In Southern Azerbaijan, in which the culture and social life is historically rooted, there are some very attractive and special traditions bearing the traces of religious beliefs. These traditions and customs and their methods of practice have long been observed. Marriage is regarded as a holy event for the people of South Azerbaijan and they show respect to the family concept.
This holiness and esteem contributes even more to the beauty and splendor of the wedding ceremonies in Southern Azerbaijan. The wedding ceremonies generally have a uniform celebration style. People do not usually get married in the months of Muharram, Safar and Ramadan due to their religious beliefs.
In some of the regions in Southern Azerbaijan and especially in villages and towns, the girls are chosen by sending a third person to see the girl (a matchmaker). This method, which is a part of the marriage, is carried out by the mother and sisters of the candidate groom. Once the choice is made it is time for ?Elchilik?, which is asking the girls hand. The relatives of the candidate groom sing the following song during the ceremony to ask the girl?s hand:

I have come to take a stranger

I have come to take a shawl

I have come to take a bride

To the hazel-eyed man.
After this song the ceremony is over and they ask for the girl?s hand.In some regions of Southern Azerbaijan, they show their hospitality to ones, who come to ask the girl?s hand, by offering them ?elchi rice?. Later, the elders of both families come together to discuss the days of official marriage and the wedding feast. This peculiar event is called as the ?arrangement day? in Southern Azerbaijan. On the arranged date the elders of both families are invited to the ?house of the girl? and discuss the ?marriage money? called ?Mehriye? and reach a decision. There still is a tradition in some of the nomadic families of Southern Azerbaijan to ask for a price in return for the bride, which is called ?shirbaha? or ?milk money?. Once the girls says ?yes?, the conical-shaped sugar, brought by the members of the groom?s family, is broken and the head of the broken piece is given as a present to the bride?s mother. Following the arrangement day jewelry, fabrics and presents, which are to be used in preparation for the wedding day, are bought. The official marriage ceremony takes place in the bride?s house on a day, which is regarded as a lucky day in Southern Azerbaijan, with the participation of both families and with the presence of an officially authorized person. As the marriage sermon continues a white piece of cloth is being hold just above the heads of the bride and groom and two pieces of sugar cubes are rubbed together for the couple to have a very sweet life together.

In the past in Southern Azerbaijan, the girl and the boy, who were going to get married, used to go out at nights to meet each other. The fianc饳 used to sing ?Bayati? and folk songs to each other until the break of dawn. One of the oldest traditions in the villages of Southern Azerbaijan was the ?Chaharshanbe Suri? which means that on the last Wednesday of the year the candidate groom crawled up onto the roof of the bride?s house and threw a shawl, sash or handkerchief inside the girl?s house.

The prominent Southern Azeri poet Sehryar describes this event in his poems as such:

It was feast and the night bird sang

The bride was knitting the groom?s socks

All the people threw their sashes down the chimneys

Oh what a nice tradition waving a handkerchief is

When you wrap yourself with your grooms? sash
The candidate bride receives presents on every feast day from the relatives of the candidate groom, when she is still in her father?s house. After the official marriage ceremony the families of both the bride and the groom invite each other to their houses, which is a tradition called ?getting to know each other?. By this way it becomes easier for the bride and the groom to go to the relatives? houses. There is another matter before marriage: The permission of the elderly relatives should be taken for the wedding feast to be organized. This of course means giving presents to them in return for their permission. Finally both the families come together and the wedding feast is held in an atmosphere of complete joy. A sacrificial animal is cut in the groom?s house and meal is cooked with the meat to the guests. After the meal music is played and people dance to it in traditional Azerbaijani style. Most of the guests give the money called ?Shabash? to the musicians as a tip, praying for the health of the bride and groom as they do so. In some of the regions in Azerbaijan, this collected money is given to the groom. In the wedding feasts in Southern Azerbaijan the traditional poets sing old and noble folk songs and create a special and warm atmosphere. A ?Saghdush? (best man) and ?Soldush? are chosen from among the friends of the groom and the father of the groom gives them presents. Meanwhile feasts and the atmosphere of joy continue in the bride and groom?s house. During the late hours at night a group consisting of the relatives and friends of the groom, go to the bride?s house in order to bring her to the groom?s house. Meanwhile the father of the bride whispers the following words to his daughter?s ear, when they are together with the relatives of the groom: ?May you have a son and a daughter, may you be in wealth and riches, may you listen to what your father and mother-in-law say to you, hope you have good days in front of you?.

In Southern Azerbaijan some beautiful and interesting folk songs are sung while the bride is being taken to the house of the groom. For example: We gave one and took another/ Oh mother of the girl hope you stay side by side.
Once the bride reaches the house of the groom, she stays on the doorway motionless and waits for her father-in-law to give her presents and permission to go inside. When she is given the permission to go inside she sits on a chair and a small pot is placed on her head. This pot is called ?duvakh? and is filled with money and the best man snatches this pot and runs away. In order to take the pot back a present should be given to the best man. This tradition in Southern Azerbaijan is called ?catching the duvakh?. Either one day after the wedding night or a few days later, the relatives bring presents to the groom?s house. The groom?s house offers delicious meal to these guests. These traditions are currently applied in a plainer manner and are observed more in rural areas. Nowadays the girls and boys meet each other on the streets and even propose on the streets? This tradition seems as though it will come to an end as meeting each other and getting married is done in a rapid manner just as splendid dining tables have been replaced by fast food. Nevertheless the people of Southern Azerbaijan are determined to practice this tradition still in most of the regions.

(Our South Azerbaijan)