I might be biased, but I do think Middle Eastern weddings are some of the most fun and beautiful weddings! It has pretty much everything; good food, bellydancing, dabke (traditional group dancing and each Middle Eastern country has its own flavour and spin on this dance), a cake knife dance, and let’s not forget the beautiful Sofreh Aghd (in persian) and Katib el Kitaab / Aqid Al Qiran (in arabic); which is what I will be delving into in this blog.

The Middle East encompasses a variety of different countries each having their own flavour and style in how they do weddings and rituals. There is so much variety (small or big) when it comes to food, dialects, religions, customs and rituals that it is impossible to lump them all under one way of doing things. Part of my mission on this blog is to give justice and exposure to the beautiful individuality of each country and how they do weddings.

For now, I will be diving into the traditional wedding ceremony spread which is practiced in Iranian (Persian) and Iraqi weddings.

Depending on your situation and budget the traditional Middle Eastern wedding ceremony spread can be done in various ways and in different settings. Whether lavish or simple, at home or at a venue, one thing you can count on is that not only it will look beautiful but also be captured beautifully with the right photographer who understands you and the value of this important part of your wedding/marriage ceremony.

First let’s briefly explain what this part of the wedding/marriage ceremony is. The wedding ceremony spread is an event where the marriage is legalised and ceremonial/ritual traditions are being taken place. This part of the ceremony is cultural for some and religious for others depending on the couple’s and family’s leanings. The officiant who is marrying the couple can either be a non religious figure who will recite poems or a religious figure (usually for muslim backgrounds) If it is the former, the person performing the marriage ceremony and marrying the couple is an official, as for the latter, the person performing the marriage ceremony is a religious figure known as a “Sheikh” or “Imam”. 

Let’s start off with listing the similarities between the Persian ‘sofreh aghd’ and the Iraqi ‘mez el sayed’:

  • Mirror facing the couple with candelabras on either side is symbolic of bringing light, brightness, energy and clarity to both the couple and the ceremony. 
  • A holy or poetry book (open or closed) in front of the couple to shower the couple with wisdom and blessings
  • A cup of honey to bless the bride and couple with a sweet new wedded life
  • A silk shawl is held over the heads of the couple by happily married female relatives/friends of the couple whilst two sugar cones are rubbed together. This symbolises a showering of sweetness and the blessing of a happy wedded life for the couple. 
  • A basket of decorated eggs to bless the couple with healthy fertility and offsprings
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts are displayed to bless the couple with abundance and fertility 
  • A bowl of coins symbolising financial prosperity and abundance
  • A mix of seven symbolic herbs and spices which include; poppy seeds, wild rice, angelica, salt, nigella seeds, black tea and frankincense for blessings and warding off the evil eye
  • Seasonal fruits such as apples and pomegranates, symbolising abundance and health 
  • Rose water to perfume the air and give a calming and sweet atmosphere 

Despite the similarities, there are some distinct differences. The Iraqi Mez El Sayed has a treasure box of pearls and crystals and a tray of seven white foods to represent purity - sugar, flour, rice, cheese, cream, milk, and yeast. Cardamom pods are put in between the bride’s fingers and her feet are placed in a bowl of water sprinkled with green leaves. Cardamom is known as the queen of peace as well as the queen of spices. It is a symbol of hospitality and alliance which is fitting in a wedding ceremony as the bride is forging an alliance between herself and her groom but also her family with his family. This interesting article here dives deeper into this amazing spice.

The Persian sofreh aghd on the other hand includes other items such a thread and needle which symbolises the alliance and uniting two families. Other items such as sweets and pastries are also placed on the spread which is then offered to the guests at the end of the ceremony to symbolise sweet beginnings. 

As a photographer I get super excited when I have a sofreh aghd to photograph because of the sheer beauty and creativity that goes into putting together these stunning spreads. Here are some awesome UK suppliers that you can depend on to deliver a stunning spread:

Hope you enjoyed this mini deep dive and found it useful my lovelies. If you are planning an Iraqi or Persian / Iranian wedding then drop me a line because I would love to hear all about your plans.

Are you planning your wedding or sofreh aghd at home or at a venue?!

If so then I would LOVE to hear all about it and make it all flow as smoothly and efficiently as possible from a photography stand point and even on the day if you need an extra hand; I am your wing woman :-)

Just shoot me a quick note and let's connect to talk all about your wedding plans!