bridegroom’s parents and bring her with belongings as she will live next to the parents-in-law. A group of 30 people planned to leave in the evening as trip to bride’s home takes three hours on horse and they shall return by 11 a.m. next morning to start the wedding.
After a feast on intestines (a special meal offered to honored guests) Bataa, bride’s aunt gave us a tour through wedding venue and insight into the wedding.
After a feast on intestines (a special meal offered to honored guests) Bataa, bride’s aunt gave us a tour through wedding venue and insight into the wedding. The family ordered a Ger with furniture for a cost of approximately 3000 USD in Uyanga town; popular for woodcraft. In addition, they set up a table with wholly cooked mutton, pastries, alcohol drinks, and fruits as well as different types of drinks including mare’s milk, home-made vodkas and vodka. The wedding preparation took them about couple of weeks. Following the visit, we continued our ride to a beautiful alpine lake called Shireet, created by volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The Lake Shireet is a major tourist attraction; part of Unesco registered site and a national park preserving eco system in the end of Khangai mountain range. Passing the lake bride’s home will be found in one of the valleys. Steep slope trial to the lake looked challenging for any type of vehicle so it makes sense why they bring the bride on horse. It is time for those representatives heading bride’s home while we make our way to a host family for overnight stay.
Today is November 8, a birthday of Chinggis khan; our millennial leader and ceremonial day regarding lunar calendar also the wedding day. A girl with blue garment and white hat on white horse was our attraction.
Giidmaa is a bride and mother of a year old twin who were carried in garment of man on horse. Wedding reception has started with welcoming the wedding couple and eldest guests walking on a felt rug. As everyone sat on chair and ground, a monk from nearest town started Buddhist ceremony to bless the couple and guests. Completing the ceremony, Giidmaa lightened the stove and offered food to the god of fire which is a crucial part of the wedding ceremony. Mongolians believe in god of fire that stays in the stove place and symbolizes wind horse of man which should be taken care by the wife. Accordingly, the stove is a first thing to bring into the Ger after built and lightened to ensure good fortune. A very often Mongolians offer the meal first to the god of fire in stove and then a man.
Giidmaa cooked the first milk tea
As soon as lighten the stove, Giidmaa cooked the first milk tea that was offered to guests. Father-in law complimented Giidmaa on how tasty the tea was. The last but not least task for Giidmaa was blessing the stove with incense given by the monk to ensure clean wind horse for the family. Meanwhile we enjoyed traditional dumpling soup and deep-fried meat pie. The moment they exchanged wedding rings was beginning of the ceremony. Although the Ger was spacious, a couple of hundred guests were welcomed in several shifts. It was cozy inside the Ger and guests performed beautiful songs.
We wished the best to the couple and left the Ger with great experience of traditional wedding and custom. The valley we traveled was a home of hospitable nomads and yak herders. Soon after a week they will prepare for harsh winter slaughtering sheep, cow and horse for meat and purchase hay for their herds.