Vows are promises that a couple makes to one another during their wedding ceremony. They are not necessarily dictated by any religion or tradition and not required in many legal jurisdictions. However, increasingly so, many couples choose to have vows, exchange them, write their own and recite them, as it lends to a more sentimental and beautiful ceremony for their union.
Traditionally, during a Persian wedding ceremony, the couple is first asked by the Officiant whether they give him/her permission to wed them. After consent has been granted, the Officiant declares the couple married and they can choose to exchange vows by reading what they have written for one another. What is interesting and amusing during most Persian ceremonies is that the bride does not answer the Officiant until the question is asked three times!
The usual format begins with the Officiant asking the Groom, “do you grant me permission to officiate this marriage between you and Bride?”, and the Groom replies positively! Then the Officiant addresses the Bride, “do you grant me permission to officiate this marriage between you and Groom?”, but the Bride remains silent! There are various reasons why this tradition is followed. One explanation is that this is meant to demonstrate that the Bride has fully considered the marriage and is not rushing into this important decision. While the Bride is silent, the ladies in the audience will answer for her saying things like “The Bride has gone to gather flowers”. Nowadays I hear “The Bride is in the operating room” or “The Bride is shopping” or even “The Bride is on Facebook”! The point is that the Bride is not present to answer, so the Officiant will ask the question a second time, saying, “do you grant me permission to officiate this marriage between you and Groom?” . Again there is silence! This time the ladies will say, “The Bride has gone to water the flowers” or “The Bride has gone to get rosewater”. Another explanation for this delay is that in the old days, the Groom would be outside the room where the ceremony was held and the Bride’s girlfriends teased him and said things like “The Bride is not here, she has gone to get flowers or rosewater”! When the question is asked a third time, the Bride is supposed to answer “With permission from my parents and the elders, yes”! This is when everyone cheers and the Officiant can declare the couple married.
Today, some couples choose to alter this tradition by having the Bride say “yes” after the first time the question is asked. I’ve even witnessed ceremonies where the Groom’s friends said, “the Groom has gone to pick flowers” or “the Groom is at the Gym” to everyone’s amusement! Regardless, this questioning, which can then lead to the couple’s exchange of vows, adds an interesting and fun element to the Ceremony, especially for those not familiar with this tradition. The tension and challenge that it creates adds to everyone’s eagerness for hearing the Bride say, that much anticipated, “Yes”!