Traditional Kalmyk weddings are distinguished by their elaborate rituals and sheer number of guests. To be considered husband and wife, young couples have to go through the following stages, each involving rituals: the engagement, the wedding and post-wedding observances.

Prior to the engagement, the parents of the groom make enquiries about their future daughter-in-law, her parents and her clan affiliation. Matters considered to be influenced by astrological signs – including the compatibility of the young couple and so on – are determined through consultation with a Buddhist priest. Once a decision has been made, representatives of the groom, usually his father and other male relatives, set out to see the prospective bride’s parents to propose the engagement. A package of gifts carried by the groom’s delegation for this occasion include a quantity of alcohol, tea, traditional biscuits, silver coins, a loop, and a white khadag (a ritual silk scarf) or a handkerchief to symbolise the permanence of the union between the two families once it has been forged. On the eve of the wedding celebration the groom performs a ritual called kyurg uzullgn (the presentation of the groom), during which he gives a present to his future in-laws and demonstrates his knowledge of traditions. The groom’s mother prepares a bedding set for the young couple.

The main wedding celebration begins at the house of the bride when the groom arrives accompanied by his relatives and friends. During the celebration, both the guests and hosts eat and drink, sing songs, generally make merry and wish the young couple well. Since the bride goes into another clan to enjoy their protection, she has  to leave her ‘well-being’ (kishg) behind in her parental home by having her nails and hair cut off. This ceremony is called kishg avlgn. The wedding celebration ends with a special ceremony during which the bride leaves her paternal home crying, accompanied by a song called kuuk uulyuldg dun (a song to make the bride weep). At this point her relatives are expected to try to stop the groom’s people from taking away the bride and her dowry. This ‘struggle’ is resolved with the groom’s people making a payment to the bride’s side. The bride leaves her house without her parents. From this moment on she is considered to be symbolically dead for her clan and reborn in the clan of her husband.

Upon arrival at the groom’s house, the bride bows to his clan’s protectors and ancestors by performing a ritual called berin morgul (the bowing of the bride). She then has her hair re-styled to reflect her new status and changes into a married woman’s costume. A feast takes place in the groom’s house.

The next morning the bride performs a tea ceremony during which her in-laws give her a new name by which she will be known in the new household. Traditionally, the bride’s parents come to visit their daughter a few weeks or even months after the wedding.

Ais Sandzhiev, Wedding Trousers

Ais says that for any mother the happiest and most awaited moment in their lives is when their sons get married. According to Kalmyk tradition, the parents of the bride bring her white trousers with fur balls dangling which symbolizes a well-wish that her family lives in prosperity, happiness, and fertility. Sometimes the trousers have a special pocket. At the wedding ceremony the mother of the groom puts on the trousers and dances in front of guests who put money into the pocket.


Dmitriy Mandzhiev, About Kalmyk Weddings


Ekaterina Boldyreva, About Wedding


Elza Badaeva, About Kalmyk Weddings


Gerel Shakeeva, About Kalmyk Weddings


Ksenia Kardonova, About Weddings, Bride Wealth and Taboos for Brides


Lidzhi Amikov, About Wedding Rituals


Sangadzhi Kononov, About Kalmyk Wedding


Vladimir Boldyrev, Engagement Among Kalmyks