Parents were always occupied with their son's marriage. They were searching for a future fiancee for him long before he attained his majority. A competent family of good, distinguished, and respected people was quested. If in a girl's kinfolk there were unhealthy relatives (the genetic inheritance), she was never sought in marriage. Parents made special visits to people worthy to their mind, in order to discuss their children's future, and to express their wish to become the matchmakers (relatives-in-law).
There are different kinds of 'kyz aittyru'. If children (a boy and a girl) are still babies, or even unborn yet, but the both parties agree to become the relatives-in-law in future, it means that these people know each other very well and are close family friends. Before babies are born (of course, if one of them is a boy, and another is a girl), the parents reach an accord to become the relatives-in-law ('atastyru'). The above-mentioned woo is called 'bel kuda' (before the birth of children), and if children are planned to be married since their birth - 'besik kuda' (besik means a cradle). Sometimes a person who arranged the marriage of his son and his matchmaker's daughter, agrees that his daughter should be married to his matchmaker's son, and in this case both matchmakers are called 'karsy kuda' (mutual matchmaker). People who continued their matchmaking (i.e. who became the matchmakers again) are called "suyek zhangyrtu'. The grown-up children's marriage is completed after 'kuda tusu' (the matchmaking).
Relations between relatives Kazakhs observed generally until the seventh generation. Thus declares an old custom prohibiting the marriage between men and women of one and the same bloodline. According to the matrimonial rules, a woman must not be more than eight years older than a man, and a man must not be more than twenty five years older than a woman. No permission is given for an unequal marriage.
'Kyz aittyru' serves as a certain foundation for a new steady and exemplary family.
The bride-show. 'Kyz koru' was sometimes called 'kyz tandau'. Traditionally, children of famous people or just artful zhigits (young men) arranged bride-shows for someone's marriage. Having heard that in some distant aul (village) there lived a good, beautiful marriageable girl, zhigits with their friends moved out to choose themselves a spouse. The Kazakh proverb 'kyzdy kirn kormeidi, kymyzdy kirn ishpeidi" - 'he who doesn't drink kumys (mare's milk) cannot seek the hand of a girl' clears all the ways before zhigits.
Zhigits seeking to get married were not prohibited to have a look at girls. People tried to meet them with respect. Brave and independent girls of this aul, who reached their marriageable age, manifested their will with the words: 'kyz koretin zhigitti biz korelik' - 'shows like this we would like to arrange too', and began competitions in the arts. They looked at zhigits appraisingly and overtly expressed their opinion. At the meetings like that girls and zhigits often performed aityses (competition in song improvisation). After that the boy and the girl who liked each other, came to terms, made their declarations of love to each other, and zhigit sent his matchmakers to the girl's parents. Lovers made their choice themselves.
But young people often were forbidden to find a partner by themselves. It was usually permitted to children of distinguished parents or to famous zhigits. The custom 'kyz koru' is described in details in the novel 'Kyz korelik' by T. Zhomartbayev.
'Shege-shapan' is a peculiar gift. After the mutual agreement has been reached, the matchmakers give presents to each other in order to show their mutual respect. From the zhigit's side it is called 'kargybau' (literally, kargy means bridle, bau means lead) - actually, a racer or a pacer horse. And the girl's father puts on shoulders of zhaushy (the fiance's representative) a gorgeous shapan - 'shege-shapan' (shege means a nail). When relatives waiting zhaushy back see that he wears a new chapan, they shower him with shashu: candies and money.
The matchmaking. It's an obligatory , remembered, existed since ancient times tradition of Kazakh nation. A boy's father with close relatives goes to seek the hand of a girl (matchmakers may go without the boy's father). The procedure of matchmaking was rather complicated and entertaining. The arrival of matchmakers is called 'kuda tuser'.
A girl's father, advised on matchmakers' visit beforehand, next notifies his relatives and friends. Matchmakers are received solemnly. After the girl's father gives his consent, the both parties give each other presents required by the tradition: kuda attanar, kuda tartu, at bailar, kuiryk-bauyr, etc. The head representative of the matchmakers is called 'bas kuda' (bas means head, leading), and the fiance's and fiancee's fathers are called bauyzdau kuda. i.e. the closest.
