Courtship and Marriage

Among Uzbeks, many marriages are arranged. Most marriages take place after an engagement of about 6 weeks. Some urban couples date, but generally dating is viewed as a dangerous precursor to illicit sex. Nonetheless, many Uzbeks do choose their own mates. Couples become acquainted through school, community, or work. If a man decides that he is interested in a prospective partner, he asks his family to send a sovchi to her family to ask her parents permission to marry their daughter. Sovchi— matchmaker or marriage arranger—is a role that can be played by any adult relative or friend, but is frequently the groom's aunt. His mother and aunt visit the potential bride's mother, whose daughter is expected to demonstrate her manners by serving the guests tea in elegant style. If the girl's mother thinks the match is desirable, she brings the matter to the girl's father, who decides whether to proceed and enters negotiation with men of the groom's family.

The girl herself is given the opportunity to declare her interest or opposition; girls are not generally forced into marriage against their will unless the family faces some difficulty or the girl has "dishonored" them by entering a sexual relationship. Families learn what they can about each other before agreeing to a match. Sometimes, marriage plans are initiated not by the interested couple, but by parents who decide that it is time for their offspring to marry. Parents of an unmarried son may seek out potential brides by sending a sovchi to a number of families until they have a favorable response, and couples may marry without having met at all.

Marriage ceremonies and festivities are numerous. Couples generally have both a civil registration ceremony and an Islamic marriage ceremony; both of these are small, including only immediate family members. Preceding these, separate single-sex celebrations, toi, take place for the groom and for the bride. The marriage celebration, if it takes place in a courtyard home, brings guests from the families and the neighborhood to a feast with music and dancing. After the entertainment has begun, the groom, wearing a decorative robe, enters the courtyard in a procession of friends and musicians with drums and horns. The bride, veiled in a robe, is brought out before the guests and the groom, and her veil is removed. After the party ends and guests leave, the bridal couple retire to a room in the courtyard house. One of the bride's female relatives plays the role of yanga, making sure that the marriage is consummated. In many families, evidence of the bride's virginity, blood on a sheet, is demanded; in some places the sheet is tucked into the bride's boot and taken to the parents, while in others it is displayed in the courtyard. Lack of proof of virginity can lead to family dispute and rapid divorce. Following the marriage are more festivities, including a gathering of women for the display of the bride's trousseau, and a kelin salom—a bridal greeting, in which the bride bows to all her new in-laws while women musicians sing.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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