4 March 2013

Kazakh Wedding Traditions

Our Son’s teacher married his Kazakh fiancée over the weekend and we were invited to the wedding.  One of the more noticeable Kazakh wedding traditions is the tour of the city’s sites and attractions taken by most newlyweds. One lovely tradition is for happy couples to pose for snaps in front of various buildings around the city.  In the warmer months we see many wedding parties, bridal cars and horse drawn carriages making a tour of the sites.  This is a tradition not just in Astana but all over Kazakhstan, when we visited the lakes in Borovoye, a nature reserve to the north of Astana we saw bridal parties row out to the 'sphinx' rock in the middle of the lake.

Despite the high profile of weddings in the city, we had not been to a Kazakh wedding before so it gave us the opportunity not just to celebrate with them but also to learn more about Kazakh wedding customs.  The actual registration is usually a small, private affair, followed a wedding reception for friends and family which we were invited to.

Bridge Gets Photo Taken in Astana
A Bridal Party having photo taken

Kazakh Bride getting photo taken
An intrepid bride takes a boat out onto the lake in Borovoye (to the North of Astana)
Before the party, we headed out to one of the larger malls to find a present.  This was an exercise in patience because the shop could not find the barcode to scan the item and initially refused to sell it to us.  After some gentle persuasion, we tracked down the code and box and headed off with the gift, but the next hurdle was getting it wrapped.  It is not easy to buy wrapping paper here; most people tend to use gift bags for presents instead.  After a search, we thought we had struck gold when we discovered  a florists that sold paper and even provided a wrapping service, but it was not quite what we thought.  Rather unfortunately, the wrapping station was being manned by a trainee – half an hour, four sheets of paper, meters of ribbon, two different types of double sided tape, some ordinary tape and a hot glue gun later we finally had a wrapped present.  It was somewhat reminiscent of the present wrapping scene from the film ‘Love Actually’ but with much less panache and capability.

Present finally wrapped
Half an hour and the present is finally wrapped
Luckily for us start times are flexible here so we were more than on time for the start of the reception which was being held at a local Indian Restaurant.  After the bride and groom arrived they sat at a table at the head of the room with the Best Man and the Bridesmaid.  We all took our places at two tables lining either side of the room while the master of ceremonies welcomed everyone to the reception.  While food was being served  the family members – grandparents, parents and siblings were invited to give speeches followed by the groom’s headmaster and my husband (he is the deputy headmaster of the school).  Some spoke and others gave a song or performed a piece of music, the bridesmaid had her job cut out as she had to translate all the speeches from Russian to English or vice-versa.  After the formal speeches were concluded the microphone was handed over to the floor and all the guests took turns to give a speech or a special song for the couple.

Every now and then the guests and the wedding couple were invited up to the dance floor and, when there was a lull in proceedings the MC called some couples up to the floor for party games with prizes for the competitors.   Couples had to race across the room standing only on two pieces of paper, my husband was called out for a throw the ball competition and three couples had to ‘dance off’ to various different styles of music.  It created a wonderful atmosphere, it was probably the most inclusive wedding I have ever been to - even the babies and children were part of the celebrations.   A little later the cake was brought out and the bride and groom cut it together.  The bride then served a piece of cake to the groom’s parents while the groom brought some to the bride’s parents after which they fed a piece of the cake to each other.  By this time it was getting rather late and we decided to make our way home but the party was in full swing and looked as though it would be going on for many hours to come.

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat


  1. fab post xxxx The party sounds great and I love the description of the present wrapping chaos.

  2. Dear Diplomatic Dog - it was truly hilarious. If you ever need a present wrapped take it to the florists opposite Meloman in Keruen. Just make sure you leave plenty of time.


  3. Foreign weddings can be very interesting (boring, fun, anything), and I've been to a few. The most recent one was in Moldova, Eastern Europe, where the party went on in full swing till six in the morning, with the bridal pair still in attendance. We "escaped" at 1 am or so. But it was fun to experience it. No wrapped presents to give, though. Money in envelopes was expected, and not a little, either!

    An Indonesian wedding is an endless, formal affair, and my own wedding in Kenya was quite bizarre, but it stuck ;)

  4. Miss Footloose it sounds as though you have had a lot of fun at weddings - what was your own Kenyan wedding like?

  5. Great post. I am hoping to go to a Kazakh wedding in the summer. i am really excited now!

  6. Have fun - just make sure that you have a toast ready.

  7. I've been reading some of the popular and different wedding traditions around the world and I really find it interesting and fun to know. I always enjoy learning how wedding customs differ from one nation to another. Thanks for giving me more ideas on wedding traditions.

    More power to you!

    1. Thanks Joseph! Keep an eye out here for a post on Turkish traditions....

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  9. Hello, my name is Dana and i'm 3rd year student at SDU, Almaty.
    We were given an assignment to find a material based on some inter cultural experiences of people who visited/lived in Kazakhstan. I've read almost all of your posts about you life in Astana, that was quite interesting, because I am from Astana.
    I was wondering if it is possible to use your article about wedding traditions in Kazakhstan as an authentic material for English language lesson ?
    Here is my contact e-mail: d.mambetalina@gmail.com

    Looking froward to hearing from you.
    Dana Mambetalina

    1. Dear Dana

      I have already emailed you but just wanted to say that you are more than welcome to use this or any other post. Just please do mention where you got it from!

      All the very best EE