Bas kuda (the head matchmaker) traditionally takes care of a girl after the wedding too. She will call him agateke (uncle), and he will be always responsible for her. His daughter-in-law respects him all of her life. Kuda tusu is a mostly honored and significant toi (feast, holiday), bearing the specific color of this national tradition.
The final agreement between the matchmakers. Once the agreement to become relatives-in-law has been reached, the boy's father visits the girl's aul and finally discusses with the girl's father the wedding date, the quantity of kalym, kade-zhora (presents, gifts). This part of matchmaking is called 'bata ayak', and in some regions "syrga tagar' or 'batalasu'. There are two types of bata:
1. Kesimdi bata - the final decision - the wedding date, amount of expenses, quantity of livestock are fixed precisely.
2. Kesimiz bata - the exact amount of expenses, quantity of livestock are not fixed. It is done in accordance with circumstances and time.
Well-off, famous people while matchmaking exhanged big presents with each other: "bes zhaksy' - a camel with a young of camel, a mare with a foal, some precious thing, or a bar of gold or silver, 'orta zhaksy' - the best horse or camel, 'ayak zhaksy" - a horse, cow, sheep, etc.
As it was mentioned above, there is a great lot of matchmaking traditions and customs. In course of different kinds of entertainment an interesting custom, called 'kuda tartar' (literally 'pestering matchmakers'), is performed. It consists of the following: women of aul (there may be a few young men among them) play various tricks on the matchmakers. When the matchmakers after having meals are enjoying the conversation, women break in and demand 'kuda tartar'; they attack the matchmakers and play tricks on them: seat them back to front down on the bull and show around the aul. or put them onto a big carpet and, having grasped its edges, toss it up. Sometimes they tie the matchmakers' leg with one end of lasso, and the other end cast up to shanyrak (yurta's dome), lift the matchmaker up head over heels and jerk him: or unnoticeably stitch his clothes to koshma (the rug), and when the matchmaker gets up, koshma trails after him; he is being drenched with water or forced to be dressed in women's clothes. The matchmakers are to pay women off with presents, but in their turn they let themselves take liberties with these women. The matchmakers should not feel insulted. Thus, a matrimonial custom turns into an amazing performance, kind of theater, where to the judgement of spectators inventiveness and resourcefulness of both sides, destined to become relatives, is demonstrated.
Kalym. Once the formal part of the matchmaking was over, according to the Kazakh custom, the fiance's side was to pay kalyn mal, which at old times was basically paid by livestock. Its quantity depended on wealth and property of the matchmakers. If kalym between poor matchmakers was limited to 5-6 heads, between prominent bais (noblemen possessing lands and abundance of liveestock) it amounted rocn 200-500 to 1000 horses.
Apart from that, the following was estimated: livestock for the wedding feast, presents for mother's milk (sut aky), for dead and alive (oli-tiri). 'kade' from the fiance's side, and many other traditional presents. In times of Soviet Union these traditions and customs were extremely blackened, saying that girls were exchanged for livestock.But a girl's dowry (zhasau) was not in the least poorer than the amount of kalym.
As it was noted before, the quality of kalym depends on on the matchmaker's wealth. If kalym includes 10 heads of neat cattle it is called 'domgelek kalym', i.e. 'roughly estimated' kalym, if small cattle is replaced by 1 or 2 horses - 'balama kalym' - 'replaced kalym'.
In kalym payment procedure there are some inviolable regulations. One horse is given to stableman, and it called 'kurykbau', one sheep is given to chaban (shepherd) and it is called 'kosakbau'. When giving the blessing , some livestock is also given - 'kelin tilli' (daughter's in law's tongue). 'Kelin tilli' is paid for the daughter's health according to the custom, if 'kelin tilli' is neglected, the future daughter-in-law may get speechless.
