In the Ottoman State, wedding ceremonies were held for the sultans and padishahs, and circumcision feasts were organized for the sons of the padishahs. Especially the circumcisions were given high importance. The celebrations lasted for at least three days and nights, or sometimes for a couple of weeks. For Instance In 1582, the circumcision of Shahzadah Mehmet (Mehmet III), son of Sultan Murat III, was celebrated for 50 days. During the nighttime, celebrations continued with candle light and torchlight illuminations and fireworks. In addition to the palace residents, ordinary people -without any discrimination whatsoever- would attend these festivities. Artists and entertainers throughout the Empire were performing in festivities and ceremonies. Many artists and craftsmen, from different branches of arts -like poetry, architecture, decoration and embroidery, three-dimensional portraying, illumination, music, dance, pantomime-, were brought together to stage or exhibit their works. While circus, military and sports shows were performed, parades were held.
Most Important Object of the Wedding: Nahil
Nahil is a tree-shaped accessory made of wax. It is ornamented with nutshells, precious stones, golden and silver leaves, silk handkerchiefs, candles, colorful and gilded papers. Some nahils were designed in gigantic sizes. There were nahils as high as 24m, which were taken around the entire city, in case a problem would arise, while the nahil was being walked around the city, instead of looking for an alternative roule, the guards would demolish the building hindering the nahil from passing. Nahils were thinning towards the top, more or less like pyramids.
Usually, the bottom perimeter would be around 5-6m. Its shape was symbolizing the manly power of the groom, while the ornamentations were signifying the abundance of the bride’s fertility. In 1524 the two nahils decorated for the wedding ceremony of Makbul Ibrahim Pasha, were comprised of 60.000 and 40.000 pieces.
Hurrem Sultan’s wedding
In the writings about Hiirrem Sultan’s (a.k.a. Roxelana) wedding, found by the English Consul Sir George Young, it was recorded: “In Istanbul, something extraordinary took place, something which has never happened in the history of the Ottoman dynasty. Padishah Sultan Suleiman married his concubine Roxelana, of Russian origin, who became the empress. Great festivities took place in the city. The indescribable wedding ceremony, which was held in the palace and the dazzling entertainments were beyond imagination. A wedding parade was organized. All the streets were illuminated at night. Performers played instruments. Many entertainers took stage. The residents were decorated with lights. On almost every corner there were swings for the public to have fun. A large platform was constructed on the Sultanahmet Square. A gilded fence was built around the platform, which was reserved for the new empress and the women of the palace. Here a great competition was held. Hiirrem Sultan and the other palace residents came to watch it. The competition was attended by Muslim and Christian knights. Acrobats, rope dancers, jugglers, many ferocious animals, long-necked sky-high giraffes performed many shows.”
Fatma Sultan, daughter of Ahmet III
Another well-known wedding was organized for the daughter of Ahmet III, the famous sultan of the Tulip Period (1718-1730). Ahmet III was very meticulous about the upbringing of his beloved daughter, who was born in 1704. When she was only five Ahmet III sent a message to Silahtar Ali Pasha, one of the popular pashas of the time. He ordered the pasha to send his gifts for the engagement ceremony. Considering that Ali Pasha was one of the richest persons of his time, the engagement presents were talked about by the entire city. The countless presents were the top subject of the gossipers. Ali Pasha sent presents not only to his bride-to-be, but to his father, the Sultan, her mother, the other palace residents and to her nannies. The list of the presents exceeded 30 pages. Among them were horses, jewelry, belts, valuable books, prayer- rugs prayer beads made of precious stones and pelts.
Ummugulsum Sultan gets engaged
Inspired by the engagement he organized for his first daughter Ahmet III made endless charities. He became so exuberant with his achievement that he ordered Vizier Abdurrahman Pasha to engage his second daughter, who was a baby in her cradle at the time. After the celebrations for 25 days, Fatma Sultan’s bride parade was held. This parade was richer and more glittering that the procession carrying the bride’s trousseau. That day, all the viziers, scholars and state officials came to Topkapi Palace and waited for the procession. Finally, Fatma Sultan left the palace in a silver carriage, accompanied by 31 other carriages full of palace women and maids and nahil carriers. The silver carriage Fatma Sultan was riding was simply stunning, although they definitely were not as eye-catching as this one; the other carriages were also reflecting the wealth with their colors, horses and drivers. In front of the procession the tall shipyard workers were walking, carrying the silver nahil. The carriages had horses with heavy fabrics wrapped around their necks. The procession, led by the grand vizier, was wandering slowly around the streets of Istanbul.