A wedding starts with the wooing of the bride (kuda tussu). The wooer, the groom and the latter's relatives appear in front of the bride's parents, offer them the richest gifts they can afford and ask their permission for the marriage. This having been granted, the dowry (kalym) is settled and the date of the wedding determined. Sometimes, the bride has the last word; a blunt refusal is considered impolite-setting an impossible task is more courteous.
If all is agreed, however, the preparation for the event starts. This can take time since it is the custom to invite all relatives and acquaintances-and they can amount to hundreds. The wedding party proper is a long and complicated process, the culmination of which is the batashar, or the uncovering of the bride's face by one of the groom's relatives-usually a young boy. In times of old, this ritual had more significance than it has today, since in those days the groom hardly got the chance to see his future-wife's face beforehand.
The batashar is accompanied by the performance of a special, very long litany, sung by a zhyrau (bard). In the litany, the names of all the invited guests are recited in order, each of whom steps forward on hearing his/her name to offer the young married couple gifts-usually household items. On receiving each gift, the bride bows, and the boy briefly lifts her veil from her face. At the end of the ceremony, the cloth is removed.
The batashar is preceded by a very intimate procedure among the women. The mother-in-law takes the bride into her home or yurt, takes a little animal fat into her hands, warms it briefly and then touches the bride's face with her greased hands. This means that the bride is welcome and that things will go well for her in her new family.
In order to save on dowries, many less prosperous couples revert to the old variant of kidnapping. A kidnapped wife must be married as swiftly as possible, in order to save the family from disgrace. In these cases, the wedding is not as lavish. In earlier times a woman's dress code would change after marriage. While young women were free to cover their hair with a hood or silk shawl or not, a married woman was not allowed to show her hair in public. They would wear a kimeshek, a cylinder-shaped turban wrapped in a cloth that left an opening for the face. These days, such rules are still observed in the south of Kazakhstan and in remote areas, if less strictly.