Kalym for the fiancee's sister. If the fiancee dies before getting married, and kalym is already paid (it is usually paid beforehand), the fiance may marry the deceased girl's sister. If zhigit and the girl dated secretly (uryn baru), and there is no successor (her sister), then half of the paid kalym is returned. If he dated her, and after her death marries her sister (baldyz), then the fiance is to pay additional kalym, which is called 'baldyz kalyn'. But, if zhigit did not date with his sweetheart, 'baldyz kalyn' is not paid.
The arrived matchmakers (both men and women) must not fall asleep until they tasted the food their matchmakers served for them. If somebody of those who arrived happens to fall asleep, his clothes are immediately stitched to a pillow, blanket, carpet, koshma. etc.. and in order to get free he is to pay the penalty (aiyp). The matchmakers must go through all the trials for their efficacy.
Before the matchmakers departure the girl's farther gives them traditional 'kiit' presents. The most valuable 'kiit' gets the fiance's father, even if he is not the member of the matchmaking party. Other mathcmakers get their 'kiit' according to the extent of their kinship. In well-to-do families kiit for the fiance's father is a whole heard of horses, a great number of chapans and - obligatory - a saddle-horse; other matchmakers are given gifts according to their status. The matchmakers from the fiancee's side in their turn get kiit too, but a little smaller than the matchmakers from the fiance's side: the reason is their necessity to pay the part of kalym. The number of matchmakers from the fiancee's side is one person more than the number of matchmakers from the fiance's side. Nowadays kalyn mal is not paid, but the custom to give kiit, and other matchmaking traditions are retained.
The customary food, composed of liver and fat of sheep's tail. This ritual food witnesses the fact of matchmaking, and in case of disputes is considered to be a material evidence of the matchmaking. It imposes on parents from the both sides rights and obligations, which they commonly accepted; once this custom is observed, it is prohibited to withdraw; otherwise the guilty side pays 'forfeit', and returns the received kalym.
Kuiryk-bauyr' is a guarantee of loyalty and inviolability of this agreement.
After the agreement on wedding from the fiance's side the traditional present oli-tiri is sent along to the matchmakers with a proficient person. It's a symbol of appreciation not only for alive. If this custom has been observed, zhigit can secretly date with his sweetheart (uryn kelu).
Kynamende, or uryn kelu, is the fiance's visit. Once the matter of matchmaking and kalym payment is completed, fiance goes to meet his fiancee for the first time; this solemn visit is called kynamende, or uryn kelu. In East Kazakhstan regions "kynamende' is celebrated only after the fact of the girl's chastity is proved. Next day the general entertainment with singing and dances is arranged. 'Kynamende' is called in different places in different ways: 'uryn kelu', 'kalyndyk oinau'.
'Kynamende' for the youth and zhenges is a toi. The future fiance, as if secretly, arrives pompously at the fiancee's aul with his retinue in twilight. This custom is called 'esik koru' (literally, esik means door, koru means to look) or 'uryn kelu' (it means the secret visit). To visit the fiancee, the fiance's side observes the customs required. For example, daughters-in-law ask for 'entikpe', saying that they are gasping because of fast walk, and for "baldyz korimdik", while being introduced to a brother or younger sister of the fiancee. After 'uryn toi' the fiance and his friends, having received their gifts, are being solemnly seen off.
Before 'kynamende' the fiance is prohibited to visit the girl's house or aul. Otherwise, the girl's brothers punished zhigit for the violation of this custom. Traditions and customs always require observation of decency and established successiveness.
There are also customs in the fiance's regard: 'uryn kelu' — his secret visit to his fiancee: 'esik ashar' - the first fiance's official visit; kuyeu tabak' — a dish filled with meat for the son-in-law; 'sut aky' — a gift for the girl's mother; 'atbailau' — a present for the matchmakers' horse tethering; shashu' — strewing with sweets; 'kyz kashar' — for the girl's abduction, "kol ustatar', 'shash sipatar' — literally, to touch the girl's hands, hair, etc.